1. Small moves, smartly made, improve (unified) content strategy

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      An effective content strategy is a challenge most B2B organizations face today. The maturing use of content, along with competitive market factors, means the bar is constantly rising. Effective knowledge, information, and content are key business drivers. They impact top business objectives, especially: Organic revenue growth through new customer acquisition Sales, marketing and channel productivity, lower selling costs Acquiring data about customers and buyers to feed data-driven decisions Delivering a consistent, exceptional customer experience. Most organizations claim a content strategy. The question is, “how effective is it?” This article introduces a novel and relatively simple approach. Small moves that, smartly made, quickly and dramatically improve the content strategy process, quality and thoroughness of outcomes. Sales and channel leaders, who want to improve the quality and completeness of their content, will find this approach especially interesting.   Beyond Content Marketing The state of the market has moved beyond content marketing. ...
  2. Sales Leaders – Align your value sale model to market realities

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        Are you involved with a commodity, or a complex/value sale? How would you know? Do your prospects understand the business problem that your offer addresses? Do they know what’s required to solve that problem? If the answer is “yes” to both, you are selling a commodity — or soon to be — offer. If the answer is yes to the first question, and no to the second, yours is a value added commodity offer. If the answer is no to both, you’re in a complex/value selling situation. Why does this matter? How does your marketing and sales strategy differ if you sell a complex/value offer? For many companies that require a complex/value sales model, this may be the crux of your new customer acquisition and revenue growth problem. You’re using a traditional marketing and sales strategy to conduct a value sale. What’s the difference? A key premise of the traditional marketing and selling model...
  3. How to Level Up Your Content Operations

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      At some point B2B executives realize that adding resources and technology to the traditional content operations process produces only marginal improvements. Digital era content requirements are rising exponentially. They will not be addressed with the current process. This will become even more evident when marketing begins to adequately support B2B sales content requirements, as well as those of the sales channel. That will probably require you to level up content operations.   Background on B2B Content Operations All content is outsourced, or should be. By this I mean sales and marketing people, and their audiences, use and consume content. They don’t create it. They rely on internal or external content development teams. I also mean subject experts who possess the knowledge that informs content should not create it (mostly). They have a “day job.” Their domain expertise may not include the skills required to design and create effective content. Subject...
  4. 10 Questions About Sales Content Sales Leaders Should Ask Marketing Leaders

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      I’ve written that sales and sales channel content requirements are some of the most under-served in most B2B organizations. Selling in a digital era characterized by hyper-connected, hard to engage, low attention span buyers makes effective sales content a strategic imperative. While research indicates 65% of the content created by marketing for sales is never used by sales, the situation is in fact much worse. The adverse impact of missing sales content that was never created is undocumented but significant. The opportunity cost of sales productivity and effectiveness trumps content costs. Sales leaders should appreciate that most marketing leaders don’t have clear definitions for sales content, or even how to create effective sales-ready content. Marketing’s belief that sales content is similar to, and an extension of content marketing, is misguided. Sales content problems will persist until this thinking and the practices it produces changes.   Ten Questions About Sales...
  5. Marketing and Sales Content – Differences That Matter

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      What IS the difference between marketing and sales content? This is a good question to ask across your organization. The answers will reveal people’s thinking and understanding about “content” in general. Notice how clear, specific, consistent and actionable the responses are. Or not. Why does this matter? Effective sales content is a strategic imperative when selling in a digital age of hyper-connected, hard to engage, low attention span buyers. Sales performance suffers due to poor or missing sales content. This is the common state across most B2B sales organizations. According to SiriusDecisions, 65% of content created by marketing for sales is never used. That’s not surprising to me. This has been the case for well over a decade. What’s shocking is not only that it isn’t resolved, it’s not improving! I believe the B2B sales content predicament is actually much worse than these statistics indicate. This statistic and underlying research...
  6. Objectives-Based Content Strategy Framework

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      With guidance from SiriusDecisions and other analysts firms, many B2B organizations have evolved their go-to-market, messaging and content strategy. They have shifted from a product-based to a persona-based content framework. This is often in support of a solutions selling model. “As b-to-b organizations place greater focus on both inbound marketing, and optimizing content for the sales force, the skills and behaviors required for content ideation, writing and delivery are rapidly changing. To survive and thrive, product and solution marketers must evolve their competencies.”  The premise of the brief is: “The shift toward inbound marketing is forcing marketers to support continuous buyer conversations via the Web and virally through social media channels and influencer marketing. These conversations require topic-driven content focusing on industry and business issues that concern key buyers personas.” SiriusDecisions, Building a Persona-Based Content Framework. (Client portal access required) This guidance has convinced organizations to shift their emphasis from...
  7. Sell, don’t market your way to success with new paradigm offers

