To get insights into the changing role of the CMO in a digital world, I interviewed one of our panelists, Evan Greene, CMO of the Recording Academy. Evan’s marketing team supports hundreds of thousands of music creators and students with a wide range of music education, professional development, support, and recognition (the Grammy Awards) services.
How to Execute A Thought Leadership Selling Program
The notion of establishing thought leadership has emerged as a top priority as growth-starved organizations look to differentiate themselves with new ideas, education, and relevant solutions that address buyer pain and influence their perceptions of value.
Thought Leadership Selling Programs take a systematic approach hto delivering new ideas, relevant advice, and compelling solutions to prospects and customers through sales, marketing and media channels. A Thought Leadership Program provides your sales and marketing team with a sustained stream of education and advisory content that helps them open doors, make more effective sales calls, differentiate your organization and deliver trusted advice.
A Thought Leadership Program is:
- Based on a strategy that integrates sales process, communications, branding and product sales goals
- Built upon a well thought out set of thought leadership assets including advisory content, tools and resources
- Delivered to customers using disciplined multi-channel programs and coordinated customer touches
Based on our experience executing Thought Leadership Selling Programs for over a fifty market leaders such as Adobe, CBS, Digitas, DuPont, Ernst & Young, Intuit, Oracle, PwC and SunTrust Bank, we define a Thought Leadership Selling Program as taking a programmatic approach to delivering new ideas, relevant advice and compelling solutions to prospects and customers using sales, marketing and media channels. A successful Thought Leadership Program will provide your salespeople with a disciplined and coordinated stream of advisory content that helps open doors, make more effective sales calls, differentiate your offerings, and deliver relevant advice. Specifically, there are three steps to designing and executing a Thought Leadership program that will help your sales force generate measurable sales growth in the next sales quarter:
- Define a thought leadership strategy that aligns with your growth strategy
- Publish thought leadership assets that enable the go-to-market process
- Engage customers using a mix of marketing, media and sales channels
These three steps are outlined in our report entitled: Thought Leadership Selling: How To Systematically Drive Top Line Growth with Education, Ideas and Insights. will explain why Thought Leadership is so important to sales success and practical steps your marketing team can take to drive measurable sales outcomes deep in the sales funnel with ideas, insights and education.
On October 17th, 2016, Stephen Diorio, Director of the Brand Publishing Institute will host of panel of CMO’s to discuss the secrets to successfully enabling and executing personalized content experiences that leverage first and third party data to build unique, authentic experiences wherever customers interact with their brand. The panel – entitled Personalization: Fusing Creative & Analytics – will draw upon original best practices research conducted by Brand Publishing Institute and PwC with hundreds of CMOs, Mr. Diorio will lead a discussion about the keys to enabling a content supply chain that supports personalization at scale in digital marketing, sales and media touch points.
Stephen Diorio and Grant Butler of the Brand Publishing Institute are hosting a webinar to teach marketing executives practical ways to gain control over the quality, consistency and compliance of their marketing content in a large and complex organization with limited resources.
Boards of directors are coming under increasing pressure from an array of stakeholders questioning their understanding of market dynamics, customers, centers of influence, competitive threats, and the customer experience.
Board members increasingly need the types of market intelligence, insights, and innovation that marketing can deliver so they can:
Delivering personalized experiences to customers is clearly a top priority of marketers. In fact, 94% of senior-level executives believe delivering personalization is critical or important to reaching customers according to a recent study conducted by PWC’s Digital Services group.
Get A CMO Blueprint for Managing Marketing Content Operations at Scale.
This year, the Brand Publishing Institute conducted extensive research to uncover best practices to provide marketing executives a holistic methodology for organizing, optimizing, and systematizing enterprise-wide publishing processes.
Our most recent research report – Ten Steps to Building a Brand Publishing Center of Excellence – found that Brand Publishing – defined as the production, management, distribution, and optimization of marketing and sales content at scale – has become essential to the future growth of every business and critical to the success of every Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
Sales enablement offers a potent formula for improving sales productivity. Skills, content, technology – the pieces are all there, but so are the challenges. How do you execute in a way that’s scalable, repeatable, and effective? In other words, how do you make sales enablement work?
