How to capitalize on the content marketing continuum


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How to capitalize on the content marketing continuum

  2. 2. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 2 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Continuum – noun; A continuous extent, series or whole - Marketing is no longer effective when comprised of one-off events, messages or campaigns. The buying experience during a complex sale must be fluid, connected and engaging across its entirety. Content marketing programs are the threads that weave together to create a fabric of engagement that elevates pipeline velocity, putting salespeople in viable opportunity conversations sooner—rather than later. There are no stops and starts in a continuum. The flow is consistent, steady and designed to build the problem-to-solution story with buyers by providing the education, expertise and evidence they need to conclude that your company is the ultimate choice to help them achieve business objectives. This eBook is your guide for generating a transformation in marketing, from standalone efforts into strategic business assets that improve revenue performance.
  3. 3. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 3 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Table of Contents Get Up to Speed..........................................................................................................................................................................................................4 Online Publishing Changes the Game.................................................................................................................................................................5 How Online Publishing Affects Buyers.................................................................................................................................................6 How to Rise Above the Online Noise......................................................................................................................................................7 Tools to Increase Relevance.....................................................................................................................................................................................8 Buyer Personas...........................................................................................................................................................................................11 Five Steps to Building a Buyer Persona.............................................................................................................................................. 12 Four Types of Prospect Attention........................................................................................................................................................ 13 The Importance of Integrating Marketing Channels.....................................................................................................................................14 Why Segmentation Marketing is the New Black............................................................................................................................................ 15 How and Why to Narrow Your Focus...................................................................................................................................................16 Messaging to Multiple Target Segments.............................................................................................................................................17 Design Content Flows for Target Segments.......................................................................................................................................18 How to Improve the ROI on Marketing Content Investments...................................................................................................... 19 Shifts in Skills Needed to Market to the New Buyer...................................................................................................................................... 20 Creating Synergy with Sales................................................................................................................................................................................. 26 Producing Leads Worthy of Sales Pursuit......................................................................................................................................... 27 Why the Toss Over the Wall is OUT and the Baton Pass is IN...................................................................................................... 29 Give Sales a Conversational Toolkit.................................................................................................................................................... 30 Position Salespeople as Valuable Experts.......................................................................................................................................... 31 Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum......................................................................................................................................... 32 About the Author.................................................................................................................................................................................................... 33
  4. 4. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 4 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Get Up to Speed The buyer has taken control of the purchasing process; it’s a refrain heard often in marketing and sales channels. Information has become ubiquitous—as has access to it. No longer are companies and their salespeople the gatekeepers that must be sought out for help to assuage curiosity, reveal solutions to problems, build business cases and select a short list of vendors to pursue. The informational gatekeepers are now represented by search engines, social networks and perceptions of relevance. Marketers and salespeople are now reliant upon their ability to: • Be found with the right information in the channels buyers prefer • Attract and keep the attention of buyers and influencers • Respond appropriately with digital dialogues that motivate buyer intent • Elevate the perceived value of every interaction—whether with marketing or sales What the continuum means for marketers Marketing has become a continuous stream—not one-off campaigns or events. This creates a continuum that must be sustained by stripping away the pretext, posturing and limitations of traditional company and product-focused marketing. A continuum approach is based on delivering escalating value for buyers in every online interaction to create digital dialogues that drive momentum that results in sales and continues on across the entire customer lifecycle. Implications for sales Where the continuum intersects with sales, the provision of value-added, fresh and relevant ideas must seamlessly transition without interruption to momentum. Salespeople must be primed to provide unique expertise beyond what competitors can even imitate—should they try. Preparing for the Content Marketing Continuum The ability to publish content online, interact with buyers and engage in social conversations has become simple to execute. It’s the planning, strategy, and context—along with a foundation for sustaining it consistently over time—that challenges marketers and salespeople. Shifting the dynamics of marketing requires new skills and ways of thinking. Following is a framework to help you prepare for sustainable marketing and sales efforts that put the new buyer at the center of your strategy. Change is never easy, but it can certainly be transformative. Ready?
  5. 5. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 5 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Online Publishing Changes the Game Speed is one of the dynamics of today’s marketing. The concept of real-time is pushing marketers to move more quickly than they’ve ever moved before. Speed for marketing is a construct driven by the ease of publishing content and the rallying cries of social media enthusiasts and so-called marketing gurus. The fear of missing out in the chase after the latest shiny object developed to change the way people live, work and play—and most importantly, buy—is urging marketers to move faster. This is not to say that it shouldn’t be an imperative to take advantage of these new capabilities, but that marketers need to take a deep breath and consider the implications that come with online publishing, and how they change the game. Online publishing is a rather broad concept. It covers every format for distributing content online including, but in no way limited to, website content, articles, blog posts, video, white papers, case studies, eBooks, social media profiles, company pages on Facebook, LinkedIn discussions, forum questions and answers, webinars and virtual events, Tweets, podcasts, images, slide decks, and the rapidly growing use of infographics. Let us not forget that online publishing also includes processes such as curating content and publishing press releases. The concept of earned media has been enabled by online publishing. Earned media is often defined as what others choose to say about your company, but it should also be considered in relation to those who share your content with their networks. This includes content curators, community blog syndication and social mentions. All types of earned media serve to extend the reach of your content farther than you could on your own. Sharing transfers credibility from the source with their recommendation that their audience will find it relevant to their interests. Rather than paying for content placement, marketers can now create their own media and earn coverage in channels where that content is found valuable by audiences they want to reach. But the biggest game changer of all may be the ability for a company to create, own or sponsor online communities and websites that facilitate the publishing of thought leadership content to help their target audiences deal with business priorities—without trying to sell anything. Among many examples are, sponsored by Adobe, Smart Data Collective, spon- sored by Teradata, and all Business, sponsored by D&B, and Bizmology, published by Hoover’s. Adobe is the brand behind [], but our job is not really to sell product, but to educate and inform the chief marketing officer about issues going on in the digital marketing world. Timothy Moran, editor in chief, “ 58% of buyers say thought leadership from solution providers is important or critical during their buying process. 48% said that if the quality of thought leadership im- proved, it would influence their purchase decision. ITSMA and PAC, 2010 How Customers Choose Study, 2010