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      B2B companies bringing new offers to market risk long delays in product or solution uptake. Too often this leads to direct failure. Failure rates range from 40% to 80%. Clearly a risky and expensive bet. This risk isn’t limited to startups. Often we see large companies struggle to gain traction with new offers or new markets. One senior executive told me, “we are buried in our core brand.” This isn’t about direct replacement offers. But for what analyst firm SiriusDecisions terms “new paradigm and new concept” solutions it is a significant challenge.   New Paradigm Offers Require a Different Go-to-market Strategy New paradigm solutions provide a different way to solve business problems than existing solution methods. Customers may not understand key underlying causes of their problems that are resolved by new solutions. Sellers could be addressing problems customers aren’t even aware of. Or, they may not even see their problems...
  8. 6 actions for sales leaders to get the right sales content

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      Sales and sales channel performance suffers due to poor or missing situation-specific sales information. This is still a common B2B selling problem. Despite significant investments in sales and marketing technologies, most B2B organizations don’t provide enough of the right information and content to their sales and channel sales organizations — and audiences! Sales content isn’t designed and created “on purpose.” It isn’t created to meet well-defined use case requirements. Without clear requirement definitions, developers don’t know what to create, how or why. Sales organizations don’t know if they’re getting what they need. Marketing is largely responsible for content strategy and development. Yet few marketers can provide clear definitions or guidelines for what effective sales content really is. Most believe they currently create the content sales needs. They believe the problem is lack of awareness or access to that content. This is flawed thinking. Symptoms of this are the decades...
  9. 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...
  10. 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...
  11. 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...
  12. 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...
  13. 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...
  14. 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...
  15. 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...
  16. 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...
  17. 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...
  18. Change your content process to leverage accelerate and scale

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      When it comes to customer facing content, much is written about creative techniques, tools and infrastructure. But there is little thinking or discussion about content process change. By changing your content process for strategy and operations you can leverage resources and assets, accelerate production time to real-time, and scale outputs without compromise. My thinking is influenced by the re-engineering experience in the 1990’s. The refrain we hear today about return-on-investment for content marketing is very similar to complaints in the 90’s about lack of evidentiary ROI on investments in personal computing technologies — hardware and software. I was influenced by the writing of British cybernetician Stafford Beer who wrote: “The question that asks, ‘given my my business, how should I use the microprocessor?’ is fundamentally the wrong question. A better question would be, ‘given the microprocessor, how should I design my business?'” Companies re-engineered their accounting, manufacturing and product...
  19. 7 reasons you’re not getting the most out of customer facing content

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      Missing or under-performing customer facing content has a significant impact on strategic business objectives: new customer acquisition and organic revenue growth, sales and marketing productivity and efficiency for lower selling costs, data acquisition and customer experience. B2B lead generation and conversion rates are universally below expectations. Late stage content in sales cycles hasn’t evolved to support buyer-centered selling practices. A realistic assessment of the underlying cause of the problem helps you apply the right solution, because it allows you to see the real cause of the problem. In our view, there are seven primary reasons you are not getting the most out of your customer facing content. 1. Customer facing content is not created on purpose. Content has a specific “job” to do for both marketing and sales tactics. How you define the purpose of your content depends on the specific information required for each “touch,” the user experience...
  20. Why You Need a B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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      If you sell the way you did 10 years ago, you don’t need a sales content strategy. There’s little strategy required to tell people about your company, products, features — just don’t forget those benefit statements! But if you’ve truly adopted a customer-centered sales philosophy you know you have new requirements. The new realities of selling to self-educating, digital era buyers has made having the right information an essential tool for sales professionals. The right content addresses every key buyer decision point throughout the customer engagement process. The importance and complexity of this requirement demands a strategy.   Sales people need content to sell In B2B sales, especially a complex, considered or value sale, sales people still generate most of their sales “leads.” They develop virtually all sales opportunities. As it is for marketers, content is essential to capture prospect attention and generate interest. For sales people, tracking prospect content consumption indicates...
  21. Overlooked cause of low sales and marketing results

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      In this digital era, content is a primary driver of sales and marketing performance. We have written extensively on this. Background articles are referenced at the end of this article. Poor or missing content is an under-appreciated reason B2B selling organizations experience lower than projected new customer acquisition and revenue growth results. High selling costs are both a symptom and additional casualty. In addition to adverse business impact, companies experience content costs 30 to 50% higher than they should. Output from current content production methods are typically 20% what they could be. When we investigate the reasons for poor or missing content we find three reasons that frequently stand out. These are remarkable both because of their importance, and because they aren’t well understood or appreciated. 1. An ineffective or non-existing business level content strategy. Survey results from Content Marketing Institute indicate that an appalling 48% of respondents claim...
  22. B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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        When it comes to content and strategy, few people share a clear and common meaning of each word. Put them together, and what you have is downright perplexing. This is a sales content strategy guide for the perplexed. It is for people in marketing and sales who must collaborate to get these strategic assets right. (See Content is a Strategic Imperative for B2B Selling Organizations) The linked articles below are integral to a complete understanding of how to develop, document and execute an effective sales content strategy. First, a few definitions. Content For this article we are talking about sales content. More specifically, we’ll focus on B2B sales that are defined as complex, considered or value sales. “Content” includes sales messages, conversations, and stories which comprise what we refer to as the “contentS” of the media that package and deliver them. So content also includes conversations delivered by...
  23. How to Define Sales Use Case Requirements for Your Sales Content Strategy

