Thursday, April 23, 2015

Improve Your Marketing: From Passive to Interactive Content

Marketers are investing a substantial portion of their budget on content, consuming 28% of the average marketing budget, with 55% planning to increase this spending over the next year (CMI / MarketingProfs).

This large content investment is fueled by a significant increase in buyer demand for content, with two thirds (67%) of your prospects indicating they rely more on content to conduct research and help guide purchasing decisions than they did a year ago (DemandGen Report).

The value your buyers place on content, and the large investments you are making, mean that getting your content marketing mix right is more important than ever. However, marketers indicate that despite increasing investments, their number-one challenge remains producing the right type of content that effectively engages prospects and customers (54%).

More white papers, More infographics, More videos. Unfortunately, more is not more, and your buyers are overwhelmed in a sea of look-alike content. No wonder most marketers doubt they have the right content and are concerned over ineffective content wasting all-to-precious budget and resources.

So, how can you improve your content mix to market better, stand out and sell more?

Evolve from Passive to Interactive

On any given day, your prospect’s inbox and web journey are jammed with dozens of different white paper download offers.  Unfortunately, white papers have become the crack cocaine of marketing, and as a result their effectiveness has precipitously declined. And this now goes beyond just white papers to include other traditional content as well.

According to SiriusDecisions, buyers receive 32% more communications than just 2 years ago, so if you just pile on with the same old traditional content, you are just adding to the noise – not helping buyer’s in their decision-making, and failing to meet your marketing goals for lead-gen, opportunities or revenue.

What can you do to stand out from the crowd, and most importantly, be more effective? 
The secret is Interactive Content.

According to DemandGen Report, an overwhelming number of buyers (91%) agree or strongly agree that they prefer more interactive/visual content. The study indicates that your prospects are increasingly relying on, and finding that Interactive Content such as dynamic storytelling, ROI calculators and Assessments, as they make their buying decisions is valuable.

Greatly exceeding the value placed on passive content, DemandGen Report indicates that Interactive Content topped the list of the most valuable assets in helping guide buying decisions, including:
  • 45% ranking interactive presentations (dynamic storytelling), a four or five on a scale of five in terms of value
  • 42% ranking ROI calculators as very valuable
  • 40% placing a high value on Assessments.
Interactive Content is seen as more valuable because it:
  • Personalizes the content  - Smartly assembling the right messaging precisely for each buyer and what matters most to them This results in shorter, more focused content which shows you care about the buyer’s time, and providing your prospect with just the right information they need to help facilitate their personal buyer’s journey.
  • Delivers personalized insights -  Buyers indicate “they want more detailed and industry-specific information” to understand more about the challenges they should be paying more attention to, and how others have smartly overcome the issues with your solutions. Specific industry insights are difficult to deliver in one-size fits all white papers or infographics, making interactive content ideal to deliver just the right insights matching the buyer’s industry and other key factors like location and size.
  • Helps uncover and diagnose challenges – Discovery and assessments help buyers understand their issues better, think about things a new way and generate a-ha moments. Buyers love assessments because they help prioritize their issues and intelligently guide them precisely to solutions that can best help.
  • Delivers peer benchmarks – Interactive content, when designed right, gets smarter all the time, collecting discovery data from each prior assessment / ROI analysis and leveraging this content in the results. Your prospect can see exactly how they compare to others in their industry; to determine where they are most falling behind and what should be addressed as a competitive priority.
  • Helps fuel decisions – Purchase decisions are motivated by some combination of Emotions (Pathos), Rational (Logos) and Trust (Ethos). Interactive content can help deliver the right mix of content to “press” each of these buy buttons – customized and interactive visual storytelling to connect with emotions, personalized financial justification to provide the rational, and aligned success stories / case studies to build trust.
It’s not about having more content, it’s about having the right content, and buyer’s clearly believe that Interactive Content is more valuable in helping their decision making.
Besides cutting through the sea of look-alike passive content, and effectiveness in helping the purchase decision go your way, Interactive Content provides incredible customer intelligence and benefits to your nurturing campaigns, and more importantly sales follow-up and effectiveness.
Interactive content uniquely uses discovery questions to collect information from prospects, in return motivating the prospect to provide the information by delivering a more personalized experience, unique insights and assessments / ROI analysis.

Imagine the discovery responses, benchmarks, key assessment / analysis results and customized download from each buyer interaction shared by the interactive content in real time with your Marketing Automation (MAP) and CRM systems.

Think how valuable it could be to have this intelligence, the answers to key discovery questions and assessment / ROI results, in scoring the opportunity and moreover, improving sales rep follow-up. Instead of just knowing the prospect downloaded a piece of content, your sales reps are now armed with the prospect’s exact discovery responses and key analysis results to fuel more consultative conversations and valuable follow-up.

So not only can you provide buyer’s with what they value most, you can gain a marketing and selling edge with incredible customer intelligence .