  6. 6. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 6 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. How Online Publishing Affects Buyers One of the misconceptions that comes with speed is that it’s an equal-opportunity dynamic. Just because marketers can publish content quickly doesn’t mean that buyers will keep stride with this breakneck pace. The rise in content publishing assumes that there’s a corresponding rise in the availability of time and attention needed to consume that volume of content. For buyers, often the opposite is true. Marketers may be producing more content, but buyers often have less time to consume it. Three factors that impact the buyer experience include how to: 1. Find the right information – the overwhelming amount of information available on every topic imaginable makes it more difficult for buyers to filter it to determine which of it is credible, or even useful. The time this takes is also extremely limited, slowing the buying process regardless of how fast marketers think they’re addressing buyers’ needs by publishing more information, faster. Even if it’s information they need. 2. Convince the right people – in a B2B buying process, the increase of complexity and breadth of solutions requires more people to reach consensus—each of them with differing priorities and motivations. The content that works to convince one stakeholder to embrace the proposed change may not work to persuade the others. 3. Build the best business case – today’s economic climate has changed the usual budgetary structure, requiring buyers to identify problems, the reasons for solving them and—only once that foundation has been established—to build a business case to secure the budget to proceed. Research by DemandGen Report found that 30% of B2B purchases were made in this fashion by buyers surveyed. The challenge for marketers is to provide information so clear and relevant that the value of pursuing the fix is validated by proof of the impact the project can have on the company’s business objectives. All three of these factors can be answered with online publishing, but to do so marketers must first plan for and address the challenge of being found in the channels buyers prefer. How buyers say they spend their time during their buying process: 23% in discussions with colleagues 21% with sales team interaction 19% searching the web 19% with educational content 18% reviewing promotional content IDG Connect, 2011
  7. 7. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 7 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. How to Rise Above the Online Noise Being found by the right prospective buyers is dependent upon differentiation supported by specificity. The only way marketers can do this well is by doing the work and research it takes to get to know their buyers nearly as well as they know themselves. Here’s an example to demonstrate what I mean by differentiation and specificity in relation to providing content that will rise above the noise for your buyers: Take the concept of “growing revenues.” It’s something most companies tout as a benefit their buyers can get from using their products and services. But it’s so generic and high level that, on its own, it means nothing interesting. There are many ways to increase revenues. The key is to think about the how and the why instead of relying on the vanilla benefit (the what). Why is your prospect’s priority focused on increasing revenues? • Perhaps it’s because he’s a line of business manager and his job depends on the amount of product that gets sold in the marketplace. • Maybe she’s the director of inside sales and her reps must provide field sales reps with leads worthy of pursuit or the company won’t meet their quota for revenues. • Perhaps your prospect is a call center manager and his initiative is to increase cross-sell and up-sell solution extension products to current customers. • It could be that your prospect is the CEO and responsible for increasing stock value for investors through continuous growth milestones the company must achieve. To each of these people, the concept of driving revenues has a different context. The reasons supporting the goal are different. Their role and responsibilities within the company are different. If you’re trying to reach all of these buyers with the same content, it’s less likely to be found and assigned the attention required to build and sustain engagement across the buying process. Buyers’ top complaints about content include: 33% say there’s too much content that’s not useful 29% say content is not relevant 24% say content does not meet the needs of all the people involved in the decision 23% say there’s not enough educational content IDG Connect, 2011
  8. 8. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 8 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Now think about the how. How can the prospect best contribute to the overall objective of driving revenues? • For the product manager, perhaps the solution is new packaging to make the product more appealing or improve training for salespeople in how to sell it. Maybe it’s improved management of production to better meet demand. • For the inside sales manager, a possible solution could be providing faster access to information that enables her reps to have better conversations with prospects, improving quality and prioritization. • For the call center manager, perhaps it’s improving the ability for her agents to easily know what products the customer already has and which are appropriate add-ons or advances relevant to their business needs. This could mean integrating data silos. • For the CEO, perhaps the answer is better dashboards or information visibility that enables better and faster decisions to be made for volumes of data. When you can get specific enough to narrow your focus to the who, the why and the how that relates to the what (driving revenues), then you can create messaging and content that rises above the noise to get found by your buyers. Once again, the best way to accomplish this is to get to know your buyers. When creating content with differentiation and specificity, make sure that it delivers on buyers needs by: • Showing the reader why he should care at the start. Don’t bury your hook. • Educating them with information they need to know about solving a specific problem. • Making your call to action easy to understand and simple to respond to. • Demonstrating the impact you promise in simple terms and show them where to find it. • Igniting urgency on their part to learn more and take next steps because it seems like the natural outcome for them after reading your content.
  9. 9. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 9 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Tools to Increase Relevance Engaging B2B buyers across the entirety of the purchasing process must be the goal of marketers. In today’s online business environment, this means not only the ability to create digital dialogues, but to sustain them over the long term. By flipping your focus from the way your company defines the sales process to how buyers engage in the buying experience, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to make this happen. Instead of orienting your funnel to a sales perspective, focus the stages of the funnel on your B2B buyers’ experience. When your funnel is focused on meeting the needs of all the people involved in the decision, you’ll see a swelling in the middle, instead of the constriction that indicates fallout, or leakage, in traditional funnels. In the buyer-experience funnel, notice the buyer/customer and marketing are interwoven throughout the entire buying experience—and beyond. Salespeople enter the process around the 5th stage and are usually out of the equation after the buyer purchases. But most importantly, recognize the expansion that happens in the middle of the buying process during buying committee involvement. This is where knowing who else is involved in the process—and addressing their interests—is critical to continuing the flow of buying momentum. Today’s buyer experience is quite different from the process most marketers have enabled and supported in the past. The Buyer-Experience Funnel stages include: Interest: Get buyers to take a look at how you can solve the problems they face. Attention: Convince them to opt-in. Fallout occurs if they choose not to continue. Value: Instantly recognizable value increases willingness to engage. Engagement: Prospects spend more time & mindshare with your content. Buying committee involvement: Your funnel swells as influencers interact to gain consensus by building and validating the business case. Conversations: Sales steps in to drive momentum to purchase based on interests expressed. The funnel narrows to core decision maker participation. Purchase: Buyers choose to partner with your company.
  10. 10. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 10 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. A disconnect occurs because marketers haven’t changed in response to how their buyers have shifted. The figure below shows how the majority of marketers are responding to the buyer experience according to a poll taken with attendees of the Sirius Decisions Summit in 2011. According to the poll, 79 percent of marketers are only addressing a fraction, if any, of the buying experience that’s pivotal to generating the increased demand that leads to customer acquisition. This presents a huge opportunity for the marketers who recognize and address the importance of addressing the variety of activities and needs that arise across the entire buyer experience funnel. The buyer experience funnel has a direct overlay to the stages of the buying process and the questions your prospects will need answered as they move from stage to stage.
