Sunday, March 24, 2013

Are White Papers Dead?

Traditional white papers are likely the staple of your content marketing portfolio, and for good reason.  According to a recent IDG survey, 84% of buyers leveraged white papers as a key resource to help them make a purchase decision.

Across the buyer’s decision-making journey, white papers are leveraged:

  • 35% during the early Discovery phase, for finding new ideas and potential solutions – helping answer “Why Change?”
  • 23% during the middle Consideration phase, assessing the priority of the issue and creating a short list of vendors, helping answer “Why Now?”
  • 10% in the final Decision phase – determining which solution can best deliver the lowest cost, least risk, and best value solution, helping answer “Why Your Solution?”
Although white papers are still a workhorse, there is a troubling fact that deserves your immediate attention. For traditional white paper campaigns, it now takes significantly more reach to generate the same amount of lead responses. And the largest media sites report that the access frequency and utilization rates of traditional white paper are precipitously DOWN year over year.

Your current white papers just don’t have the same impact they once had … but why?

Here’s a couple of reasons we may be seeing the change:

  • Marketing overload – Buyers now receive 32% more marketing campaigns than they did just five years ago (SiriusDecisions).  Likely your traditional white paper fueled marketing campaigns are getting lost in a sea of look-alikes, with little to differentiate your white papers from the hundreds of others.
  • Short attention span theater – The typical white paper is just too long. The typical white paper is now more than 10 pages according to IDG, lengthened to address more complex challenges and solutions, and the need for different stakeholder and vertical focused messaging.  And the content, its just too text heavy for today’s more visually stimulated audience.
  • More frugal – Buyers today are inflicted with Frugalnomics, and respond more favorably to business / bottom-line oriented content. Yet most white papers remain too technical and don’t have the value messaging and quantification that today’s buyer demands.
  • Make it personal – The Internet and other consumer technologies have spoiled B2B Prospects with the expectation that they can get any content they want fully customized and tailored to their personal preferences.  However, traditional whitepapers are one-size-fits-all with little personalization and lagging relevance.

Evolving to Interactive White Papers
The good news is that a solution is available to make white papers the king of content once again, by evolving them to be interactive.

An Interactive White Paper (powered by Alinean) is a web application that uses a Prospect’s own profile to intelligently filter, create, assemble and deliver a fully personalized, more concise white paper

The Prospect is profiled from your marketing database information, or by prompting your Prospect with a few simple questions. The profiling typically collects a few key data points, which allows the Interactive White Paper tool to personalize the content, and might include:

  1. Company Name
  2. Industry
  3. Location
  4. Size (number of employees or revenue)
  5. Role of the buyer in the decision making process
  6. Assets and spending
  7. Challenges
Leveraging the profile information, the Interactive White Paper intelligently creates, assembles and customizes just the right white paper content from an integrated library of content –objects, creating a download that is more:

  1. Personalized – to include just the the right challenges, opportunities, solution recommendations and case studies
  2. Concise – because content is filtered to only include that which is deemed most relevant to the buyer’s role and needs
  3. Rational – including content which typically quantifies the “cost of doing nothing” and value of proposed solutions
  4. Emotional – to include more customized visuals and video to stimulate buyer interest and provide emotional buying triggers matched to the buyer’s role in the decision making process and challenges.
With the extra profile information, Alinean Interactive White Papers are able to capture a significant amount of customer intelligence, passing the additional profiling to marketing automation solutions such as Eloqua or Marketo to provide for better qualification and nurturing.
We all hate that follow-up call as a result of responding to a white paper campaign, “We noticed you downloaded a white paper.”  You can’t get any more vague than that for a follow-up.

With Alinean Interactive White Papers, a link to the customized report is also delivered to the MAP system, allowing sales professionals to intelligently follow-up with Prospects, creating a much more engaging dialogue: “ I noticed during a recent analysis you conducted with us that you were challenged with X,Y, and Z, and more importantly, you have $2M in costs which could be addressed with our ABCD solution, which we estimate could save 30% of your costs .”. Now that is a way to follow-up and get a response.

The Bottom-Line

Alinean Interactive White Papers are able to help you overcome the challenges plaguing traditional white papers, as they are more differentiated, value-focused, visual, personalized, relevant and concise. As a result, IDC reports that Interactive White Papers generate 3x more leads than traditional white paper fueled campaigns, and result in 150% more qualified leads per campaign.

The time is now for you to leverage Alinean to convert your traditional white papers into more effective Interactive White Papers.

Your next step is to invite Alinean to conduct a quick and easy White Paper Assessment, providing us with existing white papers you would like to convert, in order to determine the right profiling questions, customized content, pricing and schedule. As well, we can discuss any new white paper campaigns you may have in mind.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where is ROI Best Applied in the Sales Process?

On average, 76% of deals are now won or lost early in the decision making process – going to the solution provider who helps your Prospect uncover and prioritize the issue and set the buying agenda, while only 24% are won / lost during the later competitive bake-off phase.

This was presented at the latest Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, and is a marked increase from the 65/35% split of just two years ago.

At the same time it has become more important to engage and justify your solutions much earlier, your Sales team is being invited later and later into the decision making process – after some 60% of the cycle has already been complete.

