1. An experience using sales conversation frameworks

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      I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached: “We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.” Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways. Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days. In this particular situation, I selected a question: “What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?” Bingo! I got this: “Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean...
  2. How to define requirements and requisition content

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      To get effective, sales-ready content, sales organizations must “requisition content” from the marketing and content groups that are resourced and budgeted to create it. This article introduces an approach and steps to do this. To understand why, see Why B2B Sales Organizations Must Requisition Sales Content. To understand why you need a sales content strategy, see article referenced bellow. This requisition work could be a key role for sales enablement professionals. While the steps are simple, the work isn’t necessarily easy. In a sentence the approach is this: Assess critical sales conversations  at key buyer engagement points, in the context of:   1. Assess and Define Key Customer Engagement Use Cases This is the best starting point for planning and preparation work (content strategy). It defines the context for the “job” you need content to do. (See What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?) Identify each critical conversation within each use...
  3. Why B2B sales organizations must requisition sales content

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      B2B sales leaders know that effective, situation-specific, sales ready content is a strategic imperative. It is a key driver of B2B sales effectiveness. To provision sales and partner teams with the right selling information and content the sales organization must requisition sales content from their providers. Most people aren’t aware that effective sales content is significantly different from marketing content. This discovery helps explain the perennial frustration and challenge in arming sales and partner reps with what they really need (vs think they need). In short:   Marketing creates content for markets, segments and personas, to generate conversations (leads for sales people, PR and brand and other marketing purposes). Sales people require information and content to conduct conversations with specific account and buying teams. To be useful, sales content must align to and support the specific purposes of both sellers and buyers. So the question really is: How is it possible for non-sales-oriented, creative content people ...
  4. Creating microcontent first might resolve your content problems

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      Looking back, I’ve been involved with microcontent for 25 years in the content business with Avitage. Although we never called it that. The name Avitage was created from “audio-video montage”. A montage is a picture created from many little source images. Microcontent is each slide in your PowerPoint decks. If you think about where “knowledge” is stored in your organization, you might respond, “in our people’s heads, in our PowerPoint, and in document, video and perhaps audio files.” Probably in that order. Our first software application managed PowerPoint at the slide level. The application allowed individual slides to be assembled into “Collections,” without duplicating source slides. It operated in a manner similar to the thumbnail view in PowerPoint. But it managed an entire organization’s sanctioned and personal PowerPoint. We subsequently associated audio with each slide. Audio as microcontent. One audio element could provide coaching on the intent and use of the slide. A...
  5. Why your approach to content alignment hurts your results

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      The long-prevailing wisdom is to align content to the customer’s buying stage and/or the sales process stage. This approach reflects an outdated content alignment and management mindset. Yes, we all long for simpler days of old. It’s the folder mindset that says, “we need to group content within hierarchical folder categories.” Buying and selling stages are a rather obtuse concept. Few content users or their audiences really know or think about what stage of the decision / selling process they’re in. The Gartner Buying Journey model below shows a more realistic reality. So, aligning content to the yellow box stage doesn’t accomplish much. It probably contributes to confusion and difficulty finding exactly the right asset, quickly. This simplistic thinking also causes you to miss content requirements that a more rigorous approach will identify. Asking, “how will my content users go about looking for content?” is a better approach. This is what should be...
  6. 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...
  7. Modular Content Creation vs. Traditional and Structured Content Approaches

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      As content marketing practices mature, organizations look for new ways to gain advantages and improve content performance. One of the most elusive tactics is to optimize content for audience and situation relevance. Numerous studies have shown business outcomes improve significantly when content delivers highly targeted, useful and relevant insights to audiences. Yet marketers currently struggle to produce content tailored even to relatively simple relevance factors, such as specific industry verticals or personas. Demand campaigns and nurture tracks seldom are targeted to those factors. Lack of data, list segmentation and relevant content are three primary reasons we usually hear. As marketers move beyond content for marketing tactics, and step up to support sales and the sales channel’s content requirements, the ability to deliver highly targeted, situation-relevant content will be an essential capability. Sales engagement is essentially a one-to-one activity. When B2B buying teams are made up of 5 to 6...
  8. Content Source the secret sauce to quality content

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      My cousin arrived from California the other day. As we sat enjoying a bottle of his excellent homemade Cabernet, he told me about his decades long wine-making hobby. Turns out there are many ways to screw up wine in the production process (technical term). But if you don’t begin with the right, quality grapes, there’s little you can do to improve it. It occurred to me this applies to content creation, doesn’t it? If you don’t have the right inputs, there’s little even a great writer can do to produce great content. Content Source is the secret sauce to quality content because it’s the way you acquire and prepare inputs to your content process. Our practice of using Content Source began over a decade ago. We quickly worked to make it a disciplined, robust content practice. When we consider our world without Content Source, we realize we would lose our: Leverage, efficiency...
  9. Is “Last Idea In, First Content Out” Killing Your Content Strategy?

