THE KEY POINTS

  • There’s an odd reluctance to admit there’s no content plan or that content isn’t “working”
  • Powerful content requires vision from an internal leader
  • There are numerous gains to be had from getting clarity around content
  • No one expects you to be staffed with entertainers and journalists, so there’s no shame in reaching out to some

YOU THINK YOU’RE COMMUNICATING CLEARLY. BUT ARE YOU?


Still haven’t contemplated bringing on a content strategy & production resource? Maybe it’s because you’ve got it totally figured out, you’re firing on all cylinders, everyone knows the plan and messaging, and your content has your audience doing exactly what you want them to do. Or…it could be the fog is so thick around the issue of content you’re just groping around trying to get by another day.

 

Circle the items below to see if your brand has anything to gain from getting clarity around content.

 

  • There’s not a company-wide understanding of what is meant by “content”.

 

  • There’s no knowledge of who in the organization or which department is in charge of content.

 

  • Content is run simultaneously and in different ways in different departments.

 

  • There is no C-suite executive who understands the importance of content or is championing it.

 

  • Content is placed in the hands of multiple ad-hoc agencies who frankly, are most invested in securing larger engagements.

 

  • No one is sure how to get content made.

 

  • Nobody seems to know, or care, what kind of content customers and prospects want to get.

 

 

  • All content being made is safe, sterile, corporate, and compromised to satisfy a cast of executives instead of the customer.

 

  • There is no documented content strategy. You’re winging it and hoping to get lucky.

 

  • There is no serious budget for content. You still think it should be free and magic.

 

  • There is no acceptance that in 2017, content IS communication. So if you’re not dealing in content, you’re failing to communicate externally and internally, with all the chaos that brings.

 

  • For some reason, all the truly creative employees you have are deeply frustrated and unhappy.

 

  • You don’t think video is a modern-day business mandate. You’re waiting for those YouTube and Facebook Video fads to just go away.

 

  • You don’t believe that content can be made cost effectively at scale .

 

  • You don’t believe that “less and more effective” is better than “make lots more lame stuff.”

 

  • You don’t know WHY you should make content; that there should be a specific mission and purpose behind every asset.

 

  • There’s no understanding of how to tell if a content asset is successful or not.

 

  • You have a generalized anxiety that your competitors’ content is much better than yours.

 

  • Nobody knows who your execs are because they have not put themselves out there via content as leaders in their space.

 

  • Staff does not retain or react to a great deal of the internal comms pushed to their inboxes.

 

  • The business press isn’t covering you.

 

  • You’ve actually been pretty happy with your content efforts, but there’s a next level you’re not quite sure how to get to.

 

  • You throw your customers and prospects into FAQ, Knowledge Base hell instead of quickly responding with a content asset(s) that directly addresses what they’re looking for, and in their preferred format.

 

  • All you’re doing is listing your features and selling stuff. You’re not crafting or telling your story…which is what humans connect to.

 

  • You’ve invested big money in marketing technologies and platforms, but it’s just sitting there collecting dust because you don’t have the content strategy or production to power it. You’ve got the veins but no blood.

 

  • Your social media channels are sharing others’ content, because you don’t have much of your own.

 

If you’re seeing circles even when you close your eyes, don’t feel bad. Like any other business function, content creation and emotive storytelling is a specialized craft. Unless you’re staffed with entertainers and journalists (and few brands are), it’s not fair to expect a lot of entertaining and informative output. What you can expect is MORE ad hoc marketing material. So whether it’sus or another qualified content strategy and communications planning consultancy, it’s healthy to at least have the conversation about your current content state of affairs . 

 

In a bad fog, seeing even a little light can be pretty encouraging.

 

The Key Points

  • Sellers aren’t ready for the interest prospects show
  • The burden to get clear and usable answers should not be on the customer
  • Hyper-relevant video content can be repeat viewed for total understanding and passed on without fear of misrepresentation 
  • Lack of content strategy and powerful content assets might be what keeps pumping the brakes on your sales process


THE PROSPECT IS THERE…IT’S YOUR SALES CONTENT THAT’S NOT

On a bright clear day, most likely in the 60’s, a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman rang the doorbell of a pleasant suburban home. The lady of the house opened the door (this was in a time when people actually did that vs crouching under the window and peeking out until the person went away).

 

The man introduced himself and explained he was selling vacuum cleaners. Then he just stared at her.  Miracle of miracles, she said she was actually in need of a new vacuum cleaner!  Problem was, she noticed he had no vacuum cleaners with him.

 

The salesman said him having the vacuum cleaner wasn’t really necessary. He also had no brochures with info about the product for her.  He also didn’t have any testimonials from satisfied customers.

 

The woman said, “Well, I guess you’ll have to just tell me the details and features.”  The man politely explained he didn’t really expect anyone to show any real interest, so all he prepared for was to say his name and tell people he was selling vacuum cleaners.  He said he could take a stab at remembering the features but couldn’t guarantee he’d get everything right.

