4 Steps to Making Sure Your Content Matters

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Coming from an agency background, the bread and butter was always around original content creation. Well, I’m here to say that I still think compelling creative and content is a key component to a marketer’s success, but just because it is original, doesn’t mean it is good or has the desired effect.

For example, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed for the first time this morning and I saw an urgent post from a family member: “If you use a cell phone regularly, you really must get this information”. So I clicked and read the article where I was led to the end and found it was really a lead generation tactic for a doctor. I am not saying that cell phones don’t cause health issues, and who knows, we all might be dinosaurs in billions of years because of it, but this approach to drive new patient leads for this doctor is probably a good example of attracting some and alienating others, or having it backfire all together.

I am not sure if Good Content means anything. Good Content is closely linked to a good, centralized Content Strategy and that obviously involves a deliberate consideration of your targeted audiences, what end result you desire, and where to find them.

This sounds simple, but many Fortune 500 companies aren’t organized to consider a centralized content strategy. Marketing departments can be segmented – you will see separations between corporate communications and brands – which is obviously appropriate. But, within each marketing campaign effort, you unfortunately still see fragmentation of approach within social media, web properties, mobile and email efforts. There is a large opportunity to centralize around content and simply consider the channel as the publishing vehicle vs. having a separate content strategy because of the channel. To test this kind of centralized approach, you need to start with some basic blocking and tackling principles.

1. Audience and Campaign First: Consider your audience, then even further segment and think through desired outcomes. What is the desired end goal? Sales leads? Influencing around thought leadership, reputation or market reach? Then, what will the best content approach be to gain the desired effect? Sales leads can be driven by compelling original content if you are a brand marketer, but if you are B2B, perhaps 3rd party curated content can provide more credibility and allow you to market at a higher frequency.

2. Identify your Channel/Tactics: Where can you find your audience? Do you have web properties where you can market to this audience, or do you need to create one? Are you better off reaching your targets on social media networks or using a paid content model on a conglomerate of media properties? The answer is probably a blend, but you probably want to have a different voice and approach depending on the medium.

3. Sequencing and Testing: Once you have identified your audience segments, campaign and distribution channels, you should minimize content creation efforts by testing curated or smaller-effort messages in social streams or via blogs, before investing a ton of time on large scale, original creation efforts. Quicker testing strategies can give you insights into what is resonating with what audience segment allowing you to optimize your marketing team’s efforts and results throughout the campaign.

4. Cross Channel Analytics: Having content in the center of your strategy means that you need to have a centralized analytics engine in place that tracks what content is trending across all audience segments and delivery channels. Marketers who are moving in this direction seem to be using Omniture and Google Analytics.

If you do it right, you’ll consider your audiences across social, web, mobile, and email and do some testing, so they can let you know what they think of your content by their reposting, re-tweeting, and commenting behavior. If you can think through your approach with the end in mind, test tidbits of concepts, before sinking a ton of time and resources into something, you’ll find a winning end game. But let’s face it – ‘good content’ will always be in the eyes of the beholder.

-Bethany

4 Trends Driving Demand for Account-Based Sales Enablement

When you read the title of this blog, you may have scratched your head and thought, “Aren’t all deals account-based by definition?” That’s a mighty fine question. Sure, all deals are account-based, in that reps close accounts; they don’t close leads. However, not every sales organization takes an account-based approach to sales.

In traditional demand generation, marketers try to engage the largest number of potential buyers as possible. Marketers nurture those leads and pass them over to the sales reps, who try to close as many of those leads as possible. In an account-based approach to pipeline generation, that paradigm is inverted. Sales and marketing have a list of target accounts, and all their actions are focused on engaging stakeholders at those target accounts.

As you read this, account-based tactics are taking over sales and marketing. This is likely due to four emerging trends. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Trend #1: Diminishing Returns on Traditional Demand Generation

Traditional “inbound” demand generation works well if you have a large customer pool to choose from. You can afford to cast a wide net.

But for some companies, traditional demand generation is coming up short, especially when sales and marketing teams are working on large enterprise deals. Bigger deals require deeper knowledge of an account, buy-in from multiple stakeholders, and more personalized outreach. In short, with big accounts, you don’t have the time or energy to wait for the big fish to wander into your nets. You have to be more proactive.

Trend #2: The Expanding Buyer Committee

In every complex B2B deal, there are many stakeholders. You have the researcher, the decision-maker, the CFO, the procurement department, and so on, and so forth. According to the CEB, 5.4 decision-makers are involved in the average sales deal. (According to IDG, up to 17 people influence the typical enterprise purchase decision!) Each of these people has different motivations, different attitudes towards change, and different pain points.

To close these complex B2B deals, sales reps need great research skills and high levels of emotional intelligence. Reps need to understand the company and the relationships within the account. They need to research each stakeholder and understand how they are connected to the other stakeholders. Furthermore, they need to help build consensus among the stakeholders by sharing relevant content and having strategic conversations.

