Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

Turn Marketing Messaging & Sales Content into Sales Conversations

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

Ask any marketer or sales enablement professional how many marketing/sales messaging projects they have completed or participated in the past 10 years and you will hear anywhere from none to over a dozen.

Ask those same professionals, how many of those projects actually paid a dividend on the investment and effort to create them and you will get a lot of head shaking.

Who needs more messaging that fails to deliver?

There are many reasons why messaging fails to deliver value, but these three are top of my list:
  • Messages are internally focused and product-centric, and not relevant to stakeholders,
  • Messaging is not in from that is immediately usable by salespeople (trapped in document containers, in portals),
  • Salespeople don’t have the right skills to use it.
Once a messaging project is completed and delivered, usually in Word documents, or PowerPoint, the messaging is emailed to the sales team, uploaded into a Portal somewhere and then it becomes invisible. 



The problem with this traditional approach is that the core messaging is not converted into content that can be easily used and shared in the different forms required by salespeople, sales enablement professionals and marketers who need it.



Think of messaging as source material, to be mined and reworked to create content to bring it to life.


Jim Burns of  Avitage, published a great article in the Selling Power blog yesterday, entitled, " Turn Content into Sales Currency" and I excerpted some of following text to illustrate my point on content.

Why Salespeople Need Unstructured Content

Messaging must be enriched and freed from its container to become useful as content.

Once text is freed from container, it becomes unstructured content.
But unstructured content can be more than just text and includes images, video, graphics, audio and hyperlinks.


Salespeople need inventories of unstructured content that is buyer-relevant and sales-ready for the top 3 customer problems, selling purpose, buyer’s role, buying stage and even industry context. 



Specific examples of inventories include the following:
  • Emails & LinkedIn messages (for all key selling scenarios and versions)
  • Customer stories and proof points
  • Facts, trends, and research findings
  • Answers to customer questions and objections
  • Tweetables and LinkedIn and Google+ short posts
  • Curated articles (company and third party) with summary explanations
  • Key messages – recommended language and phrases
  • Links to key blog posts and landing pages
Recently I completed the initial phase a joint project for a global technology company with Jim Burns of Avitage. We collaborated on a sales and marketing message and content development, which included creating much of the above unstructured content.

This project was a learning experience for me in creating a new library of unstructured, sales-ready content assets using the Avitage content creation methodology. 
 
These assets are built from foundational messaging templates, but created in an unstructured form that can be easily accessed and immediately used by salespeople. They are delivered in the WittyParrot content delivery platform and are easily maintained, curated, shared and enriched on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to take your company's sales and marketing content to a higher level, I invite you to  use my schedule link to set a convenient time for us to talk. 

 
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Topics: sales enablement, marketing messaging

Life after Powerpoint - Using Stories for Engagement

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Jun 25, 2013

Last week I had to open a 3-day messaging workshop with a new client in front of the sales and marketing executive team. I had prepared several visual confections in a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation using examples to lead the discussion and was fully prepared for the meeting.

The night before the messaging workshop my client requested that we use a different approach to creating the messaging, which made my PowerPoint deck redundant. Fortunately the client had a whiteboard and a flip chart handy.

Starting a Meeting with a Story  

To kick off a 3-day workshop, I still needed engagement and buy-in from the audience. My sponsor in the messaging workshop and I had worked on a similar messaging and sales enablement project several years earlier, which was transformational for his company and he introduced me and told his version of the "Who I've Helped Story" of our prior engagement, from the customers point of view, which was fantastic as this story is always more powerful coming from the customer, vs. the supplier.

