How to create a marketing asset plan

The purpose of this post is to describe how to create marketing content that is aligned with a specific customer buying journey and focuses on business to business marketing. The 4-step customer journey above was created by Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling and Rethinking the Sales Force.

There are broadly four kinds of markets that you could approach:

  • Consumer products and services
  • Business-to-business products and services
  • Not-for-profit marketing
  • Idea, place and people marketing

Consumers buy products and services to use personally

A personal purchase is one that you want to use at home or for your family.

You buy this because it has some value for you. For example, it makes your life easier, safer or gives you some kind of status.

A small number of people are involved in the decision-making process – perhaps just you and your immediate family or trusted friends.

Businesses buy products and services that are used in their operations

People in a business decide to buy a product or service because it helps them in their business.

For example, it may help them produce more goods, reduce the costs of services or increase their profits.

A large number of people are typically involved in the decision-making process and you may need to go through a number of steps to justify your reasons for making the purchase and get approval from a committee.

Not-for profit marketing is about promoting a social goal

Not-for-profit organizations such as museums, charities and churches use marketing to help them achieve their aims.

In this case, it might be getting more people involved, raising funds and running campaigns to increase awareness.

Idea, place and people marketing is about influencing behaviour and promoting individuals or locations

Governments run campaigns to make people aware of the consequences of smoking or drunk driving.

Countries try and get people to visit.

Politicians, actors and athletes all have an image to maintain.

This kind of marketing wants people to know about and get interested in the concept they are promoting.

What kind of assets should you create to support the customer journey?

You need to think about creating different kinds of assets for each stage in the customer journey.

According to Rackham, your customer is asking different kinds of questions at each stage.

Customers ask “Is there a problem” at the Recognize needs stage

At this stage, according to Rackham, customers ask questions like:

  • Do we have a problem?
  • How serious is it?
  • What benefits would we get from solving it?

The kinds of issues that they are concerned with depend on the level at which they operate.

The top three concerns for CEO’s are:

  • How to get and keep the best people.
  • How to operate globally.
  • How to cope with regulation and legislation.

Customers need tools to help them analyse the problem at the Recognize needs stage

Rackham suggests that marketers should create tools that help customers analyse the problem at the first stage.

These might include:

  • Diagnostic tools
  • Business cases
  • Analysis
  • Presentations
  • Focused articles

Let’s take an example – assume you are the market for choosing a new CRM system. If you type in “choosing a CRM” into google, you get the following results (in Dec 2016)

Many customers start their buying journey with a search like this into Google or another search engine.

It should not come as a surprise then that all the results are assets that help you understand whether you have a problem and the kinds of things to think about.

If you analyse the headlines of the results using the PIN formula, these headlines either promise something (10 things you need to know) or try and intrigue you into reading further (the secret to choosing the best CRM).

A good tool or asset helps you open a conversation with the customer

How do people think about a problem?

One model from the world of cognitive behavioural science suggests that there are five types of thinking that people do all the time:

  1. They have certain basic beliefs or assumptions.
  2. They have standards of how they think their business should operate.
  3. They focus on data that justifies their beliefs.
  4. They have reasons for why things are the way they are right now.
  5. They make predictions about how others will act, or how things will turn out.

How can this help you create assets?

Reading trade journals or better still, articles that people in your target segment have written will give you an idea of their basic beliefs and what they consider important. Once you know this, you can create headlines that target these beliefs and assumptions.

Knowing how they think their business should operate will help you create material that resonates with them.

Understanding and using data carefully to support correct views, or nudge people towards alternative views is better than bluntly saying they are wrong.

Knowing why they think things are the way they are right now, and how people will respond to alternative options can make the difference between opening a conversation that leads to an eventual sale, or being shown the door.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the kinds of assets that help people evaluate options as they move to the next stage of the buying journey.

What is a content machine? Your online salesperson.

Managing content is more than just writing. It is about having a system that can help your business grow. A content machine is the human and technical system you put together to create and publish your content.

As a business owner your main concern is how to sell more product and grow your business.

Maybe you started your business and grew it steadily with your own contacts and network. You may have a few salespeople already that have been steadily working with prospects in your market.

But it’s a hard economy out there. Are you still growing at the rate you wanted? Should you hire another salesperson?

There are many reasons why that isn’t the best idea. In most companies, 20% of salespeople generate 80% of the sales. These are the stars.

But if you hire one of the star 20%, there is no guarantee that the success they had in the old company will magic its way over to you.

The problem is that the traditional sales funnel doesn’t work anymore.