With that many stakeholders, sales reps can’t sit and pray that the stakeholders come to their website and fill out a form. They have to be more proactive.

Trend #3: Larger Deal Sizes with Account-Based Approaches

An account-based approach to sales, marketing, and sales enablement can deliver bigger deals. Demandbase found that the average contract value of targeted accounts was 40% higher for mid-market accounts and 35% higher for enterprise accounts.

In part, larger deals stem from a more focused and efficient approach to sales. But it’s also because sales reps are engaging more stakeholders and getting buy-in from a larger team. As a result, reps have the opportunity to deploy to more areas of the company. What’s more, when sales reps use account-based tactics, they tend to engage stakeholders who are higher up in the company and who have more buying influence, which leads to bigger deal sizes.

In a world where buyers actively try to avoid sales pitches, reps have had to change their approach to sales. Salespeople need to act like consultants who can add value and share expertise. And it’s hard to be a dedicated consultant to hundreds of pipeline opportunities at one time. That’s why many sales organizations are turning to account-based sales tactics.

If your organization is taking a more consultative approach to selling, keep in mind that your team needs a unique technology set to do its job effectively. For starters, account-based sales tools should provide reps with the latest insights about the target companies and stakeholders. For example, the platform should constantly search the web for insights about their target companies, and it should enable reps to track what their key stakeholders are saying on social media. On top of that, reps need access to insightful content, which will allow them to add value, share insights, and build consensus within the target organization.

Side note: To help sales reps embrace their new roles, we recently announced an account-based offering. You can see a feature list here.

Given these trends, it’s no surprise that account-based sales enablement has become a “must-have” in enterprise sales organizations. As the customers’ habits continually evolve, the sales organization needs to evolve, as well, and an account-based approach is the most obvious next step.

4 Signs You Picked The Wrong Employee Advocacy Vendor

Sometimes, things just don’t work out. In spite of our best efforts to make a product work for us, we have to ditch it.

In this post, we’ll look at the telltale signs that your current employee advocacy solution is not meeting your needs. See if the problems below sound familiar.

1. Your program is scaling at a snail’s pace.

You bought your employee advocacy platform in January with the hope of launching 2,000 employees. It’s almost August, and so far, you’ve only launched 200 employees. In other words, you launched roughly one advocate a day. Oofta.

What’s slowing you down? It could be…

  • A confusing or difficult on-boarding process
  • A slow customer service team
  • A user interface that your advocates don’t like

The solution: When evaluating software vendors, look for a team that has quickly deployed large numbers of advocates. Ask your sales representative for deployment time lines for current clients.

2. Your company is not able to create enough content for your employees.

If your employees don’t have ample amounts of content, what are they going to share on social media? And if they have nothing to share, why would they use your employee advocacy solution?

If you’re having trouble producing enough content for your advocacy program, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s a common problem. The Aberdeen Group has found that only 32% of marketers are able to create enough content to meet their needs.

The solution: Find a solution that offers a built-in content library. You can use this library to supplement your branded content, educate your employees, and provide your employees with content they are eager to share.

3. You can’t report on your program’s progress.

Before you chose your employee advocacy software, you defined your objectives. Now, you’re several months in. Are you able to measure whether you’re achieving those objectives?

Or perhaps, your objectives have changed over time. That happens. Are you able to measure your advocates’ performance against your new objectives?

The Solution: When you’re choosing an employee advocacy technology, it’s important to find a platform with robust reporting features. Choose a solution that helps you track…

  • Who your top advocates are
  • Which teams are performing better
  • Which pieces of content are resonating with your advocates and their audiences
  • Tactical metrics like clicks and likes and retweets
  • Revenue metrics like leads and opportunities and closed deals

4. Your employees don’t think the technology is easy to use.

For employees to adopt enterprise software, they need to believe that the technology is easy to use. In academic study after academic study, perceived ease of use is one of the strongest predictors of software adoption.

The Solution: Take into consideration the following items when you’re choosing a platform:

1. Simple: How many steps do the advocates and content curators need to go through?

2. Workflow Compatibility: The solution must fit into the employee’s professional life. Do you have a mobile app? Can the employees receive e-mail notifications?

3. Reliable: Users need to think that the app is reliable. Only 16% of users will give a bad application a second look.

4. Intuitive: Does the workflow make sense?

Do these problems sound familiar?

Some problems with technology are just nuisances. You can deal with them. Others, like a lack of scalability, greatly prevent you from achieving your goals. When you can’t meet your goals, you know it’s time to ditch your solution.

By identifying your current technological problems, you’ll be better equipped for finding the right solution in the future. Good luck!

-Mark

Looking for an employee advocacy solution?

We can help. Our technology empowers your employees on social with content that is proven to spark engagement and drive sales.