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      We had just completed ten intense weeks creating a business level content strategy for a client. This kind of work produces many work products. Two relate to this story. We carefully defined the client’s marketing and sales use case requirements. And for actionable next steps, a carefully considered and prioritized list of content that was required to support those use cases was also developed. Within days I got “the call.” I call it LII FCO, “last idea in, first content out.” It seems a prospect had asked one of their sales reps a question in a meeting. The rep came back and asked the Vice President of marketing “what do we have I can send to this prospect?” It was an attractive topic. The VP was excited to share with me the opportunity to leverage the work we had just completed. The company had lots of ideas to fuel this creation. After...
  10. Create Customer Content in Multiple Languages

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      The requirement to deliver customer content in multiple languages is further evidence of how new realities are introducing new requirements that demand new approaches. It’s also an example of how new requirements raise the importance of the ability to scale content operations. Content in multiple languages isn’t new. Technical publications, websites and marketing collateral have long dealt with this issue. But that’s exactly the point. Look at how those responsible to meet that requirement had to change content processes, adopt new technologies, and develop new techniques. You don’t know you say? Exactly, another point! The silo nature of organizations has created learning barriers. This post, and the book Global Content Strategy – A Primer, by Val Swisher can help you learn those lessons. Global Content Strategy – A Primer Over the last decade, our list of new content criteria has grown from 6 to more than 9 factors. Foreign language...
  11. How Do Audiences Assess Your Marketing Content?

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      What if you could assess your marketing content the same way your audiences do? How would that improve content quality, audience relevance, performance? Of course. Makes sense. But what exactly does this mean — in practice? I invite you to collaborate in this real-time case example. I have a video for you to view, assess, and provide feedback for recommended improvements. We’ll source reader inputs over a couple of weeks and post the best suggestions. Principle being applied: it’s easier to criticize someone else’s content than our own. But maybe there are lessons we can all learn from this experience. The Scenario AlignMeeting is a new, interactive, online sales meeting platform from AlignRevenue. Their target users are B2B inside sales reps and managers. AlignRevenue created a short introductory video to outline the problems that inside sales reps and managers are experiencing—and a new solution to those problems. The primary goal...
  12. Don’t Just Curate Content – Harvest It

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    This blog originally published on the Sandhill.com blog. Curate content to address many content challenges marketers face. Current curation practices focus on automatically generating newsletters, primarily based on third party articles. This approach severely under-utilizes this important tactic. The harvest step is perhaps the most significant part of our curation practice. When we curate content, both internally developed and third-party content, we harvest specific elements from within the source content itself. This reduces or eliminates creation by downstream users, and reduces the time effort for new content creation.   Don’t Just Curate Content – Harvest It! Enterprise marketing leaders and chief content officers use many tactics to serve numerous content constituents and their use case requirements. The emergence of the digital enterprise elevates requirements as groups beyond marketing, including sales and channel sales partners, but also customer service and HR (talent acquisition), must be supported in their use of content and content marketing tactics. One...
  13. Content Management – Aggregate Don’t Upload

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      As a content operations advisory firm, we occasionally find ourselves in the embarrassing position of the “cobbler’s children.” This syndrome reared its ugly head when we realized that our spreadsheet based content inventory wasn’t really working as a good way to discover and access the right content for specific sales, marketing or content requirements. The spreadsheet was the right tool for the initial content inventory job we conducted a few years ago. But the hassle factor for daily use was too high. This showed up as assets not recorded in the document, and pleas for content recommendations going out across email and IM. Before we set out in search of the perfect content management solution, we convened to discuss our use case requirements. We began by analyzing the primary content and content types we used, along with where they were stored.   Content in 18 Repositories That’s when it hit...
  14. 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”...
  15. Customer Facing Content as a Conversation

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    The Four Cs of Content Marketing I’ve written about content as more, and different than, format. While working with clients recently, I’ve heard them wrestle with questions about what content to create, and how to make priority decisions. I think some deeper distinctions about content can help here. When I consider content work, I think about the Four Cs of Content: Conversation Context ContentS Container  Notice that container — format — is my last consideration. This is a big change from the traditional approach to content creation. Typically, format, as in “what do you want to create?” is an early consideration. For example, your approach as well as resource and vendor selection might depend greatly on whether you want to create a blog or whitepaper, PowerPoint or video. This thinking and approach is too limiting for today’s content requirements and challenges. Start with the Conversation Thinking about customer facing content as...
  16. Continuously Acquire Customer Stories, Insights, and Ideas

