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?
B2B companies often outsource marketing to an agency and have their sales team in-house. Of course there are advantages to outsourcing, but do you really think your sales and marketing departments should work for different companies?
Many entrepreneurial businesses have very tight processes when it comes to the operational side of the business. From a process standpoint when it comes to sales and marketing, it is The Wild West. Things like marketing “campaigns” and sales “blitzes” are short-term, flavor-of-the-month tactics, not sustainable processes.
At Convergo, we help our clients create and implement sustainable sales and marketing processes around the Ideal Client Experience to meet revenue growth goals. This is a significantly different approach from hiring an outside marketing agency to get “leads” for your in-house sales team.
A common link between Convergo and a marketing agency is content. Content is the fuel that drives all sales and marketing processes. Our Focused Message Framework provides a guideline for businesses to ensure that their content supports their ideal prospect from the time they realize they have a problem, to the time that they are a client enjoying everything that they can offer.
In closing, as you contemplate your direction with marketing services, what is it that you really want? Marketing or revenue growth?
If the answer is revenue growth, we’d like to talk!
It is no secret that sales and marketing departments typically have an adversarial relationship. Sales wants marketing to provide better leads, and the marketing department thinks the sales team isn’t doing their job effectively because they don’t close the leads that they give them.
Traditionally, marketing agencies look at the “hand off.” The handoff is where the marketing qualified lead is passed along to the sales department for “qualification.” I use the word qualification loosely because many of these leads are not truly ideal clients that are appropriate for any sales engagement at all.
Taking a step back and thinking about things from the lens of the Ideal Client Experience enables us to remove the barriers that traditionally exist between sales and marketing. This might involve:
- Considering the client’s motivation at each stage of their experience and any friction that is keeping them from moving forward
- Determining what could be done to minimize that friction for the client and grease the skids to get to the next stage
- Deciding what role that sales and marketing have in greasing those skids to enable movement. Operations comes into the picture as well when you are looking at the product or service delivery stages of the client experience.
Let’s look at a practical example from our experience as to what this might look like. I am sure you have clients that are leveraging some of your products or services, but may not be taking advantage of everything that you could do for them.
Two primary reasons for the client not taking full advantage of all of your products and services that we typically see are:
- The client is not fully aware of the impact that you have on their business
- The client is not aware of the value of the full suite of products or services that you might be able to provide for them.
So what can be done? Conceptually, the client needs to be reminded from time to time of the impact of your products and services on their business as well as the additional outcomes that your company can provide for them.
How can sales, marketing, and operations align around this? Here’s an example solution with two complementary parts:
Implement a Periodic Business Review Process
This is a sales-led strategy where you can:
- Get calibrated on your client’s business
- Report back to the client on the success metrics that you are delivering for them. Operations can usually support this by providing metrics and insight on what is going on from a delivery perspective.
- Gather additional insight from them as to how your products and services are affecting their business. This will help you have future discussions with prospects and other clients.
Implement a Communications Plan
This is a marketing-led strategy that might leverage platforms like email and social to ensure your clients are aware of all of the possible outcomes that you could deliver to help them with their business.
This is just one example of sales and marketing (and operations) working together to improve the client experience instead of being at odds with each other about “leads.” Thinking about things from the clients perspective can align the thinking of the entire organization around improving the client experience to grow revenue.
Both sales and marketing have a role in taking the client through the experience with your organization. With sales and marketing working together to create a great and seamless experience at each stage, there will be more clarity on what makes a good lead and how to convert that lead to be a loyal and happy customer.
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.
You may be a new manager, someone people come to for advice, or a seasoned manager looking for some new tips to help employees. Coaching is a great skill to have on your toolbelt, but how do you do it and which model should you use?
There are many coaching methods out there – GROW, TGROW, OSKAR, CLEAR to name a few. I am partial to GROW, created in the late 80s by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore and influenced by Timothy Gallwey. It is probably the model most recognized; it’s simple to understand, easy to use and it works!
Coaching is a skill and with most skills there is a method to the madness. It will take some practice, but with GROW you can literally do a quick reading or watch a video and start coaching. You can use GROW to coach others as well as yourself – just follow the model. And if you really want to do a deep dive, get Coaching for Performance.
So what is the GROW coaching model?
There are 4 parts to the model: goals, reality, options, and choosing what to do.
The G stands for Goal and is all about the coachee setting a goal. The coachee owns the goal, not the coach. What does the coachee want to achieve? The coach helps the coachee to make sure they have a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) goal.
The R stands for Reality or Current Reality – what is happening now? Peel the onion back and really understand what is going on. This is truly the heart of the matter and typically takes the most amount of time in the coaching session. Often, the coachee realizes what has gotten in their way and how to get on track.
The O stands for Options. What can the coachee DO to achieve their goal? What options do they have? It is important to take off any blinders in this part of coaching – the sky’s the limit. It is a real brainstorming session. Let the coachee think and talk. Make a list of all of the options. As a the coach, don’t offer any ideas until the coachee has had some time to think and come up with a list of options. Only when the coachee has finished brainstorming AND agreed to hearing other suggestions should you provide your suggestions. On the rare occasion a coachee may not have any idea what to do, but that is rare.
What Will You Do?
The W stands for What Will You Do? Based on the options provided, what is the most powerful step the coachee can take to move towards the goal? Sometimes a coachee will want to action a few options which is great, but help the coachee prioritize the options. Once the options have been prioritized, ask the coachee when they will take action on the chosen option. The time has to be specific. Then ask how committed the coachee is to taking the action on a scale of 1-10, 10 being it is going to be done! Do not let the coachee walk away with any actions under a 10. If they can’t commit to a 10, see how the action can be changed so that the coachee can commit to taking action with a commitment of 10.
I have found coaching to be an incredibly rewarding activity for both the coach and coachee. Create a cheatsheet and don’t hesitate to use it.