Customers are busy, shy and don’t like being put under pressure. Talking to a sales person is increasingly the last thing they do, rather than the first.

Increasingly they find you, rather than you finding them.

But that doesn’t mean that selling doesn’t work. It’s just that it’s really hard work. And it gets harder if all a salesperson has is a list of numbers and a phone.

Salespeople are human. Eventually they get tired of rejection and if they feel like they can’t make their numbers they move on to a different business.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, you have an expensive salesperson on your books who has to start producing. If your sales cycle is 18 – 24 months, that is a long time to wait to see returns.

And, if your salesperson leaves before the sales come in, then you lose your investment and possible the sales opportunity if the salesperson takes that to the company they move to next.

So what is the answer if it’s not hiring more people?

Charles Handy in The Empty Raincoat: Making Sense of the Future tells the story of one approach from a large pharma company.

The chairman’s strategy was to have half as many people working in his business in five years, paid twice as much and producing three times as much.

That was his secret to productivity and profit.

So, instead of adding to your existing pool of salespeople, should you be helping the stars you already have to produce more?

But how can you do that?

Let’s start by asking your best salespeople to tell you why they are valuable. They might say that:

  • They listen to prospects to understand their business
  • They talk with prospects about the problems they face
  • They work with prospects to discover what impact the problems have on the business
  • They show prospects that they can solve their problems and make them money

Unless your product can be sold during the very first meeting, your salespeople know that a pushy, hard-sell approach will not work. You won’t sell another item to the same person. And you probably won’t get invited back.

You may need to convince a lot of people in the prospect company. The person you speak to won’t remember everything you say and will struggle to tell someone else. You might need to go in again to explain it all.

Your salesperson needs to show the value of what you do to enough people in the company so that they agree that working with you is a good idea.

In particular, for expensive items, the prospect more often than not buys from one company rather than another because of the relationship built up with the salesperson.

This takes time. A good salesperson will want to spend as much time as possible with the customer. That investment of time is what gives the customer the confidence that the salesperson cares and genuinely wants to help.

You want your salesperson to be investing that time in prospects where you have a realistic chance of getting new business.

So, the first thing you could do is take the job of prospecting away from them. Get someone cheaper to hammer the phones and set up appointments.

That might help. Although your salesperson is now going into a meeting where the prospect has been qualified by someone else. They know they have an appointment, but they don’t know much else.

In an ideal world, your salesperson will go into a meeting where the prospect already has an idea of who you are, what you do, why you are different, where you are and how you work. Their job is to talk to the prospect, discover what you can do for them, and negotiate a deal.

If you boil down all the words used by professionals – marketing, advertising, integrated marketing communications – they all come down to one thing.

You want to have a conversation with people.

But it takes far too long to have an individual conversation with everyone.

One strategy is to create and share information that your prospective customers will find useful, interesting and informative.

Today, this is called content marketing. In 1895 when John Deere used it, it was probably just seen as a form of advertising.

What it’s called doesn’t matter. The important thing is that by using content effectively in your sales process you can help your salespeople sell more.

You can do this because you can filter prospects by looking at how they engage with your content and direct the ones that are more likely to be interested in working with you to your salespeople.

The content you use is simply another salesperson with a very definite job. This salesperson’s job is to answer the questions the prospect has until the prospect has either had enough or wants to talk to a real person.

Your content can be your hardest working salesperson. Available day and night all through the year and taking no holidays or sick day. Your content is a machine; it doesn’t get tired or hungry. It’s simply there, waiting to help a prospect whenever needed.

If you have a content machine supporting your sales team, you have a force multiplier. You can take your team of stars and give them the support they need to go out and grow your business.

But you have to remember that a machine is simply a collection of parts that work together to do something.

A lever might be the simplest machine there is. Archimedes said that if he had a place to stand on, he could move the earth with a lever.

He could, but only with the right kind of lever. Why do you use a lever made of metal rather than one made of cardboard? Because the metal lever is the right machine for the job.

A machine that has parts that don’t work together may be less use than not having one at all. The wrong kind of machine might lose you business, rather than helping you grow.

Efficiency tells you how much useful work the machine does. What you really want is have an efficient content machine. One that works for you and helps your business to grow.

How can we engineer an efficient content machine?

Most people think that content means sitting down and writing a lot.

That is a big part of it, but an even bigger part for you as a business owner is thinking like a publisher

The difference between a writer and a publisher is like the difference between a cook and a chef. A cook is someone who can make food. A chef is someone who can manage a kitchen.