Since many of the participants did not know me, I started with my "Who I Am" story. In 90 seconds I told the story of the past 10 years of my professional life as a consultant. It wasn't a story about how fantastic I am - it was about the journey, the struggle and the lessons learned, that give me unique insight.
I will outline my story in bullets so that you can see the form of the story from the storyboard above and you can adapt it to tell your own story.
  • In 2003 I was staring down the barrel of a 2nd lay-off in 2 years. (setting stage & vulnerability)
  • Realized customers had changed and I hadn't. (journey begins)
  • Didn't have 20 years selling experience - really had 1 year experience repeated 20 years over. (vulnerability)
  • Started a search for new ideas, journey of discovery - (call to adventure)
  • (Joke) My wife heard me practicing my story - she said "keep looking" (humor)
  • Moved to UK, started a sales training consultancy (transition)
  • First graduates could get meetings with CXO's, but when they got there would revert to "product-speak" - Realized they needed messaging to help engage buyers around their issues. Started messaging which has been a part of every engagement since. (struggle + Insight)
  • In 2008 we had customers, but no leads - introduced to HubSpot and started creating content and generating leads and has become a part of our DNA. Messaging now used to drive content marketing. (experience + lightbulb moment)
  • 2010 relocated back to USA and met Corey Sommers at Whiteboard Selling, invited me to work with him to use my sales training experience and messaging skills to create visual stories. (relevant experience) 
  • 2013 connected with Mike Bosworth and learned story telling, come full circle - that's why were here - capture your message so everyone can tell your story. (call to action and resolution)
Next, I needed enrollment in the discipline of our process for the next 3 days.

Using a Curiosity Hook for Enrolment

After I told my "Who-I-am" story, I drew three large numbers on the flip chart.
I asked the audience what they thought the    
128,000 related to.
After several guesses, I revealed that this is the number of times their 40 person sales team would pitch their "big-idea" in the next 12 months if they had just four conversations a day with prospective customers. If we add everyone else in the company who needs to answer the "so-what-do-you-guys-do?" question, it would be over a million times a year.

Then I revealed the question mark with a question ...How clear is your sales team in positioning the value of your technology solutions on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is terrible and 10 is crystal clear.
I was somewhat surprised when the answer came back and the consensus was 5....to which I responded "that's OK, it's where most of our clients start and thanks for your honesty and we hope to be somewhere near 10 when we exit this process".

The final number 10% had everyone stumped. This is the percentage of sales meetings with salespeople that buyers rate as actually worth having, where the vendor brought insight to the table.
The remaining 90% of sales meetings are rated as a waste of time as the vendor talked about product or tried to develop a relationship...neither of which buyers want or need.

If you are interested in learning to tell your story in an engaging manner and in more effectively listening to the buyer as you tend their story, you are invited to join us at the forthcoming Open Storyseekers workshops in Seattle.

 
StorySeekers Open Workshop Registration
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Topics: mike bosworth, sales training, marketing messaging, storytelling

5 Steps to Creating Marketing Content that Resonates with Buyers

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Jan 30, 2013

Weak Marketing Kills Dreams and Companies 

Innovation in our culture is constant, with exciting products created in start-up companies, or incubated in existing corporations, that promise to enhance our productivity and enjoyment of life.

Most of these companies won't make it out of start-up mode and the underlying IP will either get sold for pennies on the dollar, or product sales will limp along until the product is finally killed-off.

There are myriad possible causes for failure, but one common thread is a  lack of awareness in the potential buying audience, because the problem solving capability or potential to create value is invisible in Internet searches. If keywords containing your brand and product names are the primary sources of the little organic traffic you do get, then you have a problem, because buyers who don't know your brand or product cannot and will not find you.

This problem is not reserved for start-ups, I have seen it dozens of times in Silicon Valley in SMB companies ranging from ten million to half a billion dollars in revenue.

Sales and marketing fiefdoms and a lack of collaboration on messaging can lead to two different and fuzzy languages being spoken to the customer and buyers being left to figure out for themselves how the products could create value in their environment.

