Rightfully so, content is big! It always has been. Content is that stuff marketing leverages in their efforts to create awareness, visibility, and to drive demand. It’s also that stuff sales people use to help with their sales efforts.
Content helps our customers understand who we are, what we do, and what we sell. Great content focuses on our customers–who they are, what they are trying to achieve, what they should be trying to achieve and how we can help them achieve it. Great content is relatively specific–to buyer roles, industry, business challenge, and where the prospect or customer is in their buying journey.
Content is going through, rightfully so, a renaissance. In the past, too much content has focused on us–how great we are, how great our products are, and has regurgitated too much useless data on features, specifications, feeds and speeds. The change that is long overdue is moving to customer focused relevant content. Moving from where we are to creating great content with the characteristics outlined above.
But—you had to know a “But” was coming.
Content will not save us! Too much of what I read, too many of the conversations I have focus on the miracle of content. “If we only had this…” Or content tied to marketing automation, “We can score and nurture the customer through most of their buying cycle with the right content.”
Some marketers and sales people seem to have the view that content can do all the heavy lifting, with sales people coming in to collect the orders. In some cases, for transactional types of purchases, or consumer products–that may be true, but that’ not new news. Merchandising, point of sale communications, have existed for decades. E-commerce and web based shopping carts have been around now for decades. So this isn’t news.
But I’m detecting much of this attitude in complex B2B sales and marketing people, “The right content, combined with the right marketing automation is all we need to sell more.”
Content will not save us! It will help us a whole lot, but it won’t save us. Bluntly, sales people using content as their excuse or the crutch for their own performance aren’t doing their jobs.
Content doesn’t probe a customer who’s asked a question or presented a point of view. Content doesn’t ask questions–at least in real time. Content doesn’t read body language or non verbal clues and incorporate them into a suitable response. Content doesn’t read a room, diagnose a situation in real time, develop and execute a strategy to move forward. Content doesn’t address the concerns of an upset, angry, or confused customer—-“Please read this, you’ve feel better having done so….”
Content doesn’t sustain a conversation or dialog. It doesn’t really listen and respond. I know some of you will say marketing automation gets good a predicting what content the customer might need based on their actions, but it really doesn’t respond in personalized ways to the customer.
Most importantly, content does not maintain the conversation or dialog in real time. It is not collaborative, it doesn’t enable us to c0-create, construct and build insight and value with the customer. It certainly can help get the process started, but by itself, it can’t sustain it.
Finally, content can’t hold up its side of the relationship. After all is said, buying and selling is about a relationship–trust, shared goals, shared intent.
Don’t get me wrong. Everything that organizations are doing to create great and relevant content is very powerful. It helps sales people maximize their impact and become more efficient and effective. But content is not the answer to our revenue generation problems.
In the end it’s a tool to be leveraged by sales and marketing to help engage customers. But ultimately, it’s a sales person’s responsibility to personalize the content to the moment and individual. It’s the sales person that must maintain and build the conversation and dialog, helping the customer move through their buying process.
Content will continue to evolve. Technology will help make it more specific–moving to one to one. It will help make it more synchronous–where now it is more asynchronous.
But content is a tool and support to the sales professional. It is not a crutch or an excuse, so don’t use it that way! It’s our job as sales professionals to manage the customer engagement through the buying process–and for the life of the relationship.