Category : Business Development

Business Development

Keep Some Powder Dry – Using the Right Content at the Right Time for Sales Enablement

"experiential marketing", "experience marketing", "event marketing", "brand experience", "engagement marketing", relationship, "business development", growth, sales, marketing, "content marketing", measurement, awareness, consideration, preference, conversion, loyalty, advocacy, planningIt’s like a bad office movie. Sales doesn’t like marketing because the leads they provide are garbage. Marketing doesn’t like sales because they never do anything with the leads they provide on a regular basis. Sure, there are many other reasons for this rivalry, but beyond events, one area where the two can come together and create real value, is Sales Enablement. Sales Enablement is basically deploying the right content at the right time to the right prospect in order to accelerate the sales cycle and close the deal at the highest value possible.

So, what’s the problem? I’ve observed that too often, too much content is deployed too soon in the process, leaving little to no support materials available in the final stages of the deal. Or, the wrong content is deployed at the wrong time, leaving prospects confused, or actually extending the length of the sales cycle. Or, every single piece of collateral is custom designed, over and over again, driving up costs and inefficiency. This of course, leads to even more animosity between sales and marketing, and in either case, hinders growth.

Think of it this way, you wouldn’t disclose your deepest, darkest secrets on a first date, nor would you introduce yourself as someone new after you got engaged. It’s about the right message at the right time in the relationship.

In order for any Sales Enablement program to be successful, there needs to be an open dialogue between sales and marketing. As part of this dialogue, roles of both marketing and sales need to be understood and expectations set. Co-education is critical. In general, marketing prescribes the types of content, and where it can be best deployed across the sales cycle. Additionally, Marketing is generally responsible for developing the content so it adheres to brand guidelines and is designed to meet business objectives. Sales, on the other hand is responsible for following guidelines on asset deployment, ensuring accuracy of content, providing feedback on client / prospect reaction to these tools, and identifying needs that can be addressed by new types of content. In some cases, content will need to be built with an eye toward customization by sales based on prospect or client.

Here’s a handy guide to help you organize and deploy content throughout the sales cycle. While this isn’t an exhaustive list or completely prescriptive, consider it a set of guidelines, you’ll get the idea ;).

Awareness – The earliest stage of the sales cycle. Prospects are exposed to your brand or your offerings. While above the line tactics are mostly at play here, from a Sales Enablement perspective, there are many assets that can be used.

  • Articles – These can be authored internally, or by a content marketing partner who will also work to get these published in media properties that are read by your target audience. An excellent way to not only showcase your brand, but your thinking in an organic way. The intent is to drive thought leadership, and early lead generation.
  • Infographics – Easily digested data visualization that is informative, interesting and designed to be quickly shared and consumed by many. It’s important Infographics truly at insight and value, and are not perceived as an advertisement for your particular brand.
  • Blog Posts – Content authored and published on the company blog, employee blogs, or co-authored / guest posted on other industry blogs. A great way to drive deeper thought leadership, and give target audiences something of value early in the relationship or drive traffic to company-owned digital properties.

Consideration – Now the prospect knows who you are. Here are some tools to pique their interest.

  • White Papers – Tremendous value-add that showcases your brand and allows prospects to go deep. These are great to driving competitive differentiation, and helping prospects understand how you might approach their problem or exploit their opportunity. Also a great tool for lead generation.
  • Case Studies – I’ve noticed that there has been some confusion on case studies in our industry.  The purpose of a case study is to tell a story about a client situation (context), describe what your company did to resolve the situation showcasing capabilities (action), and articulating results. The results seems to be the weak link in many of the cases I’ve come across recently. Case Studies help prospects visualize working with your company by seeing similar (and different) approaches.
  • Webinars – Typically educational content designed to teach prospects about your company’s solutions and why they work. However different kinds of Webinars with other types of content can be deployed earlier, or later in the process (e.g., gated content as part of a lead generation program (like a Whitepaper) or instructional format for existing clients to get the most out of your solutions.

Preference – The need is identified. Time to differentiate and teach the prospect how your company can help them.

  • Email Templates – It takes 7-13 touches to condition a lead. Campaign templates should be created for both marketing and sales to use at different points in the sales cycle.
  • Product Sell Sheets – Detailed specifications, features and benefits of your company’s products or solutions
  • Competitive Comparisons – Tables, charts, comparisons of your solutions vs. competitors and why yours is different or better. It’s important these comparisons are honest and authentic in order to reinforce credibility.

