What is your product marketing’s “release to sales” process?

New products and major revisions to existing products are always exciting. Without a doubt, they are an important milestone for your company. So it is natural that a lot of investment goes into building a new offering and bringing it to the market. However, organizations seldom pay required attention to the last leg of the process. Releasing the offering to your customer-facing team members. In a typical B2B technology company, your product is taken to the market by three primary constituents:

  • Sales – This team includes your account executives and sales development reps.
  • Customer Success – The members of this team are plugged in with your current customer base and many times a new product offering can have a potential to make serious money in your existing customer base.
  • Partners – Your organization’s partner community (if there is one) is an important channel to take the product to the market.

Companies do invest some time in updating these parties about the new offering. For the internal community (sales and/or customer success), they will have a session to update them on the new offering. And for the external partner community, companies will have a webinar to bring them up to speed on the offering. And they stop there and wait for revenue to roll in for the new products. However, this half-ass effort rarely results in any success in the field. Unless companies do not enable their revenue channels with the right information when the channels need it, they will see poor results for their new offerings.

Moreover, doing a “release to sales” process right does not take any extra resources than what is already being expended to support the release process. One just has to make a shift in two areas: timeline and enablement approach.

Here are some best practices to release a new (or upgraded) product to the market:

Start Early. You want to start planning and acting on your “release to sales” activity much earlier than the product release date. Something is majorly wrong if your product is released in January and the enablement activities are happening in March/April timeframe. You have just wasted a full quarter of the market and revenue opportunity. In our experience, if it is a major upgrade to an existing product or an altogether new product offering, you should start at least 3 to 4 months before the scheduled release date.

Create a “Release to Sales” Kit. Create a shareable, reusable, content kit for your “release to sales” activity. If you use a cloud storage platform, designate a folder on Google Drive or Sharepoint which will include all the customer-facing and internal & confidential collateral for that release. Bring that content and information together in one place.

And please spare the customer-facing teams with other irrelevant content like test plans, bug reports, project plans, etc. This kit should only include documents and content that will help enable the constituents to drive conversations in the markets and bring revenue.

Follow a Timeline. We show here an example timeline for a well-executed “release to sales” process. In addition to the key milestones (highlighted by bigger circles), the product marketing team has to continuously drip information to the different constituents to keep this upcoming release front and center in their minds. One needs to make the information stick in the minds of those who are on the front lines selling and discussing this product with potential buyers.

screenshot_2212

 

Involve Other Teams. Product marketing alone cannot execute a successful “release to sales” process. You need support from other teams to make the release a true success. Your sales engineering and customer success partners can have valuable input to help you arm the revenue teams with the right assets.

The above practices do not require a company to pour in extra resources to execute a successful “release to sales” process. The content highlighted in the example timeline is already discussed and put down in documents, spreadsheets, and slides. What is needed is a simple process to bring that content together and distribute efficiently. These changes will not only help accelerate the sales pipeline, but it will also reduce the ongoing enablement burden on the marketing team.

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A cloud storage app is not a content portal.

With the advent of cloud storage applications, organizations increasingly use them as storage systems for all their digital assets. Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, etc, have made it very easy to securely store documents and other digital assets on the cloud and make them available to your company/team.

However, these cloud platforms are not an ideal destination for sales content. These cloud storage apps are nothing but a better version of Windows Explorer or Mac Finder on the cloud. And it is not their shortcoming that they are not suited to be your sales and knowledge portal. They are not meant to be a sales portal.

We love these apps. We use them at Enablix. They offer lots of storage, provide a decent search capability, and because of their popularity, there is (almost) zero learning curve for your team members. But using these apps as content portals for your customer-facing teams and expecting them to drive any value is a far cry.

Here are some negatives that render these cloud storage apps less desirable when it comes to helping your customer-facing teams with their content needs.

Too much content

  • We are a small team at Enablix, and in the last 18 months, our very small team (less than 7 members) has managed to accumulate more than 1000 files on our Google Drive folder.
  •  When we talk to marketers and team leaders, we often hear “we don’t have a lot of content.” And while that may be true, it is also true that even with very little content, you don’t have it organized in one place. It is somewhere in the clutter of your cloud storage along with a sea of drafts, and half-baked artifacts.
  • You don’t need a whole lot of content to start making a measurable impact on your customer-facing team’s productivity and efficiency. Read The 80/20 rule of enabling sales with content. But if you don’t do a good job of managing those few vital assets, then clutter is going to take over.