4 Reasons Why Your Social Selling Program Needs Content Curation

74% of buyers choose the sales representative who first adds value during the buying process.

Let that stat sink in.

The statistic is not: 74% of buyers choose the sales representative who sells first. Nor is it 74% of buyers choose the sales rep who introduces the product first. Nor is it 74% of buyers choose the sales rep who demos first.

The winners are the salespeople who add value.

And one of the easiest ways to improve your buyer’s life is through strategic content curation. Let’s take a look at what I mean by that.

What Is Content Curation?

Before we look at four ways to use content curation, let’s define what curation is.

Content curation is the process of finding content online and sharing it with your audience. Most Internet users curate content in some way, shape, or form.

Frequently, we select links to share with our friends, co-workers, and prospects, and we add our own commentary. Just think about all those links that your high school and college friends share on Facebook. That’s content curation.

But the big difference is that your Facebook friends aren’t using content curation for business purposes. They’re doing it for personal reasons.

When you’re sharing content for social selling, you have to have business objectives in mind. Below, you’ll find some tips for using content curation to warm up your leads, build trust, and educate your sales team.

1. Use Content to Start Conversations.

If you’ve done social selling, ask yourself, How do you currently break the ice with your buyers on social?

If you haven’t done social selling, ask yourself, How would you break the ice with your buyers on social media?

As a salesperson, your first instinct is to sell the product. That’s because you’re accustomed to working with people at the bottom of the sales funnel, when they’re reaching a decision.

When you’re trying to break the ice with a potential buyer, you need to fight those instincts. Think less about your product and more about each individual buyer’s needs:

  • How can you help challenge the individual buyer’s current perceptions?
  • How can you challenge the status quo in your industry?

By sending a potential buyer a blog post, an infographic, or a video dedicated to their industry, you can help your buyer understand her problems and identify her need for change.

Moreover, you set yourself apart. When you share content with your buyer, she doesn’t see you as a pushy salesperson, but rather, as a helpful salesperson – one who will be able to answer her questions.

When starting conversations, don’t just blast content across your social networks. Share helpful content picked especially for individual buyers. The personalized messages will help.

Looking for tips on breaking the ice?Check out these templates.

2. Use Content to Maintain Your Buyer’s Attention.

All right, you have a buyer’s attention. Perhaps he responded to your message or liked your post. Now what?

You should immediately go for the demo request, right?

Wrong.

You need to continue to add value. Before you can pitch your product, ask yourself where the buyer is in the sales cycle.

  • Does the buyer know he has a problem?
  • Is the buyer seeking information related to his problem?
  • Does the buyer understand how to solve his problem?
  • Is the buyer identifying and reviewing vendors?

See that last question? That’s when you should start introducing your product. Before then, focus on developing conversations. Use content related to your subject matter, your buyer’s industry, and your buyer’s job position.

And truly think of your curation as a conversation. If you are simply broadcasting links and not starting individual conversations, you’re not taking full advantage of social media’s socialness.

Are you skeptical that content matters? Think about your offline conversations. Think about how many times someone has asked you, “Did you see that video on YouTube?” Or, “Did you read that article on Topic XYZ?” Our lives – even offline – revolve around content on the internet.

So, why not give it a try online?

Need help matching content to the sales funnel? Here’s a post for you: What Your Sales Team Needs to Know about Content Marketing

3. Use Content to Educate Your Sales Team.

Thanks to the advent of Google and social media, your buyers are more informed than ever. But are your salespeople?

Your salespeople need to be subject matter experts for your buyers, which means that they need to stay on top of the latest trends.

As a sales leader, you have a couple options when it comes to your sales team’s education. You can entrust the learning process to your sales team, or you can take it upon yourself to educate your sales representatives.

The best sales enablement teams do the latter. They curate content internally for their sales force. They’ll provide articles on the following:

1. Competitors. Your sales team needs to know what your competitors are doing, and they need to know how they can position your company against your competitors. Supply them with, for example, your competitor’s press releases and indicate how that impacts them.

2. The latest trends in your industry. Industries are always changing, and there are always new research reports being produced. Supply these resources to your sales team. Indicate to them

  • Why they need to read these articles.
  • How these articles will help their buyers.

4. Use Content to Build Credibility Online.

Do you search for your buyers on social media? If so, have you ever thought that your customers might do the same and search for you?

For social selling to work, you must have a smart, informative presence on social media. When someone looks at your profile and timeline, you want them to perceive you as someone who is trustworthy and who is up on the latest trends in your industry.

Curating content is one of the best ways to bolster your professional brand online. If you’d like more tips on how to use content to build your professional brand, check out these resources:

To Sum Things up…

Without content, your sales team will be boring on social media, if not annoying and ineffective. Curating content is the key to starting and maintaining conversations, as well as educating your sales team and building credibility online.

