I wrote, “Sales Must Own And Solve The Content Marketing Problem,” There was a lot of discussion, and a lot of misunderstanding, some thought I was actually arguing for sales people to start writing content, some were confused by my use of creating content for “the last mile.”
In reflecting on the comments, both in the post and email, I realized there is a misunderstanding of “Content.”
In some sense, with all respect to the one or two friends I have in marketing, content has been hijacked. We’ve come to think of “Content” as that stuff which is the exclusive domain of marketing, specifically content marketers. It is that stuff they spend thousands and millions of dollars on, understanding personas, understanding business, understanding problems our customers face, understanding how we may help our customers address those problems.
At the end of that research and thought-leadership development is a printing press that forever churns out collateral and content. Content unique to a persona aligned with their industry, where they are in their buying cycle, and tuned to the specific problems and issues they might have.
We further invest in marketing automation systems, content management systems and other tools to “score” our customers’ interest, to suggest the next provocative thing that might help them move through their buying journey.
That content might take many forms and be distributed through many channels. The content might be thought leadership pieces, perhaps presented at various blog sites, in email campaigns, or newsletters. It might be case studies, demonstrating how people in similar roles and industries have successfully addressed the same issues. It may be product brochures, stories, test results. It may be presented as provocative emails, or might use audio or video elements.
Technology, and thoughtful content development approaches can create an overwhelming array of content that can be leveraged by marketing and sales in support of engaging the customer in their buying journey, nurturing them through the process and hopefully, helping to influence their buying decisions. This rich array of content developed by content marketers, leveraged by marketers and marketing automation systems enhances our abilities to communicate with and connect with a tens of thousands of customers around the world in more relevant ways then in the past.
As one thinks of the possibilities, we are moved to think, “What if I could have a very smart, content professional, dedicated to understanding the needs of each customer?”
We take that thought and move on, thinking, “What if that individual had a very intimate knowledge of that customer’s concerns and dreams right now?” “What if that individual could pull from a rich library of knowledge, information, data, and other assets, creating content good for just one interaction with a single customer?”
Ultimately, we would achieve what is probably every content marketer’s dream, Content For Markets Of One–Developed And Delivered At Just The Moment The Individual Needed The Content. This is the ultimate in mass customization.
Since the target audience is unique, with the message being tailored to one individual, and it is developed and delivered Just In Time–at the moment they need it, we actually don’t have to be worried with massive content management systems to manage it–since it is never used again.
But this would be the ultimate in developing content—connecting and communicating with a customer in terms that are always meaningful, relevant, and impactful.
By this point, many of you are saying, “This is the ultimate in content marketing! This is what we need to be delivering to our customers and prospects! This is the ultimate in relevance and impactful communications!”
Those of you who are skeptics, would say, “This is a great dream, but clearly it’s unaffordable. We could never dedicate a content marketer to each prospect having them develop unique content for each and every communication to the customer!”
But if you think for a moment, this is exactly what great sales people are doing in each and every interaction with their customers. They are engaging, communicating, creating conversations and dialogs. In those conversations, they are learning where the customer is at right now, what their dreams and concerns are, what information and data they need to help them now, what they need to help them move forward in learning and, ultimately buying.
Great sales people have these conversations hundreds and thousands of times a year–no conversation is ever the same. Each communication or piece of “content” is unique, “created” for that customer moment.
It may be delivered in a discussion, it may be supplemented with some doodling or drawing on a napkin, tablecloth, or whiteboard. It may be complemented with some more formal materials–a case study, a brochure, a data sheet—a proposal.
Great sales people are always creating impactful communications (content) for audiences of one (or a few) tailored for a specific moment in a conversation or meeting.
By contrast, the mediocre sales person totally fails in this–either in their laziness, lack of attentiveness, lack of ability, or lack of concern about the customer. Instead of creating content–communication for a specific customer in this moment, they rely on the content created for the “thousands.” They use the standard presentations, delivered robotically. They read their scripts, pausing only to listen to the answer they want–not necessarily the response the customer gives. They deluge the customer with content intended for many, leaving the customer to figure out what it means to her and why it’s important right now.
The great sales people always assemble the bits and pieces to create a unique set of communications. The leverage standard materials, but in presenting them, they wrap their own words making it relevant to the customer. They listen, then in responding or moving the conversation forward in ways that are always relevant and impactful to the customer.
Great content marketers and marketers understand this. They provide great sales people with the basic tools the sales person can leverage. Well developed, relevant, impactful content–case studies, stories, videos, demonstrations, collateral, emails, field marketing programs, and others. They provide the sales person the training in how to leverage these, how to fill in the gaps, how to adapt the story, the communication and how to present it in a meaningful and a relevant way to the customer today. It may be as formal a playbooks and battle cards. Or it might just be making sure the sales people can think critically and have great problem solving skills.
So we already have the capabilities and resources in place to create “Just In Time” content–information and relevant communication. It’s the way a great sales person connects with the customer, creating value in each and every interaction.