  11. 11. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 11 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. In the table above, note the parallels between the buyer experience, stages in the process and the corresponding questions. There’s a fluency of progression from the top to the bottom. Buyer Personas To coordinate the experience, stages and questions into a consistent process that meets the needs of your buyers, use buyer personas as the foundation. Personas do not need to be difficult, but they do require that you step into the shoes of your target market to create them. A persona is a composite sketch of a type of customer your company serves. When creating a persona, it’s best to focus it on one segment with one problem-to-solution journey. If you focus more broadly, it’s hard to tell a consistent story that builds momentum over time. Once you’ve used the problem to define scope, decide who the issue is most important to and begin to build your persona following these five steps. Buyer Experience Buying Stages Buyer Questions Interest: I’m curious enough to take a look. Status Quo: Problem not yet recog- nized as painful enough to fix. Why should I care? Attention: I like what I see so far. Priority: Problem recognized but un- sure how to proceed. What should I know? Value: This can really help me achieve goals. Research: Actively engaged in learn- ing what they need to know to take action. What are best practices? Engagement: I need to find out more about how they deliver what they promise. Options: Identifying solution sets that can provide the most value for now and future. Who has the expertise? Buying Committee Involvement: Everyone needs to get on board. Step backs: Stops to verify beliefs or find answers to new questions. What if…? Conversations: I want to make sure I can work with you – trust you. Validation: Exploring evidence that supports vendor promises. Why should I believe you? Purchase Choice: Deciding to buy. You’ll bring the most value.
  12. 12. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 12 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Five Steps to Building a Buyer Persona Step 1: Define their current situation • What is their priority and what do they do or use to achieve their goal today? • What workaround(s) could be in place? • What problem is limiting their success? Step 2: Define their demographics • Job Title(s) • Years in current position and place in career – whether they’re young and just starting or have spent most of their career with the same company can provide insight on risk tolerance, influence in creating change within the company, etc. • Company size and revenues • Industry Step 3: Identify their attributes • Role – Their place in the company and who they answer to. • Responsibilities – What or who they manage and what outcomes they must achieve. • Threats – what could derail the deal? • Motivations – both professionally and based on company objectives – could also be what they want to avoid. • Influencers – who can aid in affirming the project or stall it from moving forward? Step 4: Understand their preferences • Where do they spend time online? Offline? • How do they participate with social media? Do they? • What keywords, phrases and search terms resonate with them? Use Business Intelligence Portals: • Search by industry, size, title. • Assess profiles, click through to review LinkedIn profiles. • Use at least 20 profiles to identify common themes. • Access the industry information to gain insight to challenges and opportunities. • BI portals also offer in-depth research on specific industries, helping you to define priorities and challenges quickly. Talk to Salespeople: • What areas of the business are they focused on? • Who are they speaking with? • How do prospects frame the problem? • What stops them from taking next steps? • Who else do they have to convince? Talk to Customers: • What problem did we solve? • What else did that enable? • Why did they choose us? • What obstacles did they have to overcome to buy?
  13. 13. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 13 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Step 5: Draft the buyer persona value statement • I need to solve (problem)____________in order to achieve (solution/goal)___________. Four Types of Prospect Attention Attention is the capacity to maintain selective or sustained concentration. The amount of attention your prospects attribute to your digital dialogue will be indicative of their propensity to buy from your company. But, it’s important to consider that not all the types of attention are the right kind of attention to contribute to purchase decisions. As you create content marketing strategies to provide a better buying experience, consider which types of attention you could be generating and how only one type will truly influence purchase decisions. 1. Cursory attention – This attention is the equivalent of curiosity in the Interest stage of the buyer experience funnel. This is your buyer telling you that he or she may be interested in what you have to say, but they are thus far unconvinced of how much of their time your content and dialogue warrants. This is status quo and where you start. 2. Misleading attention – The buyer thought he was interested, but his attention wandered and he may possibly still be staring at your content, but thinking that he needs to pick up his dry cleaning on the way home from work and wondering what his wife is cooking for dinner. This attention can also be from people who want a content offer for the information it promises, but not because they’re interested in buying from you. Catch Factors are the preferences and aversions that form a prospect’s gut reaction to your content and communications. Urgency: Is it a priority right now? Effort: How hard will it be to access, understand and use the information? Reputation: What do I know and think about your company? Intent: What do you want from me? By addressing Catch Factors within your content, you will not only catch, but keep, attention across the buying process, transitioning it from cursory to intentional attention that turns prospects into buyers.
  14. 14. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 14 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. 3. Voluntary attention – These are the people who subscribe to everything you publish. They read your blog, sign up to attend webinars, but always stop short of taking a next step that would indicate momentum in the buying process. This said, this is the type of attention that results in earned media, referrals and advocates, so it’s wise to cultivate it. 4. Intentional attention – BINGO! This is the type of attention you want to achieve. These are the buyers who are intent on learning what they need to know to make a purchase decision. They interact purposefully with your content and proactively access it, even without prompting from nurturing emails. You can see a pattern in the content they’re accessing and the dialogue they participate in, or follow. These are the buyers that will invite sales into conversations when they reach that stage in their buying process. The Importance of Integrating Marketing Channels With the increasing comfort B2B buyers have for sourcing information online and participating in social media—not to mention using search engines—the quality of your digital dialogue must be impeccable. It’s imperative that your content marketing programs show buyers the consistency and expertise that demonstrates the traits of a partner they’d choose to help them solve their highest-priority problems. Online publishing has enabled marketers to expand the distribution channels they use to share content and reach buyers. Unfortunately, the norm is that these channels are executed as silos, rather than as one comprehensive program. Sometimes this is due to how marketing tasks are distributed across the company. Sometimes it’s simply that no strategy exists to execute channels in sync with overall objectives and goals. This needs to change. And change quickly. Let’s say that your company has a website, an expertise micro-site, a company blog, several employees who both Tweet and blog personally, a group on LinkedIn, a YouTube channel and nurturing programs designed to engage three different personas. These channels are executed by three different marketing groups; demand generation, web marketing and social media. When’s the last time you typed your company’s name into a search engine? What about the keywords and phrases your buyers use? Have you experienced your marketing programs as your buyers do?
  15. 15. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 15 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. How likely is it that each of these three marketing groups knows what the others are doing? The reality is that prospects will traverse a variety of channels during their research for problem solving. They’re likely to encounter content and dialogue placed online by each of the three groups. Will their experience be consistent? Or will the contrast be so fragmented that these experiences culminate with a diminishing level of interest in doing business with your company? Each channel requires a unique format, tone and style of content. The key is to make sure that the message experience is consistent, encouraging a higher level of engagement and intent. Why Segmentation Marketing is the New Black In every client engagement, I have yet to find only one persona, or target market. Most companies have at least two or three audiences that must be addressed for each solution. Addressing those audiences based on their specific needs and interests is usually constrained by marketing resources, rather than due to prospect similarities. Segmentation must reach beyond job titles and industry to incorporate the knowledge gained from creating personas. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in the chart below, research from Marketing Sherpa finds that segmentation is still a top relevance challenge for marketers. The purpose of segmentation is to match content with the interests and needs of the audience. Ultimate segmentation is when marketers can implement strategic responses based on behavior, rather than just a category such as role, title or industry. High relevance directly correlates to level of engagement. As you can see in the chart, segmentation and interactions based on behavior, triggers and place in the sales (buying) cycle are three of the top four challenges stated by marketers that keep them from improving the perception of relevance by their prospects.