Only files

Most of us are using cloud storage to store files. But increasingly our content is in different formats. We are investing in blogs, press releases, articles, videos, slideshares, etc. Cloud storage apps are not the ideal platforms to store videos and URL links to your blogs and news articles. This means your customer-facing teams now need to access different applications for different types of content. An absence of centralized access to all the digital assets dilutes the value to the end user.

No control on quality

Just take a look at your cloud storage app. You are bound to find stale and irrelevant content in less than a minute. Files from last year that are no longer relevant are still lingering on your cloud storage application. You are also bound to see draft versions of the files scattered across the cloud file system. There is no way to control quality. There is no way to ensure that trusted and current content is available for your customer-facing teams.

No ownership

Cloud storage apps have democratized information sharing. Anyone and everyone in a company can contribute to the content stack. However, in the absence of centralized control, these storage apps become a playground to dump anything and everything. Restricting read/write access to folders is not practical. Such restrictions become the bottleneck to maintaining quality content.

No insights

The cloud storage apps provide you no insights on the usage of your content. Measuring internal and external content engagement helps you make informed decisions. It is very hard to manage and drive a content library without measurable feedback.

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A content catalog can significantly help re-branding.

In today’s ever-changing digital marketplace, rebranding is an inevitable milestone for most companies. Digitization is on the rise, new and agile competitors are entering the marketplace, and well-executed companies are broadening their market. These changes are resulting in a rebranding movement in the B2B industry.

Unlike the consumer space, B2B rebranding efforts are not limited to logos, website colors, and taglines. A B2B rebranding exercise usually includes a strategic shift in the company’s go-to-market strategy. It signifies an important stage in a company’s growth. Moreover, it offers an opportunity for better customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

However, a rebranding exercise is a costly undertaking. Research has shown that a rebranding exercise can cost between 10% to 20% of a company’s marketing budget and may take several months to execute. Moreover, the success of a rebranding exercise is directly dependent on how effectively a company rolls out the brand internally and externally.

In our experience, we see that a well-managed content catalog helps companies reduce the cost of their rebranding exercise. It also helps with internal and external communications and lowers the potential barriers to the adoption of the new brand.

In general, a rebranding process involves four important steps.

branding_process

An up-to-date and trusted catalog of digital assets helps rebrand faster and cheaper. Here is an outline of how a well-managed catalog helps the rebranding process steps.

Research

A big part of research is understanding your company’s current brand, the target market, your company’s position in the market, and your competitive landscape. These insights will feed into your rebranding strategy. Moreover, if you are taking help of a branding agency, then they will benefit from the research. Your content catalog can speed up this process for your internal stakeholders and your external rebranding partners.

  • The current assets will help inform the research participants about your company’s current positioning, and branding.
  • Recent market news, analyst research, customer case studies and win/loss analysis will help get a pulse on your company’s target market.
  • The performance of your recent webinars, blogs, and whitepapers will help you gauge the market sentiment of your current brand.

Plan & Document

When planning, you need to answer two important questions for the stakeholders and senior management.

  • What are we rebranding?
  • What is the estimated cost of the rebranding exercise?

A content catalog can cut down the emotional noise and help quantify your effort upfront in the planning phase. Furthermore, it can offer you options to manage the estimated cost of the exercise. E.g., you can prioritize where you spend on rebranding. If you are anchoring the rebranding exercise on a specific solution, you can spend more dollars on creating and rebranding digital assets for that solution than refresh all your digital assets.

Additionally, your content catalog can help you plan a phase-wise rebranding exercise. This iterative approach can reduce the initial budgeted cost. Senior management wants to see results before they sign a big check. An iterative approach delivers results on a faster timeline without spending significant dollars.

Catalog

Imagine, you had your content catalog in control. A snapshot of your catalog (similar to the above image), can help answer important questions that can lay the foundation of your company’s rebrand exercise.

  • Do we have an inventory of existing assets?
  • Do we create new assets or refresh existing ones?
  • How do we retire existing assets?
  • How many assets will we rebrand?

A solid rebranding plan and documentation not only reduces the cost and timeline, but it also helps keep everyone on the same page. By embracing data-driven decisions, you minimize personal bias.