Today there are very effective ways of getting products into the hands of buyers and
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Topics: marketing messaging, messaging architecture, content creation templates

Why Sales needs to align with Product Management to win more business

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Oct 22, 2012

I'm delighted to introduce Jock Busuttil, my guest blogger this week on a subject that is near and dear to my heart; - connecting sales and product management with the customer. Jock Busuttil is a Senior Product Manager and an alumnus of Advanced Marketing Concepts.

Quarter-inch drills or quarter-inch holes?

Despite relying on each other for the success of their products, the Sales and Product teams often have a jarring relationship.  This is far from ideal.  By looking at where things go wrong we can identify a better way of working with each other.  The prizes on offer: shorter sales cycles, more easily achieved targets and customers who are always happy to hear from you.

Where do things go wrong?

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” ( Cool Hand Luke, 1967)
The strongest business relationships are built on three pillars:
  1. A shared appreciation of the differing needs and priorities of each
  2. A genuine desire to help the other to achieve the best outcome for all
  3. Trust in the other’s integrity
Dysfunctional relationships tend to be caused by a failure in one or more of these areas. There are actually three relationships in the mix.  This is how Jock sees it, he's a product marketing professional.

While we’re looking at how Sales and Product Marketing work with each other, it’s worth remembering also that each has a relationship with the customer (or prospective customer).  This customer focus provides a way to align the Sales and Product teams around value creation

The illustration below is my perception of the relationship from the
customer's perspective and highlights the disconnect between product
management and the customer.

Positive disruption

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” (Theodore Levitt).
 
It should be so simple: customers need something, Product builds it, Sales sell it to the customer, everyone’s happy.

Why is this so difficult in practice?  A common mistake made by both Sales and Product is that the customer wants the widget, gadget or solution that they’re selling.  Wrong!  What the customer really needs is an outcome, for their problem to vanish as simply and easily as possible.  Your widget, gadget or solution is just one way to cause that problem to vanish.  Sometimes what the customer needs is very different from what they want.

A good Product team should be concerned with uncovering the outcomes that customers need, establishing the value of that outcome (i.e. how painful the problem is to the customer), then creating a solution that achieves that outcome in the most effective (and profitable) way. 

The most successful products have always been those solving problems that customers didn’t realise they had.  These are the products that positively disrupt the market. As Henry Ford famously put it:  

One of the best ways that Sales can help Product build the thing that customers really need is to have a healthy sense of curiosity.  When you meet with a customer, they will probably tell you what they want, perhaps without realising what they need.  This is understandable: the customer may not know that they have a problem in the first place, let alone know how to solve it.  This is where you come in.  Keep asking “why”; eventually you’ll get to the customer’s underlying pain points and understand how painful they are.

At this point you should conclude one of three things:
  1. This is something we can help the customer with right now.  Great!  Show the customer how to reach their desired outcome there and then.  Laser-sharp focus is needed here – digressing into irrelevant features and benefits at this point will dilute your message. 
  2. This is something we could potentially help with in the future.  Bring the information you’ve gathered back to the Product team, but don’t commit to the customer at this stage.  You’re not yet sure whether a solution is possible or when it could be delivered, and broken promises are a sure-fire way to kill a healthy customer relationship. 
  3. This is not something we can (or want to) help with.  If you go to a car dealership and ask for a speedboat, the Sales rep will politely show you the door and possibly direct you to an optician.  If it’s clear that you can’t help the customer with a problem, move on to one you can help with.  Do provide feedback to the Product team regardless.  You never know, it may be time to diversify! 
It’s worth bearing in mind that you can only come to one of these three conclusions if you really understand what problems your company and products solve and how to show the customer how they do so.  Equally important is to know what problems they don’t solve.  If you’ve ever attended a customer meeting with an effective Product person, you should notice that they spend most of the time listening to the customer’s problems, then quickly home in on the one or two specific and relevant ways to solve the problem, which then resonate with the customer.

A market of one, some or many customers?

