Content is at the heart of sales and marketing communication. As Darrell Amy says in his book Revenue Growth Engine, content is the fuel that feeds the sales and marketing processes that drive revenue growth. Implementing a content strategy ensures that your Revenue Growth Engine stays perpetually in motion.
Developing content to enable sales and marketing to ultimately drive revenue growth is not an exception to the old adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail. Having a content strategy ensures that your message will resonate with your audience.
If you don’t already have a content strategy in place, you may be asking: Why do I need a content strategy? The big idea with this blog is to answer that question.
Before we start, answer this question. How do you feel when you are contemplating buying something, or when you’re looking for support when you go onto a website and can’t find the answers you need?
Frustrated? Lack of trust? Want to go somewhere else to find the answers, or choose a different provider?
Here are just a few symptoms of not having an effective content strategy in place:
- The messaging on your website doesn’t clearly communicate outcomes to prospects that are ideal fits for your business
- The messages that your sales team communicates to prospects and clients is inconsistent from rep to rep
- All of your sales team spends time independently formulating messages in long emails instead of using content written for them to use by designated writers
- You struggle to know what to post on social media
- Prospects lack clarity as they navigate their experience with your business because they cannot find answers to common questions on your website (This may be going on and you don’t know it!)
- Your client-facing team members spend lots of time communicating with your clients about the same thing over and over.
Let’s take a step away from sales and marketing to look at operations. How does an operational team deliver quality customer service? More than likely, there are documented processes in place that are followed by operational team members. It would be pretty hard to deliver consistent, quality customer service without it, right?
Not having a content strategy for your sales and marketing processes is like not having procedures in place for your operations team. When you boil it down, there are two high-level benefits for implementing a content strategy:
- Effectiveness: Executing on a strategic content strategy ensures that the content initially connects and engages with prospects seeking your help and also streamlines their entire experience with your business.
- Efficiency: Simply stated, centrally creating content for your sales and marketing organizations to share is way more efficient than asking everyone to write their own content.
An effective content strategy has two different components:
- Overarching Company Message: Content that connects with prospects that are ideal fits for your business when they are determining whether or not they want to engage with your business
- Ideal Client Experience Content: Content that supports your prospects and clients throughout their entire experience with your business.
Overarching Company Message
It is very important to have a consistent message that engages with the prospects that are ideal fits for your business. We have written about it a lot! People don’t buy products or services, they buy outcomes.
At the heart of this high-level message is a story with your ideal client as the protagonist that:
- Has a challenge that is impacting their business
- Engages you to help them
- And ends with them achieving the outcomes that they need to move their business forward.
Your content strategy goes beyond merely creating this message. It also ensures that this story is known by all members of your organization and it permeates throughout your website and all collateral. This company message should be familiar to all team members and should be the rapid-fire answer to the question “what does your company do?”
While important, implementing the overarching company message is just the beginning.
Ideal Client Experience Content
The other component of your content strategy is a framework for the ongoing creation of impactful content that feeds your sales and marketing processes.
In the B2B space, the journey that prospects go through to achieve all the outcomes that you can deliver for them is likely longer than a trip to the grocery store.
During that journey, your prospects encounter friction. At Convergo, we use “friction” to describe the various questions, concerns, or lack of clarity that they might have along the way. Content is a great way to provide this needed clarity.
Mapping out this journey is a great place to start. Once the stages of the journey are mapped out, you have some context to think through potential friction. Then, you can write or produce content that provides clarity and alleviate concerns in order to minimize friction.
Let’s fast forward a bit and look at what it looks like if you have been executing a content strategy for a year or so within the context of a relatively basic client experience.
Content Strategy Based on the Client Experience
So there you have it! Your content strategy is in motion! Now:
- Your team members (and website) have a consistent story to tell prospects about the challenges that they have and outcomes that your can help them deliver
- Your sales team has a library of quality content to minimize friction without having to create (sometimes sub-par or on-the-fly) messaging of their own
- Prospects have increased clarity as they navigate their experience with your business, thus shortening sales cycles and improving client satisfaction
- You have content to post on social media that will resonate with your audience
- Your operations team has content that they can use to help clients instead of explaining things over and over again.
Is this what it looks like in your business? If not, what’s stopping you from implementing something like this?
Considering the experience that your prospects and clients have with your business is a very good lens to use when you’re deciding where to invest in sales and marketing. We call this the Ideal Client Experience. This process is two-fold:
- Ideal Client Profile: Ensuring the Ideal Client is clearly defined
- Mapping out your Ideal Client Experience: Looking at the entire experience that an Ideal Client has with your business.
Ideal Client Profile
Most clients that we work with have a good idea who their ideal client is. Ideal clients are those that can take advantage of everything you have to offer.
As we work through the workshop process, clients often realize that their definition of an ideal client may be too broad. This makes it very difficult to create effective messaging and content that will connect with your ideal clients and also very challenging to get on their radar. Here are a couple of helpful resources about your ideal client profile:
When the ideal client is further refined, the value proposition can often be improved. We recently worked with a financial services company on a Revenue Growth Plan. When we worked through clarifying their Ideal Client Profile, they had the lightbulb moment that our clients often experience.
