Content to Conversation: A Sales Enablement Blog

Sales Enablement and Marketing Should Evolve Along With Your Cloud Computing Solutions

Posted: October 14th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

In August 2010, Launch International published a white paper outlining recommendations for marketers around their cloud computing offerings. In How Marketing Can Accelerate Cloud Adoption: Three Strategies to Turn Buzz into Buyers, we offered some thoughts and examples around:

  • Mapping cloud messages to buying and selling cycles and enabling the development of resources that guide customers and prospects to and through the cloud
  • Investing in non-traditional thought leadership and awareness activities can dispel confusion and doubt surrounding cloud technologies
  • Developing the right sales conversations to help build and sustain prospect interaction to continue moving an opportunity forward

But since we published that paper just 14 months ago, the entire cloud computing marketplace has grown and matured at an incredible pace. It seems the transition from “early adoption” to “mainstream adoption” has been compressed—and clearly that’s a good thing for cloud solution vendors, providers and resellers.

And just like the market adoption of cloud computing has accelerated—so has Launch International’s experience helping cloud vendors and suppliers develop the strategy, assets and resources it takes to recruit and enable resellers, as well as take an integrated, mature message to market.

The kinds of cloud vendor clients we’ve worked with is broad—from systems, software and storage vendors interesting in driving cloud infrastructure solutions through direct and indirect channels, to distributors and managed service providers trying to show value to both resellers and customers.

Cloud sales enablement and marketing for 2012
We’ll be updating the cloud marketing paper in the coming months, but I wanted to take a rainy Friday here in Philadelphia to put a few ideas to paper:

  1. Maturing the cloud message: I’ve seen a real shift in the way cloud companies are talking about their solutions. The early messages around cost savings are still valid, but it seems we’ve all done a lot more thinking about driving real business value: becoming more agile; being more responsive to market fluctuations; developing new capabilities and services for customers. This more proactive, value-centric approach better addresses customer challenges and is helping with cloud adoption.I’ve been speaking with a desktop-in-the-cloud company whose offerings are basically the same as they were 12 months ago. But their business has really shifted quite a bit as desktop virtualization has become a much hotter topic. I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve shifted the message to be more customer-centric, while still retaining their focus on managed service providers. Which leads me to point #2…
  2. Targeting service providers: With more cloud technology options on the market every day, hosting and service providers have many options for how they deliver their cloud services. Security was an early message for cloud marketers, but that’s now become table stakes. Today’s service providers are looking for new technologies that will help not only with cost savings and security, but in driving agility and flexibility across the infrastructure. Large technology vendors in the server and storage spaces are retooling their messages and recruiting materials to show service providers how they can help customers be more dynamic.One of my long-term clients has started putting significant resources into forging better relationships with service provider partners. Much like the long-term strategy of encouraging consultants and systems integrators to base their solutions practices on a certain technology, today’s vendors are showing the value of their offerings in a service provider’s cloud architecture. That’s also critical in recruiting new reseller partner…taking us to point #3…
  3. Enabling VARs and partners: Channel industry trade publications and websites are full of headlines and articles analyzing the impact that cloud computing is having on the traditional VAR channel. Certainly pure-play systems resellers are going to need to transition their business model to take more of a cloud strategist role, and depend on their vendor suppliers and regional service providers to help craft a complete cloud transition strategy that adds value to the customers’ business AND the reseller’s profitability.One client of mine has added “cloud aggregator” to their reseller line card. They’re helping their reseller partners identify the best cloud offerings to offer, as well as offering a dashboard of cloud usage issue resolution—a critical part of resellers becoming a “trusted advisor” for clients and their cloud strategies moving into the future.

No shortage of cloud information for customers OR resellers
The cloud computing marketplace has made me realize that I’m truly a “market headline junkie.” I’ll click on any story or blog that offers information or insight into how marketers can help sellers make money selling cloud computing.

I’d be interested in your feedback and thoughts about sales enablement and marketing cloud computing services in 2012 and beyond.


