1. What is a Leveraged Content Supply Chain?

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        In What is a Content Supply Chain? I identified the shortcomings of the traditional and still prevalent process by which B2B organizations create content. I concluded by saying the question is, How do you design a content supply chain process that will optimize 10 essential content criteria, especially the need to scale without scaling investment, or compromises to important criteria? In our 20 year content creation business we discovered the answer in a different approach, process and set of techniques we refer to as a leveraged content supply chain process. If you Google content supply chain you will discover the content workflow management software category that some claim IS the content supply chain. This isn’t what we’re talking about here. This is like saying ERP software IS the manufacturing supply chain. Manufacturers learned they first had to change their supply chain process to realize the big value ERP software investments...
  2. A Conversation About B2B Selling Content

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      “What is the state of B2B selling content today?” That was the first question Barb Giamanco asked me on her sales podcast, Right Message, Right Support, Right Sales Content, on the Razor’s Edge. How would you answer that for your organization? How would you know? Is your selling content considered short life collateral, or mostly long-life assets? What criteria would you use to audit the quality and usefulness of your content? Do you have an inventory that would make an audit possible? These are some of the questions we discussed. Below is an outline of key points I addressed that you might want your organization to consider.   Key Considerations for Effective Selling Content If your sales team conducts a complex, solution or value sale, situation-specific selling information and content is essential for your success. If you are trying to shift your selling model from a traditional product-feature-benefit approach...
  3. Getting Sales Content Right

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      As B2B selling organizations attempt to transition from a product to solution or value sale, they must deal with the new realities of selling in a digital era characterized by self-educating teams of buyers. This new reality has made high-performing, situation-specific information and content a strategic imperative for B2B organizations in general, and direct and channel sales teams in particular. Two of the most under-served B2B functions when it comes to content are direct and channel sales organizations. There are many reasons for this. Too many executives aren’t aware of this imperative or the impact it has on new customer acquisition, revenue growth, selling costs or customer experience. As one senior sales executive at a large technology company said to me years ago, “what is content, it’s collateral, right?” Whew! Sadly, this mindset is still prevalent today. Marketing departments assume the content they create is suitable for sales. Often...
  4. What is a Content Supply Chain?

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      The genesis for this is an article by Jake Sorofman at Gartner, “The Content Supply Chain is the Rate Limiter to Digital Marketing Maturity.” “Targeting and personalizing experiences requires content—lots of it, in many different forms, for many different audiences, engaging across many different channels. Managing this madness becomes an exercise in combinatorial complexity that requires a more rigorous approach to your content strategy.” Content supply chain requires an architectural way of thinking, which begins with a clear understanding of the demand side—in this case, all of the consuming applications and experiences enabled by your segmentation, targeting and personalization strategy.” “If your goal is to deliver an experience something better than one size fits all—or worse, all sizes fit none—you need to treat your content strategy as more than a hand wave. You need an architectural approach to your content supply chain.” McKinsey have written about the importance of a content supply...
  5. Use Information Interview for Sales Prospecting Conversations

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    B2B sales organizations with a complex, “platform,” or value sales process face some of their biggest challenges in the initial prospecting stage. The process for a value sale is naturally longer than a simple product sale. Companies risk missing revenue growth targets when sellers are ineffective or inefficient at getting target accounts to engage. A couple of big deals can make a huge difference at the end of the year. If your sales role is major accounts, you have even more at stake. In addition to the basic causes — poor, undisciplined prospecting skills and techniques — I see a flawed general approach to prospecting for the value sale model. Sellers bring a product prospecting mindset, approach and conversation to this task. This is exacerbated by buyer tendencies to apply a product buying mindset to initial conversations. We’ve all heard “what are you selling” questions, since the early days of...
  6. Complexity Simplified — The B2B Selling Dilemma

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      Complexity is a natural condition of our modern digital era. Complexity, coupled with exponential change, can paralyze effective execution. Without mechanisms to make the complex simple, people experience the feeling as “complicated”. This is the condition B2B sales and marketing leaders experience when it comes to defining and executing sales, marketing, content and data strategies. The impact and costs are high — to individual productivity, functional results and to strategic business goals. They’re also accelerating with the exponential rate of change. As Mckinsey says in the two minute video in this article: “The future waits for no one. The biggest risk, is being left behind.” For B2B sales and marketing leaders the problem isn’t knowing what to do. What to do is universally understood and generally accepted. Prescriptions include: Segment audiences and buyers to focus investment and resources Deeply understand customer business issues, functions, roles (personas), and how they make (buying) decisions Develop...
  7. The epidemic in B2B sales prospecting

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        Many B2B selling organizations hit a wall in their new customer acquisition and revenue growth rates. Sales pipeline quality, volume and conversion rates are both symptom and impact of this situation. This condition is especially evident in companies that are engaged in a complex or solution sale. Sometimes this is called a system or platform sale. The analyst firm SiriusDecisions calls it a “new paradigm” or “new concept” sale.  I and others use “value sale”. Even companies with a traditional, product selling model are not immune. Companies that experience stalled revenue growth may attempt to shift from traditional product selling, to a more consultative and comprehensive solutions or platform approach. Too often they bring their traditional selling mindset, process and skillset with them. The B2B sales prospecting epidemic is the result of a critical underlying cause most people are unaware of and do not fully appreciate even when they become aware.   An Example Companies that have had a...
  8. Situation-specific information, on-purpose, by design