  16. 16. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 16 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. It’s also important to realize that segmentation is not just for email campaigns. It applies to how marketers address each audience they wish to engage. Consider new forms of segmentation that marketers can use: • Hashtags on Twitter for specific interests • LinkedIn Groups • Participation on topic-driven community sites • Categories and tags on company-owned blogs • RSS feeds for specific topic areas on websites How and Why to Narrow Your Focus Segmentation can also be thought of in terms of a niche. “A niche, by its very nature, catches the attention of those it appeals to. These people are the ones who will go out of their way to participate and interact with it. And with others who have the same interests. You’ll find it easier to generate relationships because your communications and content relevance will be so high they will spawn interactions based on the establishment of a common foundation for dialogue. And a niche focus increases your prospects’ view of your company as a specialist with expertise they need. This is because you are perceived to be focused solely on them. “Think about the beauty (and the potential payoffs) of a niche. Niches come to life when you add personas. A persona takes a segment of your company’s aggregate customer profile and fleshes it out with detailed information that represents real prospects in specific circumstances. The more specific you can get about the boundaries of your niche, the more your persona can become a viable representation of your prospective customers. Consider as a simple example of narrowing to a niche focus that “all people who drive SUVs” is not the same market as “those who drive Hummers.” And remember that a niche is different than a persona. One niche can have a variety of personas. You would market differently to female buyers of Hummers than to men who drive hummers, for example. Or, a Director of IT will have different interests than a CIO.” Excerpt from eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale 53% of marketers say their primary concern is meeting the growth agenda by establishing a differentiated brand position. Only 10% ranked their organizations well equipped to target customers and market to them in innovative ways. Prophet’s 2011 State of Marketing Study 86% of respondents say customer engagement is essential or important – down 2% from last year. However, only 6% say that they know all of their customer touch-points and 34% say they don’t know how many customer touch-points they have. eConsultancy, Customer Engagement Report, 2011
  17. 17. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 17 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Payoffs from narrowing your focus include: • Higher engagement, interest and dialogue • Increased momentum across the buying process • Getting buyers to involve salespeople earlier in the conversation • Competitive advantage based on increased credibility and trust Messaging to Multiple Target Segments According to DemandGen Report, 43.7% of buyers say they’re taking more time to research purchases. This is likely related to research by IDG Connect that finds 62% of buyers say the content they find is not relevant or useful. To get the feel for how messaging is refined to address specific target segments, take a look at how Apple has created successful engagement across four segments, excerpted from Prophet’s 2011 State of Marketing Study: Notice the differences in the positioning message for each segment: Each of these messages, while specific to a target audience, carries the style, tone and passion of the Apple brand. The messages focus on a want, need and priority for each segment. With each of these positioning statements, Apple can match them up against all the content and messaging developed for each segment to ensure that the messaging stays on point, delivering high relevance with each interaction and dialogue. Consider the potential differences in priorities between sales and operations as another example. Salespeople are focused on driving revenue and increasing customer acquisition. Operations managers are concerned about increasing profits, which usually translates to reducing bottom-line expenses. Revenue is not the same as profit and requires a different message. Reducing bottom-line expense is often about process efficiency. Increasing revenues is based on the effectiveness of salespeople to create high-value perception coupled with low risk for buyers to help them make a purchase decision in your company’s favor. Consumers: “Devices should help you experience your life exactly the way you want to.” App Developers: “You can be part of the future, have an impact on people’s lives, and generate value along the way.” Media companies: “Your business will thrive and your content will be experienced better than ever before.” Tech bloggers: “You win when you make the future understandable to the masses.”
  18. 18. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 18 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Design Content Flows for Target Segments A content flow is the storyline marketers must create to engage a prospective buyer over the course of their buying process by providing the right information at the right time. Think about how you go about buying some- thing beyond a transactional purchase today. It’s likely that the first place you turn to is an online search to learn more about your options. This is also true for your buyers. What marketers fail to understand is that search queries are the digital version of a question and answer session. Each query is based on a question the buyer is seeking information to answer. Once one answer has been found, the path is cleared for the next question, and so on. Content marketing storylines based on this type of ebb and flow will get found, create engagement and qualify leads. Determining the questions your buyers have during their buying process will help you to create content that answers those questions—increasing relevance. Let’s say we’re a customer analytics software company constructing a content flow for customer service executives of large telecommunications companies. Below is an example of the types of questions prospects may have and ideas for content that might address them. Segmented emails garner 50% more clicks than general mass email blasts. Marketing Sherpa Questions (priorities) Answers (content premise) Why is first-call-resolution eroding? The increasing complexity of service calls for customers with multiple devices. How can I increase customer satisfaction? The power has shifted: how to answer the needs of today’s mobile and social customers. How can my team reduce truck rolls? Skills for better remote problem diagnosis. How can we better handle spikes in volume due to new product launches? Advance planning strategies for staffing in response to product launches in telecom. What can I do to improve cross sell and up-sell across product lines? Give your customers what they want – even if they don’t know it yet. What information can I produce to help the company better connect with our customers? How a reporting dashboard helps you analyze data to extract actionable insights quickly. What KPIs should I be monitoring to improve customer loyalty? Today’s customers switch on a dime – 5 new metrics for loyalty and how to use them.
