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Three Keys to Driving Measurable Sales Outcomes with Marketing Content

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. TLP Supporting GTM

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.

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Content Through the Eyes of the CMO

BPI coverBrand 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).

Making the Transition to Brand Publishing Whitepaper

The Brand Publishing Institute surveyed hundreds of global marketing executives and subject matter experts to identify the ten things a CMO needs to do well to transform their marketing operations to a publishing model. To develop a complete picture of the most recent Brand Publishing trends, performance levels, and management practices, and technology solutions – The Brand Publishing Institute undertook four parallel sets of original primary research in the third quarter of 2015. These included:

  1. A Forbes Insights survey of 368 senior level marketing executives who have responsibility for content operations to identify trends, benchmarks and best practices for publishing, managing, and distributing content at scale.
  2. Qualitative interviews with 25 marketing executives from leading global corporations identify trends, benchmarks and best practices for publishing, managing, and distributing content at scale in corporate marketing.
  3. Interviews with over 50 subject matter experts on Brand Publishing, content strategy, and to identify the ten core competencies necessary to execute a publishing model in a corporate marketing environment.
  4. An analysis of over 1,000 marketing technology solutions to identify the top 100 Best of Breed Brand Publishing solutions and the handful of technology partners with the breadth of solutions, experience, and execution capabilities to help the CMO define a roadmap for enabling Brand Publishing with technology.
  5. Extensive secondary research to validate the marketing best practices including, success stories, benchmarks, and documented business impact results.

96% of marketing executives surveyed agree that the quality and structure of their marketing content is essential to achieving their growth goals and increasingly defines the job of the CMO. “The quality and organization of marketing content is critical to achieving our goals – including branding, demand generation, sales and employee engagement,” according to John Costello, the President of Global Marketing and Innovation at Dunkin Brands. For example, over 70% of the marketing executives surveyed believe the effectiveness of their marketing content directly impacts their ability to drive top-line growth with digital, social, and mobile technologies, and supports core branding, demand generation, and value-selling programs.

Our research found that managing the growing cost and complexity of content operations has emerged as a major problem for marketing executives. Many of those surveyed reported it is a huge challenge to manage the complexity, inefficiency and ineffectiveness of their content operations, despite its growing importance in the eyes of marketing leadership. According to David Master, the CMO of the Janus Funds, “Managing content effectively is the single greatest challenge to our marketing organization.”

To successfully produce, manage, and distribute marketing content at a significant level of scale, marketers will need to rethink their content operations in order to fundamentally shift the content cost and performance curve. “The pressure to differentiate the brand, use more channels, and manage complexity is growing fast – to the point that doing business the same way will not work. Current processes will not scale. You need to adapt and reengineer your processes,” according to Connie Weaver, the CMO of TIAA-CREF

BPI created a white paper that summarizes the ten brand publishing core competencies and the practical steps marketers are taking to better manage their content operations at scale. The full detailed 140 page analysis – which includes 50 best practices for executing Brand Publishing – is available in research reports, executive workshops and online certification programs offered by the Brand Publishing Institute.

 

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Content Supply Chain Webinar Summary

Content Supply Chain eBook

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Content Supply Chain: A free eBook that tells brands how to treat your content like an asset, grow its equity and
maximize content ROI.

Content Supply Chain introduces the concepts of content equity and content supply chain, provides a content strategy playbook and outlines the supply chain execution plan.

Brands today are de facto publishers. Building content equity requires discipline and rigorous process, which can be daunting. Content Supply Chain parses the process into doable actions and describes a system for connecting the dots. Its impact can be enormous:

  • Drive revenue
  • Expand the social graph of content along the decision journey
  • Optimize staffing and maximize resources
  • Build strong content partnerships
  • Amplify content exponentially
  • Create high value, high-performing content
  • Ensure relevance and timeliness
  • Track content performance against business KPIs
Publish or Perish Report Cover PGN

Publish or Perish: Why the CMO Must Become a Publisher to Drive Growth

POP Einstein 2Driving top line growth is the number one CEO mandate to the CMO according to Forbes Insights Research. Yet most marketing executives struggle to achieve that objective. According to D&B’s CMO Rishi Dave, only 30% of all companies achieved growth of any kind over the past year.  Despite a growing economy and lengthening CMO tenure according to Spencer Stuart, marketing remains a challenging discipline.  Why?

Ever-evolving digital channels, social media and mobile devices have fractured the impression-based, media-model of marketing.  In turn, customers are more informed about your company or its products and services than ever, creating a more complex buyer journey. What’s a marketer to do?

Content that travels across digital and mobile channels, is easily discoverable and informs, delights, educates, entertains and provides a point of differentiation is the order of the day.  Content truly is king today.

And while content marketing is still a nascent practice, marketers already allocate some 25% of their budgets to content creation and will spend over $10 Billion on Native Advertising in 2015.  Overall spending on digital marketing will grow to $43 billion in the next two years according to Forrester Research.