A writer can write an article or blog post that is riveting and keeps you hooked till the end. A publisher needs to plan and serve up content regularly to readers that they find useful, interesting and informative.

As a business owner, you need a machine that will create, edit and publish content on a schedule over time. You need the tools to manage it over time, and the processes to allow you to add content from different people as you scale up.

You will need to create publishing processes for different types of content, from written material to images and video.

Your content can be on a simple blog, where you publish one article a week all the way to a media hub, where your team pushes multi-media content daily.

Your content machine, on the other hand, is all the moving parts that are needed to create and publish your content. This includes how you come up with ideas, how you work with writers and editors, the publishing platform you use and the publishing schedule you follow.

Three quarters of companies plan to produce more content in 2016. Is it time for you to get your content machine checked so it’s ready to start working for you?

How to set a budget for content marketing

This post explains how business to business (B2B) marketers can set an effective budget for content marketing and understand what they get for their money.

How can you set a budget for content marketing that won’t break the bank? And how can you create enough content for that budget to create a measurable increase in sales?

Making a link between what you spend and what you get for content marketing isn’t easy. In this article, we’ll explore a content marketing model and work out how you can create a right-sized budget for what you want to achieve.

You need to think of all the roles and resources you need

This is a content marketing model that will apply to many businesses. What are the main cost headings that come out of this?

  1. Your costs: You can’t just put the process on autopilot with an agency and expect business to roll in. You will need to spend some time to think about the strategy and direct your resources. Budget for the opportunity cost of your time to work out what prospects want and consider the range of content needed.
  2. Costs to create content: You will need someone to carry out research, someone to write and someone to edit. Depending on how you get your people, you could spend $3.30 per hour to $200 per hour.
  3. Costs to distribute content: You can spend a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands on marketing automation. You will also need technical support to operate your software.
  4. Costs to monitor how prospects engage with your content: You need an analyst looking at the marketing data coming out of your systems who helps you interpret and act on that data.
  5. Costs to engage with leads: At this point, your budget may overlap with sales, where you pass leads onto the sales team, or you might have a person who helps engage with questions and opinions on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

As you can see, the majority of your costs have to do with heads – people that are carrying out the activity. There are several good reasons to consider outsourcing these cost – the most significant being that you can invest a little money with an agency and then ramp up your investment as you see results, rather than putting in a few hundred grand up front with no guarantee of seeing a return. If you are interested in things like being P&L positive at the end of the year, a big part of these costs should be outsourced.

Take a step back and think about what your prospects want

A business to business sales process follows a four step model:

  1. The customer recognises that they have a need and asks questions like, “Do we have a problem?”
  2. They evaluate options asking questions like, “Who is cheapest, or has the best service?”
  3. They resolve concerns asking questions like, “Can we trust them?”
  4. Then they negotiate terms and actually become a customer.

How much content do you need?

The short answer is, as much content as is needed to answer all the questions your customers have, given the budget you have.

A customer will understand what you do by asking questions. Your content needs to answer the questions customers have in their minds. It needs to answer questions they have asked, and also bring up and answer questions that they have not yet thought about.

Your content will be used across many channels and platforms

You will use content with prospects and customers at every stage of the selling process.

When negotiating terms

  • Proposals: This is what we will offer and what we will charge

When resolving concerns

  • Testimonials: This is someone we did this for before
  • Case studies: This is who we did it for.

When evaluating their options

  • White papers: This is a problem your industry faces

When recognizing need

  • Blog articles: Come up in search requests
  • Industry articles: Become aware when reading trade magazines
  • Direct mail: Contact via email or direct mail

70% of companies don’t think they use content marketing effectively but over three quarters of all companies still intend to produce more content in 2016 ranging from presentations and webinars to blogs, case studies and more output on social media platforms.

How to select an approach that works for your business

There is no one approach that is guaranteed to produce results. You need to select one that matches the way your company works. Use the list below to think about how your company works now and select an approach that works.

Make decisions as you go along.

If you are fairly new to content marketing, and don’t know what you want, or how much you want to spend, the best thing to do is just get started.

Write a blog post. Create a landing page. See if you can get an article accepted by a trade journal. Do something, anything to get started. If you have a go and create 5 – 7 pieces of content, you will learn more about how you or your staff write than through all the discussions of what you would write if you did do content marketing.

You can keep a tight rein on costs by deferring decisions, and focusing on simple, low cost actions to start with.

Spend what you can.