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      The design point for your B2B sales content strategy must be your buyer’s engagement model, mapped against your sales strategy. Fundamentally, it must be conversation centered. Without well-defined and documented sales use case requirements, effective sales content strategy is not possible. Rarely do we meet companies that have even considered this, let alone defined and documented specific requirements. You can find an introductory explanation of this idea at Need Better Content? Define Use Case Requirements. This post will step you through a process to define and document requirements. Pre-requisite to use case definitions are two competencies we identify in our 6 Competency Framework for Business Level Content Strategy. These are Understand Audiences and Buyers Competency and Conversation Support Competency.  Essentially, sales use case requirements define the purpose and context in which sales content will be used. Sales Use Case Requirements Context The general context for your use case requirements are: Who’s...
  24. Find vs Create Sales Opportunities

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      One of the early questions I ask prospective B2B clients is: “When you go-to-market through your marketing and sales functions, what percent of your target prospects are actively looking for what you’re selling, and what percent are unaware of their problem or your solution category, and so you have to create the opportunities?” I refer to this as “find vs. create opportunity selling.” Ever since I became aware of this distinction it has informed my thinking and approach to all B2B sales and marketing strategy and tactics. It provides a critical context. Most B2B leaders either are unaware of this idea, or don’t give it the consideration it deserves.   Find Opportunities “Find opportunities” are where prospects know they have a problem. They have a good understanding of the problem and it’s impact or cost on the business (reason to change). They understand generally what they need to solve...
  25. Marketing Professionals Constrained by Content Strategy and Operations Accenture State of Content Report Reveals

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      Don’t be distracted by the hyperbole associated with this important Accenture report on the state of content. “Marketers are drowning” in a “tidal wave of content,” are phrases from the press release and early articles that have picked this up. This is intended to create resonance and attract attention. As it should. Volume of content is a symptom. It’s not the problem. A related symptom is the insipid debate “quality vs. quantity” of content. This indicates marketers haven’t clearly identified the core causes of their many content related problems. This report should help. It’s also an important resource to share with your executive management, including your CEO. Donna Tuths, global managing director, content services at Accenture Interactive, is the author of the report. “The problems marketers are pointing out are symptoms of a broader issue. There is a finite amount of content you can create and manage using current approaches.”...
  26. Understanding the True Cost of Content in B2B Organizations

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      There’s a familiar expression used to describe some people. They “know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.” When it customs to B2B marketing and selling content, it appears most organizations don’t know either. The rhetoric of “data driven decisions” has become a business imperative and key B2B competency. In addition to being a driver of marketing and selling outcomes, content plays a critical role in acquiring data on customers, buyers and other key audiences. Given the strategic imperative of content in the digital age, and the significant, mostly hidden spend on content, this new reality warrants executive action. Research from the analyst firm SiriusDecisions (B-to-B Content Creation Costs and Outputs) shows B2B organizations are challenged to identify their true content spend. Even SiriusDecisions was surprised by the results. They discovered total customer content spend was anywhere between 3 and 10 times known spend.   Framework to Identify Your...
  27. Reframing Content ROI and the Case for B2B Content

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      Despite many articles recommending methods to determine content ROI, this continues to be a hot and confusing topic for many B2B marketers. Why is this? There are different purposes and uses for ROI. Content performance, at an asset or campaign level, is typically the way marketers think of content ROI. While difficult to measure, marketers need performance measures to tweak execution. But don’t confuse performance with ROI. To make a business case at the executive level, asset and campaign performance measures are not useful. They are too tactical. They doesn’t align with executive business criteria, or inform the kinds of decisions they make. Because they don’t show what’s possible, they miss the strategic importance and and impact on top business objectives. Marketers think with a traditional expense justification mindset rather than an investment mindset. We’ve written here about the misunderstanding between investment and expense.   A Content ROI Investment Model An investment mindset...
  28. Elevate B2B Information and Content Strategy to Business Level Execution

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    B2B Information and Content Strategy for Messages, Conversations and Content This post speaks to why B2B organizations should elevate information and content strategy from siloed functions to the business level, with executive accountability. This is about content that addresses external audiences we generally refer to as “customers”. B2B CEOs, CFOs and Sales leaders have a lot at stake in getting this right. But first let’s acknowledge a reality: if you’re a “middle age” executive, it is highly unlikely you have experience using content as a strategic asset. Content has always been considered and treated as an expense for tactical support. This has resulted in limited thinking about the role, contribution and possibilities of customer content. Digital realities have changed this. (See McKinsey, Measuring the full impact of digital capital.) Some of the top reasons you need to adopt a business level content strategy are: Content is a strategic imperative because...
  29. Content Strategy Competency – Understand Audiences (Buyers)

