The Problem with Your Sales and Marketing Strategy is Your Content
Ever since my Dad took me to see the Washington Redskins play in JFK stadium in the late 70s with the greats like Joe Theisman and John Riggins, I’ve been fascinated by the game, and the strategy involved in a winning team.
Today, I’m still interested in the adjustments the coaching staff makes based on the teams they are playing, and other factors they have to consider approaching each game. Equally fascinating to me are the real-time adjustments made by each side as momentum shifts, strategies change, and opportunities present themselves. Sometimes coaches sit out star players, other times the coordinators adjust entire playbooks, but they generally always customize their approach based on what they know about their opponent and what they see happening in front of them.
This makes sense to us in the world of sports, yet we don’t do it ourselves when it comes to our sales strategies in business. Sure we might tweak a proposal, or a pitch, but what about the team on the field? What are the plays we are going to call to get the victory?
We know most big sales cycles take months, even years. They are built and fostered around relationships and trust, long before the contracts are signed. And the major driver of that relationship building is the content you are putting out to get that prospect’s attention and eventually their business.
Ann Handley recently noted in her newsletter that “The average blog post takes 3 hours and 57 minutes to write, up a whopping 65% since 2014.” I’m assuming white papers, custom campaigns, reports and research studies take exponentially more time (and money) — appropriately. This is a huge investment into creating content.
Additionally, Handley finds, “The average blog post is 1,236 words long — 53% longer than a few years ago. Long-form, detailed articles earn higher search rankings and greater social engagement.” We have the data to know that when it comes down to important buying decisions, humans want the meat to be there. This means content creation will only become more time intensive, targeted, and — ideally — strategically oriented towards the prospective business. Wait. What?
Here’s where things fall apart. How many of you know the best performing content your company has created in the past two years — specific to a targeted vertical or opportunity? How many times has that high performing content been re-used, personalized and optimized to maximize its value? How frequently is great content tweaked to better orient itself to a select series of issues particular to a sales prospect?
Side note — don’t get precious about your successful content — if it did well in the past, find out how to keep it doing well, or spin it off to maximize its usefulness. Handley mentions this specifically: “Writers who consistently update older posts are twice as likely to report success: 35% of writers who update old content report “strong results.” Just 16% of us who do not update old content say the same.”
How many other people in your organization know about this high-performing content and how it might be useful to them? Do you see content being created just to fill a void? How often do you hear a sales or marketing team member tell a prospect you don’t really have more info about something, and your head explodes because you know of several best-in-class pieces of content your company has created specifically for this sales conversion?
Is your content being specifically oriented towards the audience and business you want to attract? How often are you comparing your content to that of your competitors to learn how you’re differentiating yourself, or not? Are you targeting your content to the very specific issues and needs being expressed by the prospect?
We have so much more we can be doing with our content to empower it to really work for our organizations, yet we don’t have the tools, processes and mindset to do it well, in most cases. And the larger the organization, the more content there is out there to keep track of. It can quickly become overwhelming.
Content is your team, and each piece is a player.
Do you know who your stars are? And what are you doing to prepare for each new opportunity? What’s your playbook look like when it comes to your content? You only have so many opportunities to have your content seen and be well received, and to differentiate yourself from your competition, and establish your brand and value proposition successfully.
If you aren’t orchestrating every aspect of that like John Harbaugh and his team did before the Ravens took on the undefeated Patriots last Sunday night, you are counting on blind luck. However, if you study the game, the data, the players, and adjust accordingly, you just might pull off a huge upset.
About the Author:
Tracey Halvorsen is Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Return Solutions, a sales enablement engine helping complex organizations simplify the way they communicate with their customers. She is also Founder of Create Velocity, a business consultancy. She was previously President and Chief Visionary Officer of Fastspot, a nationally recognized digital design agency.