Now that you understand content’s importance, it’s time to understand how to build the right content mix for your social selling program.

Good luck!

-Mark

4 Quick Tips for Generating Buzz and Staying Organized at Conferences and Trade Shows

Let’s face it, it is pretty difficult to stand out from the pack when you are at a large conference like #CMWorld.

All exhibitors have their pitches, you’re in close proximity to your competitors, and you’re fighting against the doughnuts for your audience’s attention. Therefore, it is important to have a strong set of tools to see success.

Here are a few tricks that we have found to be helpful.

1. Swag Matters

If you have the opportunity for a bag drop, take it. Offering something creative or useful to the attendees is a great way for them to know your name. Even those who miss your booth will become familiar with your company. Hopefully, they will keep your gift and use it after the conference.

Furthermore, if you can pick something that’s different, it is even better. This year, we offered a computer cleaner to the attendees at Content Marketing World. It came in a sliver tube and you needed to twist the ends to uncover the brushes and reveal the treat. Folks were confused by the mysterious sliver tube they found in their bags and started to tweet us for pointers.

What a great way to create buzz around your company! Any time you get your company tweeted at with the conference hashtag, you have amped up your exposure, making your trip to the conference even better.

2. Be Organized

When exhibiting at a conference, you will receive tons of emails about “to dos” and deadlines. Remember this!

Seriously, don’t forget it!

All the deadlines can be confusing. Therefore, it is imperative to be organized. I like to take some time and put every single date on my calendar when I receive the exhibitor package. This helps me feel better about knowing I won’t miss a thing.

In addition to doing all of the necessary registering and ordering, I think it is a great idea to delegate roles for your team members who will attend the conference. You only have a short amount of time to make a big impact. So, if your team does not know what to do, you will waste time.

Having a schedule will help to maximize your impact. Have one sales guy running demos, another one out in the field attracting people to your booth. Having everyone working together, with a positive attitude will really help amplify your conference experience. Especially since, as we all know, people buy from people. So, get out there!

3. Do Something Interactive

There are a lot of booths to stop by. So how do you get people coming to you?

By doing something interactive, you can drive traffic to your booth. Think about what people like: games, selfies, contests. Things that are entertaining and fun. The more creative, the better. And let people know early. Posting your ideas on social media will create buzz around your company.

For example, at Content Marketing World, Trapit played BINGO. We turned to Twitter a few days before the event and let people know our plan. We created BINGO cards with popular content marketing phrases. When players heard a word or phrase on their card, they marked it off. 5 in a row and BINGO! Folks then headed over to the Trapit booth to collect a prize. How fun!

4. Be Ready to Follow up

So, you did all of this wonderful preparation. You were organized, had great giveaways, had a fun interactive game. Don’t lose all of the excitement you created. Having a follow-up email ready to go the day after the conference is a life saver for your marketing team.

Make this a part of your pre-conference “to do” list. We like to mention something to jog the recipient’s memory about your company. Something like, “We hope you enjoy your computer cleaner and headphones” is a good way to help people to connect the dots.

A short and sweet email is the perfect way to end your conference outreach.

Conferences are a wonderful way to gain exposure for your company. By following these few tips, hopefully you can get the most you can out of your conference experience.

-Maura

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4 Key Criteria for Sales Enablement in the Social Age

Sales enablement has become an indispensable part of enterprise organizations. As buyers have become more digitally savvy, sales teams have had to adapt, relying on new processes and people.

Thanks to technology – especially social sales enablement platforms – sales teams are ready to engage with their buyers on digital channels. But sales reps need a framework in place. This post will help marketing and sales leaders identify the key criteria for their sales enablement efforts.

Let’s get started…

A Brief Overview of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement straddles the worlds of marketing and sales. When sales enablement is done correctly, both departments offer input on how to equip salespeople to have the right conversations with the right people at the right time on the right channels.

Traditionally, support for sales teams has focused on the end of the buyer’s journey, when customers are actively evaluating solutions. But today, sales reps need to hold conversations throughout the entire buyer’s journey – even before customers are aware that they have a problem to solve. (Let’s face it. Not every person at a conference or on LinkedIn is ready to buy.)

As Bob Dylan sang, “Times, they are a changin'” and the sales team is changing with it. Here are four key criteria for developing sales enablement targeted at the digitally and socially savvy buyer.

The 4 Criteria for a Modern Sales Enablement Framework

1. Agree upon a set of goals and responsibilities for aligning sales and marketing efforts

In the digital world, the line between sales and marketing is blurring, which can create confusion between the two organizations. To maintain order, it’s critical that sales and marketing teams need to agree upon goals and responsibilities.

Creating service level agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales is the best way to achieve alignment. By putting SLAs in place, you set clear expectations. Sales leaders understand how the marketing team will support sales, and vice versa. Moreover, you ensure consistency as both marketing and sales interact with customers across the customer’s journey.

