How to build a content strategy to replace trade shows and travel

Sep 3, 2020
Author: Sarah Hicks

If you’re in an industry that depends on knocking on doors, leveraging your network, trade shows, and referrals to generate new business, you’ve hit a roadblock. As Joe Sullivan shares in an episode of the Predictable Revenue podcast, companies that rely heavily on traditional sales strategies are being forced to switch gears and take their traditional methods online. 


The best thing you can do, when it comes to relationship building, is to be in the same room as somebody. And while this strategy isn’t scalable at the best of times, under current circumstances, it’s next to impossible. So you adapted. You hold scheduled meetings over zoom to maintain some semblance of humanity in our correspondence with our prospects. But how can you take advantage of video conferencing’s ability to humanize a salesperson, and leverage that in your cold outreach? Joe suggests you get out from behind the impersonal blanket of text that lumps us in with every other shoddy, canned cold email by using tools like Loom, Wistia’s Soapbox, or Vidyard, to drop personalized videos right into our prospecting touches. And if sales can do that, how can marketing take advantage of video conferencing’s ability to humanize a brand, and scale it? That’s where the content strategy comes in. More on that to come…

“I, ME, MY” TO “YOU”

According to Joe, it’s not just the medium that needs to shift; it’s the attitude behind the messaging as well. Think about the typical prospecting email that lands in your inbox. It goes something along the lines of

“Hey So-and-So,

Here’s all the great stuff we do, why our competition sucks, and why you should buy from us.

Meeting on Tuesday?”

This type of messaging is, best-case: slightly personalized, worst-case: completely automated, and either way, insensitive. You know when you read it that it could have gone to a thousand other people at the same time. The approach Gorilla 76 preaches is to create value, first and foremost. They deliver emails to their prospects with no ask. They produce content designed to help solve challenges their ideal customers are having, and work on cultivating an audience. While this method requires a little patience, your open rates, response rates, and level of engagement will increase dramatically. Joe maintains that you can’t speed up the buying process anyway – people are going to buy when they’re ready to buy. So be the company that educates and helps your prospects all the way through their buyer journey so when they are ready to buy, you’re the obvious choice.


  1. Focus
  2. What people care about
  3. Producing content
  4. Medium

The basic formula for creating a content strategy with the people and tools you already have is simple. It starts with focus. You need to figure out who your ICP is (who you’re trying to reach, at both the company and persona level). You need to uncover who the influencers are in the buying process. Next, comes what these people care about. You need to know what triggers lead them into the buying process, what motivates them to change, what questions they are asking, and what problems they are having. When you have the answers to all these questions as the foundation, the content strategy falls into place and you can start producing content.

Once you start producing, you can experiment with which mediums to use to get your helpful, resourceful content in front of as many of the right people at the right companies as possible. That may be through cold outreach, hyper-targeted paid advertising through LinkedIn, Facebook, or Youtube, email (inviting prospects to a webinar), organic reach through your website, organic reach through social media, or something else fun like a surprise virtual lunch & learn for a prospect you’d normally have traveled to visit.

As for who should actually be creating this content, Joe suggests we think a little outside the box. The task of content creation usually falls on the shoulders of the sales and marketing team, but there are different people at your organization with different areas of expertise that you could be tapping into as well.

If you’re creating a piece of content designed to answer technical questions your prospects have, the most qualified person at your company to speak on that topic would be a technical professional. So get your engineer and your customer success person on camera for your next webinar. Joe explains you need to lean on the people in your company who interface with customers, understand them deeply and are in communication with them every day. It’s marketing’s job to facilitate this knowledge extraction process, and turn the expertise into assets with which to arm themselves and the sales team. 


Joe’s content strategy workshop is distilled into a simple google sheet with 3 tabs. Ideal Account Profile, Buyer Persona Profile, and Content Topics. 

1. Ideal Account Profile

This tab includes all the standard information you already know (or could find very easily) about your ideal target company, like employee headcount, annual revenue, geography, etc. But what Joe implores you to focus on is trigger events – a company’s motivation to change. Trigger events could be internal (expansion, new product launch, equipment/licenses reaching end of life, funding), or external (seasonality, market conditions). We often talk about understanding on the sales front when doing discovery and trying to move an opportunity through the pipeline, but it’s equally important when building a content strategy to log as many of these as possible, and to draw from the perspective of different people in your company. Finally, you want to identify who the buying committee is at this type of company, then run through this first tab again for each of your target segments.

2. Buyer Persona Profile

Take your buying committee and separate them into their own columns. With content, you want to influence the persona experiencing the pain you can solve because this is the person you have a chance to influence earliest in the buying process. Prioritize the buying committee accordingly. Again, this tab will include the standard information like job titles, and their respective responsibilities. But the information to note is a persona’s pains and goals. Each person on the buying committee cares about completely different things, so list the struggles each individual is facing in their job that you could help them address. To determine the types of questions they ask, ask your sales team what questions they get time and time again. Figure out which common objections are coming up. Again, log as much of this information as possible from as many different perspectives as possible. 

3. Content Strategy

Look at some of the pains and goals outlined in the last tab, and drop each one of them into a list. Joe’s clients usually have 25-40 ideas for content by this point in the content strategy workshop, because they’ve done such a thorough job exploring all the items detailed above. 


Ideal Account Profile: Mid sized food manufacturer

Buyer Persona Profile: Plant Manager, Engineer, CEO

Pain: Machinery downtime (for Plant Managers)

Content Idea: 5 Ways to Reduce Downtime in your Food Manufacturing Facility

Once you have the content idea, ask yourself who at your company is really an expert on the topic. Then, determine which medium to use. 

You can find the full content strategy google sheet along with other great marketing and sales resources from Gorilla 76 here

Companies who, until now, focused on in-person, referral and networking based strategies for generating new business are feeling immense pressure to digitize. But many companies that lean so heavily on relationship-building lack the know-how required to modernize and humanize simultaneously. Luckily, Joe Sullivan has a solution. With the adoption of video tools, a shift in messaging, and a clear, value-based content strategy, companies can take their traditional ways of selling online, and fill the gap in lead flow left by trade shows and travel.


Want to know more about marketing strategy? Check out the slides from Aaron Ross’ talk Simple, Sane & Successful Inbound Marketing here.

Another out of the box methods to add to your marketing strategy: Quizzes

More from Aaron Ross on knowing your buying stages and How to Create Compelling Content 

Keep Learning