Part V: Maximize sales content effectiveness
To maximize the effectiveness of your sales content, it is imperative that you address all the factors that affect its delivery and usefulness to the prospect. In addition to ensuring that the content is targeted and usable, you can increase the impact of your content by creating an element of interactivity that engages the customer with your brand and creates a relationship in the customer’s mind between your product and a desired outcome such as increased profitability, higher sales or faster return on investment.
You might consider interactive return on investment models that enable the customer to create a cost justification on his or her own as an option, for example. This type of tool allows the prospect to create their own compelling events and adds urgency to the sales cycle based on information that the customer generates internally rather than data supplied from outside.
Interactive content creates brand engagement in a low risk but nonetheless compelling environment, and is one way to advance the sale or restart a stalled sales cycle. However, you must take the time to
ensure that your interactive content is engaging, easy to use, fact based and accurate.
To keep the funnel and revenue stable, it’s important to have a steady stream of prospects in each stage of the pipeline. Many individual reps and even entire companies neglect outbound marketing, which is an essential part of any sales enablement program.
Outbound marketing content creates awareness of your product and brand and makes it easier to make contact and establish a relationship when the suspect is ready to enter the buying cycle. In addition, since most buyers today do more of their research online before ever setting foot in the buying arena, consistent and effective outbound marketing is essential to ensuring that your company is not shut out of possible future deals.
Content must address a specific role and sales stage to be effective and enable sales to move the process to the next step. Users ignore collateral that they feel is irrelevant, and a steady diet of irrelevant content may cause you to be eliminated from the deal. Identify key personas across the spectrum of the organization, from decision makers to end-users, and be sure to take the time and exert the discipline to use data to support your conclusions about each persona’s characteristics. Many companies take the shortcut of making up their target personas based on tribal knowledge rather than data analysis, and they are often shocked when the lore is not supported by actual data.
Dynamic construction and delivery While it is certainly possible to create individual and uniquely compelling content for every combination of role and sales stage, it is more cost effective and productive to create content that can be dynamically constructed and delivered to specific buyers at the appropriate point in the cycle. Dynamic content requires the use of modern content management and delivery tools that enable creation of unique pieces from a library of reusable content. Reusable content requires a disciplined approach to content creation so that every piece in the library is consistent and up to date.
Reengineer the process
Marketing has not been able to measure the effectiveness of content until recently, and that gave rise to a somewhat undisciplined approach to content creation. The marketing team tried many different approaches and ideas in the hope that something would resonate. In addition, many other groups in an organization often contribute collateral. For example, the engineering or R&D team might be responsible for creating data sheets and spec sheets; support might create brochures or presentations on support levels or implementation and installation services; and various regional offices might create their own localized content. The result is a chaotic, expensive process that leads to ineffective collateral and suboptimal results.
The sales enablement team must have responsibility for content governance. No collateral or content should be published unless it has been approved by the sales enablement team The content governance and approval process should encompass more than simple editing and assurance that the piece follows branding guidelines.
Content governance must include the ability to decide what pieces should be created as well as control of the actual content. Before any work is done on content, the purpose of the piece, the target persona and the sales stage should be defined. This governance must extend beyond content created by marketing to cover every piece of collateral created by any group within the company. If an item is intended for customer consumption, it must fall under the governance of sales enablement or the company risks squandering resources and possibly stalling or derailing sales cycles.
The content governance process means that content will no longer be created in silos within the organization, but by multi-discipline teams of people all focused on ensuring that the content serves the company and its sales force as effectively as possible.
Proper governance also ensures that the company will have pieces in its content arsenal that are effective for every stage in the pipeline from nurturing suspects and warm leads to the final closing.
The effective sales enablement team will want to take steps to ensure that its existing and planned content meets its needs. A thorough inventory of collateral may result in culling outdated or ineffective pieces. Once the inventory of usable collateral is available, the sales enablement team can take steps to identify and fill gaps.
One of the most important steps in this process is to understand and identify the target personas. Oftentimes companies gloss over the process of creating personas in favor of simply naming a few roles. True persona creation is a data driven exercise that results in an understanding of the individuals the sales force will be facing and the challenges and issues these individuals face. Armed with this detailed knowledge, an educated sales force can address the issues confidently and on an equal footing with even the loftiest titles in an organization.
Targets obviously need to include decision makers and approvers, but they must also include the people who can say “no” and derail the deal. It’s important to understand their concerns and to arm the sales force with the content necessary to address these issues.
The next step is to identify the architecture of the content. This may include a definition of specific pieces or it may address tools and levels of messaging and construction that affect the ability to use dynamic content creation.
Now that the company has identified the necessary building blocks and any current gaps in coverage, the next step should be creation of an editorial calendar. This identifies the specific timing and delivery of missing pieces, new pieces or regularly refreshing existing pieces. The editorial calendar serves to put some discipline around random or unauthorized content creation and allows level resource planning and effective budgeting of both time and money.
Finally, the company must identify the repository/repositories for storing and delivering collateral. The repositories must be accessible, simple and well controlled. There should be a defined taxonomy for tagging content and controls should be in place to prevent unauthorized posting. In addition, there must be an easy way to monitor usage and to notify the sales force of new additions or updates to old content.
Systemize target delivery and measurement
It is axiomatic in business that you can’t improve what you don’t measure, and content is no exception to the rule. Content management systems should provide controls and reports that identify users of content and popular or unpopular items. Ideally, the system should be able to measure usage by customers as well as by members of the sales team.
The perfect delivery system should be able to dynamically format and combine content to match a particular prospect and deal. In addition, fostering internal and external communities can increase the impact of collateral. External communities spontaneously erupt when prospects forward specific pieces of content to other people in the company or to contacts at other organizations. Internal communities exist when the sales force begins to share best practices and successful engagements. Both types of communities are signs that the sales enablement team is succeeding at its charter.
Now that you understand the challenges of sales enablement, click here for part six for some final thoughts and advice about sales enablement.