The anatomy of a content sales programme

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: You’ve heard about content marketing, but very often that’s a ‘long game’ strategy. When you need quicker results, it’s time to launch a ‘content sales’ campaign. Here’s how.

XME Ltd is an insurance advisory company (broker) that asked us to come up with a plan to help them grow their engagement and profile with chartered accountants in a specific geographic area. This is how it unfolded.

“We want… I don’t know, a script or something to help us get appointments with chartered accountants because they’re a great source of referrals for insurance brokers,” they told us in the meeting.

So what’s the problem here? On the plus side, the client has a tangible goal — “referral business through accountants” – from a specific target market, in a defined geographic area.

However, chartered accountants are busy people who get offers to ‘form business relationships’. They regularly have insurance advisers, investment advisers, financial services and business coaches, to name a few, knocking on their door, ringing them up and sending them emails. They probably also already have existing relationships.

This means that on the face of it, there is no compelling reason for the chartered accountant to engage. Unless you can offer him or her something that gets their attention; that they want or, preferably, need. Or you can help them solve a real and pressing need.

“We pay very good commissions on referrals,” said XME Ltd. “Chartered accountants need to make sales and earn a profit as much as any other business.”

But a bit of research reveals that chartered accountants are uncomfortable with the ethics around commissions. They more often than not see ‘giving referrals’ to their clients as providing a professional, trustworthy service to their client. The prospect of commissions taints that a bit and, anyway, all of XME Ltd’s competitors offer commissions too.

Iron Road’s solution, and it’s one that most businesses can apply, was to research the current environment confronting chartered accountants. We looked at the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors impacting their practices.

Once we identified a pressing issue – I won’t go into details because that’s our creative strategy – we were able to put in place the following content sales campaign:

  • Build a microsite with some articles, stories and columns dealing with this particular issue, as a go-to place for accountants.
  • Research, interview experts and write a guide on what chartered accountants can expect from this issue moving forward. The guide talks about how they may solve the problem, and offers some tactical steps to help them get a jump on the situation, and on their competitors.
  • Build a list of all the chartered accountants in the area, including company name, telephone numbers, email addresses and postal address. Google is a great tool for this, as is
  • Organise a breakfast seminar that has a speaker or two who can talk about the problem and potential solutions.
  • A personable, friendly staff member from XME Ltd will call up all the accountants on the list and invite them to the breakfast seminar. If they aren’t able to make it, she offers them a free copy of the guide.
  • Next, the email addresses of the chartered accountants are imported to Facebook via its ‘custom audiences’ tool, so that we can advertise the seminar to our select audience via Facebook.
  • RSVP calls are made to maximise attendance to the breakfast seminar.
  • On the day, XME Ltd’s director introduces himself and speaks briefly on how serious they are about building a constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with chartered accountants in the area. The guest speaker follows.
  • After the breakfast, the directors of XME make follow-up calls with the chartered accountants to book a ‘coffee’ appointment, with the promise of providing the free guide.
  • A follow-up call is also made to chartered accountants who were unable to attend the seminar and who received the guide instead, also with the aim of booking ‘a coffee’ to discuss feedback on what came out of the breakfast seminar.

The goal of this ‘content sales’ campaign is to demonstrate that XME Ltd cares about the the success of chartered accountant firms. It is not a ‘me first’ approach to starting off the relationship, but one of ‘you first’.

In many ways, a well constructed, relevant content marketing or sales campaign is also good customer service. When you put your customers’ interests first – and relevant content is a fantastic way to do that – good things follow, for everybody.

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