The proliferation of digital communications has made the world a noisy place. Marketers know full well to compete in the ‘attention economy’ requires an unprecedented level of Personalization and value in messaging. Be in the right place, at the right time with the right message. Sales is exactly the same.
In previous articles I’ve talked about the value of social as a channel for sales to connect with the modern buyer. Now I will address how content plays a central role in building relationships once you’ve connected.
Does content really matter? Everyone is familiar with my fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s quote “The medium is the message”, but isn’t the message the message too? I believe content matters in the same way the medium matters – the degree of Personalization of the message reflects the value of the relationship to the communicator. Buyers don’t have time to engage with sellers who don’t value their relationship. Salespeople often use a canned script focused on products and services that fail to address buyer needs. This is often fatal.
Cut the Crap (Content)
Customer relationships depend on the ‘commonwealth of self-interest’ – the intersection of the seller’s interests and capabilities with the buyer’s needs. Marketing must provide content that lives at the intersection. Laura Ramos at Forrester characterizes the most effective content for B2B Marketing based on buyer’s needs in her article, “Crap Content Continues To Describe B2B Marketing — Don’t Let It Describe Yours” – Bottomline: B2B buyers want to read about peer examples, content from credible sources and content that is concise.
Marketing has two key roles in producing this content that are inter-linked. First, Marketing used To Describe B2B Marketing — should be working with customers to produce relevant, short-format case studies that sales can share with prospects. This type of content is a key pillar in any content marketing program – more so than the educational, product-focused content typically produced.
Marketing should also create an Influencer Marketing program. These programs combine analyst relations and public relations functions to engage the ‘credible sources’ Laura prescribes. The output of these programs is press and analyst coverage from third party, credible sources on your company and solutions. This coverage ideally makes your customers the hero of your story, not you. Making your customers the hero of the story combines peer examples and credible sources, to deliver the ultimate prospective buyer engagement experience possible.
Get Personally Engaged
Creating the right content is the first step in enabling sales. Marketing then needs to organize the content using taxonomies that make it easy for Sales to personalize their communications. Content portals and indexed libraries are the starting point for discovery, but there’s an opportunity to go even further. A class of solutions has emerged to solve this specific problem called Sales Enablement. These platforms are tightly integrated with your content repositories and the CRM system so content can be matched and personalized at the opportunity level. This is a highly effective way to leverage the peer content to influence and advance Sales conversations.
When it comes to credible sources, Marketing and Sales can further collaborate by curating third-party content for sales to share through their social and digital channels. Our data at Grapevine6 shows a 2x engagement rate on third-party content versus Marketing-generated content. Sharing third-party content also increases the perceived relevance of Marketing content and positions Salespeople as thought leaders in their categories.
Track Engagement /Convert MQLs into Customers
Content Personalization only gets better with a feedback loop. Tracking engagement on email, social and web to specific individuals allows marketing systems to refine the interest models for new prospects and the specific interest profiles of existing prospects. The trick is to connect the tools Sales and Marketing use to engage buyers (Direct Email, Marketing Automation, Social Selling) with the customer data stores to ensure it’s shared across channels. The ‘book of record’ may exist in your CRM, Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) or even a purpose built Customer Data Platform (CDP).
Marketing needs to pull together the Digital Marketing team, enterprise Data Architecture and Sales teams to create a data strategy to capture and syndicate engagement data to truly personalize the customer experience. There is definitely a maturity model in this Digital Transformation of customer experience and many steps on the journey to full engagement. A great first step is to catalogue the buyer journey and document the key points of engagement. Then plan to build tracking into those engagement points and connect it through an MVP approach and measure results.
In conclusion, now is the time to rethink your content strategy and technology from a Sales point of view. After years of optimizing for inbound leads and creating MQLs, Marketing now has the biggest opportunity in the sales channel to convert MQLs to engaged customers!
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