6 Step Approach to Reinvigorating Your Competitive Positioning – Part 1

As tech competition heats up, those that innovate and work faster, better or cheaper, may win, yet while they focus on reinventing or optimizing what they bring to market, businesses that focus on how to position their solutions might be more successful in attracting buyers.

In our latest whitepaper, we highlight seven principles of how disruptors win against competition. The first principle, “have simple offerings, messaging, and pricing,” is first for a reason. Truth be told, while your most well-known products are evolving to be a better version of themselves (such as on-prem to cloud-based solutions) your neighbor is following suit. A huge gap in this race to market lies in meeting buyer’s wants and needs in relevant, simple, yet versioned messaging. While consistent, overarching messaging is important , when a specific buyer, like IT, walks in the door, can you address their individual needs and painpoints more accurately and diligently than the competition?

Here are six steps to reinvigorating your competitive positioning at the persona level. Most importantly, our approach focuses on moving beyond “words on paper” (the typical messaging framework one-and-done approach) to create action steps and playbooks for sales and marketers as they encounter various buyers.

Step 1: Establish a Baseline, Build a Fact Base

How are you positioning yourself in the market today? Is it working? Does it differ from where you want to be positioned? Facilitate an internal workshop to gain alignment on the team’s strategic vision for the solution. Your stakeholders know the value of the product better than anyone. From developers to sales leads, they know what features were built and why, and your selling team knows what benefits seal the deal in customer conversations. Tease out what has worked before and what hasn’t. Build a fact base based on internal expertise. Remember, you will ultimately need their buy-in!

Discuss:

  • Where is there a gap in our messaging?
  • What buyer types/personas might we be missing that need to be better addressed?
  • What do stakeholders believe are the most important benefits to highlight?
  • What are the table stakes value messages we have to include, and where can we differentiate ourselves?
  • What are the dos and don’ts of messaging when buyers are considering other vendors?

Step 2: Conduct Agile Market Research

Market research in any form is critical to inform a top-line understanding of key competitors, target audiences, and industry trends. Consider taking a comprehensive approach to market research to collect intelligence across all of these areas. While a comprehensive approach is ideal, understanding the different market research options and outputs may help you prioritize them based on your timeline and you budget. When it comes to primary research for example, different approaches can surface varying levels of insights. With a survey, you can reach a larger number of buyers (e.g. 150+) and gain shallow, yet statistically significant insights to help inform messaging. With 1-on-1 in-depth interviews, you’ll likely reach a much smaller pool of participants (e.g. 10) but you’ll gain deeper insights and specifics. Here are the three suggested types of market research:

  1. Primary Research
    Primary research will help you understand your users and their dynamics – from use cases, to goals and motivations, to needs and pain points. It will surface distinct personas and their journeys from pre-purchase through post-purchase.

    • Online Surveying (150+ survey respondents): Conduct online survey research with a mix of closed-end and free-form response types to gain a broad understanding of customer personas, customer journeys, usage experiences, and competitor perceptions.
    • In-depth Interviews (10+ interviews): Conduct in-depth interviews to probe deeper into survey results and bring to life the user personas, decision-making journey and usage experiences.

Read more about another form of primary research called ethnography, and how watching customers attempt to buy, use, upgrade, and maintain your product can increase retention rates. Click here. >

  1. Competitive Scan
    Understand your competition’s messaging, product positioning and target audiences without copying them. This will allow you to purposely differentiate while at the same time understanding the messaging tablestakes. Imagine if 5 out of 5 of your competitors are using “speed” as their value prop and all the while, you’re thinking that benefit is your “winning ticket”? Clearly, “speed” must be an important benefit to your buyer, so you too need to highlight it, yet you should not try to differentiate on it. On the other hand, if only 1 in 5 competitors are highlighting integration in their suite of benefits, that may be where you can differentiate your messaging.In initiating a competitive scan, identify your top 5 competitors. Document the landscape including similarities, differences, and ID audiences they might be addressing. Beyond their websites, what marketing campaigns are they driving across social channels and web? And that gets to number three…
  2. Digital Listening
    Digital listening techniques can be used to track thousands of industry, buyer, and competitor conversations to surface newsworthy, real-time insights as well as past historical data. Ask yourself “Do you have the eyes and ears out there to really understand what buyers, partners and influencers are saying (daily, weekly, monthly) to craft messaging?” What’s in plain sight is sometimes overlooked. Many people underestimate the value of social data and it’s actionability, but every second 60,532 GB of internet traffic is taking place. As a strong case for digital monitoring, a leading tech client of ours in the document management space was looking to uncover potential new business opportunities. Through in-depth digital listening on their keywords, competitors, and buyers, it was discovered that law firms and legal offices were seeking to use new technologies as a means of reducing filing and document management requirements of their staff so they could instead focus on client-billable hours. Here, a new target audience was identified (law firms) and a messaging course of action could be built.