Considering the scalability of content marketing

Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Social Media, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I’m preparing a presentation for channel resellers next week at the Arrow ECS May Days IBM Partner Conference. The title (which was provided for me) is “Using Marketing Plans and Social Media to Create Selling Situations.” 

My first thought: “Wow…that could be a pretty broad topic.” In my 15 years of channel marketing, I’ve come to appreciate the differences of marketing at the vendor level versus marketing at the reseller level.  With channel resellers, we don’t typically talk about sales enablement, content marketing or strategic asset alignment.

However, my presentation has pretty much followed the same 4 critical components of  marketing execution that we talk about at the higher-level vendor level:

  1. Messaging and positioning
  2. Asset alignment
  3. High-value content
  4. Effective distribution

I’ve developed some slides and content around each of these components,and I think it could really change the way some of these IBM partners manage their marketing endeavors this year. The content is mostly directed toward channel resellers, but there are lessons and ideas for all vendors and companies. 

The ideals of content marketing–focusing on customer challenges–remain top of mind for regional resellers, as well as for large vendors.

 I’ll update these topics soon, and will let you know how the seminar went!


SiriusDecisions 2011 Summit Review: Marketers are “Siriusly” Hungry

Posted: May 10th, 2011 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Okay, I admit it − I was poolside one hour after I arrived at the beautiful Fairmont Scottsdale Resort. I smeared on the SPF 45, ordered the resort’s signature margarita and began reading my Summit registration packet.

Let’s face it − we’ve all been to dozens of conferences where the host suggests that if we leave with two new ideas and meet a couple of like-minded peers, we’ve had a successful trip. At first glance, this conference was going to be no different. The longer I sat in the glorious Arizona sunshine, the more I decided that I’d be perfectly willing to sacrifice a couple of keynotes, sessions and tracks for some much needed R&R. So I promised myself that as soon as the conference lost my attention, I would return to the south pool.

I never made it back. Not only did the conference keep my attention, it turned out to be one of the best events I’ve attended in years for quality of content, attendee interest/interaction and for building post-conference momentum.

SiriusDecisions couldn’t be more right when they describe their world as “the place where sales and marketing meet.” Every keynote paired marketing and sales execs who presented how they overcame the challenges associated with aligning their two organizations toward supporting sales and driving increased revenues. Every track reinforced this aligned strategy with analyst perspectives on best practices in demand gen, product marketing, sales process and sales and channel enablement − each followed by practical, proven examples of success.

Most relevant to my world was Marisa Kopec and Joe Galvin’s session on sales enablement, since that’s what we do. In the most attended breakout session of the conference, the duo together shared the nuts and bolts of an effective sales enablement practice. The statistic that hit home for many (and confirmed via live polling) was the fact that the greatest inhibitor to an organization’s sales force achieving quota was their inability to communicate value messages. The need for customer-focused/value-based messaging and content has never been greater, but alongside that need comes the requirement to map those messages to suitable points and conversations in the buyer’s journey − carried forth not only by sellers, but also via various other customer touch-points. This is one area where many organizations continue to struggle. (PS – We do that, too.)

And by the way, this is one of the slides the Kopec/Galvin team presented:

It seems to me Sales Enablement is another place where marketing and sales meet. I’m just sayin’…

I left the Summit with more than a renewed sense of purpose and a full bottle of SPF 45. The next few years are going to be tons of fun as marketing and sales continue to align and sales enablement practices flourish.


Tweet Like You Mean It

Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: Justin Bowers | Filed under: Content Development | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Twitter, it would seem, is here to stay. And as communicating at 140 characters a pop becomes increasingly commonplace, it’s no surprise to see businesses flocking to Twitter in droves.

While businesses have just as much of a right to tweet as pro athletes, your 10th grade niece and politicians do, it’s only natural for us to regard a company’s use of Twitter as a late-to-the-game move to attach itself to one of the day’s hottest trends.

