Last week, I had the chance to hear Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote presentation at the Rainmaker 16 conference. In his presentation, he said something that clearly resonated with the audience on the topic of attention. “Attention is the one thing we all sell against.”
Years ago, Seth Godin said that attention is the single most valuable asset any business can have. While, or more accurately because, attention is so vital to a successful demand generation program, and getting earning attention is tougher than ever.
Just as I was considering that, Vaynerchuk shared a thought that really got me going. “Gaining attention is actually quite simple. All you have to do is figure out what the other guy really wants and reverse engineer it from there.”
As content continues to proliferate, this is a lesson that should be posted on the walls of every marketing group in the world. Far too often, content begins by answering the question, “What is that we (the sellers) want people (our prospects) to know about?”
Starting with this question violates a core principle of effective demand generation - our job is to think like our prospects and stop making our prospects think like us. It’s easy to forget that our prospects don’t really care about our products, services or differentiators. What they care about is based on what’s important to them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you create content in areas that have nothing to do with your offerings. There must be a connection, but the connection does not have to be direct or whole; and in many cases it shouldn’t.
Consider these scenarios:
- We work with a company that provides corporate travel management. Two challenges they have in creating content to drive their funnel are: 1) companies think about their travel provider very inconsistently (and rarely), and 2) the person most likely to think about it is not the person who has the authority to do anything about who’s managing the program.
- A printing company provides commodity printing services, but what makes them unique are their insights into how to make print materials stand out in marketing and enhance response rate by 20% or more.
- A trucking company provides both asset and non-asset solutions to a variety of market segments. Much like the travel management company, the people responsible for managing the ground logistics are not responsible for choosing their partners, and the ones responsible for choosing partners aren’t particularly focused on the tactics around ground transportation.
In all of these cases, the leaders of these companies had to make an important strategic decision. Did they want to position their companies as providing a total solution or a partial one? As I shared in a paper I wrote several years ago, this decision should drive many of the actions you take in your go-to-market efforts.
From a content perspective, the primary advantage of positioning behind a total solution is that there is a clearer, cleaner connection between the content you create and your value proposition. The problem is that oftentimes the focus of such a proposition is not particularly important to the primary personas you want to connect with.
In these situations, you are far better off positioning your proposition as a partial solution to a more strategic, bigger and/or more valuable problem. One that your primary personas are more likely to be paying attention to on a more consistent basis.
Let’s look at the three companies I highlighted earlier. They could choose to focus on what they do and/or how they do it, but that would violate the primary purpose of content (at least at the top of the funnel), which is to earn and cultivate the attention of desired personas. So rather than focus on travel management, printing or trucking, these companies are far better off focusing on improving financial performance by utilizing smart business process outsourcing strategies, driving better response rates and managing the supply chain.
For each of these companies, the new area of focus is higher on the list of important business issues for their respective personas. By focusing on these areas for content, these companies have been able to increase content engagement by more than 20% while also increasing lead velocity and quality.
As Vaynerchuk shared, determining your focal point isn’t complex; you just need to get clear on the following questions:
- Which personas do you want to connect with?
- What are the most important business problems that your desired personas are looking to address? (Don’t make the list too long, as the longer the list the less important the issues.)
- Which of those issues do your products/services have the biggest direct or indirect impact on?
- Which of those issues do you have (or can you develop) a valuable take upon and/or insights to share?
From there, create a list of topics and start creating strong content that matters. As you build attention, you can begin to share additional insights that connect the dots from what matters to your personas to your offerings.
This “outside-in” approach will take more work and requires more effort to keep it connected to sales results, but the results are well worth the effort.