If you know how much content marketing can do for you, either from previous experience, or because you see others in your field using it to generate leads and business, then the question is how much can you afford to spend?

If you are on a constrained budget and want to make every penny count, it’s important to focus. Don’t spread yourself across every platform. Don’t create long form and short form content plus images plus tweetable material. Instead, spend your budget on content creation, and a minimal distribution system that gets your material in front of prospects.

Don’t spend all your money on creating lots of material, with nothing left over to pay for distribution or following up with analytics and lead management.

Spend what you spent last year.

If you already have a track record of spending, then protect your existing budget and plan how you can use it effectively.

There is a shift in budget allocation from advertising to digital marketing. Marketing budgets are forecast to increase, with digital marketing taking up 75% of budgets by 2020. Keep this in mind when planning the total budget and how you strategically allocate it.

Match the spending of a competitor.

In all industries, there is usually one company that seems to invest more in marketing and reaching customers than everyone else.

Research by Neil Rackham showed that companies that succeed focus their efforts. They reduce the number of opportunities they work on, but increase the amount of resource they devote. This means that they might go after a smaller set of customers, and use fewer channels to get to them, but they put more effort and content into the process.

If you go up against such a competitor but are spread more thinly, you might spend half as much as they do, but only win 20% of the time. They, on the other hand, spend twice as much as you, but win 70% of the time.

Researching and understanding how a competitor spends their marketing budget is a good way to benchmark your spending and see if you are doing the right things.

Use a formula like percentage of sales.

Many companies spend 7 – 10% of sales on marketing. The CMO survey updated in February 2016 shows that marketing budgets are now over 10% of a firm’s overall budget for the year and run at around 7 – 10% of sales. This kind of formulaic approach is the easiest way to benchmark how much you are spending relative to other companies.

Marketing costs include:

  • Direct expenses of marketing
  • Social media
  • Marketing analytics
  • Marketing research
  • Marketing employees
  • Marketing training
  • Sales employees
  • Other overheads

Advertising spend is falling, while digital marketing is seeing an increase in spending.

In 2005, Colgate-Palmolive spent 2.5% of their advertising budget on digital. They increased it to 13% in 2014 and it is heading to 25% quickly.

88% of business to business marketers use content marketing to engage with customers. On average, companies spend 32% of their marketing budget (excluding staff) on content marketing.

If you are spending a lot less than this, then you may need to consider whether you are committing enough to strategic marketing to protect your competitive position in the market.

Test and learn with experiments.

A test and learn model accepts that there is formula for success and you need to be willing to experiment. This starts with asking questions and having a view on what could happen.

For example, are your target customers more interested in videos or in reading descriptions. If your selling point is design, then a video might make the prospect more interested, while if you have a complex product you may need to use more written content. If you are not sure, however, then you can try both and see how customers respond.

The key here is to start with a hypothesis – a belief that if you do something, customers will respond in a certain way. Then, you validate this with customers, either asking them through careful questioning, or creating a prototype and testing how they respond to it. Testing and learning needs you to be comfortable working closely with customers to validate your thinking, and if you do this well your customers will end up telling you what they will pay for, and help you create your marketing system and tuning your business.

Create a marketing model and simulate scenarios.

In a larger organisation, you may not be able to create small experiments without some level of buy in. You will be asked about the business case for what you are trying to do, and what the expected returns are.

In this situation, you need a marketing model. This is like a financial model that lists out resources and expected outcomes. If you can make it a dynamic model that lets you see what happens if you increase or decrease resources and model a number of outcomes, then you can create marketing model that people understand. If they understand what you are planning to do, it is more likely that they will support you in your work.

Set an objective and a funded project with a plan and resources.

Organisations that believe in managing by targets will set an objective and expect you to hit it. Financial services companies, in particular, are fond of targets. Having a clear objective or target is an amazing way to focus a team on outcomes.

Objective based management is much less useful if target setting is used as a stick, rather than as a prized outcome. A team that fears that they will be sacked if they don’t meet target will be much less effective than a team that believes it will be rewarded if it hits its targets.

You also need to make sure that money and people are available if you want to make meaningful progress, along with regular review and monitoring.

Conclusion:

Content marketing sounds simple – make great content that attract prospects and converts them to customers. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

Use the content marketing model in this post as a way to think about how you can set a budget that will result in generating effective content that you can use to promote your business and grow sales.

You can do content marketing on almost any size budget. If you don’t have the money, you can put in the time.

But, if you don’t do content marketing at all, expect to lose business to competitors that understand the value of content marketing to get in front of customers before you do.