Read more about how Digital Listening can ID vertical opportunities. Click here >

Step 3: Develop the Messaging and Personas

In this phase, we aggregate insights to build the messaging framework and define the personas.

  1. Develop Foundational Messaging Framework
    Start by developing a messaging framework structure. A typical messaging framework will consist of an overarching Umbrella Message, 3-5 core messaging themes called Pillar Messages and supporting statements accompanied by proof points/evidence. Consolidate your market research insights to understand the most important features and value props in building your messaging framework. What is the highest ranking product feature or benefit? What differentiators set you apart from competitors that were surfaced in the competitive scan? What details were repeated time and time again across one-on-one interviews?
  2. Refine Messaging Framework by Persona
    Once you have a foundational Messaging Framework, it’s time to refine your messaging based on the unique needs and pain points found for each persona. Document key persona characteristics including how different personas adopt, use, purchase and/or manage the product, and their key needs and pain points. For instance, one of your pillars may be more relevant to an IT buyer and in turn, may need additional supporting messages to address their specific needs. This may also be the priority pillar to lead with when developing IT-focused content or collateral. Technology features and benefit preferences will vary by use case and the benefits that are “must have” will be different for each persona.

Example: Let’s say I’m a provider of a cloudbased web-conferencing solution (to the likes of WebEx or GoToMeeting). In gathering and analyzing the results from my online survey and more, I could dissect the data and rank features by buyer type to understand must-have buying considerations.

Survey Q13. Thinking about all the cloudbased web-conferencing options available, what are the most important features to you? In other words, what are your MUST-HAVES? Rank your top three.


Overarching Messaging Takeaways:

– Mobile device accessibility is a priority for all personas

Persona-Based Messaging Takeaways:

– Emphasize cost effectiveness and simplicity when speaking to executive leadership
– Highlight file storage and sharing in conjunction with security to IT professionals

 Now that you have consolidated insights and understand which messaging resonates at all levels, in Part 2 of this blog will discuss making the messaging actionable. First, validate your results and reviewing with stakeholders to ensure organizational wide buy-in. And secondly, turn your architecture into useful battlecards and cheat sheets – i.e., “If I am speaking to persona A, here are exactly the words and phrases I need to say to show we convey their need.” Oftentimes a messaging framework is built simply as an encyclopedia of findings rather than a playbook for sales and marketing action. The goal should be to put all messaging into activation – in your website, marketing collateral, sales messaging, and speaker notes. Your framework should act as a guide for all go-to-market activities. Stay tuned to Part 2 of this blog as we cover:

  • Phase 4: Validation

    Interview external customers to test messaging and positioning framework, identify key areas of strength and weakness.

  • Phase 5: Activating the Output

    Build a playbook of conversation and market-ready copy.

  • Phase 6: Launch/Measurement

    Measure ongoing trends and reaction to messaging, quantify results (sales talk time, lift, average deals size) and continuously optimize in-market.

9 Requirements for Effective Cross-Selling in Financial Services

As a part of their Future of Financial Services series, the World Economic Forum recently released a comprehensive and far-reaching report on the “New Physics of Financial Services” and the impact that digital transformation and the rise of Artificial Intelligence is having on the financial services ecosystem.

There is no doubt that these trends will change the operating models for certain firms and continue to impact the competitive dynamics of the industry in a number of different ways in the medium-term.  In the short-term, they are creating challenges and presenting opportunities for how traditional FSI’s acquire, grow and retain customers.  This is especially true in the area of cross-selling and retention. If traditional FSI’s aren’t accurately anticipating the needs of their customers or understanding their risk of defection, they are at greater risk for disintermediation by new entrants or competitors who do.

Cross-selling is the fastest, most profitable path to incremental revenue growth, period. Assuming a firm has a 30% wallet share within an account, attaining just 5% more in account share grows account revenues by 17%. And with the cost of customer acquisition generally estimated to run from 3x to 25X more expensive than cross-selling, the economics of cross-selling are very compelling.  Recognizing this, cross-selling has become a strategic priority for many financial services firms in recent years – yet many firms still appear to be far from realizing the potential of cross-selling.

Why is this? Some firms may be hesitant given the number of actions and warning directed towards FS firms contained within the CFPB Enforcement files where the cross-selling culture was perhaps a bit too aggressive – “Detecting and Preventing Consumer Harm from Production Incentives” as they refer to it.

For others, it may be the challenges associated with overcoming organizational complexity that spans multiple lines of business, diverse functional areas and disparate technologies and business processes that must be coordinated to deliver effective cross-sell programs.

In many instances, it may be the fact that cross-selling responsibility is often left to the “last mile” (the end of the buying journey) in that relationship managers or sales resources often simply don’t have the time or skills to effectively implement programs at scale. Or, efforts are driven by product owners who take a product-centric view of cross-selling as opposed to the customer-centric view of successful cross-selling programs.