In this webinar, Stephen Diorio – Director of the Brand Publishing Institute and leader of Forbes’s CMO research efforts – heads a panel of experts in a detailed discussion of what characterizes successful sales enablement initiatives. This session features new research from Brainshark and Forbes Insights, to reveal why sales productivity is the most important business priority for today’s executives.
Watch a recording of Mr. Diorio and his panelists – Joe Gustafson, CEO of Brainshark, and Jeff McKittrick, Director of Sales Enablement at Cisco Systems – as they discuss the key findings from the Forbes Insights research, and also explore:
- What separates leaders in sales productivity from organizations that are still struggling with this critical issue
- The key role of content in sales productivity
- Strategies for improving sales effectiveness.
The notion of establishing thought leadership has emerged as a top priority with sales and marketing executives. Growth-starved organizations are looking for ways to differentiate themselves with new ideas, education, and relevant solutions that address buyer pain and influence their perceptions of value. Marketing executives are learning that subject matter expertise and a strong point of view are now essential to success in the digital, social, and mobile channels that buyers use during the majority of the buying process. Sales executives realize original research and compelling insights make it easier to open doors, start quality customer conversations, generate referrals, and cross-sell solutions.
A chorus of consultants and marketing leaders are writing about the importance of thought leadership in all aspects of sales and marketing. Senior executives surveyed by Forbes regard finding ways to differentiate the customer experience in social, mobile, and digital channels as vital to achieving growth goals as media fragmentation and changing buyer behavior diminish the value and effectiveness of ad impressions.
While the messengers may vary, one message is becoming clear – investing in creating thought leadership makes good business sense. If you want to improve sales effectiveness, differentiate your brand, and give customers the engagement and insights they are seeking – invest in a thought leadership program.
Every successful business has unique intellectual property and subject matter expertise. The problem is most of this institutional knowledge lies “between the ears” of your employees – product managers, top salespeople, solutions specialists and the executive leadership. The new marketing challenge is to devise a scalable thought leadership strategy to productize this knowledge, and monetize it with customers, prospects, and influencers. My book Think Write Grow documents how early adopters – such as IBM, PwC, and McKinsey & Co – have generated measurable sales outcomes by systematically institutionalizing, packaging, and delivering thought leadership through sales, marketing, and media channels. These market leaders wrote the playbook for using thought leadership assets to:
- Cut through the advertising clutter and more effectively take advantage of high-growth media such as social networks, online video, mobile applications and search engine optimization
- Drive sales with compelling ideas that open new doors and provide relevant reasons to continue to call on high-potential customers
- Differentiate their offerings and value proposition from the competition by educating customers, delivering good ideas, and providing a unique perspective
- Demonstrate that they understand the needs, preferences, and behaviors of their top customers
- Increase ROI by better leveraging their marketing content in the go-to-market process
- Make it easier to consume content in media, marketing, and sales channels.
Despite the growing importance of thought leadership to top-line growth, most organizations fail to put marketing “muscle” behind their ideas by executing disciplined Thought Leadership Programs in sales, marketing, and media channels. It turns out an effective thought leadership program is hard to describe and even harder to execute – no matter how much money you throw at it. There are several good reasons for this:
- Thought leadership marketing is a relatively new discipline that is poorly understood. Originally pioneered by professional services leaders such as McKinsey, IBM, and the Gartner Group, it has now become an executive priority for most business-to-business (B2B) marketers.
- Most B2B marketers do not have a content strategy, an institutional point of view, or a person in charge of content, despite spending up to a quarter of their budget on content.
- Most CMOs lack the time, resources, processes, and organizational structure needed to create original content that opens doors, breaks through clutter, and changes buyer perceptions of value. The top content marketing challenges facing CMOs are lack of time to focus on creating quality content, and the difficulty of establishing thought leadership.
- Finally, the traditional ad agencies that sales and marketing executives look to for support cannot generate the depth of insight, quality of content, or level of sales process integration necessary for these programs to succeed. As a result, salespeople in client selling situations use very little of the content marketing departments and their agencies create, and so it fails to motivate customers to buy, doesn’t drive cross-sell, or challenge the customer mindset.