Transitioning from an advertising to a publishing model is already underway.  Simultaneously, so is the process of better connecting marketing content to sales as the distinctions between sales and marketing continue to narrow.

Companies are spending billions transforming their marketing and sales performance by executing value selling, sales enablement and targeting analytics strategies.  Spending on skills, content and technologies that help sales people consistently sell value over price, navigate an increasingly complex buying process, and communicate customer value messages is on the rise.  For example, last year business investment in sales training and CRM each exceeded $20 billion.

Content marketing and sales enablement  now collide in a bewildering array of technologies Get Teh POP Reportand opportunities creating huge opportunities for some and uncertainty for most.

The paradigm shift to publishing is not yet well understood. Our ongoing research in this arena suggests that CMOs are not yet very good at managing, distributing, and “optimizing” the content they create–a process now critical to growing the top line.

The challenge of managing, distributing, and tracking the performance of marketing content has emerged as a hidden pain point for most CMOs because it  is not yet a mature discipline with a clear enterprise strategy, business case or ownership and governance.

To help sales and marketing leaders get the most impact from their investment in marketing and sales content, Forbes Insights is undertaking best practices research and actively educating business to business marketers about practical ways they can fix the content problem.

If you are a CMO and want to learn more about our best practices research  report at this link.

stock-illustration-30749224-concept-of-content-social-media

It’s Time to Get Serious About Managing the Quality and Distribution of Your Marketing Content

Marketing content has become the fuel for modern marketing systems. The quality of marketing content impacts the ability of marketers to drive top line growth with digital, social, native advertising, and mobile channels. And salespeople need insightful content to help open doors, start meaningful conversations, and sell value. These facts have led to bigger content marketing budgets, more writers creating content assets, and a proliferation of agencies specializing in content.

But despite its value and importance, marketing content is generally mismanaged by most organizations. Several signs indicate that 2015 will be a year that changes. The predictions of several marketing experts suggest that the challenge of managing the cost, complexity and effectiveness of all this marketing content has become a significant “pain point” for senior marketing executives. The writing on the wall suggests it is time for marketers to get serious about managing the quality, distribution, and impact of their marketing content investment.

Marketing executives need to focus on three points of leverage if they want to drive more measurable growth outcomes from their content investment: content quality, go-to-market alignment, and distribution effectiveness.

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 thatthe 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.

TLP Supporting GTM

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;
  • Aligns with your communications, branding and product sales goals;
  • Drives the right sales outcomes;

 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.

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It Takes Marketing Leadership to Drive Sales Transformation

The sales profession is going through a transformation. Social, mobile, and digital media are helping buyers become better informed and raising their expectations. And the purchase process has become longer and more complex.

These forces are making selling more costly, collaborative, and consultative according to Joe Galvin, who is Chief Research Officer of the MHI Research Institute. Its common knowledge there more people are involved in the decision. But our research shows that more importantly, a rising number of sales resources are now involved in complex opportunities. This results in a creeping increase in cost of sales and makes collaboration even more critical”

How can a sales executive drive growth in this environment? That is the $3 Billion dollar question Mr. Galvin and other sales performance experts in the rapidly growing growth consulting market are trying to answer for their clients. Over the past several years, the leading  experts in the sales performance industry seem to have arrived at a general answer. Transforming sales performance will involve a combination of better training, better technology, and better customer content:

  • Improving the business awareness of salespeople is critical because selling product features to more sophisticated buyers will not get results. Sales professionals must deliver compelling insights to differentiate themselves and communicate value to close business at premium pricing. So sales operations executives are looking to “value messaging” skills training to help their sales people communicate and influence buyer perceptions of value;
  •  Executives are looking at technology as a sales productivity lever and a “force multiplier” to supplement shrinking training budgets and reduce expensive face-to-face selling time.  Most sales organizations are investing in social, mobile, and targeting technology to solve the problem. These sales enablement technologies make it faster and simpler for salespeople to find the right thing to say, to the right person, at the right time to advance the sale;
  • Sales executives are starting to realize they need alot of well designed, targeted and organized selling content to fuel these modern selling systems. Content directly impacts their ability to achieve top line sales results. So sales operations and channel marketing teams are creating content that more directly supports sales conversations including: sales playbooks that assemble content relevant to a particular selling situation and validation content that demonstrates ROI and customer success.

The new formula for sales success sounds clear enough. Invest in skills, content, and technology that help salespeople consistently communicate customer messages that are designed based on what the customer values. But executing on this sales transformation formula has proven tricky

Recent sales benchmarks show most sales organizations are not generating the top line sales results they were looking for after

The new formula for sales success sounds clear enough. Invest in skills, content, and technology that help salespeople consistently communicate customer messages that are designed based on what the customer values. But executing on this sales transformation formula has proven tricky

Recent sales benchmarks show most sales organizations are not generating the top line sales results they were looking for after investing millions of dollars in sales training, technologies, and content.  Executive buyers surveyed by Gartner still feel most salespeople focus too much on “product pushing”. The top barrier to sales success remains the inability to communicate value messages according to a survey of sales executives by the MHI Research Institute. The same study shows that only 23% of sales teams rely on their sale enablement systems as the single source for content and information. And most of the content created by marketing is not used by sales because it is hard to find, and does not do a good job of motivating customers to buy, driving cross sell, or disrupting the customer mindset.