 

The salesman then asked if she was ready to hear the price.  She replied, “You poor fellow. That hardly even matters now does it?” as she slowly closed the door.   

 

Absurd story, and yet a great many modern day organizations are marching right out into the marketplace in no better shape than our salesman.  Interested parties want to research and gather the info they need to make a buying decision, but the sellers just aren’t ready for that.  They’ve put together a little song and dance for the initial engagement, but after that, the burden seems to fall on the prospect to battle their way to the answers they need vs enjoying a sales operation that moves them smoothly through to closing.

 

“90% of sales-enabling materials created by marketing never get used. Salespeople spend 30 hours a month creating their own!”

A lot of marketing and sales departments have been regarding sales content strategy to drive pipelines as something that can be put off or skipped.  Marketing makes whatever, sales doesn’t use it, and that’s if they even know it’s there at all. According to the American Marketing Association, 90% of sales-enabling materials created by marketing never get used. Instead, salespeople spend 30 hour a month creating their own!  With utter confusion and guesswork going on around content production, how can you possibly be ready for a prospect that’s seriously interested?  All you’ll show them is you either don’t have or aren’t proud of the answers they’re looking for, or can’t communicate competently.  It’s a trust buster.

 

It should be no secret to the sales side of the house what questions prospects ask. No secret what info they’re looking for.  Yet we force them Indiana Jones-style into the jungle of our overstuffed websites and cryptic FAQs. The burden is on them to dig up the treasure.  What if instead, the sales rep sent them a video that directly and only addressed their question?  What if your sales content arsenal had videos covering all the questions you know you’re going to get asked?  What if that content was ready for every step of the buyer journey?  A phone conversation with a sales rep turns to vapor when it’s done.  Will they remember what was said?  Can they accurately convey that to their stakeholders?  Video answers are vetted, consistent and factually error-free.  The prospect can watch repeatedly for total understanding.  Internal champions can share them at higher levels with nothing lost in translation. 

 

“That kind of sales content ecosystem really pumps the brakes on a sales process.”

A lot of B2B orgs truly believe they’re in good shape because they have “a lot” of content.  But because it wasn’t made and isn’t anchored around an overarching plan to gratify prospects and move them toward a confident decision, prospects are left trying to make sense of random, disconnected, contradictory, barely coherent messaging that’s also – and this is the worst offense of all – boring.  That kind of sales content ecosystem really pumps the brakes on a sales process.

 

IDG Enterprise, publishers of CIO, Computerworld, CSO, InfoWorld, ITworld and Network World, did their 2017 Customer Engagement research and found some worthwhile nuggets about content needs and usage in the tech platform purchasing space.

 

IT decision-makers (ITDMs) HAVE to make good decisions, but they’re getting little to no help from vendors.  Here are some fun facts (hardly fun for the prospects suffering through this) from the study:

 

  • 85% of ITDMs are more likely to consider a vendor that educates them all the way through the decision making process.
  • They download 7 assets on average during their consideration.
  • 79% of ITDMs think negatively overall of a vendor if they can’t find content they need.
  • 74% notice, and like, a consistent omnichannel experience.
  • Why do ITDMs respond to a sales rep? 56% say because valuable content was shared.
  • 60% of the communications between ITDMs and vendor sales reps are email or online based.  It’s a big, impersonal reading assignment.
  • ITDMs respond to video, and 95% watch tech-related videos.
  • ITDMs want product demos in video format.

“They’re TRYING to move through your funnel…but it’s clogged at your own hands.”

The problem is not complete lack of interest on the buyer side.  They need solutions to the challenges they’re currently facing.  What they don’t need is another full time job just figuring you out.  They’re TRYING to move through your funnel…but it’s clogged at your own hands.  On the vendor side, organizations are swirling in confusion and chaos around communications and content…with a high price to pay since it’s the linchpin to higher sales and customer retention.

 

Why is this chaos and confusion allowed to continue when it’s directly striking the bottom line?  There’s a lack of seriousness around sales content planning.  There’s some weird assumption that effective communication happens naturally and doesn’t require thought.  There’s the assumption and hope that our customers will somehow figure out what we’re trying to say.  And content is NOT in the hands of people who know how to entertain and inform, emotionally moving the audience toward taking a desired action.  Address these things and the reward is a customer gratifying, trust-building sales machine.

 

 

THE KEY POINTS

  • Bringing on a content strategist should be easier if you know what to look for.
  • Content is important, but the right use of it is the real ballgame.
  • You don’t want people who latched onto a buzz phrase, you want people who’ve made stuff
  • Telling yourself you don’t need this expertise will doom you to ongoing content chaos.

Glasses representing someone faking being a real content strategist


HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHO’S THE REAL DEAL AND WHO’S NOT?

