Monday, February 08, 2016

Follow Your Heart to Content Marketing Success

By Dan Sixsmith & Tom Pisello

Promotional Content simply doesn't work. We ignore it and become amazing filters of any content that is trying to sell us something" - Michael Brenner, NewsCred

If promotional content really does not work, then why do 93% of marketers connect their content directly to a product or service? (The Economist)

To be fair, marketers are under pressure to produce massive amounts of content, which needs to support a more complex selling environment, and engage buyers across a growing number of channels. 

With 71% of buyers disconnecting because of product centric content, what are marketers to do? (The Economist)  With Valentine's Day just around the corner, the answer may be to follow your HEART:

Help, Don't Sell: Content shouldn't be about your company and products, but about the buyer and their challenges. In fact, 75% of executives who actively seek content are researching a business idea (Economist). They need Help--not a sales pitch.

Engagement: Content needs to be interesting, entertaining and visually appealing, hence why we are seeing the "Death of the White Paper". And, shared content is the ultimate form of engagement. In fact, 83% of CMOs believe that social sharing is the primary benefit of social media marketing (The Content Code).

AuthenticityBuyers want to learn from those they believe are experts, and can quickly distinguish between a sales pitch and real consultative advice. Much like developing a new relationship, you don't ask to get married on the first date. So why does most of your content try to close the deal right away, instead of incrementally building an authentic relationship? If your content is helpful, engaging, authentic and relevant, you will begin to build a strong virtual relationship with your prospects. Effective content marketing which is customer focused, timely and relevant, will be viewed as authentic. 

Relevance- Your buyers want content that solves their problems or teaches them a new way to think about their challenges. Content is no longer king, it's Context that is King. Prospects demand that your content be relevant. Interactive content which a prospect can tailor to his issues has proven to be very effective. In fact, 64% of marketers according to eConsultancy say they want to improve personalization. Research from Demand Metric indicates that interactive content is 2x greater than passive content at converting prospects, 32% better at educating buyes and 60% superior in creating differentiation.

Trust- Only 13% of buyers believe in vendor content (IDC). There is a clearly a deficit of Trust. More effective content provides 3rd party analyst research and peer case studies around how you solved important issues successfully for others. Become a trusted source of information. 

As you develop content, it's important to measure the program against these important tips. Why? According to SiriusDecisions, almost 2/3rds of content marketing is currently squandered. 
Perhaps if you put a little more HEART in your content, you can avoid adding to the wasted time and spending!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Winner? Interactive Content Ignites Demand and Fuels Engagement

Although 67% of your prospects rely on content to conduct research and guide purchasing decisions, 74% indicate they have less time to view content now than they did a year ago (DemandGen Report).

It’s no wonder that business buyers are extremely selective about the content they consume, and why your content may be left out in the cold. Prospects are receiving 32% more vendor communications than just 2 years ago (SiriusDecisions), and with less time than ever, 2015 saw a 21% decline in content marketing effectiveness (Content Marketing Institute).

Your prospects are drowning in a sea of look-alike content, so sending out more white papers (the crack cocaine of marketing) and other types of passive content won’t help you meet your lead-gen and sales revenue goals.

What can you do to stand out from the crowd, and most importantly, be more effective?

Research by DemanGen Report indicates that interactive value-focused content can lead the way to more leads, better engagement and higher conversions.

First, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents want their vendors to move from “product” to “value”: delivering more research and dumping the sales pitch.  And they want the content to be personalized, delivering insights, analysis and content unique to their company, role and challenges.

Second, your prospects want insights, research and value delivered in a very personalized way, with survey results highlighting three types of interactive content ranked most effective and important:
  • 45% ranking Interactive Presentations (dynamic personalized value storytelling) as extremely valuable
  • 42% rating ROI calculators as very valuable
  • 40% placing a significant value on Assessments.

Other research from Demand Metric research concurs, indicating that interactive content is 2x greater than passive content at converting prospects, 32% better at educating buyes and 60% superior in creating differentiation.

Interactive Content delivers results like this when it focuses on value (vs. product) and uses intelligence to customize the content, delivers personalized insights, helps diagnose and uncover challenges, delivers peer benchmarks, and quantifies the unique value, ROI and TCO advantages you can deliver. This includes:
  • Dynamic Infographics
  • Interactive Value Story Books 
  • Interactive White Papers 
  • Diagnostic Assessments
  • Cost of Do Nothing Calculators
  • Solution Guidance / Recommendation Tools
  • ROI / TCO Calculators 

Getting your Interactive Content Right
Evolving beyond passive to interactive content is a requirement - your buyers demand it, and your success depends on it. However, all Interactive Content is not created equal.

When it comes to interactive Content, there are some key practices to keep in mind in the design, development and deployment:
  • Dump the Sales Pitch! - Your prospects want content that is trustworthy and that keeps the sales pitch to a minimum. Unfortunately, SiriusDecision indicates that 93% of content remains product-centric. As you develop your Interactive Content, you can use this as a great opportunity to evolve the sales messaging to more value-focused communication and quantification.
  • Are you kidding me? - Your buyer’s time is precious, and they don’t want to waste it on content that might look good, but doesn’t provide real value. Instead of a “toy”, your Interactive Content should deliver personalized insights, precise advice, credible justification, and specific evidence to help facilitate their decision-making. And you need to be able to easily share the results, providing a downloadable / email report, enabling your Interactive Content to continue to tell your value story long after use.
  • In you they trust? - SiriusDecisions found that although most buyers seek out advice and help from solution providers, only 13% of buyers view vendor-created content as credible. Instead, content developed by a third-party analysts and publications ranked much higher, with 90% saying that they give more credence to this type of asset (DemandGen Report).  As you move to Interactive Content, consider 3rd party developed tools, content, research and insights to improve the credibility and gain buyer trust.