  19. 19. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 19 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Every question that your buyers have can be answered directly with a content asset. Discovering all the questions they will need to answer during their buying process should be part of the persona development process. When buyers find answers to the questions they have about resolving high-priority issues, they develop confidence that helps them to take next steps, increasing momentum toward purchase due to a compelling buying experience. What becomes evident quickly is that the amount of content it takes to develop programs for a number of target segments to meet the needs of both buyers and influencers can add up to a mountain of assets. With limited resources, marketers must get creative to extract more value. How to Improve the ROI on Marketing Content Investments Content must be considered an investment rather than an expense. In order for that to be true, marketers must learn how to gain more output from their content development processes and make wise choices about how content assets can provide extension uses beyond the original goal for the development of each asset. Here are three ways to get more from your content: • Reinvention. Content that currently exists must be audited and re-imagined to provide coverage in more than one channel. Often, marketers will create a big asset – such as a white paper, use it once in a lead generation campaign and then relegate it to the resources section of the corporate website. With all the new channels in the marketing mix, marketers can use that white paper for much more. For example: • Pull a chart used in a white paper and write a bit of commentary addressing the findings and post it to the corporate blog. Link back to the white paper to encourage more downloads. • White papers are usually written in sections. Pull each section and turn it into a standalone article. Use the articles as a series for a nurturing program or in your monthly newsletter. • Tweet with a related #hashtag to expand the reach of the white paper. • Use the white paper to create a slide deck you can share on Slideshare as well as embed in a blog post or a related section on the corporate website. • Create another version of the slide deck to host a webinar on the topic covered. Top 3 Marketing Challenges • Lack of budget, time and resources (62%) • Inability to stop executing and think strategically (39%) • Limited ability to develop content (35%) Marketing Sherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey
  20. 20. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 20 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. • Repurposing. As has been discussed previously, content is more effective when its focus is narrowed to address the needs of one target segment. What may not be readily apparent is that there may be overlays across industries or segments. • Take a look at your persona—or target segment—questions to see if versions of the same question are asked by different personas. It may be that a content asset designed for one persona can be quickly revised to address the version of the question asked by another. • Many companies address the same target audience in a variety of vertical industries. Make the appropriate changes to the content to position it for each additional industry where it applies. I will caution you that just changing the references to the industry is not enough. Make sure to address the subtle differences and phrasing that expresses your understanding of each industry and audience. • Repetition. Using the ideas shared in your content more than once is how marketers should frame the context for repetition. New ideas take time to take hold. Here’s a basic example: Let’s say the main idea is “The expectations of the new buyer.” The original idea is to write an article about how the buyer has changed, backed up with industry statistics and examples that are relevant for the target market you’ve selected. To put repetition into play, determine other ways to spin this main idea. Examples might include: • 10 reasons you need to change what you’re telling buyers • Why your customer’s trust level has declined • How to have a conversation with today’s buyer • What sales needs to close the new buyer Now you have 5 topics based on one main idea that you can develop into marketing content using the same research you’ll do to develop the content asset around the main idea. All with a different take or spin, each one reinforcing your expertise on the topic. Shifts in Skills Needed to Market to the New Buyer Making the shift from static B2B marketing to dynamic B2B eMarketing not only requires the appropriate technology and tools, but a change to the marketer’s mindset. Companies are recognizing there are differences to be addressed as they realize the power has shifted from their companies to their buyers. The Internet has unleashed a torrent of information, changing forever the ways in which complex sales are conducted. To reach and engage the new buyer, marketers must develop and tune What Repetition is Not: • Using the same piece of content over and over. • Saying the same things everyone else in your market is saying. • Using the same self-serving calls to action (Schedule a demo today!)
  21. 21. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 21 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. new skills quite different from those they’ve relied on in the past. The following shifts in skills will help marketers capitalize on the content marketing continuum. From Talking to Listening Traditional marketing was predicated on companies controlling which information was available for consumption by prospective customers. Due to this perceived control over the informational flow, marketers focused on talking about how cool their products were, how groundbreaking and how their prospects would perish without these solutions. Companies waxed poetic about how they were the “leading providers of…” and the awards they’d won. They talked about the feeds and speeds of their prod- ucts, unaware that this wasn’t doing a thing to help their buyers actually buy anything. In the past, salespeople built the relationships one prospect at a time. They established the relationship and guided the buyer through their purchasing process. Today’s buyer has firmly expressed their displeasure with that process by taking advantage of the wealth of available information to do their own research and make their own decisions. Their opinion of salespeople has been expressed by limiting their participation to the end of the buying process, often after the short list of potential vendors has been determined. This shifts a bulk of responsibility from sales to marketing, although many salespeople would argue they’ve not seen the gauntlet picked up for this challenge. The first shift that marketers need to embrace is the ability to stop talking and start listening. Not only have buyers taken control, but they’re more talkative than ever, thanks to social media and the ease of publishing. If marketers take the time to listen to what’s being said, marketing content and nurturing programs can be developed that resonate with buyers based on matching content to expressed interests. Several ways to listen include: • Following targeted discussions in groups on LinkedIn • Determining the influential bloggers in your space and monitoring the interaction on their blogs – comments most especially. • Attending webinars produced by competitors for the content and the Q&A at the end. • Monitoring #hashtags for keywords on Twitter for insights about specific topics. “CMOs think market and technology factors are the two most powerful external forces affecting their organizations.” “Four out of five CMOs we talked with anticipate a high or very high level of complexity over the next five years, but only half feel ready to handle it.” From Stretched to Strengthened Insights from the IBM Global CMO Study
  22. 22. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 22 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. From Packaged Campaigns to Tuning on the Fly The days of perfecting a campaign (or thinking we have), then executing and waiting to see how it turns out are over. The beauty of marketing automation is that it enables marketers to view real-time results and responses to each step of a marketing program as it’s rolled out. Marketers can tune, tweak and take corrective actions to ensure they get the best results as they go. There’s no need to sit helplessly by and watch a campaign intended to generate 100 leads run its course generating only 25 that may not turn out to be actual leads. The ability to see prospect behavior in response to content and messag- ing will help marketers make adjustments that increase relevance to get things back on track—generating more qualified leads rather than solely focusing on quantity. Marketing today means taking your best shot and proactively improving results during the execution in response to audience behavior and feedback. This also means that marketers need to learn how to use the metrics compiled by technology to inform their decisions. The 2011 Customer Engagement Report from eConsultancy learned that 57% of marketers have found web analytics to be among the most useful methods for gathering intelligence in the context of customer engagement. The other change that marketers should consider in relation to the content marketing continuum is that the nature of campaigns has changed—forever. Marketers who focus on a dialogue with buyers involved in a complex purchase, for example, must be able to create and sustain those dialogues over the entirety of the buying experience. The days of generating contact information and passing that to sales are over. When you factor in the preferences of the new buyer, this means that instead of a campaign with the usual three touches and a sales pitch, marketers must plan for many more touches and interactions that help buyers make progress toward sales conversations…and beyond. As priorities and challenges become more complex to solve, so to do the solutions we provide to serve our customers. Distilling our messaging down to clarity that persuades buyers to take next steps is the issue marketers must address to embrace the content marketing continuum. “In the next three years, more diverse skills and capabilities will need to be demonstrated. Chief among them, according to 84 percent of the survey group, will be more innovative approaches to targeting and marketing. Sixty-eight percent cited capabilities in digital media strategies.” Prophet’s 2011 State of Marketing Study
