Not all customer-facing documents serve the same purpose, and it doesn’t make sense to write or use them all the same way. Instead, organizations should think about where different pieces of content fit into the sales cycle.
For example, early in the cycle, when a company is trying to generate awareness and help prospects understand their service or product offerings, it's more important to educate. Later, when the business is trying to close the sale, it's more important to make actual sales arguments. Misaligning your written documents with where they fall into the sales cycle can lead to lost sales.
Here’s how to understand the differences between educational and sales materials.
- What are educational materials?
Educational documents include articles, blog posts, white and technical papers, and any other content designed to increase the reader's knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. This material is often used to promote thought leadership within a specific domain. It's not about making a sale; it's about establishing credibility.
- When should educational materials be used?
This material fits best early in the sales cycle, during the awareness and early evaluation stages. Here, customers are looking for a solution to a problem or pain point and need help understanding what’s required to solve their problem.
- Do’s and Don’ts of Educational Content
Educational content should shy away from promotional or sales-oriented language and messaging. Think about it this way: during the credibility-establishing phase, businesses are trying to build trust with prospective customers. To do that, keep your content fact-based. The goal should be to genuinely help customers better understand the subject matter.
This doesn't mean you can't do some subliminal sales positioning, however. For example, you could write an article or paper walking through the process of evaluating competing solutions, and your guidance can focus on the competitive differentiators that set your company apart. Just make sure any sales-oriented messaging is not overt or misleading.
Sales and Marketing Content
- What are sales materials?
Sales materials are designed specifically to close the business deal. These can include special offers or promotions, sales presentations, emails (especially follow-ups to educational materials), case studies, and other content that is designed to highlight and talk about your company and its services and products specifically. Presumably, you've already established some degree of credibility by this point; now, it's just time to win the sale.
- When should you use sales materials?
Sales materials are best used when you're close to the actual purchase point. They fit well when the customer is looking for proof that you can meet your marketing claims and might just need that final bit of convincing to take the plunge. These materials can extend post-sales as well, as you try to turn an existing customer into a repeat customer and, ideally, an advocate for your brand.
- Do’s and Don’ts of Sales Content
Perhaps the most important guideline for sales materials is to not overpromise. If your educational materials have successfully cultivated credibility, your sales material can potentially run the risk of trashing that credibility if your sales messaging is unbelievable and unrealistic.
Additionally, you want to ensure that sales material focuses on benefits and advantages in addition to or instead of features. The most powerful sales materials help the reader connect the dots between what a product or service does and the resolution of their personal problems and pain points.