Content2Conversion 2014: 10 Things Marketers Needs to Know about Content and Sales Enablement

May 8, 2014

For marketers trying to wade through the content challenges of demand gen, getting a taste of sanity from others in your situation is often what you need. That’s what Content2Conversion (C2C14) delivered.

The beauty of this conference, which focuses only on B2B demand gen content, is just that. While speakers continually pointed out how much content marketers product that’s never used, they also shared more details on how to fix the problem than I’ve seen collectively elsewhere.

Some talked about how marketing is getting more like sales ( metric and revenue driven, quotas, and revenue forecasting based on value of leads) and sales is getting more like marketing (using content to continue conversations, becoming mini marketers) but I find that overly optimistic. We still have a looooong way to go before there’s a recognizable resemblance.

The main messages that came out of the two-day event started with the keynote from Brent Adamson, co-author of The Challenger Sale; changing buyer behavior means that you have to approach sales and marketing content challenges from multiple angles. Just like the changing buyer behavior, the content creation process has considerably more dimensions than we’re giving it credit for.

With that, here’s my top 10 take always:

1         Content isn’t new. But it’s not mature. Content marketing has been around for more than 100 years, but the practice and discipline hasn’t. We still struggle with it because we’re still new at it. Quit looking at it as a tactic and instead see it as a disciplined process. You can’t get into stellar physical shape without clear goals and a consistent, disciplined process. The same goes for a stellar content practice.

2         The “last mile” for content is sales. You have to extend conversations with customers and prospects through sales. You have to teach sales teams how to have those conversations and then give them smart, targeted tools to work with. How will you help them pick up where marketing left off?

3         Personas. Personas. Personas. I’m going to say it again, PERSONAS. I’m dumbfounded by marketers who say they don’t have the time or resources to develop personas because they have to show results and just need to get content out the door. This ties to the jaw-dropping stats on how much content is never used by sales teams or customers – up to 90%. Then why aren’t marketers fighting tooth and nail to create them? How can you understand what the back-and-forth of a conversation will look like if you don’t know who you’re talking to? You have to know not only who’s making the decision, but also who can bless or crush it. And if you can’t get to the decision maker, how do you get to the people who influence them?

4         Organization and structure matter. If you can’t bring customers through an organized, structured process they’ll get stuck in the funnel – probably the middle. Give them a reason to continue to move forward. Map out the process you want prospects to follow and what content will move them from place to place. And help sales understand their role and how to continue the momentum.

5         Get people talking without you. Yes, of course you want people to talk with you, but better yet, get them talking about your ideas. Create content that gets people talking in the halls, lunch room, board room, parking lots. Give them something to chew on and ponder, and then have an organized process for them to come back to you and learn more. Find underserved opportunities and topics and then serve them. The more you give them to think about, the more you’re “in the room” and harder to dislodge. This is how you get inside a customer’s decision process before they actually engage with you.

6         Don’t try and do it all. There are two areas I find powerful but often lack adequate attention: influencer marketing and content curation. These are critical because let’s face it, no one has the budget to create everything yourself, and you need to tap the expertise and credibility of others. You can build trust between your brand and an influential community. And you also need to share your insights on relevant, trending topics.

7         Executives trust sales people with business expertise. Sales people shine in their comfort zone – talking about products. Average companies focus more on product knowledge for their sales teams than their ability to have executive-level conversations. However, best-in-class companies have twice as much training on business discussions than other companies. Executives value sales people who talk from the position of their business expertise four times more than product knowledge. But customers believe that sales focuses 88% of the time on product knowledgeable and only 24% on business expertise. Train your sales teams how to have conversations about the business impact of the work you do.

8         Customers hate risk. Marketers think their products are a sure thing, but customers see it as a risk. Customers often live with the pain of their problem so long that they’re numb to it. Why should they risk of change when they’re comfortable with the pain of the known? Marketers have to create situational contrast before customers become emotionally engaged and even care what it is they sell.  You have to close the gap between their fear of risk and the business value that they’ll get in doing business with you.

9         Mobile matters. By 2015, more Americans will access online content from a mobile device than through a desktop computer. To get buyers to engage with mobile content, we need to decouple it from layout during planning and creation.  If you’re just reformatting the UI for mobile, then you’re not thinking about how they’ll use it on a mobile device. Start approaching content with mobile in mind – i.e. how they’ll swipe or search – because it’s significantly different than a desktop experience.

10     Metrics show movement. Go beyond the basics and make sure you’re measuring the right things. Someone visits your website, but what value did they get?  If your tech brief takes 15 minutes to read and they spend 15 seconds on your site, then it’s a superficial pass through. It takes time to engage with and digest content. Go deeper and measure incremental sales, conversation rates (rather than just leads) and value per sale (ties back to better leads). When you have a great strategy and solid content, you’re educating customers and leading them to buy at higher levels, more frequently and to stay with you longer.

I talk to thousands of marketers a year as a speaker, writer and fellow professional. We all agree that this is an incredible time to do what we do. Now’s our time to shine, and especially when it comes to content for demand gen. Get creative. Use humor. Set expectations. Be confident. Marketers need to step up to the plate and own the process of creating customer conversations. But we won’t do it if we’re not willing to be bold.

For more of the Content2Conversion conversation, follow #c2c14 on Twitter.

About Carla Johnson

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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.