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      For most B2B selling companies, content strategy is developed and executed at the functional or even tactic level. These strategies naturally focus on the requirements and audiences of each function. Few companies have a universal, business level content strategy. The functions we’re talking about engage some version of the company’s “customers,” with messages and content that are of a marketing and selling nature. This creates new requirements that are driven by self-educating audiences, digital content and online channels.   We believe lack of an effective, business level content strategy lowers optimization of top business objectives: New customer acquisition and organic revenue growth Sales, marketing and channel productivity, for lower selling costs Acquiring data about customers and buyers to feed predictive analytics and data-driven decision making Delivering a consistent, exceptional customer experience. Indeed, we see significant opportunity for companies that develop business level content strategy to create breakthrough results in terms of: content...
  30. Unpacking Challenger Customer Insights

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    The CEB book Challenger Customer, released in September 2015, will continue to garner support for its many insights. They provide important considerations for all B2B marketing and selling professionals, especially sales executives. Despite a breezy writing style, there are many dense sections. A level one reading risks missing several important but deeper implications for an organization’s go-to-market and content strategy. I’ve discovered this from conversations with colleagues and clients who have read the book. This post is not a book review. It assumes you have read CEB’s Challenger Customer. I will highlight key Challenger Customer insights and suggest important implications, considerations, risks and required actions that I (and colleagues) missed the first couple of times we read the book. These ideas can have a significant impact on execution efficacy and outcomes for those who attempt to leverage CEB insights. We all have a lot at stake in getting these concepts right...
  31. Content Operations Can Create Marketing and Selling Breakthroughs

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      Marketing and selling content operations isn’t sexy. But it could be one of the most important focus areas for marketing leaders. See Is Content Operations Your Next Focus Area? Almost every week I see fresh survey results that continue to reflect the long-standing challenges that B2B marketers face (Content Marketing Institute). More importantly, I speak with people in companies and hear the same issues. The question is, “given all the internal and external expertise and creative resources available to organizations, why do these persistent and near universal content problems still exist?”   McKinsey On Digital Marketing Operations This post was inspired by the McKinsey Insights article: How digital marketing operations can transform business. Here’s McKinsey’s assessment of current state: “Marketing operations are certainly not the sexiest part of marketing, but they are becoming the most important one. With businesses unable to keep pace with evolving consumer behavior and the marketing landscape,...
  32. How To Fix Your Sales Content Problem

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      What if your “sales content problem” isn’t the real problem, but a symptom of the problem? Given the role of the sales organization to deliver primary business outcomes — new customer acquisition and profitable revenue growth — if your sales content sucks (technical term in the content business) why would you think your marketing content is any better? I suggest you probably have a “customer content” problem. “So what, isn’t this semantics,” you ask? Well, how you define a problem has a lot to do with how you go about solving it. It affects your orientation, and approach. I watched with interest the webinar How to Unclog Your Sales Pipeline, with Craig Nelson of CallidusCloud and Scott Santucci of The Alexander Group, moderated by Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power. There may not be three people who know more about the B2B sales enablement problem. Each has thought about and worked on the best ways...
  33. Getting B2B Content ROI Right

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    In this digital era, the nature and role of customer content has new meaning and significance. Content is a strategic business imperative because it is a key driver of top business and functional objectives. Poor performing content lowers outcomes. Misunderstanding content ROI elevates risk of poor decisions about content strategy and investment. The risk to senior executives in B2B selling enterprises, of not taking a strategic perspective on customer facing content, impacts their decisions about top business objectives: New customer acquisition and revenue growth Sales and marketing productivity, and lower selling costs Data acquired about buyers, customers Consistent delivery of an exceptional customer experience. But most executives have never given serious consideration to customer content as a business asset. It has always been the tactical responsibility of knowledge and creative people. One executive expressed what I most often hear: “What is content anyway? Collateral, right?”  (See What is Content?) Most senior executives are still...
  34. New Sales Competency – Use Content to Sell

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      The digital era has ushered in many behavior changes, especially for B2B buyers. Sales professionals have been slower to change their sales methods to adapt and align with new buying processes and the expectations of buyers. Those who are not actively and effectively using content to sell are missing an important opportunity to capture a selling advantage, lower selling time and costs, and accelerate successful sales outcomes. “Social selling” while new and popular, doesn’t yet represent a significant breakthrough in the way B2B sales people sell. As currently applied, social selling is primarily a different (and hopefully more efficient way) to research buyers, to network, and to conduct some initial touches. In reality, and almost by definition, most sales people have never really used content to sell. Two supporting reasons for this are the traditional lack of sales ready, customer relevant content, and poor ability to find content for specific...
  35. More Than Content Needs Overhaulin’

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    For all the time, attention and investment made in sales enablement tools, it’s a shame a fraction of that hasn’t been invested in solving the core problem: the content itself. One of our colleagues often quips: “it’s easier to buy software.” He means easier than figuring out the culture and process changes, aligning siloed functions, enrolling stakeholders, and resolving all the interdependent causes of problems. He also says, “every major purchase is essentially a change management initiative.” Despite the lip service and pockets of success (sustainable?), sales enablement hasn’t yet met expectations. But then …. CRM? I was reminded of this by Tom Pisello’s summary of the Qvidian users conference. Top Priority: Content Overhaulin’. While “purging, aligning and personalizing” content might be necessary work, what’s really required is a better process for content. How can it possibly be, that in the fifteen years I’ve been involved with B2B content, most...
  36. How to improve content performance and operations output