Conversion – This content is customized and engineered to help close the deal.

  • Sales Scripts – An exploration of what to say, when. These can be highly prescriptive, or looser guidelines on how to conduct outreach, undergo client discovery, pursue follow up, overcome objections, and drive to close.
  • Sales Presentations – More than just a branded background, the framework of the story should be laid out, from exploring the prospects situation, to capabilities (both general and specific) to approach, talent, timeline, budget, results and more.
  • ROI Studies – Here is where the rubber meets the road. These are very specific discussions on what solutions are being proposed along with detailed outcomes.

Beyond the Sale

Don’t forget to manage your company’s overall brand experience by generating content for Loyalty and Advocacy stages of the relationship. After all, 70-80% of your company’s growth probably comes from people you already know. This can include: Social Engagement Content, FAQs, “How-to” videos, Training Portals, Peer Networks, New Product / Capabilities Announcements, Referral Packages and more.

Measurement

No matter what types of content you develop, or when in the sales cycle you deploy it, it’s important to measure the performance of each piece, and how it meets the needs of any specific stage in the sales cycle. Testing over time is the key to optimizing any Sales Enablement program. Refresh old content, try new formats, see what works best for each stage. Keep the dialogue going, and don’t be afraid to ask prospects and customers what’s most helpful to them at what points in the conversation.

What Sales Enablement content have you found most effective? At what point in the sales cycle?

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Business Development

What Makes You Special?

brand, "brand experience", conferences, "digital marketing", "engagement marketing", "entertainment marketing", "event marketing", events, experiences, "experience marketing", "experiential marketing", marketing, "social media", "trade shows"If you search the internet for experiential marketing agencies, and peruse a few sites, you’ll notice something unremarkable. Every. Single. Agency. portrays themselves the exact same way.

Seriously. I’m not just talking about capabilities. In many cases, agencies are even using variations of the same WordPress theme. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re a major player, or a boutique shop. Differentiation at the point of initial contact, and even deeper engagement is exceedingly rare. No wonder brands and clients have a difficult time deciding who to go with. Our industry is becoming highly commoditized. Left with indistinguishable differences, clients are forced to look at price as the deciding factor.

I recently went through the exercise of reviewing all 100 agencies on Event Marketer’s It List. Aside from a few exceptions, I was struck by the incredible similarities. Most sites look something like this:

  • Opening page showing the work in photos or videos, energized audiences, trade show booths, colored lighting, speakers on stage, people smiling in group shots, a few “engagement” views,
  • About us page which provides a quirky description of the agency’s history, a description of their approach — which is the same approach with a different name that everyone else uses, and a list of the same capabilities every other agency has,
  • Logo page showing all the brands the agency has ever worked with,
  • Case study page, with some semblance of a deeper dive of the work agencies has done — seldom accurately describing the business problem or opportunity, with a lot of focus on what the agency executed, and very little, or completely missing results of the work — if anything, outputs, not outcomes,
  • Team page with creative shots showing the personalities of the leadership team, and in some cases, everyone in the agency, including the some random fun facts or quotes, and of course, the obligatory picture of someone’s dog who is the adopted agency mascot,
  • A map of where all the remote agency employees live disguised as office locations,
  • Links to press releases, and often poorly managed social media sites, including: a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, sometimes — Slideshare, YouTube or Vimeo, and for the really cool — Instagram or the exceedingly rare Snapchat,
  • Careers page with creatively written job descriptions for open positions,
  • And, a desperate contact page, pleading for you to submit an RFP to the agency’s new business development person.

Looking at this from a potential client’s eyes, and having participated in dozens of pitches in my career, I’m wondering why it is so hard to be different? I’m reminded of that scene in Monty Python’s, “The Life of Brian”, where Brian proclaims, “You are all individuals!” and the audience shouts back in a monotone voice, “We are all individuals…”

What’s more, the way in which agencies present themselves is redundant. The website = the RFP response = the pitch. We do not do a good job of telling different chapters of the story at different stages in the relationship.

So what makes you special?

