In 2010, we made a critical decision at Imagine. We decided that we needed to move beyond our focus on sales and support the entire customer acquisition & success process. This led to the creation of lead generation services, which led to becoming a HubSpot partner, enabling our clients to successfully implement inbound and content marketing.
I don’t often share the (real) reason that we made this shift. I remember the culminating event as if it were yesterday. I was debriefing with one of my sales coaches about the progress with a customer, and let’s just say that the progress wasn’t very good.
The sales team we were working with wasn’t embracing the approaches we were hired to implement and was struggling overall. In the debrief, I was being informed of the obstacles and objections the sales team were confronting, and further, why those objections meant our approach wouldn’t work.
I have to admit that was one of the most frustrating days of my career. I thought to myself, “Why is this so damn hard for them? I’ve been selling for decades and I’ve never had these problems, and while - yeah, sure I’m good - I’m not so good that I’m immune from common obstacles and objections.”
It was in that moment I was struck with a BFO - blinding flash of the obvious. I realized the one element that I’ve always had everywhere I’ve ever sold (or led sales teams) that this team did not have. That element was content. I’d always had content to support my efforts because I’d always created content if the content I wanted wasn’t already there.
I realize this observation from today’s perspective isn’t so enlightening. Today, content is a given. The problem is that as content has proliferated, its impact has decreased (which has further fueled the proliferation of content). A lot of people claim that the reason for this is that quality decreased. While I can’t argue with that observation, I’m certain that’s not the cause.
The cause is that people are doing content wrong.
The Power of Content
I’m a HUGE believer in the power of content. Companies that do not consistently create new insight-driven content are putting themselves at a tremendous disadvantage in comparison with those companies that are, due to the poorly designed, commoditizing buying processes that are quickly becoming the norm.
Content enables you to:
- Influence in ways that can’t be done by individuals (salespeople) exclusively
- Socialize and spread your point-of-view within a company to support the consensus-building that is so often necessary in complex sales
- Deliver stickier messaging
- Create real value in the sales and marketing process
In my experience, the most powerful aspect of insight-driven content is that it is received and processed by the recipient in a very different manner than when it’s presented to them directly in a selling/buying environment. I can’t tell you the number of times that an idea or a point that was greeted with resistance and denial when I shared it directly was engaged with - and even accepted - when shared as a video, podcast, paper or blog post.
What Content Won’t Do
Simply put, content does not do the selling for you. For those of you shaking your heads thinking, “No kidding, Doug, we all know that,” think about how often you make this mistake.
Back to Hansel & Gretel
Content is to a complex selling organization what breadcrumbs are to Hansel & Gretel. Stop trying to “sell” with your content and instead use it like you would breadcrumbs.
Depending upon who you talk to and what industry you’re in, somewhere between 90-99% of the potential customers in your market aren’t looking to buy or do anything new or different.
The content opportunity here is the creation of awareness and engagement by being relevant and valuable. Further, you have the unique opportunity to influence how a prospect views, defines, and prioritizes a problem or opportunity. Realize that it’s problem definition that influences at least 50% of the ultimate decision criteria.
In a recent Sales Genius Insight Video, I shared research from GartnerCEB that highlighted how a growing percentage of potential buying processes fail to even start because companies are unable to rally support around potential solutions approaches. One of the reasons for this is a failure to define the problem fully.
The problem for sales organizations is two-fold:
- Sales organizations are “losing” a higher percentage of opportunities before they’ve even been identified because they’re not present or relevant in this pre-sales stage
- Buyers receive the message that sellers aren’t relevant until the buyer is “ready to buy.”
When developing your content strategy, you must realize that creating such awareness and relevancy is not achieved by an event, but instead through an ongoing process. What’s more, content alone will not change the likely course a prospect is going to take.
It doesn’t matter how good your white paper is or how well-produced your video may be, you are not going to create credibility or influence through content alone. Your content needs to be designed to align and integrate with active sales efforts.
Good content enables your sales team to do more using less of their time (thus increasing sales capacity, creating sales efficiencies and lowering costs). Great content enables and accelerates. But, it does not do the selling.
Instead, use the content to support the sales/buying effort.
When you think of and utilize the content you create as breadcrumbs to aid and accelerate the active selling efforts, you’ll smile when you see how much more revenue and profit you’re able to drive from your content marketing efforts.