Build

In the “build” step the rebranding team, including your agency partners, does the work. A “build” step includes everything from creating new logos, graphics, website layout, messaging to updating your prioritized assets to adopt the new brand. A strong plan based on a trusted catalog can drive significant savings in the “build” stage.

  • You can create new assets faster by referring to the existing ones. It is much quicker to rebrand an existing Case Study than to create an entirely new one.
  • You can leverage externally authored assets to support the new brand. Analyst research and market reports that align with the new brand will help you enhance your newly created assets.
  • You can identify opportunities to repurpose existing assets. E.g., you can take a couple of existing blogs on a particular topic and convert them into a compelling white paper that supports your new brand.

Rollout

Without a proper “rollout,” your brand’s success is left to chance. Moreover, it is important to launch your brand internally first, before introducing it to the world at large. Your employees are your brand’s most important ambassadors. It is a prime opportunity for senior management to rally the troops behind the vision. However, a new brand rollout is not an easy task. Moreover, many companies end up faltering at this last, but an essential, step of their rebranding journey.

A well-managed content catalog can help fail-proof some important tasks in the brand rollout universe.

  • Manage the switch. When you are moving from an older brand to the newer one, it is not only important to promote the new brand, but it is equally essential to deprioritize the older brand.
  • Don’t mix new and old digital assets. If your company is using content management or knowledge management system to distribute collateral, it is important that your employees have a clearly identify newer assets from the older ones.
  • If you can, separate the access to, the newer assets from, the older ones. This distinction is important when you are in the midst of a phase-wise rebranding exercise. You will have a period where the newly branded assets and the older assets (that are yet to be rebranded) will co-exist. To avoid confusion, separate the access to the newer ones. The goal should be to eventually retire the older assets and switch all assets to the new brand.

Old habits die hard. Therefore, even after the rebranding exercise is complete, companies should continue to educate and re-train the minds of their employees, their partners, and their customers to adopt the new brand. A quality, up-to-date content catalog of the newly branded assets will drive faster adoption.

 
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The 80/20 rule of enabling sales with content

The 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto’s Principle) states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. To give an example, research in 2015 showed that consumers spend over 80% of their smartphone time in only 5 apps. Similar arguments have been made about MS Office Suite where a majority of the MS Office users only use 20% of the available features.

So, what does this 80/20 rule have to do anything with Sales Enablement?

We say everything. We see that 20% of your digital assets can help enable your sales teams’ 80% of the conversations. What does that tell you?

You can start small and still have a significant impact on enablement. 

The typical reason we hear from companies for not investing in any sales enablement process is – “We don’t have enough content.” The reality is that you don’t need a whole lot of content to drive enablement. To start, you need to help sales answer the following questions:

  • Who are we (the company)?  – Corporate Overview
  • What is our offering? – Data Sheets, Solution Overview, White Papers, Videos
  • How does the offering help the buyer? – Introductory Sales Deck, Detailed Sales Deck, White Papers, Case Studies
  • Why we are a better choice than others in the market? Competitive Analysis, Case Studies
  • What are the terms and conditions of the offering? Pricing, Support Policy, T&Cs

Some may argue that we are oversimplifying the process. But the truth of the matter is that the digital assets to support these questions can help with the majority of your sales conversations. Ask your sales team in your next QBR?

Could sales benefit with more assets? Absolutely yes. But the absence of those assets should not be a deterrence to kick-off enablement. We have found the following principles have worked for our customers and us:

  • Focus on quality over quantity.
  • It is an iterative process. But it is a process. There needs a method to the madness.
  • Focus on content pull before you focus on push. Give your sales colleague an opportunity to find assets before you start targeting them with relevant assets.
  • Don’t wait for content creation to define your process. Organize assets as they get created. You will never have the time in the day to sit down and organize your assets.

It is natural to be overwhelmed with content. We, at Enablix, realized this, when our small team started generating content to help our sales and customer success efforts. It was evident to us that if we, with a relatively smaller operation, were losing time and productivity in staying on message, the companies out there were in a far worse situation.

The 80/20 rule can help us score small, tangible victories in enabling our customer-facing teams. And it allows you to lay the necessary foundation that you can iteratively build upon as your content grows.