ROI and financial justification have traditionally been used in later phases, to create the business case for economic-buyer / CFO approval.  However, savvy vendors are now leveraging financial justification much earlier, to engage more proactively, provocatively and with compelling insight earlier, especially helping the Prospect uncover hidden opportunities and quantify the “cost of doing nothing”.

Financial justification (the rational), combined with value storytelling (the emotional connection) can be best used to help Buyers answer the following key questions successively in the decision cycle:
  • Why Change? – Quantify the Pain
  • Why Now? – Justify the Gain
  • Why You? – Prove Your Not the Same

Quantify the Pain
Too often, your sales professionals dive into the value of your proposed solution before the Prospect even understands that they have an issue worth addressing. This is putting the cart before the horse, and part of the reason why sales is invited later into decision cycles – because they sell before they deliver consultative insights and advice.

Early in the decision making cycle, it is important to help your Prospect confirm that issues they have are costing them, and even more important, helping them uncover issues that they might not have been aware of.

To make the issue come to life, the pain can be quantified, tallying the “Cost of Do Nothing”. This can be accomplished by tallying the productivity losses of sub-optimal processes, high cost of ownership of legacy systems, overspending on avoidable costs, high risks and the likelihood or realized impacts (fines, losses) and potential missed revenue opportunities.

Recommended Sales Tools
  • Interactive White Papers and Benefits Estimators– evolving from traditional white papers to deliver a more personalized door-opener or leave-behind that includes personalized quantification as to the “cost of do nothing”, value of change, and more targeted value messaging and case studies.
  • ValueStory – providing the value storytelling and “back of the napkin” diagnostic assessments and “cost of doing nothing” calculations to help the buyer uncover issues and prioritize action.

Justify the Gain
Once the Prospect knows they have an issue that is worthy of attention, they must then prioritize the solving of the issue versus all the other priorities on their plate. And in this “Do More with Less” economy, there are many priorities to address.

It is important at this stage to deliver:
  • Peer Comparisons - Helping the Prospect understand how their issues benchmark versus the competition, and how their current capabilities might be lagging and putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Financial Justification – Providing the Prospect with financial metrics which show how this proposed solution’s benefits, ROI, payback, Net Present Value  (NPV) savings, Internal Rate of Return and investment risks compare to other projects, all competing for precious resources and budget.
Recommended Sales Tools
  • ValueStory – providing the value storytelling, diagnostic assessments and peer benchmarks and benefits calculations to help prioritize the issue and proposed solutions over competing opportunities and projects.
  •  ROI Analysis Tools – delivering the financial justification to prioritize your solutions’ value and cost-benefits analysis versus other competing projects.

Prove Your Not the Same
Hopefully you have been able to help set the buying agenda, framing the issues and solution towards your unique differentiators, but regardless, you are often not alone in the later stages of a deal.

At the final stages of the purchase decision, you have to help Prospects understand how your solution will:
  • Deliver incremental value   - with more potential savings, greater business benefits and lower investment risks.
  • Result in lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – with not just a lower purchase price (a typical focus at this stage of the decision), but lower costs to manage and support the solution over its entire lifecycle.
Recommended Sales Tools
  • TCO Comparison Tools – comparing your solution versus competitors head-to-head to demonstrate lower costs to own, and superior incremental value.

The Bottom Line

Not just useful in later stages of the sales cycle, financial justification is now crucial throughout the decision making cycle to help Quantify the Pain, Justify the Gain and Prove Your Not the Same.

Several sales tools are available to help make the justification easier, leveraging automation, benchmarks, data-driven analytics and visualization, including Interactive White Papers, Benefits Estimators, ValueStory and ROI / TCO Analysis Tools.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sales Enablement’s Dirty Big Secret

Attending the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, one research metric was presented that just blew me away.

According to Forrester, the average company spends more than $135,000 in sales support costs per year for EACH salesperson. That’s $135 large a year folks on the hidden cost of sales!

This does not include sales compensation, incentive or benefits – just the incremental annual investment trying to make sales professionals more effective and efficient. Spending on sales training, methodologies, technical sales support, CRM, PowerPoints and other sales content – all costing you a small fortune each year.

I you are a company with 1,000 sales professionals, this hidden cost of sales is costing you a whopping $13.5 M each year.

With so much being spent each year, this hefty investment must be yielding great efficiency and effectiveness results, right?

Not necessarily. For many organizations, Forrester reports that Sales actually has quite a low ROI – that when examining corporate financial statements, for every dollar of incremental revenue, too much is being spent on Sales to justify the gains. Single digit returns are not uncommon.

The poor Sales ROI could be a spending issue, where the cost of sales is too high, or an effectiveness issue, where Sales yield is just not what it should be, or perhaps both.

The evidence as to where the problem lies might come from a Forrester survey of executives, where a paltry 12% of sales professionals are viewed as value / outcome focused. The vast majority of sales professionals are still seen as pitching products or pseudo-solution sellers, asking a few cursory questions before jumping into “death by PowerPoint”. Unfortunately, Sales engagement skills are not changing fast enough to meet heightened buyer expectations.

