Return on Content Assets
How the right content assets drive business growth and save you thousands in the process. Imagine: You’re in the mid stages of a sales process with a qualified prospect. Does this kind of conversation sound familiar?
“What makes you different from company X? Your services look the same to me. Can you explain it to me?”
“Well we do X, they do Y. They do W and we do V. If your concern is that they are able to do T better than us, then let me please share the following four case studies with you that clearly demonstrate how we do T differently to anyone in this industry… (rinse and repeat for each question/concern the prospect raises … say 10-15 minutes to satisfy each requests”
Thank you for explaining. We would like your formal quotation for the project.
What happened in this scenario?
Advanced Version: The client asked questions and/or raised concerns and invited you to answer the questions and/or refute the concerns. You did so.
Basic Version: They asked for information. You gave it.
What is a conversation?
Where am I heading with this?
A conversation is content, packaged and delivered in real-time.
Good sales people are skilled at responding to signals they receive during the sales process and adapting the content accordingly.
Great sales people anticipate the signals they will receive and prepare ahead of time.
A better way
The information you provided was information that you have probably already given someone else. It takes your sales person 30-45 minutes in each conversation to satisfy these requests.
If you can reliably predict the signals you’re going to get from a client during the sales process, my challenge to you is to package your information into a content asset.
This is a piece of content that is relevant to the sales stage, client attributes (size, product fit, industry, felt need) and budget of the client. It could be a video, a PDF guide, a short email series. I am not referring to a polished generic company brochure, but educational and highly targeted content focusing in on specific aspects of the sales process. You put every ounce of insight you have into the concerns that the client will likely have, and then you re-use this asset whenever you encounter another client with the same needs.
Return on Content
Why would you do this? As with any aspect of business growth and optimisation, we first need to find a business case for putting the effort and investment into creating content assets. The returns from content assets used in this come from two areas of value creation; efficiency and effectiveness. I’ll break them down for you.
A. Efficiency Savings
Each time you re-use the content asset, say by sending it in an email ahead of a discovery call, you directly save your sales person’s time (and your money). I’ll calculate that saving for you now.
Let’s say you pay your sales guy Larry £50,000 per annum. Fully loaded, let’s call his employment cost to you £65,000 for roughly 2080 work hours, for a 40h week.
You expect Larry to complete three of these conversations on four days of the week, a goal of twelve per week. So in a working year (48 weeks), you get 576 (4812) of these conversations from Larry. The time required to respond to these repeated questions amounts to 288 hours (576 30 mins), which is around 14% of his time. Of course, depending on the state of your pipeline it is likely this will be higher.
With his £65k loaded cost and 2080 work hours giving you an effective wage rate of £31.25 per hour, these conversations directly cost you £9,000 and take up 14% of his productive time. Yes, 14% of his time is spent repeating himself.
B. Effectiveness Gains
But we’re not just doing this for time and money savings, the real goal is to unlock upside value, profit! We want to help Larry close more deals effectively, not just have more time on his hands. So how will this approach help you do that?
B.1. Boosting sales conversions
When you able to collate and condense your experience from hundreds of similar conversations into ‘a perfect version’, you are able to consistently put forward your most compelling rationale with detailed statistics and metaphors.
You are never reliant solely on Larry’s memory or mood on a given day. With a fixed piece of content, your case is put forward consistently every time. Also, as a senior manager or director, you are able to see and shape the sales process by shaping the answers. This will enable you to tweak to get the best sales outcomes (discussed more below).
B.2. Whole company ownership
Moreover it won’t just be you or Larry that can shape this content asset.
Other stakeholders will be able to contribute to its perfection from their different and important perspectives. For example some of the questions and concerns that are raised by prospects might be better handled by your service-delivery manager, not Larry.
By developing content assets, you are creating a pathway that allows your whole company to take ownership for the success of the sales process. Not only does this lead to a better outcome for the prospect (who has their query more effectively addressed) it leads to greater collaboration and unity among your various teams.
B.3. Analysis driven optimisation
When you can naturally steer your entire sales pipeline through certain predictable and repeatable sales stages with standardised outcomes ‘per stage’, you can tweak and optimise the experience and measure the impact of changes on the throughput of that stage.
If you have no structure to guide a sales stage, your optimisation of that stage relies very heavily on Larry’s ability to memorise exactly what was said and how it was received to determine which elements worked best and what should be changed next. It’s very unlikely you’d get any robust data from it to test changes you make against against a baseline.
If you have a certain version of an informational guide that is used in a well defined structure for a given part of the sales process, then you can begin to test other versions against an established baseline for that stage.
This approach is particularly easy to manage and track if you use a flexible CRM tool like Pipedrive 1 which lets you view progress from one stage to another and set up custom fields in a customer record to tag which version of a piece of content they saw… from which you can analyse correlations.
B.4. Street Cred
When you present a well crafted piece of content to a customer, be it in written form or rich media, you are presenting your company in way that sets you apart from many of your competitors who prefer to stick to the old approach.