Here then is our list of nine requirements for building effective and scalable cross-selling programs in the financial services industry:

1) Adopt a customer-centric view.

Too many cross-sell programs are still organized around lines of business and driven by a product-centric view of cross-selling. Effective cross-sellers build a customer-centric view of opportunity and take a longer-term view of customer value. The most effective cross-sell efforts are led by segment marketers who have responsibility for specific customer segments, working with the product marketing teams and sales channels to coordinate on execution.

 

2) Establish a single view of the customer.

Patently obvious, but many firms still have a difficult time building a unified view of the overall customer relationship. This includes all product usage and transactional history, service and support history, etc., as well as identifying and integrating external data sources that provide additional insights into buyer behavior and attitudes.

Identifying patterns of behavior across products is essential for understanding and anticipating customer needs. In turn, it informs segmentation and personas in #3 below.

But don’t wait for the completion of an expensive, multi-year data warehouse project. Agile firms today are taking advantage of low-cost storage and data lake architectures to quickly build data repositories. This allows data science teams quick access for specific use cases without processing overhead associated with large inflexible data warehouses. Liberate insights from the tyranny of workflow tools and warehouses!

For more information on the Promise of the Marketing Data Platform, Click Here

 

3) Build actionable buyer segments and personas.

Utilize data from # 2 – supplemented with primary research – to build actionable segmentation and personas. These will allow you to personalize your interactions with existing customers in ways they have come to expect; based on the totality of their relationship with you and reflecting an understanding of their needs. Maintain assignment of segments and personas in your customer database to ensure segmentation is actionable.

For more information on Creating Actionable Segmentations and Personas, Click Here

 

4) Create a scalable analytical engine targeted to specific, prioritized use cases.

Use an agile, reproducible approach to developing and managing a library of predictive cross-selling/retention models. Consider segmentation, RFM, CLV, next logical product, retention, Marketing mix optimization, among others.

Customer growth, share growth, wallet growth, account expansion—all of these strategic goals beg the same question; how do I get a given customer to buy more, or buy something new? Cross-sell models use data about the current installed base and compare this with data on other accounts that have upgraded. These are a close cousin to market basket models on the consumer side, analyzing how customers’ ”baskets” of products typically evolve as new items are added.

Deploy a disciplined, scalable approach to managing your data science operations to ensure reproducibility, scalability, and accountability of your investments in AI.

For more information on Creating a Product-Centric Data Science Organization, Click Here

 

5) Listen to your customers, stalk your competition, foresee your disruptors.

Robust cross-sell programs require a deep understanding of your accounts. This includes how they perceive your brand, what competitors are selling into those accounts and what new disruptors are emerging.

Best-in-class FSI’s leverage “always-on” market intelligence capabilities. Those that track customer feedback, competitive movements, and emerging disruptors. This intelligence is fed back into the product development process, innovation centers, marketing messaging, Account-Based Marketing activities, and sales enablement programs.

 

6) Create content aligned with personas and buyer’s journey.

Today’s FS customers engage with your organization via multiple channels. With 24/7 availability of your content and resources, it can be challenging to provide a consistent experience across every channel. Think of a potential buyer researching new savings and investment options to kick off 2019. This buyer can easily research opportunities online, get side-by-side comparisons from financial providers, chat online or over the phone with an investment expert, and then set up an appointment at the bank or financial institution for a face-to-face deep-dive discussion.

If the user experience across all these channels isn’t integrated – and customers receive different responses across different channels from the same company – the likelihood of successfully cross-selling or even retaining those customers goes down considerably. Utilizing a consistent framework and taxonomy to map content to the buyer’s journey is critical to ensure a consistent, personalized and relevant experience regardless of product, channel or stage in the journey.

For more information on Creating a Consistent Customer Experience, Click Here

 

7) Implement a disciplined cross-channel contact strategy and cadence.

Disciplined cross-sellers implement and adhere to well-structured contact strategies that are based on analytics and insight (i.e., using the scores developed in # 4 above). These strategies help determine what that cadence should be, which channel should engage, and what the product/solution and message should be.

This requires close coordination between marketing and sales. One of the most successful cross-sell programs we have ever seen actually rescored their entire customer population each week. They did so using updated transactional and market response data, and then prescribing a set of dynamic business rules to determine where the opportunities were to be routed the following week. A well-defined nurture stream for the next logical product was presented or the prospect was routed to a sales agent.

In either event, the contact strategy and cadence were well-defined for each product and each step in the buyer’s journey. Content and messaging for each segment were defined and utilized as “fuel” for each outreach and delivered into the marketing automation tools and the CRM (See #8 below). The business rules were dynamic and could be modified weekly based on underlying business conditions. This forced an interlock each week between sales and marketing and helped develop shared accountability for results.