Initially, they wanted to hire a marketing person to get more leads. Going through our process helped them realize that the quickest way to achieve revenue growth (which is their overall goal) was to expand their share of wallet with their existing clients. Interestingly, this shift in thinking helped them decide to leverage existing educational resources for their clients to better serve them.
In the end, the value proposition to their clients is improved, enabling them to sell more to their current client base instead of hiring a marketing person right out of the gate to generate more leads. The next step is to make an investment in a marketing person to leverage this enhanced value proposition. The result? More QUALIFIED leads that are aligned with their Ideal Client Profile.
A tight value proposition targeted at a well-defined ideal client is a must before executing on a marketing strategy whether you are using an agency or doing your own marketing.
Mapping Out Your Ideal Client Experience
Taking the time to map out the experience that your ideal client has with your business is a very valuable exercise. That experience begins when your ideal prospect has a problem that you might be able to help with and ends when they are enjoying all of your products and services. Here are a couple of considerations to keep in mind when mapping out this experience:
- Ensure you think about it from the lens of your client and not from your internal sales or delivery process. Thinking about how clients feel in each stage, the friction that they might experience, is a great framework for improvement. This lens allows you to be more objective in considering a sales and marketing direction. It often brings operations into the equation as well as they obviously have a significant role in maximizing the client experience.
- Do not have any pre-dispositions as to where you can make the biggest impact. More on why below.
More often than not, businesses come to us thinking they need more top-funnel marketing leads to drive revenue growth. 2 thought-starter questions on this topic:
- How many of your clients actually fit your Ideal Client Profile (Read: They can take advantage of everything you offer)?
- What percentage of your ideal clients actually are enjoying all of the products and services that you offer? Follow up question: Why is your number so low?
Like the financial services company mentioned above, looking at the ideal client experience also helps prioritize where you can make the biggest impact the soonest. In addition, one significant advantage of looking at the ideal client experience to support your investment in sales and marketing is that it becomes a lot easier to measure than traditional marketing spend.
There’s no better way to secure a long-lasting working relationship than by pursuing common goals. A good example of that concept in motion is a recent decision that I had to make my home look better. I previously contracted with someone to mow my lawn. I don’t particularly enjoy mowing lawns so I was initially happy with the fact that I didn’t have to. But over time, I became frustrated that my home did not look as good as it could.
In an effort to fix that, I decided to take a look at this decision a bit closer and realized that my goal was not just to have my lawn mowed, but to have a home that looked great on the outside without my having to worry about it.
In the end, I decided on a service provider that shared my goal of making my home look great. Sure it was more money, but they do a lot more and the results are much better!
At Convergo, it is not our goal to provide marketing services for you. It is our goal to help you reach your revenue goals. So, our engagements start with a Revenue Growth Plan that looks something like this:
- We align with your revenue goals and business/scorecard metrics.
- We define or refine your Ideal Client Profile.
- We map out your Ideal Client Experience- The experience that your Ideal Client has as they navigate with your business from the time they have a problem that you can help with to the time they are enjoying everything you can do for them.
- We develop a high-level roadmap around your Ideal Client Experience to achieve your goals.
Everything we do is centered on shared goals and metrics that ultimately impact your overall business revenue goals.
Marketing agencies help you execute a plan. Or, in the absence of a plan, they create pretty things for you like websites, videos, and brochures. Most of the time, this doesn’t have much to do with your sales team or your company goals.
Convergo helps you create the plan that integrates marketing and sales to drive revenue growth. Then, we coach your team to execute it inside your EOS meeting cadence.
It’s kind of like the last time that I made a decision to join a gym. I knew I had to make a decision because my gym membership at the time was expiring and working out is a key part of my life.
There were many different options to consider. Some gyms have more cardio equipment, others have more classes or free weights. Some are closer to me than others. Although there are a lot of differentiators, comparing traditional gyms is basically an apples-to-apples comparison.
Another option that surfaced was to join a Comprehensive Health Club. In addition to having all of the different amenities that the different gyms offered, health consulting was also included. In addition to weights and cardio equipment, the Comprehensive Health Club offered wellness counseling which included things like nutrition and holistic health. When I compared it to the other gyms, this was clearly NOT an apples-to-apples comparison.
Many businesses in the B2B space contemplate their investment in marketing similarly to the initial road I went down to join a gym for one of two primary reasons:
- They know they need to make some sort of investment in marketing. Many times, they don’t know who or what they want, but they know they need to invest.
- They are frustrated with their current marketing agency because they are not providing them with enough leads. They struggle to justify their investment in the agency given the complicated metrics that the agency provides for them because they are not tied to the goals of the company.
The decision to invest in a marketing agency is similar to my initial decision to join a gym. What I want is to live a long, healthy, enjoyable life. Similarly, the end goal with making an investment in marketing is to have healthy and sustainable revenue growth.