  23. 23. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 23 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. From Big-bang PR to Continuous Publishing It used to be that marketers would spend months planning for a product launch. We’d have spread sheets and be working under the “cone of silence” to get the media coverage that would help us reveal our new product with the loudest amount of noise and coverage we could muster—scheduled to go live all at once. The next day we’d congratulate ourselves and go back to our status quo operational routines. That approach no longer works. To create engagement, marketers must learn to publish contagious content continuously to build relationships with target segments. The “once and done” campaigns of the past won’t do that. The difference to note is “earn” rather than “buy.” Instead of attempting to form instant relationships with a big bang based mainly on paid media, marketers must focus on building rapport incrementally through continuous content publishing that expands—and reinforces—our story over time. Big-bang PR is developed for our company’s benefit. It’s our shout out to the world that we’ve done something noteworthy. Continuous publishing with contagious content is about being perceived as noteworthy all the time. With the new buyer, every impression counts. By developing a publishing mindset, marketers are better able to plan for and manage the content creation process with the aim to grow a network that will be motivated to help us share our ideas because we’ve made them continuously valuable and relevant. This way, when we launch something new, our audience is predisposed to pay attention because we’ve taken the time to build credibility with them. We’ve shown them we understand their issues and their business; and that we’re invested in their success for the long haul. From One-off Blasts to Serial Storytelling The content marketing continuum is not about sending whatever is at hand just to keep our name and logo in front of our audience. It’s not about the sales offer “flavor of the month” or product feeds and speeds. Research by the CMO Council discovered that the top three pet peeves of buyers in relation to marketing content are: “Contagious content gains the attention of the prospects you know about and helps your ideas spread to others who haven’t yet raised their hands and identified themselves. Content that is contagious speaks directly to your target markets—engaging prospects as if it were written just for them.” eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale
  24. 24. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 24 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. 1. Hype and Puffery – Content that’s all about how great your company and products are with little regard for what your audience will find relevant or valuable. It’s all about you. 2. Lack of Business Value Proposition – In other words, content must provide clarity around what your product enables prospects to do—that they can’t do now—that will help them achieve critical business objectives. 3. Not enough Proof of ROI – Buyers don’t just believe you because you say it’s so. Vague statements about how your product or solution positions your customers to reap future benefits won’t cut it. Give them meaty statistics and examples they can use to build a business case and model potential impact based on their unique situations. Marketers who embrace serial storytelling can reverse buyers’ perceptions of irrelevance. Serial storytelling during a complex B2B buying process means answering your buyers questions as they move through the buying process, starting from status quo. From educating them about why they should solve the problem to sharing how your expertise adds value—in addition to your product—to sharing the evidence of the results your customers have achieved with your help, you tell them the story about why you’re the best partner they can choose. The goal is to help your prospects connect the dots and take next steps with the insights each content asset provides. Storytelling for marketing is not just realized with case studies, testimonials and executive anecdotes. Content that helps buyers visualize how their world can change productively with your company’s expertise, see themselves becoming the hero of the story. From Clicks and Opens to Mindshare and Momentum It used to be that companies judged the success of online marketing programs based on impressions, or even opt-ins. But opt-ins don’t count for much unless they move through the pipeline. The beauty of rich profiles and activity histo- ries provided to us by marketing automation is that we can now develop lead scoring models to gauge prospect interest. The goal of content marketing is to get your prospects to spend more of their attention on your content and engage with your company more intentionally than they do with competitors. Marketers who focus on becoming the “anchor” (the relied-upon resource) for how their prospects think about solving their problems will see an increase 44% of surveyed marketers said prospects view communications from their companies as “disjointed” or “hit and miss.” Only 3% of surveyed marketers think they “wow” prospects by knowing what information customers need and giving it to them. The State Of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed, Forrester Research, Inc. June 28, 2011 58% of buyers say that thought leadership content from solution providers plays a critical or important role in their buying process. This includes the research, analysis and advice found in content such as reports, white papers, webcasts and articles. ITSMA and PAC How Customers Choose Study, 2010
  25. 25. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 25 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. to pipeline momentum. They will also see a higher rate of sales acceptance, opportunities and contribution to downstream revenues. Building mindshare is the equivalent of building credibility, reliance and trusted-advisor status. That’s what leads to revenues. According to 61% of marketers surveyed by BtoB Magazine recently, contribution to revenues is the #1 metric that marketers are focused on improving.Market2Lead (prior to acquisition by Oracle) analyzed internal data to report that nurtured leads have an average deal size 9% higher, with a 23% shorter time to purchase. But perhaps one of the most important behaviors that evidences the effect of mindshare on momentum is the increase in sales call acceptance by leads who have been nurtured with relevant content. Sales Engine International partnered with ebQuickstart to run an experiment on the effectiveness of lead nurturing in relation to sales calls. They were able to validate a 9X improvement to call receptiveness for leads who had repeatedly responded to email content offers in comparison to the results of cold calls to those who’d not received the emails. Today’s buyers have changed. Marketing approaches must shift as well—including our objectives. From One-way Communications to Two-way Conversations This shift in marketing skills highlights the difference between static and dynamic communications. Static—also known as push—is self-focused, without the intention to establish a dialogue. Dynamic communications are interactive. A conversational intent creates the force and power to drive funnel momentum. To achieve two-way conversations, marketers need to give up the outdated idea that they have control over the message. In the digital world, companies that won’t enable their prospective buyers to interact with them on their terms will lose to competitors who will. Think of it this way: would you rather have someone speaking at you, blathering on about their opinion without respect for yours, or would you prefer to be involved in an exchange of ideas? The latter is more appealing, obviously. Buyer knowledge will help marketers increase their comfort zone for “letting go.” The better you know them, the more relevant you can be. This knowledge also serves to prepare marketers to react appropriately when buyers decide to respond. It’s just good common sense that the better we know people, the easier it is to engage them. With a strategic plan, marketers can not only engage in conversations more easily with their prospects and customers, but they can design interactive exchanges to gain actionable insights used to extend attention and encourage prospects to take next steps. Marketing across a complex sale is an iterative process that develops one step at a time with an increasing number of people involved. It’s also interesting to note that the research into buyers done by DemandGen found that the majority of buyers are not following a traditional buying process. This being said, the report also found that 66% of buyers indicate that “consistent and relevant communication provided by both sales and marketing organizations” is a key influence in choosing a solution
