Sales Content Effectiveness
A step-by-step guide to creating, organizing, and distributing and measuring effective sales content
Content marketing as a professional discipline has only been around since around 2010. Therefore, a lot of the “rules” of content marketing are being written as we speak. And the rapid evolution of technology means these rules are ever-changing and never set in stone.
However, there are few basic, unchanging principles of great sales content marketing. These transcend whatever technology you or your prospects use.
By the end of this post, you’ll know 3 essential thinks. First, how to create effective sales content. Second, how to determine the ROI of sales content. And third, a four-step plan to optimize your sales content strategy.
First, let’s define our terms.
What is Sales Content?
Sales content, simply put, is any digital or physical resource used by your sales team to close more deals. It’s really that simple. What isn’t simple, however, is what separates great content from mediocre content. Like any discipline, the barrier to entry for content marketing is very low. Technically, any social media post from any brand is “content” by a loose definition of the phrase.
Sales content is fulfilling its purpose when it’s exchanged for something. It can be exchanged for the time and attention of your prospective audience, such as in reading a blog post. It can be exchanged for an email address of your prospect, which allows for further lead nurturing and qualification. Sometimes, sales content can be exchanged for real dollars, depending on its efficacy and position in the funnel.
Who creates the content?
The content creation process varies from organization to organization. However, a tried-and-true workflow is as follows.
The sales team communicates prospect pain points to the marketing team. The marketing team in turn creates content to support sales interactions. The content is distributed to sales through online channels. And lastly, the content is tracked though the sales cycle and analyzed for effectiveness.
We’ll talk more about the importance of open communication between sales and marketing later. But this is just another benefit to having a sales enablement manager or team. Sales enablement managers help facilitate alignment and communication between sales and marketing. Keeping two busy teams of people on the same page can truly be a full-time job, after all.
What is Sales Content Effectiveness?
There are a number of metrics you can use to determine the quality of your sales content, and many of them are valid. One indisputable metric — the KPI to rule them all — is whether or not your content is moving deals forward.
Notice that I didn’t say “whether or not the content is closing sales.” There’s a careful distinction here. Not all content is designed to close sales, and therefore not all content should be judged by that standard.
The answer to this question may be a simple yes or no. But where the conversation gets more complicated is when you dig deeper and ask “why isn’t this content helping close more deals?”
As you dig beneath each “why?” more signposts are revealed that will help you know when you need to fix your sales content or scrap it altogether and start over.
Maybe you’re reading this and you have a pool of content that doesn’t seem to be resonating with your audience. Or perhaps your sales reps simply aren’t using your content and you can’t seem to figure out why. Maybe you’re brand new to this content marketing thing and you just want to make sure you start with a rock-solid strategy.
Wherever you find yourself, this step-by-step guide to optimizing your sales content will set you on the right path to producing effective sales content that helps close more deals.
Optimizing your Sales Content Strategy
Content marketing can be divided into two separate (but equally important) disciplines. Those are “Content” and “marketing.” It’s important to have a clear delineation between the two. The content is the actual asset or series of assets that are created by you and consumed by your prospects. The marketing is the manner in which they’re distributed.
Asset creation takes time and resources, and ensuring ROI is essential. Let’s talk about some of the fundamentals of using sales content to support your reps and grow your revenue.
Step one – Create great sales content
Starting with historical data
If you’re in the privileged position of already having a volume of content, you can get a head start on the process. You can accomplish this by analyzing the performance of existing content with your target demographic. As the saying goes, “past performance is a great indicator of future behavior.”
Determining content performance through the buyer’s journey can help you identify areas that have earned production investment. It can also help identify content gaps, or areas that are lacking and need development.
If you don’t have a system for measuring content efficacy, there’s no better time than the present to invest in a comprehensive marketing AI content solution that can organize, deliver, and measure your content marketing efforts.