To view the FS Cross-Sell case study, Click Here

 

8) Insert insights and content into workflow tools.

The best insights and AI are useless unless they can be easily understood and acted upon by your sales and marketing channels. Delivering predictive analytics, relevant content and personalized messaging into existing customer contact workflow platforms is critical for successful cross-selling at scale. We have found that loosely coupled architectures are dramatically better over the long run than tight integrations with SaaS MarTech platforms.

Most companies are using multiple platforms to manage the end-to-end customer journey. The need to insert insight into each one of these platforms—and to gather feedback from the customer interaction directed by those platforms. This is critical to managing the process holistically, and understanding where the customer is in the process at any given point in time.

Rather than working to integrate multiple systems, the better alternative is to deliver analytics and content via a set of standardized endpoints that any CRM or MarTech platform can use. Then, writing quick integration layers for specific systems. When that next great piece of technology is rolled out—or when Salesforce raises its prices by 20%— it’s no problem.  It just requires updates to an adaptor layer, vs. tearing out a bunch of proprietary APEX code from Salesforce and trying to remember what the developer was thinking.

Fortunately, all CRM and marketing automation systems—including Salesforce—share the same basic architecture. The objects Account, Contact, Lead, Opportunity, Product, etc. don’t really vary, and haven’t for 25 years.

Cross-selling recommendations also share the same DNA. Typically, the API calls for cross-selling include several microservices that, when taken together, form the basis of the contact and content strategy outlined in #7 woven into the CRM / Martech stack.

For insights on the Microsoft-SAP-Adobe Open Data Alliance, Click Here

 

9) Relentlessly test, measure and track:

Finally, any successful cross-sell program – in fact, any sales and marketing program – requires a relentless focus on test and learn, agile pilots, on-going measurement and optimization from start to finish.

This process starts with establishing a proforma ROI when any new cross-sell model is slated for development. Writing down what you are trying to accomplish, and estimating how its effectiveness will be measured, puts the entire team on much better footing for success. This should be done before a single line of code is written or a query is executed.

To learn more about Measuring Return on Analytics, Click Here

Implement agile pilots using test and learn methods such as A/B testing to quickly gain insight into optimal combinations of factors that drive the best results and then scale.  As every direct marketer’s learning method, the A/B test divides marketing into test and control cells, and the response is then compared using simple z-tests of proportions to pick a winner. This approach is simple and effective, and given sufficient volume, can be turned into a learning factory for the organization.

Finally, develop and deploy a holistic customer-centric marketing analytics framework that will allow you to consistently track, measure, manage and optimize all of the activities occurring with your customers across all products, marketing and sales channels.   This will provide visibility into the overall results and allow you to make more informed decisions on how to effectively grow your installed base. Dont forget to optimize your customer contact strategies and cadence on a continuous basis.

To learn more about building a Marketing Analytics Framework, Click Here.

 

Remember this: “If traditional FSI’s aren’t accurately anticipating the needs of their customers or understanding their risk of defection, they are at greater risk for disintermediation by new entrants or competitors who do.”

Having an agile plan to go-to-market against market disruptors by building a customer-centric approach to cross-selling will be key to success. Check out our latest whitepaper on “The Last Mile Opportunity,” for 5 transformational principles to scale operations and build revenue success in the “last mile” of the customer buying journey.

Download the whitepaper:

MarketBridge Wins Two Gold Stevie® Awards In 2019 For Sales & Customer Service

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – February 25, 2019 – MarketBridge was presented with a Gold Stevie® Award in the Sales Training Practice of the Year category and a Gold Stevie® Award in the Incentive, Rewards, or Recognition Provider of the Year at the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service Friday night.

The Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service are the world’s top honors for customer service, contact center, business development, and sales professionals.  The Stevie Awards organization stages seven of the world’s leading business awards programs, including the prestigious American Business Awards® and International Business Awards®.

The awards were presented to honorees during a gala banquet on Friday, February 22 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV.  More than 700 executives from the U.S.A. and several other nations attended.

More than 2,700 nominations from organizations in 45 nations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were evaluated in this year’s competition. Winners were determined by the average scores of more than 150 professionals worldwide in seven specialized judging committees. Entries were considered in 93 categories for customer service and contact center achievements, including Contact Center of the Year, Award for Innovation in Customer Service, and Customer Service Department of the Year; 60 categories for sales and business development achievements, ranging from Senior Sales Executive of the Year to Sales Training or Business Development Executive of the Year to Sales Department of the Year; and categories to recognize new products and services and solution providers.

