Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Accelerating the Buyers Journey: Less Features and More Value

You are putting together your content marketing roadmap, figuring out what content you need to best engage and motivate prospect’s through the buyer’s journey. As you do so, you may want to consider some important research to guide your planning efforts.

Did you know …
  • 67% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally, making your content more important than ever in facilitating buyer decision making (Gartner)
  • 83% of buyers remain overwhelmed by the amount of content available, wanting quality personalized content over quantity. (CMI)
  • 74% of buyers indicate solution provider content is still too focused on features vs. value, so you have to shift your content to better communicate and quantify your unique value if you want to stand out and engage (Gartner).

It’s clear. Across the buyer’s journey you need less of the right personalized value-focused content, to motivate buyers from “do nothing” to “yes”.

Here’s what we recommend for each phase:
  1. Ideas - During the initial phase of the buyers journey, buyers are looking for Ideas for improvement. Your prospect might be concerned about growth and efficiency, that they are being surpassed by the competition, or worried about disruption.  In this phase, it is important to help buyers uncover and illuminate issues they should be paying attention to, educating them on the cost of these challenges and painting a vision of how these issues might be solved. The major buyer question: Why Change?
  2. From Exploring to Evaluating – When exploring solutions, buyers need advice on which solution is best, and need to understand the unique value of your solutions. At this stage, the prospect, usually begins socializing the challenges and potential solutions internally, your champion / mobilizer needs help prioritizing the challenge and articulating your unique value story to other stakeholders.  The key question at this stage for the buying committee – Why Now?
  3. Selection – Buyers know they need a solution and have a short list of providers, and now need to know how you are different / superior to other competitive options. It is important to prove that you are lower cost, lower risk and provide superior business value. At this point in the decision cycle, your mobilizer / champion has to prove to others they have done financial and competitive due diligence. At this phase, you can provide.
  4. Renewal – You can’t forget about this important phase in the overall buying process, especially if you sell renewable contracts and services. Your customers are focused more than ever on metrics and measurement, and as a result, your renewal is likely not automatic. Post sale, you can’t leave it up to the buyer to understand the delivered value. You have to be proactive in quantifying and proving your realized value, preparing clear analysis that your champion / mobilizer can use to socialize just how much your solution is delivering to the bottom-line.


As you provide content to fuel the buyers journey, some interactive value marketing content and sales tools that can help better attract, engage and accelerate include:
  • Survey & Assessment Tools - from your website, empower prospects to self-assess their current capability / maturity, benchmark against peers and recommend potential solutions.
  • Assessment & Benchmarking Tools - interactively guide sales reps and channel partners to better discover buyer challenges, benchmark  key performance indicators versus peers, and guide solution recommendations based on uncovered needs.
  • Interactive Value Storytelling - providing interactive self-service content to help a prospect explore challenges, and understand / quantify the unique value of potential solutions.
  • Value Selling Tools - guiding sales reps and channel partners to interactively assess buyer challenges and communicate / quantify the unique value of recommended solutions.
  • ROI / TCO Calculators – self service tools, available directly to prospects from your website, to empower buyers quickly calculate the unique business value you provide, return on investment (ROI) you deliver and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) advantages you have compared to competitive offerings.
  • Business Case and Realized Value Tools – leveraged by sales reps, pre-sales specialists and partners to consultatively build a CFO ready business case to prove your unique and superior Return on investment (ROI) and quick payback of proposed solutions, and validate realized ROI post deployment.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Your Next Practice: Interactive Value-focused Content

As B2B buyers leverage more content to help make better purchase decisions, buyer sentiment is clear: All content is not created equal.

According to a recent survey by the Demand Gen Report , 51% of buyers are relying more on solution provider’ content to make better buying decisions, however, 83% of these buyers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content available, this according to a recent survey from Demand Gen Report.

For your buyer it’s about quality over quantity.  They don’t need more content. Instead, your prospects want personalized research and analysis, benchmarks, advice, and guidance.

From the research, 84% of buyers now prefer more interactive and visual content, providing users with the ability to dynamically self-explore areas of interest, analyze opportunities, and obtain customized consultative advice. 

The closer the content replicates personalized expert advice and focuses not on a product-pitch, but on the value of potential solutions, the better. As a result, the Demand Gen Report research revealed that:
  • Interactive value storytelling, diagnostic assessments and ROI / TCO calculators all saw steady and significant growth in buyer value from a year ago
  • 95% of buyers want more benchmarking insights to help measure effectiveness against industry standards
  • 81% of buyers want benchmarking tools to guide future investments. 


The ROI of Interactive Value-Focused Content?

So what’s in it for you? Solution providers taking advantage of interactive value-focused content garner a significant competitive advantage over those relying on static content like white papers (the crack cocaine of content marketing).