This leads us to one of the main differences in priority and driver between the Sales and Product teams.  We’ve explored how the Product team benefits from you being curious and asking the customer “why” to uncover those painful and profitable problems to solve.  But they’re working not just with you solely, but with the Sales team as a whole, as well as having their own direct dialogue with customers.

With all these sources of information, the Product team ends up with many problems to solve, all competing for a constrained set of resources (time, people, budget).  Their goal is to achieve the best outcome for the company by focusing on the best outcome for the target market.  To do this, they need to prioritise the entire set of problems they could solve into a smaller set that they will solve.

This filtering process is necessary and means implicitly that not all customer problems will end up being solved.  Remember: the dealership sells cars, not speedboats!  Don’t take it personally if they occasionally say “no” to you – they’re balancing the needs of the whole market against the needs of an individual customer and taking into account the long-term and short-term gains of what they will deliver.

Alignment delivers results

The good news is that when Sales and Product Management/Marketing are closely-aligned and both focused on the needs of the customer, you’ll see the following results:
  • You’ll be having more and better quality conversations with prospective customers who have problems you can solve there and then.
  • You’ll be empowered to quickly home in and demonstrate how you can solve their problem and let the product sell itself.
  • Once you’ve established a track record of success, you’ll be working in partnership with the customer to solve their problems so they’ll start to bring them to you, rather than you having to uncover them over time.
Treat the Product team as allies.  You’re both working towards the same goal, but in different ways.  Appreciate and respect those differences and you’ll enjoy working and winning business together.

About the author

Jock Busuttil is a Senior Product Manager and an alumnus of Advanced Marketing Concepts.  He has worked in B2B enterprise software for over twelve years for companies such as Zeus Technology (now part of Riverbed), Iron Mountain and Experian. 

Jock is the author of imanageproducts.co.uk, a blog for product managers and marketers, and provides training and mentoring for product people.  He holds a degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge, UK.  You can find him on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Align Sales & Marketing Messages with Buyer Needs
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Topics: sales and marketing alignment, marketing messaging, product management

Measuring Marketing Messaging Clarity and Effectiveness

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Apr 25, 2012

How important is clarity in your messaging and how clear is your message?
I'd say it's the difference between life and death for start-ups.

Sales and marketing are dependent on the clarity of your message to win mindshare, generate leads; and to engage, diagnose and qualify new opportunities, yet clarity is often an afterthought. 

I was prompted to write this article after a call this week with a technology company based in the Mid-West. This company has World leading technology, great vision and is completely failing in marketing.

They are in the red zone. When you arrive on their Website it is not possible to figure out that they do on the home page. Nor is it possible to figure out what they do by clicking on the CTA. You have to click on the product page to find the description of what they do and it's in 10 point font in the middle of the first paragraph. This is not a joke....this is a disaster.

Why Invest in Message Clarity?

 

Clarity attracts visitors, clarity engages visitors, clarity converts visitors into leads, clarity differentiates, clarity is monetizable, clarity wins new customers, clarity attracts employees, clarity builds mindshare, clarity wins investors, clarity builds market-share. You will see an new and clearer Admarco.net Website in the near future in pursuit of our own message clarity.

How do you measure the effectiveness or signal quality of your message for Inbound Marketing purposes?

For radio operators in the military  and other organizations, the signal quality is reported on two scales; the first is for signal strength, and the second for signal clarity. Both these scales range from one to five, where one is the worst and five is the best. The listening station reports these numbers separated with the word "by". "Five by five" therefore means a signal that has excellent strength and perfect clarity — the most understandable signal possible.

This is a good metaphor to explore how well you are communicating over the Internet.

A Guide to the colors

I propose the following as a basis for discussion on the effectiveness of your messaging for Inbound Marketing purposes.

Green Zone: The leaders in dark green have invested and continue to invest in messaging excellence as a primary driver of their business.

Light Green: The Challengers believe in messaging and are working towards excellence.

