I recently had the opportunity to interview ten Sales and Marketing leaders, including MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley, social selling evangelist Jill Rowley, and seven other smart people. I’ve collected the interviews into a free ebook. And in the process of talking with them, I learned a lot and also noticed a few common themes …
1) Inbound is where it’s at.
These people are all about growing revenue quickly. They’re focused on opportunities and revenue, not just leads. They use whatever works and they’ve learned that inbound marketing produces the highest quality opportunities with the highest close rates. As Zorian Rotenberg, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InsightSquared put it:
“We have four different lead sources but the two that drive the most business are 70% inbound marketing and 30% outbound prospecting.”
A fundamental reason why inbound marketing is so powerful is because content is inherently superior to outbound marketing because we choose it. According to Jamie Scheu who, at the time that I interviewed him, was Vice President, Associate Director of Content at Hill Holliday:
“Content is special because people choose to seek it out. It’s not marketing messages that seek them out.”
2) It’s a new world for Sales, too.
Buyers want knowledge; that’s why they’re looking for content. And sales people need to provide knowledge, expertise, and value in every interaction with the client. As social selling evangelist Jill Rowley put it:
“The modern sales professional is actually a mini-marketer. Content is the currency of the modern marketer and the modern sales professional. The sales professional uses content to educate, create credibility and trust, inform, and add value. And as a marketer, the sales professional needs to add content and social media to their toolbox.”
3) Sales enablement requires very high quality content.
Leaders use content as part of their sales enablement. According to Bob Johnson, vice president and principal analyst at IDG Connect:
“You need to get sales involved right up front when setting up your strategy to see what they need, use, like and don’t like, and what’s taking their time … A salesperson doesn’t want to side track a conversation; they want the content to enable speaking to their value and differentiation. So if the asset you provide is a 20-page whitepaper but only pages 7-9 are relevant to the point of conversation, that’s problematic. So you have to think short, think modular, and enable the sales person to use aspects of an asset, not just the whole thing.”
And in today’s hyper-competitive business environment, me-too content is not good enough: You need to produce high-quality content. Ann Handley sets a tough bar for content to cross; she says you need to always be asking yourself:
“Would your customers thank you for that content?”
4) It all starts with the people.
The new, data-driven tools and channels require new skills, and even new positions. According to Jeanne Hopkins, SVP and CMO at Continuum Managed IT Services:
“You have to start with the team. Even for those who may have been in the business for five or ten years, they’re not accustomed to understanding how important it is to be able to evaluate a program.”
I heard over and over again it is a team that includes creatives, techies, data people, and more. No one individual can be expert in everything that you need to know in marketing today.
Working together as a team requires new skills, including a basic understanding and appreciation of what the other people on the team do. Scott Brinker, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive says:
“Individuals don’t have to become a statistician or a data scientist. But they should feel comfortable with the principles of how to reason with data. That way, when they’re working with someone who is more analytical, they’re able to communicate around a common understanding of what a given set of data is useful for -- and also what it’s not useful for.”
5) In the beginning, and the end, it’s all about the customer.
Forrester says that this is the Age of the Customer, and that is reflected in everything that these sales and marketing leaders do. They create content for the customer. They engage with the customer where and how they want to be engaged with. They develop personas as part of the process of understanding the customer intuitively and empirically. Dave Krupinski, CTO of Care.com, says that ultimately they tailor and personalize experiences that will serve that customer the best:
“Someone looking for child care and someone looking for senior care are going to be different. And they’re going to come to our site with a very different frame of mind … We think about the end-to-end experience, not just the marketing activity but what happens when the user comes to our website.”
A 900-word blog post can only go so far in communicating the insights that these people convey in over 20,000 words. They talked about dozens of other tactics that they use to implement these strategies and drive revenue for their companies. This post was just the movie; to get the fuller expression of their knowledge you’ll have to read the ebook.