Interactive value-focused content delivers a marked improvement in content marketing effectiveness, with IDC reporting that interactive value-focused content:
  • Garnered more attention, generating 50% more leads when compared to static content fueled campaigns
  • Improved buyer audience engagement and education, generating a 30% improvement in motivated buyers and qualified sales opportunities
  • Generated a significant 20% improvement in conversion rates.

What could this mean for your efforts? For every 100 leads currently generated by static content, you could capture an additional 50 leads, improve conversions to generate 2 more deals, and drive an incremental $1M in revenue.

The Evidence?

ADP, the well-known payroll and HR services firm, knows the value of interactive content well.  Alinean worked with the ADP content marketing team to produce the HCM Challenge, an on-line interactive assessment / benchmarking tool prospects could use to analyze their current HR capability / maturity, and obtain advice as to which areas should be addressed, which ADP solutions could help, and potential business value impact of these proposed solutions. Using the tool, buyers received the results on-line, and then could download a completely personalized assessment white paper.

HCM Challenge fueled marketing campaigns immediately had a significant impact, generating over $1M in pipeline and $250k in incremental deals in just the first 3 months after launch.

Over 150 more leads, a 50% decrease in stalled deals and $1.4M in annual revenue are tied to the ADP HCM challenge program each year, making it one of the top 3 campaigns ADP has ever launched.

And they aren’t the only ones generating significant sales and marketing improvements with interactive value-focused content.  For some ideas, checkout these interactive value-focused content examples:

FIS Fintech 2020 Survey - https://fis.valuestoryapp.com/fintech

Kronos Value Assessment Tool (VAT) (UK version)- https://kronos.valuestoryapp.com/vat

Dell Storage TCO Calculator - https://dell.valuestoryapp.com/storage

The Bottom-Line

Your prospects rely on solution provider content to help them make purchase decisions, but are overwhelmed with the sheer volume available. 

In order to better differentiate, engage and motivate, you need to evolve from producing more of the same old static content, to innovative interactive value-focused content instead. 

This should include developing and delivering interactive value storytelling, assessments and ROI / TCO calculators.

Are you ready for more qualified leads, increased conversions and improved win rates?

Source:

DemandGen Report - 2016 Content Preferences Survey: B2B Buyers Value Content That Offers Data And Analysis - http://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/research/2016-content-preferences-survey-b2b-buyers-value-content-that-offers-data-and-analysis

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What a Buyer Wants: Personalized Advice, Business Value and ROI

B2B buyers are scrutinizing potential vendors more closely, with greater requirements for personalized advice, business value and ROI than ever before, this according to independent research results from the Sixth Annual Demand Gen Report: 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey,

Getting Personal

With buyers spending more time researching more choices than ever, Demand Gen Report’s research revealed just how important personalization ranked as crucial in the purchase decision-making process.

For corporate web sites and marketing content, respondents indicated the need for “relevant content that speaks directly to them and their company.” In fact, 69% said it was “very important,” while 27% said it was “somewhat important.”  

From these results, one can see that one-size-fits-all white papers, the crack cocaine of content marketing, don’t cut it any more. Instead, you need interactive content can help, providing buyers with personalized content, assessments and analysis based on a quick discovery and self-directed journey.

In an increasingly crowded B2B marketplace, B2B buyers are discerning, wanting to work with vendors that don’t just blindly pitch products and talk up features, but who deeply understand their business and how the solution can help solve real challenges. In fact, business knowledge and insights were a top reason why buyers chose the winning vendor. According to the Demand Gen Report research, 77% said it was “very important” that the vendor “demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape.

Of all respondents, 64% added that the vendors “demonstrating a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs” was “very important,” and 30% said it was somewhat important, according to Demand Gen Report. Overall, it was the second most influential reason why buyers chose the winning vendor.

Personalization means your sales reps and partners need to have superior discovery and assessment skills, to learn more about the buyer and their challenges, and leveraging these results to deliver personalized and provocative industry insights, customized benchmarks, and aligned solution recommendations.

What can you do for me?

It’s not enough for vendors to be familiar with their own product. Today, B2B
buyers expect solution provider to know exactly how any new product will ultimately benefit their business – the business value of the proposed solution.

Buyers are looking for solution providers who can help them identify and illuminate challenges, provide specific advice on how proposed solutions will address these pain points, and deliver tangible business value.

The ability for providers to tie the proposed solution to buyer pain points was key, the top deciding factor in the Demand Gen Report research for 84% of decision makers, over other key factors including ease of use, features / functionality and price.

Show me the Money

Of particular emphasis in the Demand Gen Report research, buyers reaffirmed that ROI remains a top consideration when selecting a new product or solution — especially as many respondents reported limited budgets, increases in the number of stakeholders involved in each decision, and more oversight from company leadership.