Black: The status-quo need help with their messaging, but for one reason or another, it doesn't get done. It's not terrible and it's not great, the sales guys will have to make more calls.

Orange: Weak messaging is costing your business. You will fail over time and will be overtaken by your competitors unless you institute a program to improve your Google rankings and update your messaging urgently. You get no inbound leads and are dependent on trade-shows, word of mouth and cold-calling for lead generation

Red: This is the land of lost opportunity. It doesn't matter how good your products and services are, if buyers can't find you and your message is opaque, you are headed for failure...soon. Urgent action must be taken in the short term.

Desert Islands: It is highly unlikey that a company will have a crystal clear message and be invisible on Google. Similalry it is highly unlikely that a company will have excellent Google rankings and have a completely unintelligble message....but there may be a few out there on desert islands.

Dead Zone: Self explanatory

Signal Strength = Google Ranking for primary keywords.

5 = You rank on Google Page 1 for more than 20 primary keywords 
4 = You rank on Google Page 1 for more than 5 primary keywords
3 = You rank on the first 3 pages for more than 5 primary keywords, but not P1
2 = You rank on the first 10 pages of Google for more than 5 primary keywords, but not on first three pages
1 = You are practically invisible on Google and only 1 primary keyword appears on first 10 pages, but not on first 3 pages
0 = No matter how hard I try I can't find your site through any keyword combinations on google - you are invisible

Messaging clarity = What is it you do and why should I bother?

When someone arrives on a Website with a clear message, they should be able to figure out what you do in the first 3-7 seconds while they make their decision to stay and explore more or leave.  

Therefore I propose the following five point scale
5 = I get what it is you do and what it will do for me in 3-7 seconds.
4 = I get what it is in 3-7 seconds, but it takes me 10-15 seconds to figure out what it will do for me
3 = It takes me 10-20 seconds to figure out what it is and what it will do for me
2 = I can't figure out what it is, but I click on a CTA and it becomes clear what it it and what it will do
1 = I can't figure out what it is, I click on a CTA and I still can't figure out what it is, but I try the product page and there it is buried in 10 point font in the first paragraph.
0 = I can't figure out what it is or what it does, it's all gobbledegook

If you are in the red, orange or black, we can help.

Connect Buyers to your Big Idea in a Matter of Moments

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Topics: sales and marketing alignment, marketing messaging, messaging architecture

Kill these 10 Words from your Copy to Improve Marketing Performance

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Jul 25, 2011

Words. Often it's the little things that turn visitors off after arriving at your Website, reading your copy in a brochure or sales letter, or suffering through a bad PowerPoint presentation.

The technology business is rife with words in Website, whitepaper copy and bad PowerPoint presentations, that I call "product-speak".

Write from your Best Customer's Point of View

When people read your copy, visit your Website or sit through your presentation, they are doing so because they have pressing issues or problems that they need to solve. When you write - start from the point of view of your buyer's needs, not your "ground-breaking" product, unless you want to sound just like your competition.

David Meerman Scott calls these words Gobbledygook and he wrote a brilliant E-Book that you can download instantly called The Gobbledygook Manifesto.

You can even run your copy through a content analysis tool called Gobbledygook Grader, to identify text that could be improved.
You might find David's blog "The Four P's of Marketing" that topples one of the pillars of marketing literature worth a read...and a laugh!

If you need help in translating your "product speak" into something that your visitors will want to read, then we can help.

In our work with technology companies in creating website messaging and whiteboard stories, we see the following words or phrases frequently.

My Top 10 "Product-Speak" words.

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Topics: marketing messaging, marketing positioning, gobbldygook

We’re doing all this marketing 2.0 stuff, but nothing’s working!