What does “content strategy” even mean anymore? Ask 10 people and you’d likely get 10 different answers depending on the role and agenda of the person being asked. With the pile-on to this buzz phrase in full effect, we hesitate to even use it.

That doesn’t mean brands don’t need a clear plan around what content they should make, for who, and why, because wow they really do. It’s just that the term “strategy” brings with it a lot of assumptions, and of course, vagueness. Yes content is critically important, but the right use of it, that’s the real ballgame. So if you do bring on a content strategist, how do you know they’re the real deal vs a buzz phrase chaser?

1. A client of theirs will say they brought value
That client’s issues won’t be the same as yours, but they will be able to tell you if the person listened, knew their stuff, grasped the challenges, and delivered a deliberate plan. Maybe they’ll tell you the results that came from the work, or maybe (but doubtful) they’ll admit that they failed as a client to commit and follow through with the plan. But you’ll at least know what kind of working experience the content strategist brought to the table.

 

All the strategy, planning and tech in the world will get you straight to nowhere unless you have people who know how to entertain and inform

2. They’ve made stuff
You’re on an operating table and the doc comes in. You ask, “How many gall bladders have you removed?” And she answers, “Okay, none. But I’ve read a lot of blogs about it and I’ve been to a lot of gall bladder conventions.” Your strategist, and definitely the people who are actually making the content, should have a history of informing and entertaining. Attracting, holding, building, and captivating an audience is an art.

3. They’ll tell you what they don’t know
A favorite consultant of mine came in to the company where I was working at the time, holding a legal pad. He said, “I’ve written down all the answers for your situation I’m 100% certain about.” It was blank. Your content strategist should know their stuff, but drop the arrogance act. A true partner will intimately grasp your unique situation before getting prescriptive (or mouthing off). One of the best trust-building phrases on the planet is “I don’t know but I’ll find out.” 

4. They’ll talk about the things they aren’t good at 
There’s no way a content strategist can be a ninja master in every discipline now involved in digital marketing and content marketing. Marketing automation, account based marketing, influencer marketing, social media marketing, content production, etc. etc. There’s just too much to know, so put your unicorn dreams out to pasture. The right content strategist will include the challenges they have not mastered, not try to eliminate them from the conversation, and find the resources to expertly fill those gaps. 

 

If you hear them pivoting their entire business model based on what you say during your initial meeting, proceed with caution

5. They won’t be the “we do that too” guys
Content strategists should be passionate about and love what they’re doing. If I tell a hot dog vendor what I really want is chicken parm, and he says, “I got that too!” then runs 3 blocks, orders take-out chicken parm and brings it back to me, is he really a chicken parm guy? Good strategists should know how they can be of the most help and bring the most value. If you hear them alter their services list on the fly depending on what you say in your initial meeting, proceed with caution.

6. They’ll call you out if you aren’t serious
Hopefully you’ll be able to respect a company or contractor who’s willing to walk away from an SOW and revenue if the odds of success are fairly low. Great content strategists need to know they’re being effective and productive. Because of that, their joie de vivre is shaken if they accept clients who just want to make lots of decks and have lots of meetings, but never make anything for anybody. Joe Pulizzi’s at the Content Marketing Institute has called out this silliness, “noodling” with content without participating enough to reap the benefits. 

7. They will fight day and night on behalf of the audience
The best companies are customer-obsessed. The best content strategists are tenacious champions for the audience, and sometimes that means pushing against brands that care only about the marketing message they want to push. As entertainers, content strategists and producers need to get that “applause,” in our case in the form of engagement and CTAs acted on. They NEED to give the viewers something that cuts through, moves them and is of high value. If the company only care about pleasing some internal stakeholder, the great content strategists will pass you by.

 

It’s important to them that your delighted content consumers translate into new customers, retained customers, or expanded revenue

8. They care that content works
There are few creatures in the work world that represent a fusion of art and practicality more than a content strategist. The great ones love planning, ideating and producing content then debuting it on the digital stage. They love putting on the show, and as soon as they’re done, they want to put on another. But they also like knowing what will count as a “hit.” What will the success metrics be? They need to know that the happy viewers and readers translated into better prospect, new customers, retained customers, or expanded revenue. They crave applause from you just like they crave it from the audience.

9. They’re cool in sales AND marketing (and HR, IT, PR, etc.)
The days of sitting in respective silos and throwing darts at each other are slipping away. Blaming the other guys will soon only work in Congress. Not just marketing but every department is being held accountable for their role in driving revenue. So content strategy assumes a new role that umbrellas these many departments. Any other approach will result in a badly tuned engine misfiring and leaving the customer broken down and angry on the side of the road. The best content strategists shine when aligning every necessary stakeholder at the table.

Armed with these things to look for, hopefully you can more confidently seek out and activate the content strategy partnership needed to produce and leverage content that will make a tangible difference to your audience and bottom line. What a shame it would be to operate in content chaos one week longer.