The recipe for great content
There are a lot of similarities between making a great piece of content and making a delicious meal. If you start with bad ingredients, no amount of plate dressing, customer service, or garnish will fix your dish.
Similarly, if you skimp on the actual content creation process, no amount of marketing expertise will fix it. As the saying goes, “great marketing makes a bad product fail faster.” The same is true of content.
Widely speaking, the best sales content on the internet checks at least one of the following three boxes:
- Great sales content educates and informs
This can also be known as “thought leadership.” This is information packaged in the form of a blog post, webinar, eBook, white paper, or online tool (among other potential content types). For an example of a great piece of educational and informative content, check out Canva’s Design School, a free learning platform that teaches the fundamentals of design to prospective users.
- Great sales content solves a specific pain point
When you search YouTube for “how to replace a door jamb” and the first result is a video titled “How to replace a door jamb: step-by-step,” you can’t get more laser-specific than that. Zeroing in on one pain point your niche commonly experiences is a great way to create valuable content.
This content can also point to your offering as the problem-solver: It doesn’t always need to give away the solution for free. However, it’s important to be aware of the “law of reciprocity” in humans. In other words, giving free information and guidance to earn trust and build stronger customer/business relationships.
Many brands do this, for example, like Wistia’s tutorials on how to produce videos. This video solves a specific pain point, namely, “The Best Way to Shoot a Video By Yourself.”
- Great sales content acts as a helpful reference or guide
Things like checklists, cheat sheets, or step-by-step guides are excellent pieces of content for a few reasons. One, they often are fairly low-effort to produce on the spectrum of content creation. Two, they can be downloaded and printed by a prospect in exchange for an email, which you can then add to your database for lead nurturing.
And the best part? If you brand it correctly, every time your prospect references it, they’ll be reminded of your company.
The best sales content has all three
It’s not easy to do, but it’s possible for a piece of content to check all three of these boxes. Another solution would be to do two or three pieces of related content that fit these categories as part of a larger campaign.
For example, let’s say you’re a company specializing in fishing rods for fly fishing. You might have a webinar with an expert fly fisherman sharing his top tips (educational and informative). Maybe you clip a part of that webinar that solves a specific problem, like “how to properly clean your fly line.” Finally, as a downloadable checklist marketed with the webinar, you have a step-by-step guide on how to tie essential fly fishing knots.
The smartest organizations know that content performs best when it cross-promotes and enhances other content. Like the above example. Perhaps somewhere within the three assets there’s a link to purchase a fishing pole from your company — something your prospect will be much more primed to do after you’ve added so much value to them.
Creating sales content for each funnel stage, demographic, and industry
It’s important that you cover every subset of your market as you build your volume of sales content.
A great way to do this is through a content audit, which we discussed in a previous post. Sort by funnel stage, market, or other segments that are valuable to your business.
Perhaps you’re not closing deals in a particular market, but you have a wide swath of content in the funnel. When you drill down, however, you realize that across the board you have good funnel coverage. But in this particular subset you have almost no bottom of funnel content.
In other words, you’re drawing people in, but you have no content that helps sell your particular offering.
The amount of ways you can slice this data is immense. But performing a few pivot table functions in Sheets or Excel on your content audit will help you identify these gaps. For more best practices on conducting a content audit check out the “How to improve your sales content management” section of our blog post linked below.
SEE ALSO: Sales Content Management
Evergreen vs. timeliness
Time moves quickly in the world of content marketing. As such, there is a tightrope that every content creator must walk in terms of writing timely content and evergreen content. Evergreen content, like its namesake, flourishes year-round. Time doesn’t diminish its ability to be valuable and profitable to your organization. It also doesn’t need to be refreshed or optimized as often.
As a general rule, it’s generally best practice to stay away from content that will be outdated in a month. Unless you’re in a fast-moving industry where timely content is expected.
A great example of an industry that’s ever-changing is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The best SEO organizations and sites are constantly publishing new data and tactics as search algorithms continue to evolve. In industries like SEO, content needs to move almost as fast as the news cycle.