The research is clear, that evolving from Passive to Interactive Content ignites more demand and fuels better engagement. Are you ready and empowered to make the transition?

Get The Frugalnomics Survival Guide for more research and best practices.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Importance of Getting Your ROI Selling Right

If you think your clients are more ROI focused, and that your ability to deliver financial justification can assure greater success, new research proves you right.

The ability to effectively communicate and quantify your value is not new, and has been part of professional selling for a long time. However, according to new research from MHI Global, “as buying cycles lengthen and decision dynamics become more complex, identifying and calculating the costs and benefits of any product or capability have grown in importance”.

In fact, the demand for ROI calculations has increased more than 50% over the past five years.

The reason for the increased importance on ROI? Customers have changed. They’re more empowered, skeptical and frugal. There is more internal pressure on buyers to validate and defend business decisions and deliver value for their organization.

Often, the stakeholders’ jobs are on the line if they invest too much and can’t prove the value delivered. As a result, customer’s expectations for value conversations, and moreover, for quantifiable value have also increased proportionally.

And this has presented organizations with sales and growth challenges. Customers demand to know your unique value pre-sale. And after the deal is done?   They expect you to prove that the realized value is exactly what you said you would deliver.

Beyond evolving your sales presentations from product to value, and simple calculations of cost, the advice from MHI Global? Sales professionals must be able to identify the tangible and intangible benefits of solution capabilities based on what the decision makers deem valuable.

Making this a significant challenge: value can vary significantly by industry, and by the roles / responsibilities of each buyer. “Determining what the individual buying team members value, as well as their political influence within the buying team and the broader organization, will dictate what matters”, says MHI Global.

And perhaps this is one reason organizations struggle to get ROI right. Just as the research shows the increased demand and importance of ROI, so too it shows that most organizations struggle delivering the right ROI content and tools to their sales teams and channel partners.

Out of 11 different types of customer-facing content and tools for Sales use, like presentations, white papers, case studies and the like, getting ROI / Justification right remains a challenge.  One in four admit that their current ROI selling programs need a major redesign, and almost 50% say improvement is needed.

With so much on the line, the time is right for a different approach to ROI / financial justification, giving you and your team a real competitive, differentiating advantage. 

Click here to learn more about the challenge, and our new approach to ROI Selling.

Decoding the Decision Dynamic, MHI Global 
Sales Enablement Optimization Study 2015 Key Trends Analysis, CSO Insights, a division of MHI Global

Monday, January 04, 2016

Top 5 Articles of 2015 to Get You Ready for the New Year!

As we look forward to a great 2016, what lessons can we learn from the past year?

Here's a round-up of the top five most popular articles from the Alinean team, all with significant guidance for the New Year:

1)  Death of a Salesman? Forrester says Yes (at least 1 in 5 at risk)!

2)  End Death by PowerPoint and a 1,000 White Paper Cuts

3)  TCO is so 1990s. Why TCS is the new TCO.

4)  Three Challenges that will impact your 2016 IT Sales and Marketing Plans

5)  What do Myth Busters, B2B Sales Reps and Real Estate Agents have in Common?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

SiriusDecisions: Top 4 Ways to Get your Value Selling Program Right

You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in developing your B2B value selling / ROI tools and program,  But the evolution from product to value can have its challenges. trying to get your sales reps and specialists to better communicate and quantify your unique value.

So how do you know if your getting it right, and where your program might have gotten off-track? 

I posed this question to Jim Ninivaggi, the Practice Leader of SiriusDecisions Sales Enablement Practice in a recent webcast interview – Why You Have to Get Value Selling Right.  

His answer was wise, simple and straightforward, consisting of just 4 simple questions you can ask your team to assure that you’re sales reps and specialists get it and are on their way to success.

Regarding your sales reps and consultants, and the use of your value selling tools and program:

1) Do they know what job needs to be done, and why? – Are your reps and consultants:
a.     Conscious that they have to change their approach, know the cost of “do nothing”, and understand personally what’s in it for them (WIFM)? 
b.     Aware that there are tools and concierge services  available to make it easier than ever to do value discovery, guide conversations, crunch the numbers and produce stunning personalized presentations and proposals for each unique prospect?

2) Can they do the job? -  Have they been through training on your value selling methodology and tool kit? Have they practiced engagements in a safe environment and been certified?

3) Are they doing the job? – Are they using the value selling approach and tools, verified with tracking and reports? Are they leveraging your value consultants, service desk and sales support to take advantage of available help.? Are first line managers promoting and assisting with the new approach

4) Are they getting the right results? – Had the needle moved on your key success indicators including:
a.     Increased competitive win rates and reduction in deals ending in “no decision”
b.     Increased deal size and reduced discounting
c.      Reduced sales cycles
d.     Improved quota performance and reduced new-hire ramp up time.

According to Jim, it's easier but not enough to launch and forget. You need to be sure the answer is “Yes” to four key enablement questions for your value / ROI selling program.  The key: Examine your sales reps and specialists readiness with 4 simple questions, so you can assure value selling program success.