I’m convinced there are indeed differences, but we do not exploit them appropriately.  Typically, there are a few areas that agencies tend to talk about, but often, we try to pontificate on all of them instead of picking 1 or 2 to really focus on. Here are some thoughts on how to make this work

  • Work — cool, creative work using the latest technological and cultural trends: Most agencies have this part figured out, the challenge here is showing relevance to prospects. Sexy wears off when real-world budgets come in to play. Also, what works in entertainment, may not translate into banking.
  • Brands — marquee, recognizable companies: The challenge here, is brands change agencies, and over time, every agency will one day have the same list of Fortune 500 brands on their website.
  • Industry Expertise — specialty in certain verticals: This is seldom exploited, and the fear here is it may limit an agency’s chance of winning a client outside of their vertical wheelhouse. I believe if you are good at something you should stick with it, exploit it, and become THE go to source. That said, it is also not unheard of to find relative verticals that can be exploited based on expertise in another. Clients are often looking for new thinking outside of their industry to leverage.
  • Approach — strategic creative process: Every agency has some POV, perspective and strategic creative process they use. What about other approaches that matter? Is your financial approach different? What about your production? Think beyond the sexy.
  • People / Culture / Talent — mostly award-winning creative talent. There are other people in your agency who should also be celebrated. Keep in mind it takes a village. A client is not a singular entity, but a collection of people in different roles — each who will hold some sort of relationship with someone at your agency. What if you promoted that you had the best event producers in the business? The people who make it happen where the rubber meets the road. Also don’t pay lip service to this. Make sure your people are actually the best, and involved in the process.
  • Size and Scale — local, national, global, fabrication and warehousing, etc.: There is no better or best here. There are different clients who have different needs. Sometimes being global is great, other times, it is a liability with way too much overhead for a client to want to bear for a project.
  • Effectiveness — impact made on client’s business: Almost no one is doing this. Huge opportunity for the right agency to prove themselves based on brand business results.
  • Efficiency — resource, process, accountability, and financial acumen: More and more, brands are looking for results, and more importantly, optimization.

Don’t attempt to boil the ocean. Pick something, deliver it exceptionally, show its relevance, and tell the story in a way that makes sense to the stage of your client relationship. Your unique selling proposition is there, you just need to find it, and help it rise to the top.

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Business Development Relationships

My Eyes Are Up Here

brand, "brand experience", conferences, "digital marketing", "engagement marketing", "entertainment marketing", "event marketing", events, experiences, "experience marketing", "experiential marketing", marketing, "social media", "trade shows"As someone who is currently seeking opportunities, I’ve been surprised at the number of agencies who ask the same interview question. “Which companies do you have relationships with, that you could bring on board if we were to hire you?” Of course, we all recognize that marketing is indeed a relationships business, but in some cases, this question might point to concerns about an agency’s overall business health. Here’s why.

  1. Talent valued on their network, not their skill
  2. Weak pipeline reliant on buying new business through talent acquisition
  3. Agency value proposition not attractive to clients
  4. New business approach not based on strategic inbound / outbound process

This has implications for both talent and agencies.

For talent, it means that your network has tremendous value. Potentially more value than your talents in some cases. Make sure that you build and nurture your business relationships all the time. Above all, protect them. Do not be the person who exploits your network for agency or personal gain. This thinly-veiled approach often leads to the diminishing and devaluation of your network. Certainly, if there is authentic agency value that will honestly help a client solve business problems or exploit opportunities, you should foster that partnership. However, without that, you risk destroying this highly-valued asset. It also means, you should work to ensure the agency you are working for values your skills and contributions beyond your network.

For agencies, it means you might need to evaluate your value proposition, culture, and business development approach. It’s important to understand and clearly articulate your unique value and selling proposition. Secondly, make sure you are hiring talent that contributes to the growth of your business beyond the relationships they hold. This will build a culture of long-term sustainable growth. Finally, evaluate your business development process to ensure it is not based on a dude with a rolodex. This is short term, self-destructive thinking. This experiment ends after a year to 18 months, with some new business won, but that business quickly exiting along with the talent, or frustration with a partnership built on a relationship only, without business value backing it up.

Talent matters.

Relationships matter.

A sustainable approach to business development matters.

I have been fortunate to have a number of clients who have indeed followed me across agencies. More importantly, I’ve followed them through their career. Not to leverage their business for gain, but to find new ways in which I can help them. So how do I answer the question, “Which companies do you have relationships with, that you could bring on board if we were to hire you?” All of them, provided there is an authentic way the agency can solve their problems and add value to their opportunities. Now, let’s talk about what I can do to improve your new business approach.

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