When they get to know what we do at Convergo in contrast to a marketing agency, they quickly realize that they are looking at an apples-to-oranges decision. At Convergo, we approach things very differently than marketing agencies do. Four primary differences in our approach are:
- A Strategic Approach: We are metric-driven and start with the revenue goals of the organization
- The Lens of the Ideal Client Experience: We look at the entire client experience, not just the top of the funnel.
- Sales Integration: We believe marketing and sales should be aligned and working together.
- Sales and Marketing Processes: We implement documented sales and marketing processes, creating infrastructure inside your business to support long-term revenue growth.
We detail each of these 4 differentiators in this blog series.
My wife and I were just discussing what we might do for fun next summer. The possibilities are endless! We might go to the mountains, music festivals, mountain biking or the beach to name a few. Figuring out where to spend/allocate/invest time or money is something that people and businesses do every day. Cost is definitely a factor, but where to go for a fun summer vacation is a fun, emotion-based decision. There is an element of emotion behind many business decisions as well, but logic comes into play more than a personal decision to take a summer vacation. Business owners know they need to invest in marketing, but they struggle to bring logic into that particular decision. They know they need to invest in marketing, but usually are asking themselves:
- How do I go about it?
- Where do I invest the money?
- How much should I spend on marketing?
All of these questions will be answered here, but let’s look at the last one in particular. The SBA suggests:
“As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing…If your margins are lower than this, then you might consider eating more of the costs of doing business by lowering your overall margins and allocating additional spending to marketing.”
All of the questions are really related though. From a logical standpoint, one of the consistent challenges is understanding the return on your marketing investment. The SBA quote above talks about “allocating” money towards marketing. To me, “allocating” money doesn’t really imply any sort of return on your marketing spend. Let’s reframe allocating and spending and call it investing. The concept of investing implies there is some sort of positive return for the business, which should be at least a bit more comforting for business owners. Let’s look at 3 considerations of an investment in marketing:
- What areas of your business does marketing impact?
- How does your investment in marketing impact your sales team?
- Are the marketing metrics that you track tied to your business goals?
What areas of your business does marketing impact?
Typically when contemplating investment in marketing, the main consideration is lead generation. When done properly, marketing moves the needle not only for generating leads for net-new business, but also for expanding your share of wallet with your existing client base. You may be asking, what role does marketing have in selling more to my current client base? Isn’t that what the account management team is for. The primary ingredient in any marketing plan is content. Content can and should be used throughout your entire ideal client life cycle. Looking a bit closer, here is how content impacts the client experience:
- Connect and gain some initial trust from prospects that have problems that you are good at helping to solve
- Reduce friction through your sales cycles and entire client experience by answering the questions that your clients have along the way
- Communicate use cases and success stories of the outcomes that your clients realize through engaging with your business, opening your clients’ eyes as to additional ways that you can help them
You may be thinking that it is very challenging to measure the impact of this. More on that in a bit!
How does your investment in marketing impact your sales team?
Sales and marketing departments are traditionally misaligned. Interestingly, they have the same goals in mind and they work for the same company. Something’s wrong with this picture, right? When sales and marketing teams are working together, the content that marketing creates should be intensely connected with your ideal clients and the efficiency of your sales team in closing business should be dramatically improved. Having spent the initial part of my professional career as a sales rep, I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent creating the perfect email to go to a prospect to convey the message that would most certainly turn them into a client shortly after I pressed send. Imagine your sales reps having content centrally available to support about anything that they would need to communicate with prospects and clients. An eye-opening point is that sales efficiency can be the biggest return that you might receive on your investment in marketing. In addition, the burden of creating this messaging does not fall upon the sales rep which makes them a lot happier! Once again, it is hard to have a vehicle to measure sales efficiency. Let’s look at that next.
Are the marketing metrics that you track tied to your business goals?
We are currently working with a company to develop a revenue growth strategy that came to us with a story that we hear all too often. They were working with a marketing company, but they are not really sure if the marketing company is doing a good job. The marketing company was very active, and was sharing reports that’s substantiated their work, but they were confused and couldn’t tell if it was actually making an effect on their business. The reason we often hear this is that there is typically a chasm between the metrics that a marketing company delivers and the goals of the business. Many times, the metrics that marketing companies deliver are only top-funnel, and are the same for all of their clients. Different businesses have different goals, right? So shouldn’t the metrics be different? A good approach is to:
- Start with the high level goals of the business. Typically, these are around revenue or profitability
- Associate metrics with the different stages of your ideal client experience (New Ideal Clients, Revenue Per Client) that directly impact your high level metrics. So, that is a good place to focus next.
- Finally, coming down a level from there, your sales and marketing metrics should be directly connected to your ideal client experience.
It should be easy to see that the metrics for all clients should not be the same for all businesses! In conclusion, let’s revisit the big question here: How much should I invest in marketing? If your sales and marketing metrics are properly connected with the business goals, and the needle is moving in the right direction, the logical answer to the question should be: MORE!