Why Marketing Can’t Always Produce “Goldilocks” Content

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Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re talking with a marketer for a B2B company, and she says, “We’re creating great content – and lots of it – but our sales reps don’t use half of the content we develop.” Then, you talk with sales reps from the same company, and they say,” We need better content! A lot of the content that marketing provides doesn’t really help us advance our sales opportunities.”

Unfortunately, this scenario is far too common, and it’s clear that sales reps don’t use content resources produced by marketing for two main reasons. Either they can’t find the resources when they need them, or they don’t believe the resources will be useful in the selling situation they’re facing.

SiriusDecisions recently estimated that 28% of all the content owned by B2B companies goes unused because it’s unfindable, and that 37% isn’t used because of low quality or lack of relevance. In a survey last year by Demand Metric, only 43% of sales respondents rated their marketing content assets as somewhat effective, and only 3% said they were very effective.



Some people argue that both of these problems can be solved.

  • Sales enablement technology can be used to make content resources easily findable by sales reps, and some sales enablement solutions can use data analytics to recommend specific content resources for specific sales interactions.
  • By collaborating with sales reps during the content development process, marketers can create content resources that will better meet the needs of salespeople.
Technology can certainly be used to make finding content assets easier, and collaboration between marketers and salespeople should enable marketers to develop content resources that will be more compelling to potential buyers. But can marketing be expected to always provide “Goldilocks” content – content that will be “just right” for every interaction that a sales rep has with a potential buyer? I don’t think so, and here’s why.
One vital characteristic of effective marketing content is personalization. By personalization, I mean the degree to which the material in a content asset is tailored based on the attributes and anticipated interests of the intended recipient. The following diagram shows the six levels of content personalization.

The table below describes each level of personalization.

Today, we know that marketing content should be segment-specific, persona-specific, and stage-specific. In other words, marketers should consistently develop and use content resources that are tailored for specific buyer personas who are affiliated with specific types of prospect organizations, and who are at specific stages of the buying process.



However, it’s just about impossible for marketers to develop prospect-specific and lead-specific content because those levels of personalization require insights that can only be gained through personal interactions with potential buyers. So, these types of personalized content can only be produced by someone who is having direct conversations with the potential buyer – and that usually means a business development representative or a salesperson.
Last year, David Brock addressed this issue in a post at his Partners in EXCELLENCE Blog. Dave described prospect-specific and lead-specific content in captivating terms:
“It’s marketing content for an audience of 1 – at this very moment . . . It’s content that addresses my specific problem, concerns, and priorities right now – because they may be slightly different from those I have tomorrow . . . The content I need comes from you engaging me in conversations and a discussion about what I do, what my people do, what my boss is expecting of me, what my customers and suppliers want . . . It is specific to me and my priorities today.”

For the past few years, the conventional wisdom has been that salespeople should not be spending their time developing content. But the reality is, there are some types of content that only a sales rep can produce. Instead of trying to eliminate all salesperson-created content, marketers should support sales reps in performing this vital job. And salespeople should stop expecting marketers to provide ready-made content for every selling situation.

Top illustration courtesy of CW Wells via Flickr CC.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi David

    I wonder whether the language of personalisation as set out in your table is part of the problem. Your highest-levels of personalisation – prospect and lead-specific – provide the clues. Yesterday’s marketing may have been all about generating demand up to the point off sale, but as Norwegian marketer Helge Tenno points out in a post on ‘Next Generation Content is the Product: And This Time It’s Personal’, tomorrow’s marketing will be much more about managing interactions in the post-sale customer experience.

    Content Marketing is Dead. Long live Contextual Marketing!

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

  2. That Salespeople don’t use much of the content that Marketing creates doesn’t worry me. It’s not shocking that in the one-to-one world of sales, marketing’s resources that are directed to many often fail to shine.

    Lack of relevance – I accept that. The other reasons cited (if true) are troubling, though. There’s little excuse with today’s technology to have stuff that’s ‘unfindable.’ (How would anyone know, though?) And low quality? Seems an unpardonable marketing sin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the reality is that in much of B2B selling, customers and prospects are not content sponges. They seek specific information to support decision criteria and biases. More stuff is not necessary better.

    Over time, most of the B2B salespeople I work with settle on a few pieces of company-created material that work well for them: A good introductory piece, FAQ’s, technical specifications, a compelling client story or two. And many salespeople take advantage of supportive magazine and trade journal articles and send those to clients. Those content shares are frequently untracked because they are not internal marketing documents.

    I’ve seen plenty of salespeople get overwhelmed with all the content that Marketing creates, but because management tells them to do so, they send it to every prospect after every conversation. Or worse, it’s part of a scripted sales process. “We have a PowerPoint that explains our new optimized search algorithm. I’ll email it to you right now!” e-Spaghetti, thrown in the direction of an ‘influencer’ or ‘decision-maker.’ Most doesn’t get read or shared, because it’s not valuable to prospects. And for content creation, their opinion on value is all that matters.

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