  26. 26. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 26 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. provider. Marketers need to learn to take cues from our buyers to achieve the quantifiable results that contribute to downstream revenues. And that requires two-way conversations. Creating Synergy with Sales The issue of marketing and sales alignment has been the white elephant in the room for about as long as anyone can remember. The crux is that the responsibilities of the two functions are different. They will always be differ- ent. But there’s one thing that won’t change for most B2B companies: without salespeople, there is no business. Unarguably, the buyer has wrested control of how they buy, source informa- tion and make purchase decisions. Buyers have pushed salespeople to the end of their buying process, transferring much of the weight and responsibility for educating them onto marketing. But, let’s be reasonable, salespeople are “Today, up to 70% of a customer’s buying decision is now made based on information he or she finds online well before a salesperson has a chance to get involved.” Selling Power 4 Leadership Trends in B2B Sales & Marketing
  27. 27. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 27 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. still the ones most likely to have the insights and knowledge that marketing needs to perform that function well. Contrast that with the opportunity marketers have to reach and digitally interact with buyers during a longer chunk of the buying experience and you’ll begin to see the disconnect. For some reason, marketers often choose to operate independently of sales— and vice versa—without either side understanding the benefits of collaboration that they’re so consciously avoiding. Synergy is a more appropriate term than alignment because it focuses on cooperative action, rather than trying to force both functions to operate with the same goals, under the same responsibilities. Sales and marketing will never be equal in that regard. This is not said to belittle either side, but to point out that cooperation and collaboration can help each role function to their highest capability in regards to creating a productive and unique buyer experience that produces shorter time to customer acquisition and revenues. Marketing must focus on supporting that objective in concert with sales. Producing Leads Worthy of Sales Pursuit A majority of marketing and sales organizations have not done the work necessary to create qualified leads of interest to salespeople. If you ask either side what factors are necessary for a qualified lead, you’ll either hear a sketchy demographic description, or criteria based on the antiquated notion of BANT (i.e., budget, authority, need, timeline). It’s also likely that how sales responds to the question will differ from the way marketers will answer it. This must be rectified. There are at least two of the BANT criteria that no longer define the buyers of today: • Budget. Research has repeatedly found that budgets did not exist prior to building a business case and establishing proof of concept. If sales reps reject leads based on budget, they could be giving your competitors a gift. • Authority. Research also finds that the buying committee for a B2B complex purchase is growing. This means that, although technically one person will ink the deal, there are a number of other people who must reach consensus for a purchase decision to be made. Timeline is also blurring as a factor, for if a budget has not been established prior to searching for resolution to a problem, there won’t be a timeline. Based on urgency, level of pain, or depth of opportunity, the timeline could be accelerated once the business case is developed. The only element of BANT that’s absolutely critical for producing a qualified buyer is need. If they don’t need what you sell, they obviously won’t ever become your customer. “Sales Reps believe roughly 70% of the leads they receive have a low probability to purchase.” Vorsight & The Bridge Group, Inc. Sales Speaks: Perceptions and Ponderings on Marketing Leads, 2011 The number of influencers involved in a purchase decision has increased by 20%. IDG Connect July 2011
  28. 28. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 28 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. The Sales Speaks report, referenced at right, also found that salespeople prefer to be put in touch with decision makers, but that the leads marketing efforts provide are usually influencers. The report concludes, “Sales reps must be coached to qualify the company, rather than disqualifying the contact.” This being said, with a buying process conducted mainly online prior to sales involvement, technology and tools will often dictate the visibility into lead activity and behavior that indicates sales readiness. Lead scoring, a component of marketing automation platforms, can provide a steady barometer of lead progression. Tuning the process over time with feedback from sales can help the process become a reliable indicator of pipeline momentum and lead quality. The inputs that help marketers determine the quality of leads includes: • Demographic profiles to indicate whether the company fits your customer profile. • Activity in response to content marketing offers. Does the lead only respond when you prompt them via an email? Or do they proactively engage with your content? • Frequency of activity can indicate the difference between casual or cursory attention and intentional activity that indicates the urgency to solve the problem is escalating—along with their interest in your company’s expertise. • Time spent with content is an indication of the importance the lead has associated to the information marketing is providing. Are they scanning or reading? Are they committing an hour of their time to your webinars? Are they asking questions? • Topics that they access can be indicative of where a lead is in their buying process—if marketing has mapped the content to the buying stages. Not all leads start at square one with your content. They may already be convinced they need to solve the problem by the time they find your company. Having the capability to identify how far along they are can help to ensure that sales-ready leads are not overlooked due to a low score. • Human touch is still an important part of the lead qualification process. Marketing programs, no matter how strategically designed, will not impact each lead in the same way. Follow-up by an inside sales rep can help to validate assumptions made via analytics and activity reports, and arrange a handoff to sales should the lead be ready. • Type of content accessed can also be indicative of a change in qualification. For example, if the lead has been reading thought leadership content and is now engaging with product and solution information, sales involvement may be warranted. Lead scoring is still in its infancy, but it is encouraging to see that 27% of sales reps report that scoring is accurate, with 57% reporting somewhat accurate. 6% report that scoring is very accurate, offering proof that refinement and tuning the process can pay off. Vorsight & The Bridge Group, Inc. Sales Speaks: Perceptions and Ponderings on Marketing Leads, 2011
  29. 29. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 29 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Why the Toss Over the Wall is OUT and the Baton Pass is IN Technology can become a double-edged sword when it’s used to replace process with function. An example is the automation of the lead handoff from marketing automation systems to CRM systems. The lead handoff is not just about the technology that elevates a lead status or shuffles it from system to system. Lead qualification criteria and timing are important, but not all that’s required for a smooth transition. Marketers need to orchestrate the handoff in a way that provides value for both the buyer and the salesperson. Not check off a box that the task is done. Yet, according to the chart, lead handoff and management is the least challenging marketing-to-sales funnel process identified in a Marketing Sherpa survey. Since most marketers say they have lead management in hand, they should know a whole lot about their prospects—especially activity history. Given what a lead has shown interest in, what’s the next step that a salesperson can expose them to that makes sense? Marketers need to set that up. Otherwise salespeople will start over, halting all the momentum the buyer has made in order to ask questions we may already have the answers to, rather than providing value and insights that buyers have come to expect. Buyers don’t care what a salesperson wants to know. They expect sales to step in with fresh ideas and perspective that aligns with where they are in their buying process. Marketers should be positioning salespeople to do this from the transition, as well as providing support through to purchase, and beyond. Marketing is a continuum that never ends—with a lot of moving parts. It’s highly questionable that lead handoff is being done well when the top challenge is converting qualified leads into customers. The handoff is about more than who has custody of the lead. Marketers need to start addressing the buying experience funnel in its entirety—as an integrated, strategic process—not a short-term role that ends at the handoff.
