. . or How to avoid the “Send me your brochure” objection and get down to real business issues.
When it comes to producing brochures, white papers and case studies, B2B companies have major productivity and process problems.
Sales teams want to constantly produce and tweak marketing materials for very specific situations they’re selling into. And, as marketing professionals, we end up writing and designing pieces that are kinda ok for a lot of audiences but not quite right for the prospect at hand.
We make assumptions and try to set expectations by saying, “Here’s our overview brochure. Here’s our data sheet.”
But the prospects use this little dance as an objection or delay exercise.
Different sales people and different sales teams also complicate matters. They want us to produce static documents based on their assumptions about the market and their unique selling styles.
Responding to individual requests for a static, expected document thus becomes very complicated, time consuming and counter-productive. It’s a passive, reactive way to deal with lead flow. You don’t want to keep producing new “boilerplate” as sales people identify new opportunities, verticals and challenges. What you want is engagement. There isn’t a whole lot of engagement involved in attaching documents to emails and waiting for the prospect to read the dang thing.
It’s tradition, and maybe it’s expected. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a contrarian way to approach this.
A New Way: Engagement-Driven Content Production
Why not engage prospects first, then produce Just In Time (JIT - think JIT manufacturing) content that’s customized to their particular situation?
The lead process should start with question-based selling, surveys, and marketing automation solutions that qualify leads in an organized, staged manner. It’s entirely possible with all the free and low-cost tools available out there.
Then you can create documents (even modify templates that you’ve already created) that help prospects figure out what what their goals and specific needs are. The way to do that is to ask questions and produce something custom for their unique situation. They take a step toward you, then you take a step toward them.
Flip It on Its Head
If we flip the concept around, we could have the sales people get back in the driver’s seat and start a real dialogue before any documents change hands.
Why not exhaustively explore pains, challenges and needs then provide a custom report based on their unique situation? In a way, this is what companies like IDC and Gartner do for the tech industry.
With this contrarian approach, the sales people can help the prospect make their case internally without doing a whole bunch of work on their own.
Have the sales person say, “We don't have a one-size-fits-all white paper for you and your particular situation because everyone’s different. But here's my offer. We’ll write a two page research paper on your specific issue. We’ll figure out what needs to be done, what research is necessary. All we need from you is to tell us exactly what your issues are right off the bat.”
The prospect gets the report for free, and if the company can’t solve their issue, the prospect can shop the report to some other company.
You’re essentially giving the prospect a gift, and it needs to be positioned as such: “We’d love to help you. In return, we need a one-on-one meeting or call with a decision maker.”
It’s Also a Research Tool
As the marketing department produces more of these custom documents for sales (for real deals, by the way, not just for some internally perceived market), the company learns about real market challenges. They get up-to-date, straight from the horse’s mouth research. It’s that golden information happening in the prospect’s mind right now.
Of course, that new content can be re-purposed as web content, FAQs, YouTube “how-tos,” Google Hangouts On Air or whatever else.
Custom as Competitive Differentiator
The custom report approach makes the company highly unique. The sales department can immediately start a discussion that says, “We're offering to take a fresh look at what you're dealing with. Let's do it. Let's not mess around with marketing fluff and promises that we cook up and give to everybody.”
What do you think?
Is this a compelling new model for content production?