According to the research, one theme emerged loud and clear: Many buyers are facing tremendous pressure to prove new purchases will benefit their company’s bottom line.  When asked how their purchase process had changed over the past year, 61% said they “conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.”

And this requirement for ROI is having a tangible impact, with almost half of respondents citing the need for more comprehensive financial justification in stalling or delaying purchase decisions.

The Bottom-Line

The independent research from Demand Gen Report clearly shows how B2B buyers are evolving, and provides solution providers a good roadmap for guiding your content marketing and enablement strategies to help address these shifts in expectations.

With more budget pressure, executive scrutiny and buying committee involvement, the research highlights the immediate need for more personalized advice (not a one size fits all pitch), and the need to deliver more business value and ROI / financial justification content.

What are you doing differently today to address your evolving B2B buyers?

Source: 2016 B2B Buyer's Survey, Demand Gen Report - http://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/research/2016-b2b-buyer-s-survey-report



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Five Pillars to Business Value / ROI Selling Success

A business value / ROI sales tool can be a fantastic foundation to business value selling success, but to elevate to greatness, you need more.

From our extensive client experience, we have found that implementing best practices from the following Five Pillars can be the key to reaching new heights with your business value-selling program:

1)  Deliver a superior user experience – Do your sales reps and channel partners love using your business value / ROI tools? They should.

Your business value / ROI sales tools should be simple, easy and fun to use, all while providing credible analyses and results.  Spreadsheets don’t cut it, and financially heavy interfaces present an immediate barrier for sales reps that don’t have degrees in accounting or finance.

The fact is that your sales reps and channel partners are spoiled by easy to use consumer applications, and expect every program they use to be visually stunning, intuitive to use, and not require any training or instructions.

A modern interface is critical, think interactive infographic or Powerpoint, engaging for both reps and prospects. It should have a mobile first mentality, and enable use on laptops for easy group presentations and on-line meetings, as well as tablets / mobile devices, for sitting next to prospects and engaging one-on-one.

If your user experience is traditional and financial, it may be time to rethink and retool.

2) Integrate with workstream– Do your sales reps and channel partners know where to find you business value selling tools?

Your users need to know where to find you business value / ROI sales tools, and moreover, the tools should be placed right into the sales rep / partners’ normal workstream. This means providing:
1)   Authentication using their normal corporate or CRM single-sign-on identification, removing a barrier to access while still securing your IP
2)   Access to the tool and integration within the CRM, recommending use of the value / ROI tools from within the account and opportunity views
3)   Recommendations for the value / ROI tools from within the sales / channel enablement portal, setting up rules to recommend the tool for use early and often in the sales process, and providing a link for direct access.

With so much content available to your sales reps, the key is promoting direct and easy access, guiding users as to when best to use the business value / ROI sales tools in each unique engagement.

3)  Provide education and support – Do your sales reps and partners have the knowledge and skills to effectively use the tools in their engagements?

Even if you’ve made your business value / ROI sales tool so simple to use that it really doesn’t need any instructions, it doesn’t mean your sales reps and channel partners know when and how to use the tools in engagements, and how to best present results.

It is therefore important that your sales reps and channel partners are enabled with the 3 C’s: Competence, Confidence and Credibility.

To accomplish this, most of our customers first implement an introductory training program with us, a short training session / video to help show the sales reps and channel partners when best to apply the tools in sales engagements, illustrating the typical flow, showing a typical method to engage and present results and addressing the typical questions. 

Second, a Value Expert certification program is recommended, where users can use the ROI tool in a mock engagement, submitting to or recording a presentation to demonstrate and be graded (with feedback) on their capability.  

Subsequent to the mock engagement, first line managers or value consultants can sit in on one or two live engagements to provide meeting support as well as guidance to further refine the tool use can follow this up.  And the support shouldn’t stop there. You need an “ROI deal desk” of value specialists to help answer rep / partner questions, guide use and support engagements /presentations, to supplement and support rep / partner led value engagements.

With sales rep and channel partner turnover, it is vital that your introductory and certification programs aren’t just one time affairs, but continuous, educating the 10-20% of new reps / partners on-boarded each year.

4) Keep current – How up to date are the product / services info, benchmark metrics and pricing data in your business value / ROI tool?

If you’re not maintaining your sales tool content, metrics and pricing, your sales reps and channel partners figure this out pretty quickly (and don’t use the tools as much as they should as a result).

Your sales tool program should include regularly scheduled refreshes, recommended quarterly, to keep the product / services information current, adjust pricing and sizing modules, and refresh benchmark metrics / defaults.

With each release, the user base should be made aware that the tool has been updated and is being kept current with the latest content and metrics.

5)  Measure business outcomes – Is your business value / ROI program delivering the tangible results you anticipated?

Every aspect of your business is under constant scrutiny, so it’s vital to provide tangible measurement on each investment’s success. Your business value / ROI sales tools are no exception.