Judges responded positively to the MarketBridge programs, saying “it is an amazing and interesting nomination…. a complicated system in which every incentive is continuously tested and optimized as business strategies. Marketing based on Incentive, Rewards, or Recognition is a good option nowadays and MarketBridge is a good example.”  “MarketBridge came with a great Go-to-Market solution to help clients succeed fast…”

“Our team is thrilled to reclaim Gold Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service in 2019” noted Bill Sheldon, Senior Vice President at MarketBridge. “These awards demonstrate our commitment to delivering a superior client experience and driving positive results by rigorously monitoring and innovating our sales enablement solutions. We leverage powerful customer and market intelligence, along with constant testing and data-driven insights to create innovative multi-channel marketing and sales enablement programs that meet our client’s unique needs.”

“All of the Stevie Award winners should be very proud of their achievements.  Independent professionals around the world have agreed that their accomplishments are worthy of public recognition,” said Stevie Awards President and founder, Michael Gallagher.

Details about the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service and the list of Stevie winners in all categories are available at www.StevieAwards.com/sales.

 

About MarketBridge

MarketBridge is a proven innovator of market intelligence, predictive analytics, and digital sales enablement solutions that power breakthrough go-to-market performance.  For over twenty-five years, MarketBridge has worked with global enterprises to sustain revenue growth, improve customer experience and loyalty, and adapt data-driven sales and marketing technologies. 

About the Stevie Awards
Stevie Awards are conferred in seven programs: the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the German Stevie Awards, The American Business Awards®, The International Business Awards®, the Stevie Awards for Great Employers, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Stevie Awards competitions receive more than 12,000 entries each year from organizations in more than 70 nations. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about the Stevie Awards at www.StevieAwards.com.

Sponsors of the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service include Sales Partnerships and ValueSelling Associates.

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Media Contact:
Catherine Artz
240-752-1867
cartz@market-bridge.com

How to Take an Omni-channel Approach to Sales Enablement

Today’s typical buyer journey was best described as, “…a big bowl of spaghetti,” at the Gartner Sales and Marketing Conference in Las Vegas. Thanks to constant innovation in digital and mobile technology, buyers now have the freedom to self-serve by researching information online and engaging with industry analysts, SMEs, and other influencers.  The real game-changer of these new advances is a buyer’s ability to jump between various buyer stages—all without involvement from a seller.

While incredibly empowering for the buyer, it has created a new level of complexity for the seller. Buyers while moving between various stages, can also move from self-serve digital channels to one-on-one seller-serve channels. Accenture reports, “…around 30 percent of digital sales leads are expected to be finalized by an agent over the phone or by a call center operator. About 27 percent of digital sales leads are likely to be concluded by agents in face-to-face discussions with customers.”

Despite these trends, many companies are taking a siloed approach to implementing Self-Serve and Seller-Serve sales enablement. Why? One reason is simply siloed organizational ownership.  When you have different teams held to different goals with different leadership, there’s no internal catalyst to encourage teams to work together. Another reason is differing systems and technologies.  Marketing teams traditionally manage online and mobile Self-Serve channels, while Sales teams tend to manage CRM-supported Seller-Serve channels.

No matter the reason, a siloed approach creates notable pain points for both buyers and sellers. The buyer is often faced with a disjointed and frustrating experience, while the seller can be ill-equipped and unprepared to support buyer discussions.

How to Take an Omni-channel Approach to Sales Enablement

Successful sales enablement should take an omni-channel approach.  Marketers use the term omni-channel to describe continuity within the user experience. Ensuring continuity in your sales channels requires an omni-channel approach too.

If a buyer starts in Self-Serve and moves to Seller-Serve, are your sellers well-informed on what the buyer has seen, heard and experienced to date? Will they know how to address related questions they may have?

To ensure an integrated experience where everyone (across different selling channels) is equipped to have relevant, valuable interactions with a buyer, one of the most important things you can do is to create a blueprint of the integrated Self-Serve and Seller-Serve buyer journey.  And then use that blueprint on an ongoing basis to educate, plan and enable the team members responsible for managing your sales channels: Self-Serve and Seller-Serve.

The most effective blueprints capture important details and include feedback and insights from a wide cross-section of stakeholders involved in the sales experience. Here are a five quick-tips for formalizing a comprehensive sales enablement blueprint of your Self-Serve and Seller-Serve channels:

1) Talk to your buyers.

The investment you make in this type of qualitative research will deliver a tremendous VOI (value on investment).  The findings will help you improve processes, content, offers, plus uncover other “ah-ha” optimizations not yet on your radar.

2) Consult with your Self-Serve team and Seller-Serve team.

Both independently, as well as together. These discussions will provide you with the step-by-step details you need, as well as flush out journey intersections and key pain points.

3) Detail the specific content and information made available to a buyer at each step of the journey.

Omni-channel continuity is made easier when your sellers have context of the buyer’s experience across all touchpoints.

4) Highlight not only key points of integration but journey milestones.

…such as specific gates a buyer must complete before moving to the next stage. This allows users of the blueprint to easily review the most critical and common of journey interactions.