Other industries that move a bit slower will want to err on the side of creating high-value and high-effort pieces of content. Content that solves universal pain points and transcends time and technology.
You know you’ve hit the jackpot when you create a piece of content that’s not only timely in its delivery, but evergreen in its staying power.
Blendtec did this when they began the wildly popular “Will it Blend?” series on YouTube. The series helped them rank for timely technology, market their solution, and provide entertainment and brand recognition for anyone who wanted to see absurd things thrashed in a blender.
Invest in quality aesthetics
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an admirable idea, but rarely adhered to in the world of content marketing. The bottom line is incredible content wrapped in amateurish visuals will turn off would-be prospects. And could actually deter them from engaging with it.
Whether you have an in-house designer or contracted help, it’s important to spend as much time fine-tuning the graphics and branding of your asset as you do the content itself. This is especially relevant for content like eBooks and one-pagers. These content types are particularly focused on mixing engaging graphics with great written content.
More ideas for effective sales content
If you’re at a loss for ideas for sales content, perhaps this list will stimulate your imagination. A diversified content portfolio will include at least one of each of these types of content:
- Webinars with industry leaders
- Case studies from happy customers
- Online tools like pricing calculators or risk assessors
- eBooks for more in-depth education on a topic
- Well-researched white papers
- One-pagers on a particular feature or benefit your solution offers
Step two – Equip your reps with an effective sales content strategy
Like I mentioned before, creating the content is only half the battle. You now need to equip your sales reps to use it in their daily selling workflow.
Maintain tight communication between marketing and sales
Hopefully, throughout the ideation, planning, and creation process, the sales team has been well apprised of all assets coming down the pike from marketing. As a general rule, if your sales reps are surprised or taken off guard by the completion of a new asset, something went sideways in the communication process.
Not only is it important to maintain communication during the content creation process, but even more so during the content analysis process. We’ll explore this deeper later in this post.
A good practice is to have a weekly or bi-monthly touchpoint with marketing and sales stakeholders with the sole purpose of keeping everyone up-to-date on content creation and performance.
Make content easy to find and use
It may seem unbelievable, but it’s not outlandish to have a freshly completed asset that sits in a repository and doesn’t get used by sales reps for months.
This is a bigger problem than you think. Perhaps it’s even your personal experience.
There are a handful of possible reasons why your sales reps aren’t using your sales content, but a simple one you can control is making that content easy to access and share.
Sales reps are a fickle breed. All it takes is one stressful experience of trying to locate a key piece of content for them to get fed up and move on to another strategy.
Content management platforms aim to solve this problem through centralizing your materials and making them searchable.
But marketing AI technology can take content adoption even further by delivering intelligence directly to your reps in real-time (when they need it most).
Imagine how much faster your reps could sell if custom-tailored content recommendations, messaging training, support documents, and a host of other resources were delivered to them automatically.
Step three – Analyze content performance
This step is by far the most important in the sales content lifecycle, yet it seems to be so readily neglected by sales and marketing teams alike. Perhaps it’s the fact that employees are so eager to move on to the next project or asset that they forget to analyze the performance of an existing asset.
Analyzing and measuring your content’s performance is what single-handedly determines whether or not your sales content is mediocre or truly effective.
This process is part qualitative and part quantitative, and it’s important to study both types of data in order to make a determination for future content creation.
Connect with reps on content usage
One of the most insightful ways to get qualitative feedback on the efficacy of your content is to interview sales reps.
This is why a regular meeting with marketing and sales is so important. Assessing the ongoing performance with reps on the content is not just a great idea, it’s imperative to determining the content’s ROI.
Another idea is to have one-on-one conversations with sales reps. Perhaps they have some feedback they’d rather share on a private conversation.
Here are some great questions to ask reps in relation to new content:
- Have you been using this content as part of your selling workflow?