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      If content is the fuel for content marketing, sales and customer enablement, then customer stories or insights are the active performance enhancing ingredients. Well-developed messages targeted to address key buyer questions are better understood when the right customer stories create context. This is particularly important with innovative products, where buyers lack prior purchase experience. Capturing customer stories or insights can be a challenge for content marketers. Logistics and weak practices are both a factor. Trying to find stories when you need them is not easy. Setting up time to talk directly to customers can be inconvenient and face internal organizational barriers. Often marketers lack first-hand access to customers. They have to rely on intermediaries for access, or on subject matter experts to provide stories. Sometimes this works well. Just as often the stories are not compelling or inspiring. A better approach is to have a rich inventory of stories available to...
  17. 7 reasons an internal slide library is an imperative

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    PowerPoint management isn’t sexy, but it is a productivity and effectiveness enhancer. In many organizations PowerPoint is a lingua franca. It is a primary way knowledge is captured and shared. Where are slides created in your company? Marketing (marcom, product marketing, field marketing), multiple vendors or contractors, training, field sales and pre-sales, executives — almost everyone creates slides. How well are they shared? How easily can you find the slide(s) you need. Everyone manages PowerPoint. Most manage it poorly. PowerPoint is typically managed as a document. But we are often looking for specific SLIDES. We want the most up-to-date slide version. We also want shows that closely fit our specific presentation situation. Custom assembly, while necessary, requires time, effort and knowledge. What if we can access and leverage the best versions for each situation? In repeated buyer surveys, purchasers want more visual content. They prefer whitepapers with more visuals. Content...
  18. Video — the second best way to create for content marketing

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    Content marketing has created a content conundrum. Content marketing is fundamentally about creating buyer relevant, education oriented content, that supports the buying team as they progress through a buying journey. With this shift from vendor to buyer orientation comes great pressure on traditional content production methods and costs. Blogs have emerged as the best way to create for content marketing. They are foundational to this endeavor.  We know from blog work this content must be created consistently. One customer commented, “I need a constant stream of fresh content.” This implies not only frequency but scale.  Of course, this has huge implications on resources, development times, content quality and costs. But what do you do next? White papers, webinars, or any other of the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Playbook that lists 42 ways to connect with customers? Where do you focus? Where do you invest your scarce time, effort and...
  19. Customer Interviews for Marketing and Selling Content

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    At our recent sales and marketing breakfast we had an excellent conversation on customer — and video — interviews. As a result, I suspected that most B2B marketing professionals don’t have a successful framework for thinking about, much less acquiring, effective customer interviews for marketing and selling content. Follow on conversations with organizations large and small confirmed my suspicions. What’s the ‘Job’ of Recorded Customer Interviews? What do you call them? Success stories? Testimonials? Case studies?  What is the “come from” behind your approach? What is your primary intent? To have your customer tell your prospects things about you that you can’t (or shouldn’t) tell yourself? Or are you “coming from” a perspective of “helping buyers make effective buying decisions” by getting your customers to share insights that address specific buying questions — by role, issue, buying stage, solution alternative? What is the “job” recorded customer interviews are expected to do? How do these expectations differ...
  20. Content Marketing Best Practices from Joe Pulizzi

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    Hubspot Inbound Now Video Interview also a Case Study In How to Create Content Like a Publisher Whether you are new to content marketing or an advanced practitioner you can learn something from the recent Hubspot Inbound Now interview with Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 and founder of the Content Marketing Institute. Anytime I can hear or read Joe’s insights it’s a worthwhile time investment. The Hubspot process is an excellent example of thinking and creating content like a publisher: Be a resource for new ideas and insights Acquire content by interviewing subject experts Use audio and video as acquisition methods (more than just interview) Transcribe the audio Offer the content in multiple formats for consumption convenience: text, audio and video Amplify — in this case they blogged about the interview for another distribution method Promote — others will help you do this   Inbound Now #16 – Content Marketing Best Practices...
  21. Are You Communicating Synchronously in an Asynchronous World?