Get started using one of the approaches described in this post. Whether you just jump in and have a go, or create a funded plan with targets and objectives, the important thing is to make sure that you are building your content marketing capability year on year.

What kind of person should your content speak to?

Your content needs to be adapted to target different people in a business. People will have different views depending on the role they have.

  • Initiators are the ones that will get things going, sparking interest in your product
  • Users are the ones that actually use the product when it is introduced into the company
  • Gatekeepers are the ones that control the purchasing process
  • Influencers are people whose opinion matters in the process
  • Deciders have the power to make the final decision and authorise the purchase

Initiators

An initiator is someone who identifies a need and brings it to the attention of other.

An initiator’s interest could be sparked by a number of things.

  • An employee could notice that equipment was broken and notify purchasing
  • A senior manager could get an email on your product and ask someone to look into it
  • An engineer might be looking for a specialist add on

Anybody in an organisation could be an initiator.

Your content will motivate them to take action if it resonates with them, describing the need they have and the benefits they could get from engaging with you.

An initiator’s view is likely to be positive, as they are the first to recognise the need they have and want a solution.

Initiators need content that they can send on easily to others, with a note suggesting they look into it further.

The types of content that might work with initiators are:

  • Short emails asking for a referral
  • Short emails stating a benefit and asking for a meeting
  • A newsletter with industry updates
  • Checklists
  • Numbered lists of best practice (7 things you should do …)

Users

A user is someone who will actually use your product.

A user could be an employee on a line that works with your product. It could be the driver of a truck you sell, or an engineer that works with the machine you develop.

The user may be interested in all the things your product can do for them. Or they might be very averse to the idea of changing from what they are doing now.

It depends on whether they are excited or fearful of the change brought by your product.

Content aimed at users should:

  • Stress the benefits
  • Show how the features are different
  • Show how there is little risk
  • Show how the product is being used by others
  • Ideally, let the user feel and play with the product – offer free trials and test equipment

A user has the ability to champion your product or bring out all its flaws.

Your content needs to convince them that the cost/benefit equation is positive and the benefits to them are greater than the costs and risks.

Gatekeepers

A gatekeeper has the responsibility of ensuring that a process is followed when making a purchase.

Others can enthuse about the product and its benefits. A gatekeeper must make sure that a rational approach is taken and:

  • The purchasing process has been followed
  • The right people have been involved in the decision
  • The company has been vetted
  • Its credentials are good
  • References have been verified
  • The company is in good financial standing
  • The company’s products are the right ones
  • Alternatives have been considered
  • The price has been negotiated to the lowest possible
  • Guarantees are in place
  • Service level agreements have been negotiated

There can be a raft of documents associated with a purchase, increasing with the complexity and cost of the purchase.

The more expensive or disruptive a product is to operations, the more care gatekeepers will take in ensuring that the process has been followed.

A gatekeeper almost always has a score sheet in place. Your content needs to answer their questions and tick all their boxes to have a chance to succeed.

This is where the strength of the relationship and personal rapport has the least impact.

Your content is doing the selling for you, sentence after sentence.

Influencers

An influencer is an expert within the company, or a person with experience that is respected.

This person may be brought into the process to provide an independent opinion on your product. The might be seen as knowledgeable but uninvolved, so without a conflict.

The influencer’s opinion carries weight, and they may be able to persuade people on the fence to decide one way or the other.

Content targeting the influencer needs to inform them without being threatening.

For example, you may want to persuade an organisation to move from a hydraulic solution to an electric solution and a key influencer is an expert on hydraulics.

In this case, content that is simply dismissive or negative of hydraulics is unlikely to be accepted well.

You will need to carefully explore the pros and cons of both solutions, and bring in factors such as future trends, increased operating and maintenance costs and the lack of experienced hydraulic engineers.

If you can get the influencer nodding in agreement, then you may have created an ally.

The types of content that may help here are:

  • Trend analysis
  • Forecasts
  • Scenario analysis
  • Case studies
  • Lifecycle costs
  • Product lifecycle analysis
  • Capability matrices
  • Product maturity cycle

An influencer needs to agree that the strategy of going with your product is the right one.

Deciders

The decider is the ultimate decision maker. In smaller companies it might be the CEO or FD, who authorises the purchase after listening to the case. In larger organisations it may be a consensus reached by the purchasing committee.

A decider needs two things at the point they are approving the purchase:

  • They must have a gut feeling that this is the right purchase
  • They must have a credible business case for the purchase

The decider may be involved at the very start, approving the decision to investigate your product and at the very end, approving the decision to purchase your product.