With Frugalnomics in full effect:
  • Buyers are more empowered – with the Internet and social media, buyers can research everything there is to know about you and your competitors before the call. Sales value add is diminishing / changing as a result.
  • More stakeholders per deal – Over the past three years, IDC reports a hefty 40% increase in number of stakeholders per deal. At the same time, the diversity in the types of decision makers at the table, and behind the scenes, has increased. Each buyer has a unique point of value, and connecting with them around the right role-based value messages and quantification is harder than ever before.
  • Short attention span theater – Buyers have been forced to “do more with less”, leaving less time than ever to consider and work with vendors on new projects. Breaking through and having an impactful engagement is harder than ever.
  • More frugal – more than ever, buyers are sticking with “business as usual” versus considering change. In fact, SBI indicates that its now 58% of a typical sales pipeline. In order to get these buyers to advance you have to help them answer key concerns:
    • Why Change? – Quantify the Pain
    •  Why Now? – Justify the Gain
    • Why You? – Prove Your Not the Same
Your customers have fundamentally and permanently changed, and your sales support and enablement investments have likely not kept pace with these changes. High cost + low yield = Low ROI.

The Bottom-Line

So how to best reduce the hidden cost of sales, improve selling effectiveness / yield and drive higher Sales ROI?

First, some investments are just not paying off:
  • Why keep developing PowerPoints when we know customers despise them?
  • Why continue to invest so much each year on the same old sales training, when it is not being adopted / used to advance the customer engagement in ways that they now expect to be engaged?
As Einstein says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

At the same time we have to advance the customer engagement, making it more:
  • Provocative, to break through the noise and emotionally connect with the buyer in a unique manner,
  • Value-focused, to rationally justify your solutions to today's more economic-centric customers,
  • Role-based to address the increased and more diverse set of decision makers in each of your deals.
We think we have the remedy, packaged into a ground breaking tool that can help drive better, more effective customer engagements – helping to improve sales yield in a more cost effective manner. To learn more, click here.

Would like to get your feedback on other dimensions of this hidden costs and low ROI issue, and of course on our remedy.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

ValueStory Roadshows - Boston & Palo Alto

Want to thank all those who took time out of their busy schedules to attended our ValueStory roadshows in Boston and Palo Alto.

It was great to share best practices and mobile selling requirements / experiences with some great folks from ShoreTel, NetApp, Philips Healthcare, Kronos, Hitachi Data Systems, Citrix, IBM and more!

Thanks Randy Perry and IDC for helping lead the sessions, and providing great research and insights to the team.

Looking forward to future best practice sharing sessions.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

3 Key Metrics that Will Have a Profound Impact - a Report from Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum

This week, leading sales enablement professionals met to share issues, best practices and success stories at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum. Forrester analysts like Scott Santucci presented the latest research on selling effectiveness, and there were three important findings that I think will have profound implications on your sales / marketing strategies for 2013:

80% - that’s the percentage of marketing leads, on average, which fail to advance through the sales process. As a result, there are more stalled opportunities, than ever as your customers choose to “Do Nothing” versus advance to “Yes”.

Today’s more resource constrained, risk averse and frugal buyer needs significant convincing as to “Why Change?”, “Why Now?” and “Why You?” in order to advance through the purchase decision.

As a result, you need to deliver the right value messaging and quantification to “Quantify the Pain”, “Justify the Gain” and “Prove You Are Not the Same”.

76% - that’s the percentage of deals that are won by the vendor who is able to help establish the buying agenda, versus only 24% that won the business in the later bake off phase.

The impact of helping establish your customer’s buying agenda is more profound than ever, growing in importance compared to last year’s 65% significance.  Helping establish the buyers agenda is more important than ever to proactively and provocatively engage with your customers to help them identify issues they didn’t know they had, and helping them prioritize the issue that matter most. 

Diagnosing and educating your customers on the key business issues they should be addressing, and quantifying the “cost of doing nothing” is critical to establishing buyer needs / prioritization, and as a result, driving your competitive win rates much higher.

< 12% - the miserly percentage of sales professionals that are perceived as value / outcome focused by executives. The majority of sales reps are unfortunately viewed as product sellers, blindly pitching products with little regard to the buyer’s challenges or pseudo-solution sellers, asking a few cursory pain-point questions before diving into a canned product sales pitch.

Your customers want consultative advice on how to gain competitive advantage, identifying and overcoming challenges, what these challenges are costing them, and how your solutions can help drive real top or bottom-line impact. Unfortunately today there is a large gap between your customer’s expectations and the capability of your sales reps and channel partners to engage with value-based messaging and quantification.

The Bottom-Line
Your customers continue to be impacted by what Forrester termed the “Do More With Less Economy”.  They have less budget, time and risk tolerance than ever.

As a result, your customers are looking for more consultative engagements, more likely to stick with “Do Nothing”, and more likely to value the solution provider that can help identify / prioritize important challenges and deliver solutions that drive bottom-line impact.

Frugalnomics is in full effect, and your ability to develop and deliver the content, tools and capability to proactively and provocatively help facilitate the decision making journey and drive customer value is critical to driving sales success.