So how can a business positively contribute to the Twitter community, while leveraging the site to more closely connect with customers, attract new prospects and expand its reach?

There are countless resources to help companies get their feet wet on Twitter – including lists of dos and don’ts, as well as 7, 50 and even 62 tips to follow – but common among these are a few simple rules any business looking to make the best use of Twitter should follow:

 

  • Embrace the sense of community Twitter provides – Like all social media, Twitter exists to help unite like-minded individuals. To this end, think about your tweets as a conversation starter. Have one of your chief technologists tweet about the accomplishments of a peer. Discuss an emerging industry trend. Follow, and be followed by, people and organizations with similar interests. Keep the discussion rolling. Whatever you do, build as many relationships as possible. You never know which connection will make 140 characters worth their weight in gold.
  • Don’t use Twitter for blatant self promotion – While Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool, the public will see through any attempt to tweet the virtues of your company to any and all who may read it. Instead, think of Twitter as a way to gain visibility. The more you engage the community, the more your name is seen on the tweets of people and organizations alike, the more likely the public is to want to learn more about who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Use Twitter to drive organizational improvement – Twitter offers businesses a truly unfiltered dose of public opinion. It may seem a bit scary, but search for your name in recent tweets. People are far more likely to be blunt and truthful over Twitter than they would be over a formal customer-sat survey, so seek out what consumers have to say about your products and services. This type of straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth opinion can really help your company make some significant improvements.

 

With some simple planning, Twitter can become a useful tool that, with little to no investment, can help your organization achieve great things. Just follow these simple rules and you’ll be well on your way. And remember –  tweet like you mean it!


Are your sales people “buying” your sales enablement program?

Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Sales Enablement, Sales Training | Tags: , | No Comments »

Sales enablement is taking center stage in most marketing organizations–and with good reason. Companies realize that, despite truly unique and compelling differentiation, people ultimately buy from people. So, making sure your salespeople can cut the mustard in front of prospects and customers is critically important…not only to gain the trust needed to close a sale, but to build loyalty and keep customers for life.

I belong to a LinkedIn group called the Sales Enablement Leader Exchange. One of the discussions you’ll find there is a rolling conversation where people define their interpretation of sales enablement. Dozens of responses produce definitions that reinforce how we’ve sufficiently diluted the term to a placeholder for all the things that don’t fit nicely into a traditional corporate infrastructure. It’s a system. It’s a process. It’s a commitment. Etc. 

Even though the term resists a single definition, we can safely agree that sales enablement is about building efficiency (sell faster) and effectiveness (sell more).  Fundamentally, it’s about delivering content to a salesperson at the right time/context of a sales process. And when they receive this content, they know what to do with it.

The right content at the right time to an able body who can then deliver it through conversation.

Interestingly enough and despite all the focus, the benefactors of many sales enablement programs (that would be the salespeople) are frustrated. They are watching their employers invest in people, process and technologies that take all of their company’s existing collateral and training tools, and populate them into enterprise class content delivery systems. They’ve invested in automation, often without assessing the actual process itself.

First rule of process automation: Don’t automate a process that isn’t proven successful.  The result of breaking the first rule: Garbage in, garbage out.

We recently completed a client engagement where we interviewed their top 50 salespeople and identified commonalities in how they leverage resources throughout their successful selling processes.  We categorized content assets into valuable, could be valuable with improvement, and unnecessary. And, we identified gaps in the portfolio. We then created a content architecture that ensured right-time delivery via whatever delivery model they chose.

Because of our 18-year history in sales enablement (which pre-dates the term itself), we also were engaged to create all missing assets and improve that which could be salvaged. After three months of effort, we were able to launch to the various sales organizations (in the form of a playbook) a documented and proven methodology for successfully carrying a prospect to a sale…complete with proof points from their peers. It remains the gold standard for this company today. Similar efforts are happening in organizations that are actively engaging key salespeople in the creation and definition of their enablement programs.  If your salespeople aren’t buying your sales enablement program, you’re not in business.