  30. 30. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 30 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. Give Sales a Conversational Toolkit It’s long been known that salespeople don’t use two thirds of the content that marketing provides them with. When asked why not, 41% of salespeople told IDG Connect that they don’t know what to use, how to use it effectively, or when to use it. The research also found that salespeople spend less than 7 hours each week preparing for customer or prospect interactions. Salespeople are doers, not researchers. They will not dig through marketing content to figure out what to use, when, or how to use it most effectively. Marketers need to provide an assist in this area. Given the late stage that buyers invite salespeople into conversations, the quality of the conversations that salespeople have with them are critical. Salespeople need to be able to generate conversations that seamlessly connect from where the buyer transitioned off the marketing program. The transition itself signifies a shift in focus. In the final stages of the buying cycle, the decision maker and the most prominent influencers are evaluating the company—assessing viability, working relationships, partner value add, and deciding if they trust your company to deliver on the promises made by marketing. In addition to the buyer’s activity, demographic and psychographic profile, sales needs the following resources that weave the earlier stages of the marketing process with the end stages of the sales process to complete the buyer’s experience. The conversational toolkit may include: • Value propositions focused on the buyer’s goals in relation to the problem they’re solving • Campaign-based FAQs – think the cliff notes version of content the buyer has viewed • A recap of the last interaction the buyer had with suggestions for the next movement in the relationship—including both conversational prompts and appropriate content • Conversational prompts based on the buyer’s industry and company demographics • Mini slide decks focused on helping the salesperson tell a value-added story about the problem-to-solution scenario the buyer is involved with including validation for results All of the above are customer focused—not product oriented. Marketing cannot just reload lead generation and transitional content into the sales portal/system and expect that to carry sales through closing the deal. Sales content deserves to be created just for sales conversations. And it’s not a one-time thing. Just as marketing content evolves when buyers change, sales content must, as well. In order to tune sales content, it’s imperative that marketing get feedback When buyers were asked what set the best salespeople apart, this is what they said: Understand our business (51%) Listened extremely well (43%) Provided relevant content to help our decision (42%) Stayed with us every step of the way (37%) Focused on educating us rather than trying to close the sale (35%) IDG Connect July 2011
  31. 31. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 31 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. and monitor content use and effectiveness to learn what’s working for sales. Marketing needs to take responsibility for tuning what’s working and removing, or replacing, what’s not. In fact, marketing should treat sales content like a continuous campaign, paying the same attention to the metrics of sales force use and activity in relation to content as they do to lead generation and nurturing campaigns. After all, the role of a salesperson is not to call on leads, but to generate opportunities that drive business. If sales content isn’t supporting that role, find out why not and fix it. Position Salespeople as Valuable Experts Depending on whom you ask, salespeople have either become more valuable or, well, not. You can see two contrasting views represented in the call-out boxes on the right. This being said, the indication that buyers only spend 21% of the buying experience with salespeople, could be indicative of the rising level of their importance during that shorter validation period as the complexity of solutions continues to increase. With buyers placing increasing importance on thought leadership, marketers should take heed and work toward helping salespeople be seen as such. Your salespeople likely have a lot of valuable ideas that could be extracted and showcased to support their expertise in more concrete ways. Not just for your company’s benefit, but to help sales reps prove they differentiate your company from others, and that they’re worth the buyer’s time. The net is credibility and trust for your company via your salespeople. That’s what wins complex sales in today’s market. Several ideas for positioning your salespeople as experts include: • Helping them to edit and update their LinkedIn profile to emphasize expertise in a conversational way. Check their other social media profiles used professionally for consistency. • Provide web pages developed to showcase each rep with customer testimonials and brief insights that share their expertise in understanding the buyers’ industry and business. Most salespeople have areas of focus – such as industry. Focus their signature web pages on what’s most relevant to buyers and have them use a link to the page in their email communications. Link to the page from related customer case studies, as well. 58% of executives say sales reps occasionally or never bring thoughtful, relevant ideas about solving business problems. ITSMA and PAC How Customers Choose Study, 2010 68% of buyers say their sales reps have become more important to them as a source of insight and guidance over the last three years in relation to other sources. IDG Connect July, 2011
  32. 32. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 32 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. • Give salespeople some coaching in participating on social platforms. Make sure they understand how marketing is engaging on social networks and coordinate the efforts on both sides to produce consistency in the buyer’s experience. • Interview salespeople to gain their insights about what buyers need to further understand to solve their problems and use the information to create a bylined blog post or article on the subject. Link to it from their web profile page. There are many who would argue this is not a wise use of a salesperson’s time, but a 30 minute interview that produces a content asset that helps late-stage buyers, is a boon for both marketing and the buyer’s perception of the value the salesperson brings. Salespeople must know the products and solutions they sell very well. They must be able to apply what those solutions do to the situations buyers are facing. But they also must learn to provide strategic value in the eyes of the buyer. Personalization and instant gratification are critical across every stage of the buying experience. Where sales can help to inform marketers about the reality for buyers, marketers can help salespeople understand what’s relevant for the buyer at the time of transition. There is value to be gained for each side from the other. IDC defines sales enablement as: “The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time in the right format and in the right place to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward.” Nowhere in this definition does it say that sales enablement is about marketing or sales, but rather the indication is that sales enablement is squarely focused on facilitating the buyer experience—by whichever role is best positioned to do so. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum As digital channels and social platforms become more embedded in business, marketers and salespeople alike must become proficient with the skills necessary to address their company’s strategic objectives. The ability for buyers and customers to interactively exchange information with their peers, colleagues and partners will only increase. This reality can be extremely liberating for buyers, but also serves to introduce confusion by stretching their ability to filter information to determine what is credible and what—and who—they should ignore. This informational flow never stops. Therefore, marketing and sales must be diligent, consistent and continuous in their efforts to interact with the people who can benefit the most from the products and solutions your company provides. Sustainable marketing and sales programs that deliver on objectives must put buyers at the center of strategy. With the framework and tools presented in this eBook series, marketers and salespeople can collaboratively build the foundation they need to successfully:
  33. 33. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 33 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. • Be found with the right information in the channels buyers prefer • Attract and keep the attention of buyers and influencers • Respond appropriately with digital dialogues that motivate buyer intent • Elevate the perceived value of every interaction—whether with marketing or sales By knowing your buyers and understanding their needs, preferences, priorities and aversions, marketing and sales can provide the education, expertise and evidence needed to become strategic resources and partners that buyers choose to engage with and buy from. It’s time to make the move from static to dynamic. There’s no going back.
  34. 34. Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum 34 ©2012 Marketing Interactions, Inc. About the Author Ardath Albee, CEO of her firm Marketing Interactions, Inc., applies 25 years of business management and marketing experience to help B2B companies with complex sales create eMarketing strategies that use contagious content to turn prospects into buyers. Ardath authors the popular Marketing Interactions blog and is a frequent industry speaker. Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale was published by McGraw-Hill. Ardath was recently selected as one of the Top 20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2011. Please visit her Website and follow her on Twitter. About Hoover’s, Inc. Hoover’s, founded in 1990, is a D&B company that provides its customers with insight and actionable information about companies, industries and key decision makers, along with the powerful tools to find and connect to the right people to get business done. Hoover’s provides this information for sales, marketing, business development, and other professionals who need intelligence on U.S. and global companies, industries, and the people who lead them. Hoover’s unique combination of editorial expertise and one-of-a-kind data collection with user-generated and company-supplied content gives customers a 360-degree view and competitive edge. This information, along with powerful tools to search, sort, download and integrate the content, is available through Hoover’s subscriptions. Hoover’s is headquartered in Austin, Texas. Follow Hoover’s on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.