5) Don’t set it and forget it.

Plan to revisit and update your blueprint a minimum of once a quarter. Treat it as a living document and repeat steps 1 to 4 with an eye toward continued updates and optimizations that can be made to the sales process.

The Last Mile Involves Distribution and Training

Once you have a sales enablement blueprint of your Self-Serve and Seller-Serve channels, you’re ready to put it into action.  This “last mile” of activation is often the hardest part for companies simply because of the many parties involved and the coordination required in driving awareness and usage.

We recommend live and interactive trainings to bring the power of your blueprint to life. Begin with in-person or web-cam trainings and supplement with e-learnings for the best results. And naturally, be sure the blueprint is readily accessible to everyone working across Self-Serve and Seller-Serve sales channels, preferably via a digital portal and/or App.

Is the process to create and activate an integrated Self-Serve and Seller-Serve buyer journey time-consuming?  Yes. But organizations that do so will produce superior return-on-investment (ROI) for sales enablement content – all while delivering a world-class buyer experience.

 

How Sales Content Can Create a Consistent Experience for Tech Buyers

Every organization understands the importance of offering consistent products and services, but most don’t understand the role content can play in delivering a consistent customer experience. Consistency encourages regularity and reliability, which in turn makes customers feel safe and open to building a long-term relationship with you and your product or service. A study by McKinsey & Company found that a consistent customer experience across the entire customer journey will increase customer satisfaction, build trust, and boost loyalty. Moreover, companies focused on delivering a consistent customer experience have improved customer acquisition and strengthened retention.

Want to learn more? Read how an integrated customer-seller journey led to improved sales and better brand awareness. Download the case study at the bottom of this page.

So, what role does content play in creating a consistent customer experience?

Integrated Customer and Seller Journey

Customers engage with your organization for information via multiple channels. With 24/7 availability of your content and resources, it can be challenging to provide a consistent experience across every channel. Think of an enterprise buyer researching Hyper-Converged Infrastructure options or Industrial IoT solutions for his manufacturing business to kick off 2019. A customer can easily research opportunities online, get side-by-side comparisons from vendors and solution providers, chat online or over the phone with a cloud or IoT channel partner, and even set up an onsite appointment at a supplier’s state-of-the-art test center for a face-to-face deep-dive discussion. If the user experience across all these channels isn’t integrated – and customers receive different responses across different channels from the same company – the likelihood of acquiring and expanding your business with them diminishes greatly with each interaction.

It is essential to ensure every touchpoint with a customer efficiently and consistently delivers the same information across any channel –a vendor’s website, channel partners, customer service, live sales reps, events, etc.  To accomplish this, vendors must develop an integrated customer and seller journey that identifies each stage of the buying process and prioritizes the corresponding content needed to deliver a world-class customer experience and advance the deal. This is a crucial tool that can be used to help inform value-driven sales interactions based on customer behaviors, thoughts, and needs across touchpoints in their journey with your company.

Standardized Sales Enablement Best Practices

Offering a more consistent customer experience requires standardizing and documenting the information and processes involved in each sales engagement including content, messaging, and recommended channels. Providing your teams with a step-by-step content playbook helps ensure compliance in customer engagements through consistent development and delivery of the right information at the right time in the right channel. Standardized processes allow sales teams to more effectively sell by interacting in the same way across multiple channels and lines of business — accelerating purchase decisions and opening the door to future business growth.

On-going Sales Enablement

Sales teams – enterprise field reps, inside sales, and channel partners — are the face of your business and interact directly with customers daily through email, phone, and meetings. To drive consistent customer engagements, it is essential to educate and equip your sales teams on how to handle customer interactions across all channels. Activating your sales teams with effective guidance via defined integrated customer and seller journeys and standardized best practices playbooks, combined with on-going training, increases the chances of delivering a cohesive customer experience.

Delivering a consistent customer experience requires strategic alignment and constant execution. We’ve found that content creates the foundation needed to ensure a unified user experience and supports consistency across every touch, channel, and product.

Learn how MarketBridge developed an integrated customer and seller journey best practice playbook for a Fortune 500 Cloud Data Services provider.

MarketBridge Research: 2019 Sales Enablement Trends, Challenges and Opportunities

Take-the-Survey1

Objective

MarketBridge is asking today’s high-growth companies about the sales enablement trends, challenges and opportunities they see heading into 2019 – from measurement to management to collaboration – to be included in our 2019 Trends Report. The 23 question survey is free, and the results are anonymous.

Once the data is collected, we will report back to survey respondents with the overall results in the form of our 2019 Trends Report. Thank you in advance – and here’s to gaining insights on the 2019 trends ahead.