Consistency will help you assess the health of your business, identify problem areas, fix them, and achieve your business objectives. As your sales enablement processes mature and as you continue to learn about your customer, your SLAs will change. Consider your SLAs to be living documents, and never stop iterating on them.

For more information, see How to Write a Social Selling SLA.

2. Understand how content fits into your sales enablement strategy

Content is a “must-have” for sales professionals. And by content, I don’t mean product fact sheets and pitch decks. While those are important, you need more than that.

Blog posts, infographics, ebooks, and research reports are good ways to start conversations with customers. Additionally, content can be useful when you’re following up with customers after a meeting.

To make content count during the sales process, salespeople need to understand when to use each type of content and how to position it with their buyers. So, take the time to build a content plan for your sales enablement team. Determine:

  • What technology you will use to supply content to your team
  • How you will store content
  • Who will supply content content to your team
  • How you will train your team to use content effectively (it’s not intuitive!)
  • What’s the right mix of company-created and third-party content
  • How you will divide your team

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Once you answer those questions, you’ll be able to supply your salespeople with content that will spark engagement. If you’re stuck, you may want to consult The Essential Guide to Social Selling Content or How to Successfully Launch Your Social Selling Program.

3. Be data-driven and measure your efforts

As the modern adage goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Unfortunately, it feels like you can measure far too much online. So, it is important to keep your focus on a small set of key performance indicators.

It might be helpful to divide your sales enablement metrics into two camps:

  1. Performance metrics – How did we do?For example, how much content did our salespeople share this month? How much engagement did that spark?
  2. Diagnostic metrics – What’s working? What needs to be improved? For example, what types of content are our salespeople sharing most often?

Don’t measure things just to measure them. Instead, choose metrics that will help you make important decisions – decisions that will help your customers and increase your company’s profitability.

4. Put Your Customer at the Heart of Sales Enablement

Some companies have their priorities wrong. They focus solely on their company, their product, their messaging, their key differentiators, etc. They make it all about THEM, and they forget entirely about their customers and their customers’ needs.

Their poor focus impacts their sales enablement efforts. Instead of helping their sales teams understand their buyers, they focus entirely on helping their sales team understand their product.

According to Forrester’s research, product-focused knowledge isn’t what most salespeople are lacking. By and large, salespeople don’t understand their buyers.

Helping your customers should be at the heart of all your efforts sales enablement – from awareness to retention.

And that means using the channels that your customers use. Sure, your customers use phone and email, but statistics show that many of them are using social networks, as well.

Bottom Line: Sales Enablement Has Changed

Today’s sales enablement has fundamentally shifted. It is no longer about explaining your companies’ products and helping customers evaluate vendors. It is about helping your buyers. It is about enabling your salespeople to engage throughout the entire lifecycle of a buyer, on the channels that they use.

With this shift come new criteria. By focusing on the four criteria above, sales enablement teams will set themselves up for success. They will be able to empower salespeople to help customers, drive revenue, and show their impact across the buyer’s journey.

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4 Employee Advocacy Questions You Need to Ask Your Employees

It’s tempting to build an employee advocacy program on the shifting sand of assumptions. As marketers, we can fall prey to the belief that employees are just another marketing channel. Like email or social, our employees will simply deliver our message to their friends and colleagues – whenever and wherever we want them to.

Bad news: Employees don’t operate like email or social. If we want employees to adopt our advocacy programs, we need to consult them and find out what our employees want. Here are four questions that you should ask your employees.

Question #1: What Type of Content Do You Want to Share?

We, marketers, spend a lot of time creating content. So, of course, we want our employees to share it. But is that what your advocates want?

When our customers ask their employees that question, they’re often surprised. While their advocates enjoy sharing the company’s content, they are also looking to educate themselves and their followers by sharing third-party content like industry news.

As a starting point for this question, you may want to consult our survey on employees’ content preferences.

Question #2: How Do You Want to Receive Content?

The more content delivery channels, the better, right? Not always.

For instance, one of our customers was distributing content to advocates across as many channels as possible, including email, mobile, intranet, etc. And what our customer found was surprising.

“Be where your customers are.” That’s the marketing proverb in vogue right now. However, the same is not always true for employee advocates. When our customer asked their employees about their delivery preferences, they found that their employees were overwhelmed. Content suggestions were everywhere – on every possible channel. So, our customer wisely cut back on delivery channels, which, in turn, freed up time for the marketing team because they no longer had to be everywhere.

Question #3: What Topics Do You Want to Cover in Social Media Training?

Social media training can’t be “one size fits all.” Employees are at different stages of their personal journey with social. Some will be experts at social media, while others will be setting up profiles for the first time. To reflect those differences, Sarah Goodall developed this maturity model:

With so many skill levels, training employees can be difficult. So, how do you figure out what to include in your training sessions? Simply put, you ask your employees. Making assumptions will get you nowhere. Once you’ve asked your employees, then, you can build a training curriculum for the different skill levels of your advocates.