Your Interactive Content Playbook

So which interactive content will have the biggest impact for you? Here’s a quick guide to help give you some ideas:

Dynamic Infographics – instead of one-size fits all insights and messaging, Dynamic Infographics provides unique infographic content to your prospect based on their industry, role, location, size or challenges. As your prospect provides answers to a couple of basic discovery questions at the top of the dynamic infographic, the visual content dynamically customizes to provide the most relevant insights and value messaging. The dynamic infographic content pivots and illustrates to match your prospect’s unique needs, including unique research metrics and charts, customized value messaging and visual storytelling, different solution recommendations, and unique next steps / call to actions.

Interactive Storybooks – Your prospects want to take their own unique journey, and interactive storybooks can be their dynamic guide for self-service exploration and learning.  Visual storytelling, dynamic insights, interactive surveys / assessments, interactive financial justification and just the right solution recommendations and case study can be presented intelligently and dynamically in an online dynamic ebook, customized based on the user’s industry, location, size, role and challenges and needs, to emotionally motivate a break from through the status-quo, rationalize the decision and build trust / credibility.

Interactive White Papers – Unfortunately today’s traditional one-size-fits-all white papers are too long (10 pages on average), too similar to what everyone else is offering, and too generic to make an impact. An Interactive White Paper can be custom assembled with just the right messaging, insights, recommendations, evidence and next step recommendations, pivoting the content based on the user’s industry, location, size, role, challenges and unique needs. The customized PDF download is dynamically generated to convey the best one-to-one value messaging, recommendations, justification and evidence precisely, and intelligently.

Diagnostic Assessments – In this “do more with less” environment, your prospects often struggle to find the time to properly uncover and understand what truly matters – the competitive opportunities they might be missing, or the challenges / issues that should be addressed as a priority. Consistently, buyers indicate they would like this consultative advice and help, but how can you arm your marketing and sales teams with content to assist? Diagnostic Assessments provide an on-line interactive tool to help prospects self assess (or help sales consult about) their current practices and legacy solutions against a capability / maturity progression and peer benchmarks (collected from all prior engagements), intelligently providing insightful gap analysis, competitive peer comparisons, prioritization, and next step recommendations.

Configurators and Pricing Tools – Recommend the right solution for your buyer’s specific needs and requirements, and provide transparent pricing proposals, all self-service from your website.

ROI Calculators – Interactive tools to help uncover, illuminate and quantify the current cost of “do nothing” and credibly tally the value / benefits and ROI of proposed solutions.

TCO Calculators – It is often difficult for prospects to understand the advantages of your solutions versus the competition. Early in your prospect’s decision process, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your solution can be compared to current legacy solutions to demonstrate cost savings and incremental benefits. Later in your buyer’s journey your solution can be compared head-to-head versus the competition to proactively prove your cost / benefit advantages.

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:
  • Are you kidding me? - Your buyer’s time is precious, and they don’t want to waste it on interactive content that might look good, but doesn’t provide real value. Instead of a “toy”, your buyer wants real 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.
  • Drop the Sales Pitch - Your prospects want content that is trustworthy and that keeps the sales message 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, quantification and evidence.
  • 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 publication or analyst 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.

Click here to explore different examples:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Will Gartner's Latest IT Forecast Put a Chill in your Growth Plans?

Gartner has revised worldwide IT spending down for 2015, predicting a 1.3% YoY decline from 2014. The spending decline is likely to make winning your next deal even more competitive, and make it much harder to meet your revenue growth goals.

This latest estimate comes on the heels of Gartner RAISING forecasts to kickoff the New Year, expecting a 2.4% increase compared to 2014. This time, Gartner blames the decline on the strength of the US dollar. However it was just a couple of years ago that Gartner blamed growth headwinds on weak US currency. Unfortunately over the past five years Gartner’s growth predictions have been overly optimistic.  

We think there is a more systemic issue in the predictions: a major "sea change" in technology spending and purchase decision-making – one that could put a significant chill in your organizations‘ sales and marketing strategy.

Frugalnomics in Effect

So what are the real reasons behind the continued slow growth? We believe it is all about Frugalnomics:

1) Do More with Less - Although there has been an economic recovery, top-line revenue growth remains a challenge for most companies. With a focus on performance, companies turned to improving the bottom-line and have learned to permanently “Do More with Less”.

2) Hype-Cycle - Although new technologies like Mobile, Big Data, , Social, the Internet of Things and the Cloud are hot topics, and they promise to fuel the next big IT investment wave, they are still in the hype cycle, and are not significant enough to affect the annual growth figures - yet.

3) Central IT Irrelevant? - Most technology spending decisions are now driven and controlled by business groups vs. formal IT. In fact, According to IDC, 48% of IT spending is controlled or influenced by the business. At the same time, more and more spending is occurring in the shadows, by individual users and groups, especially Cloud / SaaS purchases, without the formal knowledge of IT. With the businesses and individuals making more purchase recommendations, the language of technology selling has changed. And the spending has changed as well, with smaller monthly spending versus larger investments.

