December 14, 2017
by Carla Johnson
In Silicon Valley there’s a large B2B software firm (yes, there are a lots of them…this is the point). This company sells different software across several business functions.
John, a new senior-level enterprise sales representative, was brought on to work at the company. Management wanted him because of his deep expertise in the financial services industry, especially his work at large banks. His first day on the job, John found out he’d be selling all of the different types of software that the company offered. There was no way he’d be a subject matter expert on each of them, but he knew he’d have access to sales engineers who would help.
But within days, John found himself overwhelmed with content. Product marketing teams added him to their email lists and soon he was receiving daily emails from each group (they had seven) with content assets attached. Each email went something like this:
Dear Sales Rep:
Attached please find the latest (Infographic/Case Study/Brochure/Spec Sheet/Webinar Link/White Paper etc.) for the XYZ product suite. This content represents the latest and most up-to-date thinking in the XYZ space. Please use this content as a key piece with your prospects. You’ll also find this content on the HammerNet (their cute name for the Marketing/Sales Intranet).
Thank you for your help with XYZ product suite. Oh, and we’ve also attached the latest white paper and sales deck slides that you should be using in all of your pitches.
XYZ Product Marketing Manager
There was only one problem with of this. This exact same email came daily from seven different product marketing teams. Add that to the industry-focused consulting group that sent him duplicates, plus their own content created to focus on how awesome the consulting group was.
In fact, at the end of the first week, John found he received 500 emails of content covering all their products and services. It was four gigabytes of digital assets every…single…week.
He decided to make Monday mornings his day to go through all that content and “learn” about each of the products. That way he could segment and make sense of each piece and file them as “sales content,” “thought leadership,” “general marketing,” etc.
By the end of his first quarter on the job, John was overwhelmed by the amount of email he had to wade through. To make matters worse, IT sent him weekly emails asking him to prune his inbox because he was going over his storage quota. One Sunday, he decided to get a jump on the week and started deleting emails from the most egregious product marketing teams. John’s Monday “learning sessions” quickly dissolved. Instead, he gave priority to potential client meetings, team meetings and other things instead of focusing on learning.
By the end of his third quarter with the company, John had hacked his own solution to the problem. He noticed that most of the content that he received was also on the company website. So, when he got ready for a potential client pitch or trade show, he simply went to Google to search the company’s website (he found the company’s website search lacking).
Knowing that these materials were approved for public consumption, John use these. Then, he forwarded the materials to another agency (which he had hired separately for himself and his industry team). The agency used these materials to create pitch decks and other materials for him to use.
So, all in all, of the four gigabytes of content the product marketing teams were sending weekly, this enterprise sales rep was utilizing exactly none of it.
They clearly needed to evolve.
Inching toward evolution
Once this story became more widely known, other sales reps admitted to doing similar things. Some disregarded all but the product marketing teams that they liked. Some filtered buckets of email to their spam folder and asked product marketing teams for materials only when they needed them. Some only used the HammerNet intranet system as a document repository.
The company decided it would create a better way. They created a content creation and curation process purely focused on the sales enablement process. As a first step, this group acted as a filter. They received the onslaught of email from each of the product marketing teams. Their job was to take all this content and repackage it, combine it, reuse it, filter it—basically, curate it so the feed that went to both the intranet and by email to the enterprise sales reps had only the best-of-the-best content.
This group created a training and engagement program where they not only sent an email, but also created events where they shared best practices about using certain content in the sales process. They created a feedback loop from the sales reps about which content resonated the best in pitches, which content was hardest to use, that which they didn’t understand—and which was most popular. But then they also created metrics in the Intranet as well, and with deeper engagement from the reps they could measure not only what the reps said was the most popular, but identify what content was actually the most downloaded and used. They then fed this back to the product marketing teams.
Putting purpose behind content
One of the keys was to create a designation and operating model about the creation of content. They discovered that some product marketing teams created only Promoter Content. Some were very heavily weighted to Professor Content (thought leadership) and therefore didn’t send very much at all. Some were only sending high-velocity “blog post” type material and having a terrible time differentiating.
Using this designation helped to develop the creation and curation strategy. They understood that, when they received a piece of Professor Content, they should create three Preacher Content pieces as a promoter for it (as a rule). Or, by giving insight back to the product marketing teams that they received only Preacher Content, marketing could come up with ways to differentiate their approach— effectively created a valuable function. They weren’t offering just a “publishing” or “curation” service, but most importantly providing valuable insight into the purpose of creating content to begin with.
This helped the creation and curation team make the case for taking over some of the content creation and design duties. It also provided the product marketing teams with the flexibility to produce the “thinking,” the “stories,” and the material for content, while permitting the creation and curation group to handle the packaging, distribution, and final expression of content across all of the different company functions.
Are you interested in developing a content marketing strategy that balances these archetypes? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can help you identify gaps and deliver content that has greater context for your audience. You can also follow me on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.
About Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.
Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.
In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds - Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking.
Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.