A lot of people are hanging a lot of hope on content marketing to change their business fortunes.

For those of you not up to speed with current marketing jargon, content marketing (as the name suggests) uses engaging content to attract potential customers to your business. Although not exclusively an online marketing channel, content marketing (sometimes referred to as inbound marketing or thought leadership marketing) is perfectly suited to web-based marketing mediums including blogs, social media, online video (YouTube), email marketing, eBooks, webinars, etc.

BTW – for a detailed visualization of what content marketing is, check out The Periodic Table of Content Marketing, courtesy of eConsultancy, below:

I, for the record, am fully sold on content marketing and adopt many content-led strategies every single day to drive engagement between prospects and the iContact and Vocus brands. I consider the leads generated by content marketing to be better than virtually any other type of marketing we do. Content marketing starts conversations that create opportunities, which, very often, turn into sales.

This sounds like great news for marketers but might be a little worrying to the salespeople out there.

Will content marketing kill the need to hire a sales team?

Probably not.

Some businesses are built on very little more than great inbound marketing and a good transactional website. But for most of us, who perhaps market or sell more complex products that cannot easily be sold via an e-commerce system, inbound marketing can only take things so far.

Leads generated by content marketing are hot. But due to the sheer scale of content available today, they can lose their heat quickly. That is why I believe that one of the most important components of a truly successful content marketing strategy is a fully briefed sales team.

Leads should be followed up in a timely manner. That means getting on the phone and starting a conversation that expands on the content a prospect has engaged with. It doesn’t mean pitching. At least, not yet.

I believe great content marketing should always address a specific problem. A good salesperson who has researched the content before making a call should be able to question a prospect and clearly identify his or her specific areas of need before turning the conversation around to sales. Don’t think pitch, think consultation.

And what about all those leads that are not quite hot enough to close just yet? Well, content marketing provides a great strategy to keep those prospects warm and keep the conversation going via email marketing and social media.