Within a static piece of content, you are able to precisely control language and styling.
Even if we (humans, that is) are focusing on the information we cannot help but notice how it is delivered to us: Nicely with style or not nicely without style.
But we value the conversation too much to ditch it!
I know you do.
The relationship is crucial and I’m not saying you should just sack your sales guys and start firing PDFs out to new leads.
No, that won’t help anyone!
What I am saying is that there are certain repeated elements of a conversation that can be easily dealt with by creating a content asset that is laser-focussed on those elements. And those elements alone.
The idea is that your sales guys can start that conversation with a certain amount of ground already covered.
If a primary concern of your customers is the health and safety standards of contractors and suppliers they engage (I have explained how to know that further below), your content asset should address your health and safety standards, procedures and training. Your sales people can then focus their efforts on moving beyond that to uncover and address any less obvious objections much faster.
This piece of content is fitting into your sales process, not replacing your sales people.
What it does though is engages your sales people with the optimisation of the overall sales process. This side benefit will actually become a main benefit as you look to grow your teams on the back of standardised processes.
Eventually you will build a library of assets for each stage of the process and each one will target certain concerns that a prospect in that stage could have. This will be captured in what I call an Empathy Matrix. When you pair this with the other activities like progressive profiling 2, your sales results will improve to new highs and you’ll have very motivated sales people engaged with the process.
How to create effective content assets
Note: Please always design a test (or better, some tests) before committing to a change initiative like this. More on that later. This article argues the case for creating content assets to augment your sales team’s efforts, but I have not written how to do that.
I will outline some general principles here, but the process is totally unique to you, your industry and the nature of your clients.
This process is something we take clients through regularly, if you are interested please reach out to us and we can give you some more ideas about how to go about it for your context.
- Pick a stage: Choose a sales stage to focus on. Consider basing this choice on data from your CRM, looking at which stages most closely correlate to winning deals. Also look at where you seem to have unusually high drop-off rates from one stage to another, there could be certain issues that can be addressed with the right content assets. Pick one you want to optimise (use the process below if needed)
- Reflect: Reflect on ten or more recent client interactions in this (or a couple from your shortlist) stage. Gather everyone involved in those interactions from within your team and get them in a single room with a stated goal for the workshop “to understand the customer’s needs at that stage of the sales process”.
Dissect: Analyse the interactions with customers that progressed beyond that stage in contrast to those that did not:
3.1. What situational attributes did they share?
3.2. What situational attributes were different?
3.3. What questions did they ask?
3.4. What concerns did they raise?
3.5. What responses were they given?
- Identify the top issues: Highlight a maximum of three questions / concerns to address in a content asset. If you go beyond three, your asset is in danger of being another generic company brochure. Keep it focussed on as few themes as possible.
- Generate FAQs: With your stakeholders, brainstorm FAQs related to the questions / concerns raised. Every question your stakeholders have ever been asked by a client in this stage should get its own FAQ treatment. These should be thorough, containing all of the metaphors, statistics and spiel your sales people would use with any one of those clients if they were sat in the room with them. Give links to other resources you can offer (to articles, guides you’ve written or helpful resources available from non-competing parties (government, industry bodies) - put everything you can into those FAQs.
- Create beta doc: Put together a PDF for your initial test. You can do videos etc later because they’re a lot more intense and expensive to produce in the beta stage. Right now, just focus on the natural framework that comes from your FAQs for the issues you identified.
Designing a good test
My golden rule is to always test new approaches to see if they actually improve on existing approaches. Regardless of mine and my clients’ positive experience with this approach, you need to be concrete on its benefits - otherwise you will not make the necessary investment to do it well.
My Test framework
- Pull a beta (i.e. not polished - yet) content asset together and equip your sales team with it. True beta isn’t looking for perfection, it’s about action. Keep your workshop to five people and limit yourself to two hours max with a strict agenda to guide the flow.
- Pick a single, important sales stage within your pipeline to make the focus of your test.
- Have your team conduct 50% of their usual calls/meetings with the client having received the content asset beforehand. Conduct the other half without them having received it. Make sure to alternate every other call/meeting to minimise any time of day or time of week bias that comes from different energy levels. Do not allow your team to pick and choose which clients to use the content asset with, just stick to an alternating pattern.
- Record the outcome of the meetings with and without, compare and reflect on the results.
- Based on your analysis of the outcomes with and without, make a decision to drop the approach or keep it and optimise for greater results. Test different media through which to deliver the information. Test more in-depth explanations versus brevity. Test whatever variations you can think of in a controlled manner.
Need some help with that?
Not sure how to help your staff produce effective content assets to deliver the value I’ve outlined here? We may be able to help.
Progressive profiling is the gradual accumulation of data about a prospect from their first interaction with one of your your digital assets (e.g. website, social profile, guide download) to build a picture of them. Every interaction they have with any asset in your digital estate can be linked into a single dataset, even when they are a total stranger to you. Read more on the subject by Kuno, experts in Inbound Marketing ↩︎