The keys to executing a successful thought leadership program
Based on our experience executing Thought Leadership Programs for over a hundred market leaders such as Ernst & Young, Adobe, DuPont, CBS and SunTrust Bank, Forbes Insights defines a thought leadership program as taking a programmatic approach to delivering new ideas, relevant advice, and compelling solutions to prospects and customers using sales, marketing, and media channels. A successful thought leadership program will give your salespeople a disciplined and coordinated stream of advisory content that will help them open doors, make more effective sales calls, differentiate your offerings, and deliver relevant advice. There are three steps to designing and executing a thought leadership program that will help your salesforce generate measurable sales growth in the next sales quarter:
The three secrets to identifying, packaging and creating effective thought leadership assets that drive sales results are:
- Quality – When it comes to establishing thought leadership, quality matters more than quantity. Content marketing should not be confused with thought leadership. One original, compelling, and well-supported insight can outperform an avalanche of content marketing. In fact, compelling insights and ideas are essential to engaging customers as marketers flood social and digital media channels with content and a clutter of messages.
- Channel readiness – Salespeople don’t use most of the content the marketing department creates because the marketing assets are often hard to find, difficult to access on mobile devices, or not formatted to be useful in face-to-face selling situations. Your content assets need to be packaged into “bite-sized” and easy-to-consume pieces that are ready for a variety of sales, marketing, and media channels. Forbes has published guidelines for marketers wanting to create channel-ready content that is actionable, targetable, useful, trackable, and reusable.
- Alignment – Most marketing content fails to generate enough leads, meetings, and cross-sell opportunities. This is largely a design problem. Brand communications, ad impressions, and product collateral are not always designed to open doors or start conversations. To effectively support top-line growth, your content needs to be structured and packaged to target demand generation, solution selling, social selling, and predictive targeting programs.
You can learn more about how you can become a thought leader by creating exceptional articles, blogs and books by reading my book Think Write Grow
In his book Think Write Grow, Grant Butler counsels marketing executives to focus on three points of leverage – content quality, go-to-market alignment, and distribution effectiveness – if they want to drive more measurable growth outcomes from their content investment. The book raises several important issues.
The bar on content quality is rising. As buyers experience content saturation and information overload, the notion of establishing thought leadership has emerged as a top priority with sales and marketing as the best way to differentiate their brands and ensure marketing effectiveness. Marketing executives are learning that subject matter expertise and a strong point of view are now essential to success in the digital, social, and mobile channels that buyers use to during the majority of the buying process. Sales executives realize original research and compelling insights make it easier to open doors, start quality customer conversations, generate referrals, cross sell, and influence buyer perceptions of value. An ounce of thought leadership is worth ten pounds of “me too” content when it comes to improving marketing effectiveness, differentiating your brand, and giving customers the relevant insights they are seeking.
Content distribution drives value. In his 2015 content trend forecast, online marketer Jason Demers astutely points out that the real value from content marketing comes from distribution. Like a race car – a big engine matters less than how much of the power it generates makes it to the wheel. “The ability to effectively communicate an idea to your customers using your sales, marketing and media channels is just an important as the idea itself”, according to Grant Butler, author of the book Think, Write, Grow . Marketing executives are slowly learning that content marketing is more than a tactic for social and earned media channels. The most sophisticated marketers in the consulting, technology, and financial services industry have realized that the publishing process has become the backbone of their go to market strategy. These marketing leaders are distinguishing themselves with channel strategies that amplify the impact of their thought leadership content in their sales, marketing, and media channels and support every step of the go-to-market process. That means the key to improving marketing effectiveness is finding better ways to leverage your content investment across a wider variety of channels – including: marketing automation, sales enablement, CRM, social selling, digital marketing, and blogs.
Content strategy drives measurable sales outcomes. Over the past several years content marketers have claimed ownership over two thirds of the buyers journey and as a byproduct, a larger share of the marketing budget. Now they will need to start to take accountability for the results their investment in content is yielding. Unfortunately, most marketers do not have a strategy to direct that investment, a plan for how it will generate top line growth, or measures that ensure meaningful sales outcomes are achieved. The Forbes research report explains the best way to ensure your content investment will drive measurable sales outcomes is to create a strategic foundation for your program that directly supports your sales and marketing processes and aligns with your communications, branding and product sales goals.
It is time for content marketing to mature from a social media tactic to a formal go-to-market discipline. Marketers that take a more programmatic approach to delivering new ideas, relevant advice and compelling solutions to customers using a mix of sales, marketing and media channels will generate significantly more growth from their content investment.