They are unlikely to immerse themselves in the detail of the product, your company or the way in which the product will be applied. They will delegate this to the right colleague to investigate and report back.

Content that targets the decider needs to be short, clear and to the point.

Deciders make up their minds in 3 to 30 seconds on whether there is any point going ahead.

They are also very aware of trends, what is happening in the market and have a keen political instinct.

Content that may help influence a decision maker include:

  • Industry articles about best practice
  • Cost/benefit analyses about strategic decisions
  • Press releases showing other companies and how they have benefited from the product
  • A succinct business case
  • Short emails asking for referrals
  • Invitations to exclusive content or events

The more familiarity a decision maker has with you – seeing you in their inbox or at events, the more comfortable they are that there is something of substance in you and your company.

The less familiar they are, the more likely they are to dismiss you or ask for detailed evaluations.

Wrapping up

Your content needs to speak to multiple people within a company.

The same product specification sheet cannot be used for a decider and a purchasing agent.

You need to craft your content so that it can be used to target different individuals in the company, and speak to them in a voice they recognise, understand and agree with.

If this happens, then when they come together to make a decision, they are more likely to support the case for buying your product.

This post is based on material in ‘Marketing: Real People, Real Decisions’ by Solomon et al, (2013).

How to use content to market to businesses

Business markets are different to consumer markets in a number of ways.

  • There are far fewer business customers than individual customers as each business usually has been created to serve a purpose.
  • A business is a collection of individuals, and they often make collective decisions.
  • They have developed processes to manage the way in which they operate, and their buying processes will support their operations.
  • It takes longer for them to make a decision, as they are usually dealing with complex and inter-related issues.
  • Finally, the one question businesses always ask is what is the payback from this purchase?

Each purchase must serve a purpose

Most businesses do not buy on a whim. Purchases made by businesses usually need to be justified – and this is done by making sure there is a need for the product.

How will this help my business is the question we need to answer.

This means that you need to show how your product fits into your prospect’s business. Unlike an iPhone, which talks about how good it is and makes you want it, your content must focus on your prospect’s specific needs.

There are several people involved in the buying decision process

Any purchase that is over a minimum threshold will usually involve other people in the business in addition to your main contact.

Not all of these individuals are on your side. They could respond to your approaches with a number of emotions:

  • Some may not know about you
  • Some may not like the idea
  • Some may have had bad experiences with companies like yours
  • Some may be fearful of the change this means for them

Describing your product in just one way will not address all these needs and fears. You need to rework, reuse and reposition your content so that it can be used to make it easier for all these individuals to buy into the product you are putting in front of them.

You may go through a number of processes during the sale

It would be nice if you spoke to one person and that person made the decision and you could get the sale away.

But that’s unlikely.

Instead, you probably need to go through a number of processes – let’s call them obstacles or hurdles if you prefer. From companies that have an email only contact policy to a strict tender procurement schedule, there are a variety of things that can trip you up.

If you have the right content in place, you can approach these hurdles with less effort. Email only policy? No problem, here are a set of emails to five senior managers asking for a referral to the person who manages this process. Tender to complete? Use a combination of existing content with personalised additions to show you have read the brief and understand the requirement to stay in the process.

Use your content efficiently. A good content library can be your hardest working salesperson.

Sales cycles are getting increasingly longer

You have to be prepared for a long sales cycle. In high value sales, it can take 18 – 24 months to go from initial contact to first contract. Quite often, you can start a contact with a salesperson and find that that person has moved on and you have someone else following up and trying to close the business.

With good content, the relationship is stronger between your company and the prospect. The salesperson uses the content to educate the prospect about your company, and if you have to change the point of contact, the prospect is still familiar with your material and the transition is easier.

Sales increasingly fall into simple and transactional or complex and consultative

The middle ground is vanishing in sales.

Simple products are sold on Ebay and Amazon and the quality of your ads will determine sales.

Complex products require explanation and education, and the quality of your sales material will determine your success.

Either way content is crucial, from tightly worded letter perfect ads to detailed use cases of a product, the way in which you use content to define your product help you sell more.

Payback

In business sales, payback is everything.

You might use more complex words like return on investment or internal rate of return, but you still need to show when the prospect will get their money back and start making money.

Content can help you make the calculation clear.

From a clear financial model to a more refined explanation of tangible and intangible benefits, well-structured content can make the case for you day after day, explaining to your prospects why they should do business with you.