You should be proactively providing your executives with measurements on usage and adoption, and statistically proving that the tools are driving key sales performance metrics (to assure they don’t think these results can occur in other ways, perhaps without investing so much in your value / ROI program).

First it’s important to measure that your awareness building and education programs have worked, tallying and tracking the number of users and their activity (number of analyses and reports).  This should include reporting on the percentage of sales reps / partners adopting the toolkit, the number of business cases developed / delivered each month, and the percentage of opportunities towards which the tools are being applied.

Second, it’s vital to tie the program to “move the needle” metrics, tracking how the value / ROI analyses are driving key sales metric improvements, including:
1) Improved deal size / reduced discounting
2) Increased win rates (less competitive losses / deals ending in “No decision"
3) Reduced sales cycle duration
4) Number of reps meeting / exceeding quota
5)  Quota achievement
6) New rep ramp up time (time to effectiveness).

The Bottom-Line

Along with your investment in a solid business value / ROI selling toolkit, implementing best practices such as these Five Pillars are required to have a greater impact on your ROI from your tool investment and organizations sales performance.

It is for this reason that we have implemented formal Customer Success Workshops, led by Dave Stachura, the latest addition to the Alinean team. Dave leverages his expertise to help measure and drive program improvements for each Alinean client, formerly running AMD’s sales enablement programs and implementing a variety of successful sales tool, training and certification programs and most recently developing / delivering content enablement services for Accent Technologies.

For each Business Value / ROI Tool client, Dave and his team engage in an interactive quarterly review session with your value team, to collaboratively track performance and progress, and implementing various dimensions of the Five Pillars to Business Value Success.

Resources

Review the Five Pillars of Value Success webcast with Dave Stachura and Tom Pisello:
https://alinean.webex.com/alinean/lsr.php?RCID=d325ba3d4c504106944f2b25c6f630f6

Checkout the slide deck here:
http://www.slideshare.net/Alinean/the-five-pillars-of-value-marketing-selling-success-maximizing-your-roi-from-roi

Learn more about these five pillars and program success from an Alinean customer: David Caradonna from Splunk

See what leveraging these five pillars could mean from this Smart Selling Tools article: Taking your Value / ROI Selling Program from Good to Great



Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Show me the Money: Financial Justification Remains a Requirement

Financial justification remains a requirement, this according to research by IDC’s Business Value Consulting Group, with a whopping 95% of decision makers requiring proof of business value outcomes prior to considering and approving a purchase. 

Budgets are tight and buyers are risk averse, demanding diligence and assurances that proposed investments deliver a tangible bottom-line impact, positive returns and a quick payback.

As project size grows, it should be no surprise that the demand for financial justification increases, in proportion to the risk. Over 85% of projects over $50,000 now require a formal business case.

Although financial justification / ROI is required, most buyers struggle with the numbers. According to IDC, 2/3rds of buyers indicate they don’t have the knowledge, research metrics or tools needed to do ROI / business value calculations. Relying on the prospect to on their own develop the business case can lead to significant delays in the decision cycle, and results in more deals ending in “no decision”.

Without the knowledge and metrics on their own, the task of articulating value and financial justification falls to you, the vendor.  In fact, 81% of buyers expect vendors to quantify business value of proposed solutions, but require 3rd party proof in order to trust results (IDC). Independent research, models, success stories and tools are required.

Making value selling & marketing more difficult, IDC indicates that the number of stakeholders involved in each decision has steadily increased, 43% over the past 2 years. What used to take a couple of stakeholders, now includes 8-10 decision makers for enterprise purchase decisions. What used to be driven by technical is now driven by the business and finance.

As a result, one-size-value doesn’t work with so many different groups and perspectives involved. Each of these stakeholders has their own “point of value” – what issues they are challenged with and the value they uniquely perceive from your solutions.

At the same time, buyers perceptions on the "value-gap” haven’t changed, with most prospects indicating that vendors come up short on their value approach:
  • 74% of providers are too focused on features versus value (Gartner)
  • 48% of providers don’t do a good job w/ business value articulation (Gartner)
  •  #1 reason sales reps fail to make quota = inability to communicate & quantify unique value (SiriusDecisions)

Arming your sales reps and value consultants with the research metrics and tools to quickly and easily collaborate with decision makers and create financial justification / ROI proof is essential, and managing this effort as a comprehensive program crucial to revenue growth and sales success.

However, we have seen a recent trend, with several large Sales organizations cutting back on pre-sales support (sales commoditization) and some crucial value consulting / financial justification programs getting their budgets slashed.

With financial justification so critical, are you investing enough time and effort in your sales content and enablement to meet buyer financial justification needs and close the “value gap”?


Source: IDC Business Value Consulting Group – Randy Perry