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 product-centric to education-oriented content. SiriusDecisions’ short brief has been an important and useful guide for a B2B content strategy that supports this shift.
A related SiriusDecisions insight is also important when conducting B2B content strategy work. That is the distinction between offers that are well understood and sold into mature markets, and offers that introduce a new and different way of solving a business problem. SiriusDecisions call this a “new paradigm.” A “new concept” offer goes even further, in ways that usually create a new offer category or even market.
This understanding is critical because content and sales conversations must be quite different in each selling scenario.
Having applied these two insights extensively in our content strategy and operations management work, we see an opportunity for companies to evolve to the next stage. We call this an objectives-based content framework.
We have found the objectives-based content framework addresses new paradigm and value selling situations better than the persona-based content framework. We believe it’s a natural extension to the original SiriusDecisions model.
Observations That Informed an Objectives-Based Content Strategy Framework
Companies that are just beginning the shift beyond a product-oriented approach to selling and content strategy can “catch up” over competitors who have already adopted a persona-based content framework, and a solutions sales model. But this requires significant changes in content operations to produce highly relevant, situation-ready information, at scale. The objectives-based content framework addresses this challenge.
B2B marketing organizations are constrained by overly marketing-centric thinking.
Ten years into the content and inbound marketing phenomena, it’s time marketers raise their game to provide better content and conversation support to non-marketing tactics. Under-served functions include direct sales, channel sales, customer service and HR.
The sales and channel sales organizations are significantly under-supported.
Despite advice from SiriusDecisions (in this referenced brief and elsewhere) as well as other analysts, few marketing organizations adequately support the content needs of their direct and channel sales organizations. They remain overly focused on marketing tactics. (See The most underserved content requirements)
Situation-ready information must serve two masters: audiences and content users.
A causality of marketing-centric thinking is lack of appreciation and proactive consideration of the purpose or objectives of content. Most B2B marketing is focused on lead generation and brand. In general, about 75% of marketing budget and objectives are for lead gen. Content and inbound marketing is also a significant brand strategy. So marketers share a common and simple purpose for content — generate leads.
The “job” of sales content is more complex.
When it comes to sales content “few marketers can provide clear definitions or guidelines for what effective sales content is.”
As CEB in particular have pointed out, an under-appreciated objective of B2B content is to help prospects reach “consensus.” First, consensus about the nature, cost and priority of addressing their business problem. Second, consensus about the overall solution approach that should be pursued. This content must be vendor agnostic, educational in nature, and suitable for use by customer change agents.
But sales organizations also need content to help them earn the right to first and second conversations. They need to answer questions and explain important and often complex ideas. They must prove value, and much more.
The end result must be situation-ready information that’s created on purpose, by design.
The characteristics of situation-ready information begins with contextual relevance, defined as:
Business purpose and outcome objectives, for conversations and content.
Audience relevance, beyond personas, to audience category or type: prospects, customers, partners, influencers as well as industry type.
Personalization, for sales, but also marketers who adopt account-based-marketing tactics (ABM), personalization is the third kind of contextual relevance. Content and conversations must address specific individuals in specific accounts, more than persona-based approaches.
An objectives-based content framework shifts focus and delivers better results.
The objectives-based content framework differs in many ways. It initially begins with identifying a company’s key constituent groups (named above) as well as their audiences.
Then, use case assessments are conducted to define stage-based activities for both groups. In this model, EVERYTHING is based on use case requirements — tactics, messages, conversations, content.
Each key engagement stage is assessed for:
- Business purpose or objectives of company content users as well as their audiences
- Knowledge and information that is required by both groups
- Communication and conversation support required, and
- Other situation-specific information requirements.
Next, value models for audience type and personas must be well understood and documented. While common value models can be developed for key audience groups, every customer organization and buying team will have specific beliefs and unique value models. When these are appreciated and reflected in conversations and content, maximum resonance and business impact results.
The Topic Content orientation of the Persona-based content framework is preserved.
The objectives-based framework embraces the topic focus, but extends it by shifting orientation:
From: “What message do we want to convey to each persona?”
To: “What conversations and content help business users and their audiences achieve their respective business purposes and outcomes?
What knowledge and information is required? What is the best way to “package” and deliver required knowledge and information? How should it be created for the context of each engagement situation, stage, constituent and audience?”
The resulting scale of content operations and output is inevitable for this content strategy.
We have discovered that the traditional, project-oriented, creative craftsman approach to content, which produces sequential content assets, is outdated and cannot meet digital content requirements. It can’t scale fast enough without compromises.
You’re gonna need a different process.
A leveraged content supply chain process, when executed using specific principles and practices, will meet new digital requirements.
It can deliver many versions of high-quality, relevant content. It also prepares organizations for important emerging trends such as real-time content creation, automated content assembly, and content-as-a-service (CaaS) operations models.
The complete content framework graphic above illustrates some of these comparisons as an extension to the original SiriusDecisions framework. This article has just provided some highlights and examples.
What is a Leveraged Content Supply Chain? was written to answer your next set of questions, and explain the execution practices.