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      I’m done talking about “content.” The word is too conceptual to have any useful meaning. In my world, words matter. To work, words must convey common meaning. I believe the word “content” and how it’s used actually causes problems. This is undoubtedly a contributor to quality problems experienced with marketing and especially selling content. Sales tells marketing, “we need better content.” Marketing replies, “what kind of content do you need?” Sales: ” we need customer stories, presentation support, videos, etc.” Sound familiar? And I could go on about content for certain stages, personas and industry verticals, among other important relevance categories. Having managed a business that created content for B2B sales, marketing and training organizations for 20 years, we regularly dealt with requests expressed this way. Knowing desired content formats, audience types and selling stages is simply insufficient input to inform quality content. We would ask, “What exactly do...
  9. Use Knowledge Delivered Strategy to Define and Show Content Value

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    A Different Approach to Content Strategy and Justification   B2B content marketers must continually defend budgets and tactics, especially content investments, by proving performance. This is part of a persistent struggle to raise marketing credibility and awareness of its impact in the business. Too many executives, and especially the sales organization, still don’t see it. You create and deploy content to many constituent groups and users. They deliver those assets in many ways through a variety of channels and mechanisms. You work hard to figure out how to track and measure asset performance and business impact. This is not a simple challenge. But content ROI must be proved. Or does it? What if you change your approach to “proving the value of content”? What if you flip the process?   Knowledge Delivered Strategy Applied The Knowledge Delivered strategy is explained here in greater detail. This approach to content strategy and...
  10. Knowledge Delivered

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    Our theme this year is Knowledge Delivered. Why? We are all knowledge workers. Knowledge is actionable information. We operate inside organizations where knowledge creates value and competitive advantage. This makes information, knowledge and content strategic imperatives for any business. But we have a knowledge delivery problem.  Knowledge is locked away inside people’s minds, in content, within repositories, within systems. This inevitably makes it static, only moving toward out-of-date. When knowledge is needed, users must be aware of that need, know that it exists and where, have the time initiative and skills to go find it, and access permissions to complete the effort. To be a useful and usable asset knowledge must be delivered — when, where and in the right context. This works best when organizations incorporate the right knowledge, learning, communication support, and high-value content into daily activities and operating systems. To do this you must free knowledge from containers, so it can be delivered to cause action. This is a foundation...
  11. The B2B Value Sale is Actually Three Distinct Sales

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      Companies trying to execute a B2B solution or value sale must overcome selling problems that start at the prospecting stage and persist to the end. Symptoms include too few quality additions to the sales pipeline, protracted and lengthening sales cycles, and low win rates. A significant cause is sellers haven’t realigned messages, sales conversations, and sales process to the way buyers buy. This situation becomes more pronounced when selling to prospects who aren’t in an active buying process. We call this a “Find vs. Create Opportunity” situation. (See Find vs. Create Sales Opportunities) When I speak with B2B sales professionals they readily acknowledge there are not enough active buyers to meet quotas. In most organizations sales people tell me 80% of sales prospects have to be “created” as opportunities. But even with active buyers there are opportunities for B2B sales professionals to up their game. After all, they are often...
  12. Sell into the “hidden opportunity market”

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    We used to say, “sell ahead of the RFP.” Then, for more than a decade we’ve been telling clients, “sell ahead of your competitive herd.” Now we’re telling them, “sell into the ‘hidden opportunity market’.” As a result of recent client work, I’ve re-examined CEB’s Challenger Customer for clues on how to improve B2B sales practices, especially for sales content. I’ve re-read Challenger Customer in detail at least 5 times. Each time I get a deeper appreciation for the insights their research provides. And how elusive these insights and their implications can be for sales professionals. (See Unpacking Challenger Customer Insights.) “Customers are typically 37 percent of the way through a purchase decision when group conflict peaks – and in some cases this stalls or, worse, kills the deal all together. On top of that, those customers don’t meaningfully engage suppliers’ sales reps until they are, on average, 57 percent of...
  13. Challenger Customer Implications for B2B Sales Professionals

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      Most sales executives I’ve asked about their view on CEB’s book Challenger Customer have completely missed the value for their sales program. “Oh yeah, I read Challenger Sale a couple of years ago, good book.” In our view, Challenger Customer is a must read for sales leaders who are trying to execute a “value selling” sales model, or to shift from their transactional, product selling model. Challenger Sale introduced concepts about what B2B sellers should do. But few recommendations were really actionable by most sales leaders and their teams. Challenger Customer provides the roadmap, AND the accelerant. The book presents the results of extensive research. They looked at what the best B2B sales people have actually been doing. They explain simply, and show graphically, the results achieved compared to average and poor sales performers. But sales behavior change and results will not be realized simply by having sales teams...
  14. The most underserved content requirements

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      I received a call from a colleague who started a new sales job with a software company. “We have no good content to serve as door openers, or to nurture target accounts who aren’t ready to meet. All we have is product collateral.” Sales content for key sales engagement points are the most underserved content requirements in most B2B organizations. Little or poor prospecting is both a symptom and casualty of this reality. There are many important reasons for this (please don’t shoot the messenger, not all may apply in your organization): Marketers don’t know what sales people need. Sales managers and reps actually don’t know what they need either, until the situation occurs and they can’t find it! Marketers don’t package and deploy content to sales that marketing may be using for lead gen and nurturing. Sales doesn’t know how to requisition content from non-sales resources who need...
  15. 30 60 10 B2B Information and Content Strategy

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      Companies struggle to keep up with the information and content demands of a digital business environment. As B2B selling organizations adopt social selling practices, current content volume requirements will seem puny by comparison. You better have a strategy to scale without compromising quality, timeliness and, of course, cost. In the content business, create vs. curate is similar to the traditional business decision of make vs. buy. To the degree companies develop a formal B2B information and content strategy, deciding this mix is one decision output. What if there’s a third way? This won’t be a breakthrough insight. It recommends elevating an important technique for higher execution. This technique many companies seldom use and may not have considered in content strategy decisions.   B2B Information and Content Strategy A simple way of thinking about information and content strategy is to answer two main questions: On-purpose — What content do we need...

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