To help you get started, we put together this training needs assessment.

Question #4: What Do You Want to Accomplish on Social Media?

Being an employee advocate is fun. Promoting your company is nifty. Helping the marketing team create brand awareness is groovy. But there comes a time when employees want more. They will want a compelling answer to the question, “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?”

Good employee advocacy programs don’t just serve marketing; they serve employees, as well. They help employees use social to achieve their business objectives. They help salespeople sell more. They help recruiters recruit more. The help communications teams communicate better.

If your advocacy program doesn’t answer the WIIFM question, you’ll watch your number of advocates dwindle.

Making assumptions about our advocates’ needs only gets us into trouble. What is good for the goose (i.e. the marketing department) is not always good for the gander (i.e. your employees). That’s why it’s worth your time to ask your employees what they want.

What have you asked your employees? Feel free to share your questions in the comments section below.

4 Emerging Trends That Every VP of Sales Will Face

In the pre-internet days, sales departments were in charge of the customer relationship. Potential customers had limited information, so they had to interact with sales professionals to find out more about products and services.

But the digital age has remixed that formula, thrusting buyers into the position of power. As a result, a dramatic transition is afoot, and it is altering the way sales leaders manage their organizations and interact with their customers. At the same time that sales leaders need to stay ahead of the breakneck changes within their markets, they must educate their management on the seller’s role in the digital era.

The research makes it clear that it’s both an exciting and challenging time to be a VP of Sales. Here are four of the emerging trends that will affect the future success of every VP of Sales.

The Digital Customer Who’s Hesitant to Engage with Sales Reps

The majority of buyers would rather research products and solutions on their own. For many sales leaders, this is disheartening. They want their sales reps to speak with buyers early in the buying cycle. They want to shape buyer’s solution criteria as soon as possible so that they don’t have to compete on price. But buyers are reluctant to oblige.

Why are so many buyers trying to avoid sales reps? One reason is that sellers have not adapted to the new buying dynamic. Sales reps continue to pounce and pitch and push, which annoys buyers. Instead, sales reps should be helping buyers do their research.

In many ways, today’s sales reps need to act more like librarians who help their buyers research their problems, who share their buyers’ quest for more information, and who actively share great resources with their buyers – without making it feel like a proposal is always around the corner.

Until sales reps become better research partners, we will continue to see buyers avoid sales reps, and sales teams will continue to struggle to attain quotas.

The Explosion of Sales Technology

Over the last decade, marketers have had to navigate the rising tide of marketing technology solutions. Now, the tide is turning, and it’s heading for the sales department.

Sales leaders, be prepared to be inundated by sales technology options. To succeed, you’ll have to be judicious about your sales technology stack.

Every shiny, new technology is tempting. But sales leaders need to keep two things in mind. First, if you ask your sales reps to use too many applications, it will be hard to scale best practices across your team. So, watch out for point solutions that help your team do one thing and one thing only.

Second, your overall objective shouldn’t be to find a solution with as many bells and whistles as possible – just in case you might use them one day down the road. Rather, your goal should be to purchase solutions that let your team quickly achieve mastery over the actions that will have the biggest impact.

Finding the Right Hires

To adapt to the digitally savvy buyers, sales leaders need to change their hiring mentality. Selling to the modern buyer isn’t just about quota crushing and expert negotiating. Modern selling requires a different set of skills. For example:

1. The modern sales candidate knows how to build relationships where buyers hang out. Those places include social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. 84% of C-level/VP executives use social networks to support purchase decisions.

2. The modern sales candidate knows how to educate buyers and act as a consultant. If sales reps don’t undergo this mindset change, buyers will avoid them at all costs, which makes it much harder to attain quota. (See the charts above!)

3. The modern sales candidate has a noticeable digital footprint. As Mark Roberge, the CRO of HubSpot, writes in The Sales Acceleration Formula:

The Rise of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is one of the hottest topics in sales right now. In 2014, 25.5% of companies had staff dedicated to sales enablement – with more companies planning to build enablement initiatives in the upcoming years.

Given that sales enablement is an emerging role, its primary responsibilities vary widely. As a sales leader, you have to decide how enablement professionals can best serve your team.

Here are a few areas where sales enablement can help: The vast majority of sales enablement teams (74.7%) focus on training the sales team on things like social selling or using content to engage buyers. Others (59.6%) help maintain the sales tech infrastructure, while still others (51.5%) maintain a content library and work to provide sales with top-notch content – both from the company and from around the web.

Whatever you do, choose your team wisely. The best sales teams are the ones that execute flawlessly on their strategies, and it’s the responsibility of your sales enablement staff to help your sales managers execute their visions.