Take-the-Survey1

 

Creating a Consistent Customer Experience with Sales Content

Every organization understands the importance of offering consistent products and services, but most don’t understand the role content can play in delivering a consistent customer experience. Consistency encourages regularity and reliability, which in turn makes customers feel safe and open to building a long-term relationship with you and your product or service. A study by McKinsey & Company found that a consistent customer experience across the entire customer journey will increase customer satisfaction, build trust, and boost loyalty. Moreover, companies focused on delivering a consistent customer experience have improved customer acquisition and strengthened retention. Read more

Content + Sales = The Perfect Match for Marketing ROI

If you think back to middle school, getting that girl/guy to say yes to that first date meant you had to put yourself out there. Remember that nerve-wracking process? Passing a cheesy note through a friend (“Do you like me? Yes or No?”) amounted to nothing, because how could you possibly get that guy/girl to go on a date with you if you couldn’t speak to them? To get noticed, you had to do two things: (1) physically talk to your “crush,” and (2) know what you were going to say.

Marketing today is failing because we, as marketers, have forgotten that lesson. We still hide behind a friend (whose name is “Outlook”), passing anonymous emails through it to potential prospects with a campaign that still boils down to “Do you like us? Click for Yes. Ignore for No.” And the results are the same. Our campaign dashboards sit empty…

But I think we can fix this. Read on.

I believe our Sales Team is a hidden content distribution branch that is already solving for one of the two things it takes to get noticed. They are physically putting our company out there, speaking to potential customers one-on-one. THIS is where I think marketing needs to re-orient their efforts and capitalize on the face to face conversations sales is already having. At MarketBridge, we decided to take on a small experiment that led us to not only get that “first date,” but get a 17% increase in first dates (sales meetings) across the board!

The Experiment

At the end of 2016, around September to be exact, our CEO decided to test splitting the sales team into verticals – and by verticals, I mean teams made up of Sales VPs, reps and BDAS focused on specific industries. There were three teams and marketing was asked to support the vertical teams with content, messaging and anything else to generate industry specific demand.

The process was as follows:

Vertical Marketing and Sales Process

  1. Insights & Understanding – Both teams to collectively gather insights on the industry and to run industry specific plays
  2. Messaging & Content – Marketing to work with sales on the best messaging and content
  3. Ongoing Campaigns – Teams to run campaigns – BOTH sales campaigns and marketing campaigns (I’ll explain this in a bit)
  4. SFDC Opportunity Planning – Planning and discussion of first meetings and demos for each vertical opportunity
  5. Report & Refine – Self explanatory

The first reason why this process was so different than anything we had done before is that we hadn’t worked one-on-one with our BDA team to create industry specific content in the past. This gave the marketing team extensive insight on accounts that the sales team had been working on – the industry reports, revenue reports, press releases and published content that they had been so actively digging into to understand their buyers.

Secondly, it developed a HUGE collaboration between the two teams as each week we needed to work together, hand-in-hand, to run sales and marketing campaigns. Marketing was in charge of fueling the other channels with content, but sales too had to run their own “topical” industry campaigns through LinkedIn, personal outreach including emails and phone calls. Because sales was so proactive in fueling their own channels with the content we created, it was almost like we opened the flood gates to increased content usage and views. The value of our content skyrocketed beyond a single “one and done” email promotion and social post as sales WOM brought meetings, interest, almost like we didn’t expect it to (which we should have).

Here is some insight into how all of this turned out (without letting loose any private company information):

  • When comparing marketing campaigns that led to first meetings vs. co-operated vertical campaigns, we saw a 17% increase in meetings per month through co-operated vertical campaigns
  • We started measuring follow-up meetings from these efforts for the first time. Before the new mandate, marketing was only responsible for “top of the funnel.” Now, we actually felt like we could see some value in the middle!
  • Lastly, we saw some increases outside of “vertical” efforts. Webinar invites and content shared directly through our sales reps and BDAS led to a 60% conversion rate – the rate in which prospects went from just clicking on links to actually registering for our webinars or downloading our content. Compare that to just 13% from our other marketing channels!

Maybe it was that some type of marketing-sales appreciation was taking place… Or maybe these weekly calls gave team members additional insight in to all of the stuff we were working on and how our ideas, thoughts, collateral could be exchanged and used across all of our joint efforts… But either way, we were on to something! Marketing supports sales -> looks good on marketing!

Let’s be honest, every day you, me and your mother are bombarded by tons of marketing emails (just today I have 43 emails in my “promotions” tab in Gmail) and advertisements (whoops, just passed by the 10th one on my Facebook feed) that no one seems to take notice of (ok, you might actually click on ads here and there). It’s not that the content we are creating isn’t good… it actually is! It’s that we are using the same old exhausted channels that everyone is using to market. 21st century consumer demand is built by being 1-on-1, personalized and relevant. This is where we will see sales begin to have the upper hand in demand generation over marketers.