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      Marketing leaders, and the executive team to which they are accountable, understandably want to improve performance of customer facing content, get better outputs from content operations, and better returns on content investments. At the recent Content Marketing World, content ROI was a prominent topic. This post will provide an overview vision of what you must do to tune your content operations for optimal performance. Content operations performance means the ability to reliably and consistently meet content standards you’ve identified: Quality Timing (continuous and rapid time-to-market) Quantity (to cover requirements with versions and formats) Audience relevance As well as other factors you’ve identified (reuse). There are so many factors marketers must optimize, starting with resolving their challenges, as well as new, digital era content criteria.   We will explain our recommendation for an operational shift in the first video below. The second video illustrates how this works using a new, continuous publishing, or “content...
  37. Need Better Content? Define Your Use Case Requirements

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    Perhaps you’re the sales leader, and your sales people lack the content they need to sell effectively in this age of online, self-educating, stealth buyers. Or, perhaps you’re responsible for lead generation and demand management, but you lack effective education-oriented nurturing content to support your desire to deploy multiple persona, stage and industry relevant nurturing campaigns. You might manage channel sales and your partners regularly complain they lack channel appropriate content to fuel their lead gen and selling activities. Or, you are accountable for any number of other content dependent, customer engaging groups across your organization. Your inventory and budgets are starved for the customer relevant content you require. You each know the performance of your group suffers due to poor, missing or impossible to find content for key situations.  Yet your organization is cranking out more content than ever before. What’s going on? More importantly, what can you do...
  38. Conversation Support Competency for Content Strategy

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      Target Audiences:  VP of Marketing / CMO VP Sales Product Marketing Sales Enablement  Purpose:  Introduce a new perspective and suggested approach to improve customer conversations and content, as well as the productivity, effectiveness and efficiency of marketing, sales and content development teams. Topics:  Conversations and content creation require common inputs Why make individuals have to figure out universal inputs Design conversations, develop universal inputs, and deploy inventories of support elements to all customer facing and content creating people   Conversation Support Competency for Content Strategy When we talk with people about content strategy, and the preparation required to create effective content, most are familiar with the first competency in our 6 Competencies for Marketing and Sales Content Strategy — Understand Buyers. “Personas! Yeah, we’ve done those!” Well …, ok. But think about what else constrains your ability to create quality content and get it deployed quickly.  Now, think about your sales...
  39. Shift from Repository to Content, Communication and Collaboration Ecosystem

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      People responsible for sales and channel enablement, marketing and content operations, or supporting groups that use content, face many challenges. We have identified a solvable challenge that immediately improves productivity, efficiency, and, most of all, business outcomes. Almost every day I have conversations with people in organizations who complain how difficult it is to find, access, deliver, and reuse content that is critical to job or task performance. This is a basic and solvable challenge. Your Content Constituents When this ability is missing, business outcomes suffer. But people’s motivation to quickly and effectively respond to the requirements of each situation is also curtailed. Audiences today expect near instant response or support. This often means delivering relevant, useful content. Think about the customer-facing, content-using groups across your organization: in marketing and sales of course, but also customer service, training and HR (talent acquisition). Your external constituents in your sales channel also...
  40. Executive Summary: Six Competency Framework for Marketing and Sales Information and Content Strategy

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        B2B selling organizations face a serious challenge creating and managing content that impacts the success of new customer acquisition and profitable revenue growth, as well as tactical marketing and selling initiatives. The Internet and changes to buyer behavior has made content a strategic imperative and key driver of strategic business objectives, however; The traditional approach to customer content development, funding, and content production processes will not meet new, digital era sales and marketing use case requirements.  Companies require a business level marketing and sales information and content strategy that spans functions and tactics, and goes beyond project oriented campaigns, websites and other content projects. But senior executives seem unable to connect the warning signals from multiple departments and disparate systems pointing to a broken, mission critical process. Current responsibilities and budgets for content are spread across functions. This constrains the optimum use and value of content, and limits the ability...
  41. Why Google Plus is Our Company Content Hub (and should be yours)

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    This article is written for small and mid-size businesses, but also for groups within larger organizations that are constrained by poor enterprise infrastructure. The points here take nothing away from the fact LinkedIn is an important social platform, especially for personal use and content publishing. Businesses should have strong presence and active participation on both platforms. This post will explain how the nature of Google+ participation is different from LinkedIn and other social sites, and why that should make it a primary hub for all your customer facing content.   If you’re like most people you use social media channels to get your messages and content distributed. You’re being a publisher. Or maybe you’re like me, mostly a listener. If it ends there, you might be missing the most powerful potential for your business, especially for social selling. What if the theory, “be on the social channels your customers are on”...
  42. Information and Content Are Strategic Imperatives for B2B Organizations