- How has the typical prospect responded to this content?
Many of their answers will guide the conversation. If they know where to find the content but still aren’t utilizing it, there could be a few potential issues:
- The content has been getting lukewarm reception from prospects
- The rep doesn’t understand the value of the content or how to communicate it
- The content is irrelevant to the pain points of the prospect
If these factors are present, don’t panic. You don’t always need to send an asset back to the drawing board. Copy can be tweaked to better represent the pain points of prospects and graphics can be adjusted to be more on-brand.
The key thing is that you’re having these conversations with folks who are selling on the front lines and can help you make the content the best it can be.
Study content KPIs and dashboards to determine efficacy
Going a layer deeper, sales content efficacy can be determined more precisely through quantitative metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).
This is where a digital sales enablement platform is absolutely invaluable. Most content management software will show you how many times a piece of content has been accessed, downloaded, sent to a prospect, or emailed out.
This will help you ask questions that determine the true value of the content. These questions will help inform your KPIs. They include:
- Does this content positively affect the speed of our sales cycle (funnel velocity)?
- Does this content cause a prospect to consume more of our content?
- What distribution channels (email, web, social) are most effective for this content?
There are so many contributing factors in a B2B sales cycle. Simply collecting all content used on a won deal and calling it your “most effective” could produce a lot of false positives. And worse, it could steer your marketing team to invest in content duds.
Software solutions like Accent Marketing Insight capture all content usage metrics and use machine learning to discern meaningful correlations. This data is gathered and visualized in real-time, so you can not only answer the above three questions accurately but quickly.
Not only does this help you determine your content ROI, but it will set a blueprint for future content creation. Double down on the effective channels, types, and demographics that find your content valuable and you’re well on your way to building an effective sales content library.
Step four – Automate your lead nurturing
Once you’ve run through this process a number of times, you’ll begin to build your volume of sales content. If you’ve audited your content correctly, communicated well across teams, and acted on your analyses, you should have a powerful reservoir of assets. Ideally, these would be spread across demographics, verticals (if you sell to more than one), and funnel locations.
Once you’re at this point, it’s now time to begin automating your lead nurturing. Lead nurturing helps you close more sales by offering relevant content to prospects over particular time intervals. Prospects are usually segmented by a particular criteria.
Using marketing automation software, you can automate this entire process, completely freeing up your sales reps to focus on closing bottom-of-funnel sales.
Let’s pretend we’re on the sales team of the hypothetical fly fishing company we described earlier in this post as an example. An effective lead nurturing strategy might be the following:
- A user reads a blog post on the best destinations for fly fishing in America and signs up for our email list via a subscribe form at the bottom of the post
- This triggers an automated email workflow that sends relevant content over a period of time to their inbox. This is also called a “drip nurture” or “nurture path”
- Using a tool like Accent Connect integrated with our CRM, we can determine the analytics of how often this prospect downloads and views our content
- Once the content engagement of the prospect reaches a certain threshold or they engage positively with a certain asset, we can then start serving up targeted ads on social media or “hard-selling” them with specific calls to purchase
This is just one example of the many possibilities lead nurturing can offer your organization. By far the biggest benefit to automating your lead nurturing is reclaiming the time of your sales reps. Automating top-of-funnel processes means they can focus solely on the best part of their jobs — closing deals.
We’d love to talk more about the role technology plays in sales content effectiveness, specifically in the analysis phase. For more information on how Accent Technologies can help level up your content and revenue, contact our team today.
Accent Technologies is the first and only SaaS company to bring together Sales AI and Content Management in a true REVENUE ENABLEMENT PLATFORM. We provide both sales and marketing with better visibility into the performance of their teams and their content. This drives revenue through intelligent recommendations for complex sales scenarios and provides the data for rich analytics that power better messaging, coaching, forecasting, and long-term customer support. Learn more about our solutions or request a LIVE DEMO to see it in action.