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      We live in a world that prefers to receive information asynchronously. But we tend to focus on using live, synchronous delivery methods. This is a key source of high costs and low results in every area of a business. I cannot overstate the importance of this idea and distinction, as well as the implication for individuals and organizations. First, some simple definitions. Synchronous communications happen at the same time with all participants. Synchronous communications tend to be traditional voice-based conversations to deliver intended messages. They can be conducted in person or over the phone or web. Asynchronous communications do not occur in the same time. Communications experienced asynchronously are consumed “on demand” at a time of choosing by the recipient. Asynchronous communication rely on content to package and deliver core messages — audio content such as voice mail, text content, or video. Implications for Your Communications As I consider the world...
  22. Twitter — What do you read at breakfast?

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      I’m often asked, “how do you use Twitter for your selling activities?” Twitter is a primary resource for me to listen, learn and conduct research. I find great ideas, articles and people through Twitter. I curate important and long-life content as an essential, almost daily practice. My rule is, if it’s a good article and worth sharing, it’s worth sharing many times over time. I curate to Microsoft OneNote to support this practice. Listening “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”— Clay Shirky Using Twitter to listen to topic specific conversations is a skill we really need to develop. I don’t have time to listen to everything. By selecting and cultivating people who share my interests, I leverage their research, insights, ideas and conversations. I pick up themes, topics and keywords that help me further my listening, but in an efficient way. I acquire articles, quotations, research and facts I...
  23. Avitage POV on Marketing and Sales Communication

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    My company, Avitage, has recently updated our point-of-view. Over fifteen years the core vision has not changed: to enable front line business communicators to assemble and deliver buyer relevant and useful content, tailored to each audience — even an audience of one. We even learned how to do this with video! But the delivery methods have certainly evolved, expanding the need for, and value of, our approach. Enabling sales to meet revenue, growth and profitability targets is the responsibility of marketing and sales working in a collaborative effort. How you sell is a primary differentiator and opportunity to create value for customers. These efforts should also be aligned around the common process of the customer’s buying journey, and the objective of facilitating a faster buying process. A Communication Requirement Seeing these objectives through a communications lens is an important distinction. Communication is a function of: Messages — knowing what to...
  24. What does your company do?

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    “It’s Not about the Bike” — the title of Lance Armstrong’s excellent autobiography. Becoming a world class cyclist requires far more than the bike. Strategy, practice sessions, workouts, diet, and mental aspects impact performance far beyond the equipment. The implications of his statement occurs to me every day. For example, too often people think a software system will solve their business problem. Another is the way sales people answer the typical customer question: “what does your company do?” There are two perspectives that can direct the response: the vendor perspective and the customer perspective. Sales people often fixate on their products or services. They think customers are as interested in key features as are they. Customers are actually asking one of two questions. They may be asking the product or service question so they can attempt to self-diagnose. Have you ever heard a customer respond to a product oriented introduction,...
  25. Sales Conversations — Set Up the Listening

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      I spent the day yesterday with my executive coaches from GAP International. This group works with executives and their organizations to create “breakthrough organizations”. A breakthrough is an extraordinary and important outcome for which the way of achieving it is not known. It is not predictable from a projection of the current state of the business. The GAP concept is, extraordinary results are produced by extraordinary actions. Extraordinary actions are produced by extraordinary thinking. Most people, most of the time, take ordinary and predictable actions based upon “business-as-usual” thinking. Therefore, to create breakthrough outcomes, and especially to create an organization that consistently produces extraordinary outcomes, requires a transformation in people’s thinking. The “access” to this thinking is people’s language. By listening carefully to the conversations people conduct, and specifically the language they use in conversations, we can identify people’s thinking. This will indicate the kinds of actions they will take,...
  26. 5 Things You Must Consider Before Purchasing Marketing Automation Executive Summary

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    As part of a recent Focus Webinar, David Raab — Principal of Raab Associates Inc — presented a webinar entitled “5 Things You Must Consider Before Purchasing Marketing Automation.” Several factors (including the relatively low cost of the software itself) have caused marketing automation to reach a stage where many companies make the decision to buy marketing automation without really knowing why. The purpose of the webinar was to raise certain questions that should be answered before purchasing a marketing automation system. These questions include: 1) What programs will achieve my specific business goals? 2) What do I need to run those programs? 3) How will the programs happen? 4) What can I do already? 5) How do I fill the gaps? This is an executive summary of the webinar and the insights shared by David Raab.  And as Avitage specializes in helping companies take ideas such as these to...

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Resolving the number one unconsidered cause of low B2B sales and marketing performance, and revenue growth …
… the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and situation-specific information (content), in context, at scale
Contact: jburns@avitage.com           Phone: 508-397-7059           Copyright © 2020 Avitage Consulting LLC. All rights reserved.