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      Most business enterprises engaged in B2B selling have adopted content marketing as “the only marketing there is.” (Seth Godin) B2B selling typically starts online, through email or a phone call/voice mail — through content. They are doing so because the right information, packaged and delivered through the right content is the key enabler for tactics that execute a customer-centric go-to-market strategy, especially: Inbound marketing Automated demand management with lead nurturing Social marketing and selling Sales enablement These tactics are primary drivers for 4 top strategic enterprise goals: Revenue growth — especially organic growth through new customer acquisition and channel success Cost reduction — especially high enterprise selling costs Acquire data on buyers and customers — feed predictive analytics Compelling customer experience — from initial engagement in the buying process, through the ongoing relationship to optimize value of purchased products or services, to a desire for more products/services — through renewals, cross or up-buying and referrals....
  43. Engagement and Eloqua Experience

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    For the Eloqua Experience preparation webinar sponsored by Televerde, I was asked to speak to the topic of Engagement. This is one of six topics that comprise the agenda for Eloqua Experience. As a concept, engagement means something a little different to everyone. I often hear clients talk about engagement as: touches, email opens, click-thrus, event visits, content views or even downloads. As B2B marketers, we have to be careful not to get too caught up in mechanics and focused just on “hard” outcomes we can measure and report. I suggest we think of engagement as: Sustained and helpful interaction with a target audience to create and mature relationships across the entire buyer life-cycle, in order to realize mutual personal and business outcomes. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Webinar Engagement Poll This webinar format consisted of a question for participants on each Eloqua Experience...
  44. What are your customer’s stories?

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    In an interview with Krista Tippet on the On Being podcast Seth Godin provides typically insightful answers to the question, “what is marketing?” Modern sales and marketing are indeed in transformation. This requires new thinking about these professions, the principles and practices that inform best practices. We dismiss this at our peril. This three minute excerpt can stimulate breakthrough thinking to guide your content strategy discussions. Unlike most marketing discussions of stories, Godin invites you to consider your customer’s stories, what they are telling themselves before they meet you. This is the context into which you must set your story.     
  45. 12 Demand Management Competencies for Success

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    Too many companies struggle to realize their demand management improvement expectations from investments in marketing automation. Marketing automation initiatives are often considered the next step beyond email marketing. As a result, campaign oriented thinking carries forward and limits the approach and results. Have we not learned from CRM and other technology categories that technology is an enabler, not a  producer of significant outcome improvements?  In fact, new technology often requires organizational change, new skills and increased work in the short term. A failure to appreciate the required competencies for demand management success is a root cause of this phenomena. Just the terms “lead gen” and “demand management” often carry no distinction within these organizations. When you hear that, it’s a yellow flag of caution that poor performance is bound to follow. The following is a checklist of demand management success competencies. Each are significant categories in their own right, with...
  46. One Hour Content Marketing Reality Check

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    Take an hour in the next week to objectively assess whether you have created a competitive edge in the way you engage buyers through online content.  That is the first competitive battle you have to win.  If you are outsold here, you may not get a second chance.  You may not even become aware of the opportunity.  Key points you have to assess when evaluating your competitiveness include: Will buyers relate to our understanding of their problem? Will buyers understand their options for addressing their problem? Will buyers get insights into what is really important to understand about their choices? Has our point of view given buyers enough insights and ideas to allow us to make the short list of vendors for consideration? Assess Your Best Competitor Begin your competitive assessment by going to your best competitor’s website to see what content is positioned to engage buyers. Look at the key...
  47. Learnings From A Content Strategy Hangout

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      I “watched” last week’s Google+ Hangout lead by the team at Velocity Partners in the UK:  Content That Stands Out: A Content Strategy Google+ Hangout.  The link will take you to the recorded show, or click the video image below. I have learned we tend to apply new technologies initially, by using old paradigms.  Google hangouts are a new technology most likely requiring a new paradigm. The Velocity sponsors openly acknowledge this. Video and group communication methods raise additional challenges. I have learned that video programs require tight production efforts, guided by strong moderating skills, based upon significant preparation. The ad hoc group conversation felt disjointed and didn’t work well for me. I lost my attention and interest rather quickly, despite being highly interested initially. Content That Stands Out In this morning’s email Ryan Skinner from Velocity responded to a question I had previously submitted. My question sought to...
  48. My customers don’t use social media

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    This post is for my current and future clients who think they won’t deal with social media because their customers don’t “use” it.  This thinking is the first cousin to the “we’re different” thinking that every vendor encounters when they try to bring proven solutions to new prospects. Both limit easily achievable possibilities. What does that mean, “use social media”? Is Twitter or Facebook the image you carry? OK, but ask yourself these questions: do your customers conduct online research, do they use Google? Then, you need to deal with social media. Social media, in part because of the buzz word nature and related hype, is intimidating. I suggest you replace the words social media, with online channels. There are two primary ways to think of using social media: to listen and to promote. Start By Listening Social media is a terrific, low cost (time and effort only) way to...
  49. No Marketing Momentum? What Now?