Unless, that is, marketers focus more of their efforts on enabling sales, and making sales teams their advocates.

If you are an organization in which your marketing team IS CRITICAL in generating top of the funnel leads, what I said above might not apply to you, but consider the illustration in the chart below. Your leads mean nothing if sales can’t convert them. Your content distribution framework has to push the buyer toward a path-of-sale, meaning SALES needs your content too. Collaboration, more relevant content creation and working one on one to understand what is worth creating and what is not, will do wonders for your content ROI…

Marketing ti Sales Funnel

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

“Big Data” & “Big Content” are Sales & Marketing’s Best Friends

The demand for “big data” and “big content” to better acquire, retain, and cross-sell B2B customers is growing rapidly. Since 2010, most B2B companies have made significant investments in four core types of customer engagement platforms:

  • CRM (e.g. Salesforce)
  • Marketing automation (e.g. Eloqua, Marketo)
  • Content management (e.g. Adobe)
  • Social media (e.g. Linkedin)

These platforms have enabled companies to make quantum improvements in workflow efficiency by automating labor-intensive marketing and sales tasks. But increasingly, executives are trying to grapple with an even larger potential benefit of these technologies – the explosion of customer data and content. The new B2B challenge is helping product marketers and front-line sales reps increase sales effectiveness by “cherry picking” accounts and customers that are most ready-to-buy and providing them with the most relevant content and offers.

To address this challenge, from 2012-2015 venture capitalists and private equity firms invested billions of dollars in 100s of small, innovative SaaS companies specializing in predictive customer analytics (who to target) and content personalization (what to offer). As B2B Sales & Marketing organizations have tested and on-boarded these data-driven marketing and sales effectiveness technologies, three critical lessons have emerged:

  1. Successful predictive customer analytics processes – those that actually enable sales reps to target the right prospects and book revenues – require aggregating and analyzing customer data from both external and internal sources
  2. Successful content personalization processesthose that actually serve unique content/offers tailored to each prospective buyer – require curating and measuring the performance of content from both external and internal sources
  3. Successful deployment of these analytic technologies – the who, what, where – must be easy-to-use and be trusted by the Marketing and Sales professionals who use them

Working with our enterprise clients, we are seeing leading CMOs, product marketers, VPs Sales, and quota bearing reps all rapidly migrating together toward digital sales enablement solutions. Our own customer intelligence platform we call Playcaller is just scratching the surface of combining “big data” and “big content” to enable both B2B product marketers and quota-bearing sales reps to better determine who to target, where to reach them, and what content to offer. By combining deep customer insight and personalized content, we see our clients build high performing, data-driven, end-to-end marketing and sales processes to maximize the performance of any “sales play” — customer acquisition, cross-sell, or retention.

The lesson is simple: effective Marketing and Sales processes need BOTH predictive customer intelligence and personalized content. Like peanut butter and jelly, they go together.

What do you think?

Riddle me this: How many apps does it take to make a Sales rep productive?

We were working with a client recently that had over 10,000 global field and inside sales reps. We were amused, but not surprised, when we discovered there were over 10+ different software and customer intelligence tools available to a sales rep to “drive productivity.”

Of course, any good sales rep knows that the fastest way to productivity is to NOT try and use all 10 separate apps!!! So it begged a simple question — what buyer intelligence technologies actually move the needle on sales productivity? We decided to dig in and find out. Without getting into the details, we learned two simple lessons:

    1. The best customer intelligence tools depend on the Sales Play. Every sales play requires a different type of customer intelligence. We categorize five basic play types: acquisition, lead management, account-based marketing, retention, and cross-sell. For acquisition, sales reps need inbound buying signals and leads from 3rd party data sources that are scored (who to focus on) and profiled (what message or relevant content to send). But for cross-sell, sales reps need much more relevant internal data such as purchase history, installed base, and past product usage

      Best Practice
      : the best companies carefully focus their sales enablement tools (data, software, training) on specific sales plays and avoid dumping the kitchen sink of sales gadgets in every sales reps lap. Getting the right data and predictive analytics into the hands of quota bearing reps for each sales play is critical to success.

 

    1. Clone your best reps – or at least the customer intelligence tools they use: Every Sales rep has a different personality and skill set… you can’t train all your reps to be like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (thank god!!!). But we found something very interesting – the best reps, those that have been successful for years, have their own special data sources and analytics tools that make them particularly effective. We found many top performing reps had a daily sales process and set of intelligence tools – often multiple spreadsheets of data from different sources – that gave them really deep and effective insight into buyer behavior and likely needs.
      Best Practice
      : If you discover and document the processes and tools used by the top-performing reps for each type of sales play, there is significant opportunity “clone and scale” those reps (or at least their tools) across the entire sales organization.

 

Out of my own curiosity, how many tech platforms do your reps use from your CRM, internal systems, social media, (even spreadsheets) and more?