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Oct 27, 2010

I spoke with a prospective client this week in the marketing services business and after a brief introduction she expressed her frustration, "We’re doing all this marketing 2.0 stuff, but we're not getting in the door".
Prior to the call I ran a Marketing Grader report and her Website scored above 65% in all three areas of all sites graded for Inbound Marketing potential by HubSpot's Marketing Grader.
The crux of the problem is that you can be doing all this Marketing 2.0 stuff and still failing if you're off target in your messaging and out of sync. with market and using sub-optimal practices.
In this case, the marketing services business is transforming rapidly from the old interrupt driven model of push-marketing, advertising and PR placement, to the opt-in, inbound marketing model of content creation, social networking and community building, underpinned by analysis and testing.

The issues that surfaced during our conversation are common symptoms of the structural change in this sector and they are summarized below;–
  • No-one's reading our email newsletters,
  • Cold calling is a simply not effective and we're not getting any voicemail callbacks,
  • We have a WordPress Blog, but no-one is reading it,
  • Our referrals and word of mouth leads have dried up,
  • We have a Twitter and Facebook account; what a waste of time!,
  • We have inquiry and registration forms on our Website, but we're not getting any leads,
  • I fired all the sales guys and now it's me calling and I suck at it.
  • No-one has ever heard of us, despite the fact that we advertise, spend a healthy sum on Google AdWords and have been in business for 10 years.
The above list may be familiar in many companies who have embraced the tools of Inbound Marketing without a cohesive strategy and a realistic view of the road ahead.
As a consulting firm specializing in helping companies transform from the Old World to the Inbound Marketing model, this conversation is familiar and happily we have clients who will vouch for the sequence of events and methodology we recommend. The other major consideration is that all of the tools in the marketing 2.0 mix need be integrated and made to work together...or productivity will be an issue.
The answers to the following basic questions should serve to focus inbound marketing efforts;
  1. What is a lead worth and how many leads do you need to produce a year, based on your conversion ratios to hit your revenue goals?
  2. Who is your target audience, who are the buyer persona's you wish to engage?
  3. How will you reach your target audience, where do they hang out online?
  4. In what areas can the agency claim thought leadership; how does the agency create unique value for clients, how does this connect to your brand?
  5. What are the major marketing messaging themes that will resonate with buyers and what keywords do you want to rank for on Page 1 of Google?
  6. What is the goal of the email newsletter, how will you track conversions and improve performance?
  7. What is the goal of the Website and in particular, what is the goal of the home page?
  8. Have you created compelling content that can be easily shared, downloaded or viewed in exchange for contact details?
  9. Have you created calls to action that lead to high quality landing pages with compelling offers? ("A Contact Us" page tends to collect more SPAM than leads)
  10. Is there a blogging platform to amplify thought leadership, that integrates with the main Website, with hyperlinks to and from main Website pages, where content is easily shared....or is the blog stranded, lost Robinson Crusoe style in the vast ocean of the Internet?
  11. How will you nurture prospective customers that do register as leads, but are not yet ready to buy?

Take-aways

To make this marketing 2.0 stuff, (Inbound Marketing) work, you need the following

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Topics: inbound marketing, hubspot, marketing messaging

How to Grade Inbound Marketing Messaging Effectiveness

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Sep 29, 2010

Most of the readers of this blog will agree that Inbound Marketing or Internet Marketing is the future of marketing; but it's a journey, not a one-off event and there is no final destination, because the foundation technology and tools are constantly evolving and the horizon as to what is achievable is ever-expanding.

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Topics: inbound marketing, messaging value, marketing messaging

Magic Software - Sales and Marketing Performance Case Study

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sun, Jun 13, 2010

 The Magic Software Case Study has been moved to Sales And Marketing Performance Improvement Case Studies

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Topics: inbound marketing, marketing messaging, sales performance

The Role of Sales and Marketing Consultants in Start-ups

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sun, May 23, 2010

In the past couple of months I have met with four entrepreneurs, all highly passionate about their products and excited with the potential for them in the market.

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Topics: inbound marketing, marketing messaging, lean startups

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