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    Competitive athletes know that momentum can make all the difference in winning games.  You develop momentum by either executing a well thought out strategy or making a spectacular play that shakes up the competition.  When you have momentum you play your game and emphasize your strengths.  When you lose momentum, you have to figure out how to get it back by making adjustments.  Marketing momentum in a competitive environment has many similarities.  You can develop it through a well thought out strategy followed by focused execution. Depending upon spectacular big events to develop marketing momentum is risky and hard to do but not unheard of.    The big difference between sports and B2B marketing is timing.  Games are over in minutes or hours.  Marketing takes months to deliver outcomes. Understanding marketing momentum is important to developing a marketing strategy.  Marketing activities build upon one another to develop and sustain momentum.  Multiple...
  50. Got “content” challenges? Apply the problem-cause model

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      Serious practitioners of content marketing inevitably face significant content challenges. But sales professionals do as well — especially to conduct effective change conversations with customers. Surveys, as well as client discussions about top content challenges, reveal the operational nature of the underlying causes of many of content related problems. Operational Issues However, I seldom see content strategy guidelines address operational issues. This is a major shortcoming of current thinking. Content strategy and planning for content marketing is a different and complex task for most newcomers. But if you look at the challenges early practitioners have faced, you will want to figure this out quickly. One of the most useful models we use we call the “problem-cause model”. Like many powerful ideas, this idea is simple. But work with it and you will experience important insights that will help with your content strategy and execution. Problem-Cause Model Explained In this...
  51. Content Marketing Discussion With Marketing Made Simple TV

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    This week I had the privilege of joining Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 and Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners on an online video discussion hosted by Jeff Ogden‘s Marketing Made Simple TV online show. Takeaways and Insights Content Strategy — This is the starting point and essential first step for an effective and efficient content marketing initiative. We must get this right or we will experience weak and misaligned work products, delayed and inefficient execution, and limited results. There are clear and agreed upon models for content strategy. Disciplined work is required. Operations Model — Content strategy must extend to define an operations model that deals with new requirements of content marketing, especially for a constant stream of buyer-relevant and useful content that applies to the entire buying journey. This impacts the scale of content and operational resources. Execution is a major challenge and risk. One (of many) reason is an...
  52. Selling to On-Demand Buyers

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    Most of us are well aware the world of B2B buying has gone through fundamental shifts in the last five to ten years. Why hasn’t the way we sell fundamentally changed as well? We all feel the perception from buyers that, to them, all vendors and their products look pretty much the same (undifferentiated value). We know too well the difficulty of identifying and engaging new prospects in sales conversations (generating leads). Our CRM monitored sales process reveals protracted buying timeframes (longer sales cycles and higher costs). I am amazed that for many senior executives I meet, a deeper appreciation of the implications of this transformation hasn’t occurred and isn’t translating into different strategies . If you are a CEO, CFO or VP of Sales with over twenty years of experience, you come from an era of thinking about B2B marketing as famously described by John Wanamaker: “Half the money...
  53. 35 Days to Great First Sales Meetings

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      35 Days to First Conversation — do the math For prospects who actively engage your content, assuming a two day lag in viewing, here is a possible sequence to your first call appointment (elapse time not work days) (“your mileage may vary”): Day 1 – send initial invitation touch with vmail call Day 3 – prospect views email content Day 5 – send Touch #2 automatically, no call Day 7 – prospect views content Day 14 – send Touch #3 mail, vmail call Day 16 – prospect views content Day 23 – send Touch #4 mail, vmail call Day 25 – prospect views content Days 25, 26, 27 – email & call to request introduction conversation Day 35 – have first introduction call For a detailed, comprehensive explanation of each step, download this document.  
  54. What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?

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      Marketing professionals who are trying to understand the principle behind content marketing can take a lesson from Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School and his “jobs-to-be-done” marketing ideas. This core Christensen idea is presented in the HBS Working Knowledge article, Milkshake Marketing. The article describes a fascinating study his team conducted on behalf of a fast food chain that wanted to improve milkshake sales. The company initially applied a typical market research approach before it engaged “one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the ‘job’ that customers were ‘hiring’ a milkshake to do.”   Parallels Between Product Design and Content Strategy Consider this comparison between product design and content strategy. Both product design and content share similar problems. Product design challenges are revealed in the low success rate of new product introductions. Marketing content issues are revealed in the low usefulness to marketing campaigns, sales...
  55. Content and Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2011

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    I’ve just read this compilation of insights and predictions published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). Two strategic insights I found especially helpful: Must have a real-time mindset (David Meerman Scott) The “consumerization” of B2B marketing (Tom Pisello) This summary of especially salient points looks like a pretty good content checklist: Content will get shorter (Doug Kessler) Relevance will become the new standard (Sandra Zoratti) Must become better storytellers – Some brands will understand that they are nothing more than a story and brands that tell their story will win (Simon Kelly) Create original high value content (think unique) (Valeria Maltoni) Education oriented better than humor (Russ Henneberry) Frequency, quality and relevancy not only matter, but will be essential to maintaining a competitive edge (Barbara Rozgonyi)   Ability to generate content that engages audiences and motivates them to take action (Paul Roetzer) Quality over quantity Content strategy and planning–By the end of 2011,...
  56. Another Case for Marketing and Sales Collaboration