4) ICE - Purchase decision-making is now driven by buyers who are as “Cold as ICE”:
  • In-Control - Highly empowered by access to incredible amounts of solution research and information via the Internet and social media, buyers have taken control of the decision making process with sales reps being invited later to the game, and ever more competition for each deal.
  •  Cautious – buyers are Risk averse, afraid of making a wrong decision, not willing to spend as much per project, and more often than not, choosing to remain with business as usual / status quo rather than considering projects they view as too risky.
  •  Economically Focused – buyers are more frugal, with over 95% of technology purchase decisions now requiring a solid business case with significant ROI and fast payback according to IDC. CFOs are also more involved through all stages of the purchase decision.

 These are the trends of Frugalnomics, and as a result we expect that IT spending growth for 2015 and beyond will remain challenged, with little reason for optimistic spending growth predictions.

More importantly, you need to take Frugalnomics into account as you evolve your sales and marketing strategies and investments to meet the challenge.

Surviving Frugalnomics - The 3 Things You Must Do Now to Win in 2015

 To help meet the challenge and Survive Frugalnomics into 2015 and beyond, we recommend three “must do” programs for this year and beyond:

#1 – Break the ICE - Engaging Prospects with Provocative Marketing
Todays’ buyers are more risk averse and frugal than ever, with 58% choosing to “Do Nothing” versus considering your solution (SBI).

Prospects will choose to stick with the status quo unless you can proactively and provocatively quantify that they have a pain worth addressing. 

And those opportunities you thought were progressing through the waterfall / sales process to “wins” will stall unless you can help successively convince the prospect that the issue you can help solve is real, that it is a high priority worth addressing over all other issues on their plate, and that your solution / services represents a real low risk / superior value solution with unique competitive advantage.

In order to connect and engage with “Do Nothing” buyers, helping them through the decision making journey, you need to help them realize:
  • Why Consider a Change? - the Prospect has a pain worth addressing and a significant cost of “Do Nothing”.
  • Why Change Now? – the Prospect should not wait to address the issue because every day is costing them, they are leaving good money on the table (significant bottom-line impact, ROI and fast payback), and they are falling behind competitively (illustrated through peer comparison benchmarks).
  • Why Your Solutions?– that your solutions / services can deliver unique and superior value at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

 So how well does your current content marketing help answer these 3 key decision making questions, in a compelling and quantified way?

#2 – Empowering Sales with Value Messaging and Quantification
According to SiriusDecisions, the #1 reason why sales reps fail to meet quota (for the 4th year in a row) is their “inability to effectively communicate the value of proposed solutions”.

Sitting in on the majority of sales presentations and you can see that most are still delivering empty product pitches or pseudo-solution selling asking a few questions and then jumping into canned “death by PowerPoint” presentations. According to Forrester, prospects indicate that less than 12% of sales engagements are focused on outcomes and customer value.

Despite significant changes in prospect expectations, sales leadership recognizing that value selling is needed in order to meet quota, and the millions spent on solution / value selling messaging and training, only about one in ten sales professionals engage with “value”.

So how well do your sales professionals and channel partners communicate and quantify your value?

#3 - Seal the Deal – Delivering a CFO-ready Business Case 
CFOs are large and in charge of many IT purchase approvals. According to a Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation research survey, the CFO is becoming the top IT decision maker in many organizations, with:
  • Over 75% indicating significant decision making involvement,
  • 41% indicating being the main decision maker for IT investments.

 From the CFOs we talk to, they indicate that proposals:
  • Won't be considered a priority without a business case, and the larger the proposal, the more detailed and formal the case has to be,
  • Won't be advanced unless you show that the issue being addressed is a priority with a high cost of “doing nothing”, quantified savings / benefits from the proposed solution, and a significant ROI and fast payback,
  • Won't be approved unless you can prove your solution has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) / better value than competitive offerings.

 Although IDC indicates that 95% of proposals require an ROI business case, the research also indicates that 2/3rds of your prospects don’t have the metrics, research, knowledge, tools and time to prepare the business case themselves, leaving it up to you to stand up and deliver if you want their business (or have your proposal approval significantly stalled and delayed).

With Finance playing such a key role in IT decision approvals, it is imperative that proposals contain the business case content that CFOs need to provide approval, otherwise your deals will be stalled or delayed in the final stages, and you may be losing critical deals to competitors who make the better CFO case.

So how well do you deliver the financial business cases / ROI that CFOs demand?

The Bottom-Line

Gartner has predicted low IT spending growth forecasts for the next several years. With Frugalnomics in full effect and buyers as “Cold as ICE”, technology solution / service providers need to implement a more value-focused approach to their sales and marketing strategy, content and tools.

If value marketing and selling are not effectively implemented to account for Frugalnomics, the majority of your deals will continue to stall, sales cycles will get longer, and heavy discounting will prevail.

For 2015 and beyond, IT sales and marketing professionals should consider three initiatives as a top priority to help Survive Frugalnomics:
  • Break the ICE - Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Marketing
  • Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification
  • Close the Deal with CFO-Ready Business Cases

 To learn more about our suggested best practices get the book: Frugalnomics Survival Guide – The definitive guide on using your unique value to market better, stand out and sell more.

IDC 2014 Buyer Experience Study (Oct)
Forrester Sales Enablement Conference 2014
SiriusDecisions SiriusIndex, results from 2011 – 2015