The Challenges of Digital Transformation

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t cross your fingers and hope that buyers will miraculously change. Buyers are in the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future, and your sales team will need to adapt accordingly.

For many of your sales reps, this will not come as a surprise. 69% of sales reps believe that the buying process is changing faster than sales organizations are responding. So, don’t hold your team back. Lead the digital transformation from the top.

No one said that digital transformation would be easy. It requires your team to think of new go-to-market strategies and new sales tactics. But in the end, it will pay off with more sales opporunities, more revenue, and a more effective sales process.

Leading Digital Transformation from the Top

If you want to transform your sales team, check out the Executive Guide to Social Selling.

3 Ways to Structure Your Content Distribution Workflow

Content marketing is no longer a “nice to have” part of your marketing programs. 86% of marketers are using content marketing, and their content budgets are steadily increasing.

But here’s the catch: Having content is one thing. Marketing and distributing your content is another. If your content marketing is going to be effective, people actually need to see your articles, blog posts, white papers, infographics, etc. That is, you need to market your content marketing.

With more marketing data at their fingertips, modern marketers are being held accountable for their actions. To meet expectations, marketers need to build distribution structures that amplify their content.

While there isn’t a “best practice” or best paradigm, I’ve seen three common workflows. Your choice of organizational structure will depend largely on your business size and company culture.

I’ll break down those org charts below, but I’m curious to hear how you are structuring your content distribution. So, please share your structure in the comments section below.

In the centralized workflow, there is a main content library. A curator or a group of curators choose content and place it in the library. In addition, they write the accompanying messages for the content.

The content can include blog posts, e-books, infographics, analyst’s reports, third-party news stories – whatever the curators deem awesome and worthy of sharing.

The content is then passed to others for distribution. You might use the content for your brand’s social media channels, for your company’s website, or for your e-mail newsletters.

You might give content to your sales team so that they can nurture prospects. You might ask other employees to share the content with their social networks to amplify your reach.

Don’t know what employee advocacy is? Click here.

Once your brand and employees have shared the pre-approved content, your marketing team can gather insights from your analytics. Which pieces of content are resonating with your audience? On which marketing channels? Facebook? LinkedIn? E-mail? Your website?

Your curators, in turn, can take those insights and improve their curation. They can adjust their messages. For example, you might find that your audience clicks on posts with emoji and emoticons. Why not include more?

Likewise, your content marketing team can create and find more content that your audience will like. For example, if you discover that infographics resonate with your company’s Twitter following, why not share more infographics?

What are the advantages of the centralized model?

1. Brand Protection: In this model, the marketing department finds all the content and writes all the messages. In effect, the marketing department plays an active role in shaping the company’s brand identity online.

2. Compliance: This model is useful in industries with compliance standards. A company can train a few curators to spot legal issues, and on a regular basis, its legal team can audit the content library to ensure that the content and messaging are kosher.

3. Efficiency: With this paradigm, your employee advocates do not waste time searching for content or creating their own content. They can focus on their jobs, and when they choose to share something, they know exactly where to find it: in your content library.

The departmentalized paradigm is similar to the centralized model, in that a small group of curators maintain the content libraries and write sample messages. However, instead of having curators supply content across all departments (like they do in the centralized system), each department has its own curator (or group of curators).

In other words, marketing has its own curator. Sales has its own curator. IT has its own curator. Engineering has its own curator. And each department’s curator is responsible for culling together content that would be of interest to members of their respective departments.

Did your marketing team just write a blog post? Great! If you’re the IT curator, you need to think about why IT professionals would care about the latest post. Then, you can write a 140-character Tweet that would resonate with your advocates’ followers.

With this model, you have some things to think about. For example, should your department’s content library consist only of content that your marketing department has created?

If you’re the IT curator, you might want to find news about the latest industry trends. That way, your IT employees can stay current. Plus, they can share the latest trends with their followers, give their opinions on the trends, and position themselves as experts in their field.

What are the advantages of the democratic workflow?

1. Content specificity: This paradigm enables each department to supply content that is specific to its employees’ interests.

To stay on top of the latest IT trends, information technology professionals may need different content from what the sales team needs. And to be a thought leader in sales, your sales team may need different content from your IT department.

2. Approval: While this workflow allows for more content specificity, it is not a complete free-for-all. It still has some checks and balances in place. Each department’s curators can pre-approve content and shape the messages that their advocates share.

3. Efficiency: As we saw in the centralized paradigm, there’s a lot of efficiency in this paradigm. Your employees advocates do not waste time searching for content or creating their own content. They can focus on their jobs, and when they choose to share something, they know exactly where to find it: in your content library.

Another approach to distributing content is more democratic in nature. Each individual can create a personalized content library.

They may take your company’s branded content and put it into their libraries. They may also gather third-party content that resonates with their personal brands. Then, they write messages to accompany their content.

