How do you keep prospects engaged throughout the sales cycle? Does your sales team typically run out of marketing collateral materials and other content at some point during the selling cycle?

If you check with your colleagues in sales, they will probably tell you they are often unsure how to follow up after they have sent the “standard package” of marketing collateral and their prospects haven’t responded.

These 7 tips will help you build marketing content that supports your inbound and outbound marketing efforts and helps advance the sales cycle:

1. Make a plan to develop a full set of marketing materials. Salespeople need a reason to make their second, third and fourth contacts with prospects, and they can’t keep sending the same materials time after time. Prepare a step-by-step approach for sharing information with prospects — from initial requests for information through follow-up contacts.

2. Build flexible marketing content. Salespeople need to have sales tools they can customize and package in different ways to meet customers’ specific business needs or to fit a particular sales situation.

3. Engage buyers early. A recent study indicates that before B2B buyers ever talk to a sales rep, they are already 57 percent of the way to a buying decision based on information they learn from peers, web searches, online forums or social media. Make sure your web content and blogs speak to your buyers’ business pains and address the industry trends and topics that will get them to consider your company’s products and services.

4. Involve the team. To ensure sales and marketing efforts are aligned, seek out direct input from sales team members who are responsible for contacting prospects and managing customers. Use their first-hand experiences to identify content and design considerations and set priorities.

5. Analyze the selling cycle. Remember the principle that form follows function. Consider the types of sales tools that work best in each selling situation. Decide which media and messages are best for first contacts and those that work best for follow-up contacts with your target audience.

6. Go beyond the standard package. Develop materials to cover the full range of follow up contacts required to close the sale. Prepare a variety of sizes and types of content that can be deployed across a range of media, including marketing collateral, sales demos, flash animations, blog posts, white papers and video.

7. Welcome new customers. The sales cycle doesn’t end with the sale. Consider how your organization can handle the transition from prospect to new customers. You may need a package of welcome materials or a customer orientation package to continue nurturing the relationship and reinforcing the buy decision after the sale.

Many sales deals can take longer to close than anticipated. Today’s marketing content must educate buyers during every phase in the sales cycle — from prospect through new customer and beyond.

How do you make sure you have enough marketing collateral and other content to support sales and persuade buyers to choose your products and services?