Why has sales enablement failed to live up to its promise of delivering fast and measurable top line results? The problem is not the technology. There are hundreds of viable technology solutions – sales portals, sales applications, learning management systems, and CRM systems – that can efficiently deliver the right message to the right person at the right time to advance a sale. And research shows that value selling and messaging approaches can deliver superior sales performance when sales and marketing are aligned.

My experience executing dozens of sales enablement programs suggest the missing ingredient is the buy-in and support for sales transformation by the Chief Marketing Officer.

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Senior marketing leadership is critical to successful sales transformation because sales enablement programs and technologies need well designed, organized, targeted, and actionable content to run effectively. Value messaging skills will not be fully embraced until marketing starts writing content that delivers and supports that message for the last third of the buyers’ journey by salespeople. And sales enablement technology will not work very well until marketing engineers the content it creates to be easy to find, customize, and deliver to the sales person.

A best practices report by the Brand Publishing Institute describes the content problems facing the Chief Marketing Officer in greater detail. The report  – entitled Ten Steps to Building a Brand Publishing Center of Excellence – explains why the quality, organization, and effectiveness of your marketing content directly impact the ability of your organization to drive top line sales growth.

The report suggests that marketing needs to take on a bigger role in making sales enablement a success.   This will require the CMO to pursue a higher degree of sales and marketing alignment and develop new disciplines. According to Joe Galvin of the MHI Research Institute , sales and marketing alignment is important because, “The easiest way to ensure consistency is to agree on a common foundation for all enablement content services – we call this the customer core approach. Ideally such dynamic value messaging frameworks are defined and operationalized with marketing to ensure a consistent approach along the entire customer journey”

Engineering content that more directly support sales enablement will require new marketing skillsets. According to Kathy Baughman, of the Brand Publishing Institute, “most marketing organizations are just beginning to understand the segmentation of content along the buyer’s journey. Without understanding the explicit needs of multiple buyers at specific points in the sales cycle, the content cannot easily be leveraged for both sales and marketing purposes.”

Ultimately the marketing department will have to solve this content problem. Marketing has a bigger budget, better skillset, and stronger mandate to define the brand value proposition and create the content to support that value message than sales. The most effective marketers will align this content with the buyers’ journey, and package it to be delivered through sales channels to drive more measurable sales outcomes. According to Mr. Galvin, “the challenge facing the CMO is to align the open market messages broadcast through brand and demand generation strategies with those customized and delivered by the sales person much later in the buyers decision journey”.

The problem is that the degree of marketing and sales harmony required to accomplish this is largely an aspiration perpetuated by the people who promote sales transformation technology. The practical reality is that most marketing departments are not currently structured to support sales enablement. Marketing develops content in a highly fragmented fashion. Content is planned, budgeted, and created to serve a wide range of agendas: product launches, demand generation, brand development, and feeding social media. According to MHI research “Content and training services are rarely integrated in a way that ensures consistency. Instead, different functions own various areas, and their enablement services are often disconnected and fail to equip the sales force effectively.

 So until the Chief Marketing Officer decides to resource and support sales enablement – the vision of marketing and sales alignment that is so essential to sales transformation will not be an operating reality.

Our report – entitled Ten Steps to Building a Brand Publishing Center of Excellence – suggests several practical steps marketing executives can take today to better support the sales transformation and realize results this year.

  • Take “ownership” of the content problem by assigning a person or task force to take ownership of the content problem and provide governance to the content supply chain. This step alone will boost the utilization and impact of your sales enablement investment by ensuing more of your current and planned marketing content directly support sales conversations and core competencies.
  • Better organize your content. Create a content architecture that helps your organization structure marketing content so it can be more easily planned, sourced, targeted, distributed, and reused by the sales organization to support real selling situations. A good content architecture will help marketing to manage the key points of failure in the go-to-market process where poorly organized marketing content limits the effectiveness of your sales force.Content Arhitecture
  • Define a process for creating, managing and distributing content.Best in class CMO’s are creating cross functional teams to establish a publishing process with systems that help create, manage, distribute, and track content efficiently through a wide variety of sales channels, programs and devices
  • Package and target  your content assets to make if fast and easy for salespeople to access the best content assets needed to support all aspects of a specific sales interaction. Leading marketers are assembling marketing content into sales playbooks that help salespeople reinforce value messaging in sales calls, execute on targeting actionable, and reinforce competencies in live selling situations.