1. 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...
  2. 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...
  3. 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...
  4. 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...
  5. 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...
  6. 6 actions for sales leaders to get the right sales content

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      Sales performance suffers due to poor or missing situation-ready 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 content to their sales and channel sales organizations. Sales content isn’t designed and created “on purpose.” It isn’t created to meet well-defined use case requirements. 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 content suitable for sales. They believe the problem is lack of awareness or access to that content. This is flawed thinking. Since content is a key success driver of any B2B selling system, sales leaders must ensure there is enough of the right sales content for sales people to perform well. To do this, sales organizations must “requisition content”...
  7. 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-ready 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 it...
  8. 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...
  9. 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...
  10. 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...
  11. 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...
  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 Content Strategy

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      Companies struggle to keep up with the 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 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 Content Strategy A simple way of thinking about content strategy is to answer two main questions: On-purpose — What content do we need and why? What’s the “job” content must perform?...

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