After sharing content, they can look at their metrics and determine what is working and what isn’t. For further analysis, these metrics can be passed along to the head of your employee advocacy program. Mr. or Ms Head, in turn, can look at those metrics and help employees improve their curatorial processes.

What are the advantages of the democratic workflow?

1. Autonomy: If your company values employee autonomy, this paradigm is for you. By turning every employee into a curator, you are saying, “We trust you 100%! Go for it!”

2. Authentic Personal Branding: Some companies are dedicated to helping their employees build a strong personal brand. In this model, you are teaching employees how to own their online professional identities – without a lot of hand-holding.

And since there are fewer pre-approved messages in this paradigm, one could argue that their personal brands could be perceived as being more authentic and truer to who they are.

ALRIGHT…

These are three content distribution structures that I’ve seen work at companies of all sizes. But they aren’t the only options. What have you seen work well? Leave a comment below!

And if you need help with your content distribution workflow, you should check out Trapit!

Thanks!

-Mark

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

3 Ways to Make Your Marketing Team Smarter with Content Curation

Uh oh! The blog posts and e-books have told you only half the story about content curation.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The literature is not wrong, per se. As you have been instructed, you should share other people’s content in public locations: social media channels, e-mail newsletters, your website, or blog posts.

But most curation advice focuses solely on external benefits, and if that’s all you’re doing with content, you’re missing a gigunda opportunity. You can use curation to educate your own marketing team.

Here are three ways that you can use content curation internally to make your marketers wicked smart.

1. Competitive Intelligence

Imagine that you’re a product marketer for Apple. Your specific area of interest is the iPad, and you and your team need to keep tabs on one of your main competitors: the Amazon Kindle Fire. To do your job, you need to stay abreast of:

  1. Amazon’s major product releases
  2. General sentiment about the Amazon Kindle Fire
  3. How tech bloggers are comparing the iPad with the Amazon Kindle Fire
  4. And more!

With a content curation tool, you can easily comb the web for the latest information about the “Amazon Kindle Fire.”

Day in day out, your content curation software will look for information about the “Amazon Kindle Fire,” and it will automatically show you the latest results. Like these:

Daily or weekly, you can share the most pertinent stories with your team to educate them about what’s going on with your competitors.

Business Development

In addition to being beneficial for your product marketer team, content curation can help your business development team. Who are your competitors saddling up with? What can you do in response?

In the example above, you can see that Amazon Kindle Fire and the Washington Post are buddying up. (This isn’t surprising, given that Jeff Bezos owns both Amazon and the Washington Post.) As a biz dev person, you need to know this information, and you need to know whether you should respond to it.

Content Marketing

Oh, and don’t forget about your content marketing team! They can benefit from internal content curation, too. With a tool like Trapit, you can track your competitors’ content and make appropriate decisions. For instance, should you post your “8 Ways to Use Instagram for B2B Companies” the day after your competitor posts “9 Ways to Use Instagram for B2B Companies”?

Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, your content marketing team needs that information to make a decision.

2. Continuing Education

I don’t mean to sound like Captain Obvious, but the marketing landscape is always changing. Yes, you will continue to make your nifty branding pyramids and your battle cards. But in the digital world, there are so many moving parts: social media, white papers, e-books, blogging, marketing automation, PPC advertisements, SEO, etc.

Most of these skills aren’t taught in universities, which means that your employees need to learn everything on their own. What if you could help them? Content curation platforms can help you create a library with the latest tips and tricks on all things related to marketing.

You set up the search terms. The platform finds the content for you and stores it in one location. Your team can sort through the blog posts, videos, infographics, and more. And your employees can choose their own adventure.

That’s what Gregory Roberts is doing with his team at Black Tie Creative.

3. Current Customers

Between finding leads, leads, leads, leads, leads, leads, leads, leads, leads, and more leads, it’s easy for marketers to forget about their current customers. But retaining current customers is extremely important. In fact, it can help boost your company’s bottom line.

A smart marketing team will not only look for new customers, but they will keep tabs on their existing customers, as well. And if your company wants to really stand out, you will go the extra mile to build that relationship.

Sure, you will do the typical check-ins. Are you using our product? Are you satisfied with the product?

But you can do so much more to personalize and humanize the experience. With a content curation tool, you can search the web for updates about your current customers, and when you find a piece of actionable content, you can reach out.

For example, if you read a blog post that you really like, you can send a complimentary tweet or e-mail. If your customer’s business exceeded its target revenue, you can send a congratulatory message.

A quick, non-salesy e-mail will make your business seem authentic and human.

There you have it!

Those are three different ways to use content curation internally. With their newfound knowledge, your marketers will be prepared to make better decisions and to continue to educate and delight your customers.

Have you been using content curation for business intelligence? If so, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear more about your tactics.

-Mark

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