Arguably, content strategy is most often thought of as a marketing application. That's a great start, but it doesn't do the practice justice. In fact, that view tends to cause siloed efforts and limit the potential of content strategy.
Content is a part of everything a business does in regards to communicating with prospects, customers, and the industries their offerings serve.
Content is anything that says something about your company, brand, expertise, or point of view that forms an impression, including:
- white papers
- blog posts
- blog comments
- trade show swag
- call scripts
- sales collateral
- conference presentations
- direct mail
- solution briefs
- status updates
- discussion forum participation
- executive interviews
- press releases
- data sheets
- media coverage
- customer stories
*Note the the focus of this blog post is on external audiences. But it also applies to internal audiences as well with another long list of formats and applications.
That's a lot of stuff. It's also why I wrote the previous post about why content should never be in a silo. Please note that much of this is created by the company, but some of it is not, such as referrals, and advocates. And some can come from the company as well as others, such as Tweets, status updates, and discussion forum participation. Regardless of source, it's still content that affects impressions about your company--good or bad.
(How content strategy applies to addressing content created by others about your company is another post)
The point I want to focus on today is that content strategy must address what lives beyond traditional marketing boundaries.
Two of the most prominent boundaries that must be dissolved are Sales Momentum and Customer Retention and Expansion.
You may also think of this as Sales Enablement, but I don't like the term "enablement." Salespeople, by their very nature, should be enabled. The role content strategy can play with Sales is in helping them to continue to escalate opportunity momentum towards a deal, rather than stop it in its tracks if they step into the process out of sync.
I'm sick and tired of the battle for alignment between marketing and sales. There, I said it. Seems ridiculous if you ask me. I work with marketers everyday that are engaging salespeople in content strategy design and development because they realize salespeople are critical to the process. Not to mention that Sales really appreciates the help due to the constant change and shifting buyer attention in the marketplace today.Their position has changed, and they know it.
One of the interesting things I see when marketers involve Sales is that salespeople often have no real idea of what marketing actually does that may be helpful to them. This being said, just as marketers can no longer implement effective programs without getting to know their buyers, they also cannot help salespeople without knowing them, their priorities and what they're experiencing on the street that may be blocking or winning deals.
Marketers cannot provide the same content to salespeople that they provide to prospects. The context is different and the situation is different. The questions and obstacles are different.The interactions are different and so are the expectations from buyers on the receiving end.
By working with Sales, marketers can create content that salespeople will actually use to develop and engage late-stage opportunities. Once they see it's useful, valuable, and helps opportunities move to the next step in buying, marketers will find themselves inundated with requests for more. And that's a good thing!
Marketers must prove accountability. If they can do so by tracking use of content designed for sales interactions, their contribution to downstream revenues can be better substantiated. I hear a lot about salespeople taking credit for deals at the expense of marketing, but if the caveat to getting more content designed for them includes feedback on what's working, why it works, and what it helps them to accomplish, that will diminish.
Think about it.
Customer Retention and Expansion:
Most of what I see marketers focused on is new customer acquisition. But I often hear the lament that companies are having a difficult time expanding customer footprints. When I ask how their content strategy is designed to promote customer retention and expansion I hear things such as, we have an annual user conference or we send a monthly or quarterly newsletter. Or that it's someone else's problem, such as account reps or customer service.
Those are cop outs.
A few things marketers need to realize about customers is that their status quo is different than that of prospects. They solved their problem when they bought your solution, right? So what's next? What did solving that problem do to open up possibilities that can now be addressed?
That's where to start.
Expanding customer accounts is not about promoting products. It's still about solving problems - new ones. Why do companies think that rule changes once prospects become customers?
Do you have customer personas? Yes, they are different than buyer personas. See above.
Do you have content that helps them use the solution they've purchased to its fullest value? Have you made it clear why they should? Sharing your expertise should only increase in relation to customers. They are much more of a known value to you than prospects.
And I'm not talking about using feeds and features. I'm talking about business value. Think beyond the end users of your solutions to other impacts the results of using it make to your customers' businesses.
How can you tie that into their ability to solve new problems? What's the additional business value they can gain?
Growth doesn't just come from new customer acquisition. But, for some reason, companies seem to take their customers for granted by assuming they need less attention than potential new logos. That's not a good business decision.
Perhaps it's time to rethink your customer retention and expansion programs and how they fit into your content strategy.