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    We have to be careful not to take words too literally. Consider the idea that marketing delivers sales ready leads to sales. By doing this, marketing has moved the buyer X% (30% -70%?) of the way through the sales process, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. Let’s look at what has to happen with that “lead” on the sales side. (Reminder, we’re talking complex not transaction oriented sales here.) In most B2B sales processes 4-15 stakeholders are engaged. (A top technology company selling a multimillion dollar solution has 30-50 people on their People Map). When we say marketing has delivered a sales ready lead, do we mean the 4-15 stakeholders to a specific opportunity, or a single individual? Obviously, waiting for marketing to get an entire buying team to sales ready status introduces serious risk factors of being late to apply the critical sales professional resource. After all, people progress individually...
  57. New B2B Marketing and Selling Truisms

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    This is my list of new marketing and selling truisms for B2B selling organizations. They provide context for most of our services and writing. I post them prominently here so as to not have to repeat them in any conversation or material I create. If you agree with these truisms, please join the conversation. If you have additional, please help me grow a comprehensive list. Thanks to those who have provided suggestions, some of which I’ve added. Buyers are more in control of the B2B buying process than ever before. For buyers, all sellers look and sound alike. Products and services appear undifferentiated. Therefore, the way we sell is a critical area of differentiation and value add. The Internet changes everything, by providing instant access to virtually unlimited information. This requires new ways of thinking about marketing and sales, as well as new processes, skills, resources and investments. “It’s not...
  58. Content Strategy for the Web

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    If you’re accountable for creating content for marketing and sales I encourage you to immediately get copies of Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web for everyone on your team. There are many parallels and insights that apply to building non-website content. The core premise, that organizations must take a strategic approach to building content and think of content as important business assets, applies to content created for lead generation and nurturing programs, sales enablement and customer communications. The following are a few key excerpts from the book: “Only when we embrace our identities as publishers will we be able to commit to the necessary infrastructure to care for our content as a strategic business asset. For years, we’ve been spending millions of dollars on strategy and research, user experience design, visual design, and technical platforms. In other words, we’ve invested in everything we need to build the online vehicles...
  59. For a Stronger Content Strategy — Begin With Purpose

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    I remember reading about Norman Cousins. He developed a serious illness in the seventies and received a poor recovery prognosis. Convinced of the power of positive emotions, he used humor and laughing to support his recovery. He rented funny TV shows and movies. This experience was the basis for his popular book, Anatomy of An Illness. TEDTalks are part of my therapy today. Mostly because of their incredible inspirational value. Right at the top of the most popular TEDTalks is Simon Sinek. Sales and marketing must go beyond delivering information to customers. We’re about inspiring action. In this vein, all marketing and sales professionals should be familiar with this landmark talk, Start with Why — How Great Leaders Inspire Action. When organizations develop their content strategy, and begin with purpose – theirs and their audience’s purpose – the work is less daunting and results are more effective. This is not a...
  60. Sales VPs CEOs and the New Revenue Engine

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    Our business partner, Marketo, has been articulate promoting a shift in thinking in B2B selling organizations from a sales engine to a new revenue engine. This is an important read. The key impacts of this shift include: Lower Customer Acquisition Costs Reduce Wasteful Spending –(reducing cold calls, direct and email blasts –IDC estimates 25% of sales time is spent on unproductive prospecting) More Predictable Sales Forecasts Greater Pipeline Stability After many years of listening to the diatribe about the “marketing and sales disconnect,” it’s refreshing to hear solid discussion of a collaborative marketing and selling process that is focused on the common goal of revenue growth, aligned around the customer buying process, and addressing the questions customers must answer in order to solve their business problems and make a buying decision. In the past I was among those from the sales side of the equation who thought “marketing didn’t get...
  61. e-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale

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    When we look back at the past decade, I believe we will see a significant inflection point in the transformation of B2B marketing and selling. The rhetoric of the internet has become the reality of the internet. The web, along with digital media, web 2.0 technologies, and the proliferation of wireless and mobile computing have resulted in the long-awaited convergence. Even user adoption rates, traditionally the regulator on the velocity of technology impact, are accelerating noticeably. Of course, not all is perfect. We tend to implement new technologies using old processes and methodologies. True breakthrough occurs when we re-engineer these processes based upon the new technologies. To paraphrase an old line, to ask, “given my business, how should I use these new technologies?” is fundamentally the wrong question. A more helpful question is, “given the capabilities provided by new technologies, how should I design and run my business?” Ardath Albee...
  62. Re-consider PowerPoint — It’s not just a presentation tool

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    I love this idea, that it’s not “just PowerPoint” anymore. I think PowerPoint offers organizations untapped potential for improved sales messaging, knowledge sharing, and customer communications. A better PowerPoint strategy can drive significant content production efficiencies, rapid development and turnaround times, easy content tailoring, the ability to scale content requirements, and dramatically lower production costs compared to documents. PowerPoint is where the corporate communication process starts. When we stop thinking of it as a presentation tool, and think of it as a business graphic development tool to create visual support for conversations, a new world of possibilities opens. How Important is PowerPoint to Your Sales Organization? Several years ago we conducted a survey of 10 technology companies asking them what percent of the hits to their marketing and sales intranet were for the data type PowerPoint. For each company, the answer was between 55% and 62%. In each company, PowerPoint...

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