 

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Tips for managing Marketing and Sales Content on Dropbox

Marketing and sales collateral is essential to your company’s success. And for young and small organizations, using Dropbox to store their sales and marketing content becomes a natural choice. Most of us already use Dropbox in our personal lives (and love it). And it is a handy tool for storing your sales and marketing content since it is on the cloud, you can provide mobile access to your sales and customer-facing teams on the go, and keep everyone on the same page when it comes to content.
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But things can really go out of hand quickly. You wouldn’t realize, and within few months finding content on Dropbox will be a nightmare. Your sales team will stop using it, and they will start coming to you to request content.

But it doesn’t have to be this bad. Here are some useful tips for managing your sales and marketing content on Dropbox:

Filter Your Content

Not all content in the organization is relevant to your sales team. But in this age of hyper-communication, everyone wants everything to be available to everyone. This strategy backfires. Instead, take a disciplined view of what content is relevant to sales success. Sift away everything else because to your sales team it is NOISE. Following the 80-20 rule, you will realize that 20% of the content is relevant for 80% of the scenarios. Focus on that content then. Don’t try to fit in every piece of content. Start small and then grow your content catalog.

Dedicated Folder

Continuing with the idea of filtering, you want to have a dedicated folder on your team’s Dropbox repository to store content. Pick a name for that folder that is easy to identify and stands out. Some easy to identify names that we have seen are:
  • Sales Collateral (or Content)
  • Sales & Marketing Content
  • Sales Enablement
Even better, start that name with a “_.” This way when Dropbox displays the folder list, this dedicated folder will be on the top and not get buried in the midst of all other folders. Make it easy for your audience (sales) to find the folder.

Read Only

Make that folder and its content read-only. Dropbox allows you to control read/write permissions on folders and its content. Use this feature and provide write permissions only to select few in the organization whom you trust will not create a mess of that folder by dumping everything and anything that comes through their email inboxes.

Folder Structure

It is important that your folder structure makes sense and remains consistent. Don’t worry too much about boundary scenarios. Think about 80% of the use cases and create a structure for that.

Folder Structure: Define Your Business Dimensions

You need to define your business dimensions. Business Dimensions are parameters of your organization with which you go to the market. For, e.g., commonly used business dimensions in B2B software companies are:
  • Products
  • Solutions
  • Industries
  • Partners
  • Competitors
I hope you get the point. If you are confused, refer to your website. You may have already structured your site with similar business dimensions. Also, do include a General folder for content that does not fit into one single dimension. Say you are a B2B software organization with a couple of products selling into few different industries. In that case, your folder structure will look as below:
  • _Sales & Marketing Content
    • Solutions
    • Industries
    • Partners
    • Competitors
    • General
Inside each of these folders have folders for different business dimensions of your business. Something like this:
  • _Sales & Marketing Content
    • Solutions
      • Solution A
      • Solution B
      • Solution C
    • Industries
      • Industry A
      • Industry B
    • Partners
      • Partner A
      • Partner B
    • Competitors
      • Competitor A
      • Competitor B
      • Competitor C
    • General
Important Note: Even if you do not have content for some of the folders, we encourage you to create a folder to set the stage when content is available.

Folder Structure: Store By Content Type

Now that you have your business dimensions in place start uploading your content. But before that start segmenting your content by its type. Say you have two Case Studies, one Data Sheet and one Battle Card for Solution A, you should store it as follows:
  • _Sales & Marketing Content
    • Solutions
      • Solution A
        • Battle Cards
          • SolutionA_BattleCard
        • Case Studies
          • SolutionA_CaseStudy
          • SolutionA_2_CaseStudy
        • Data Sheets
          • SolutionA_DataSheet
If this makes sense to you, then follow a similar structure for rest of the dimensions. You will come across scenarios where you have a Case Study for Solution A, and it is for Industry B. That is quite likely. In fact, this will happen more frequently. Rarely documents will belong to a single business dimension. That is where the General folder helps. So if you have a Case Study for Solution A in Industry B, you should store it in the General folder as follows:
  • _Sales & Marketing Content
    • General
      • Case Studies
        • SolutionA_IndustryB_CaseStudy.pdf
Two important points to note here. First, any Case Study that is relevant across multiple dimension should find its place in the Case Studies folder in the General section. Second, the name of your Case Study should include your business dimension value. I know we are asking for longer names. But if you want your sales team to use this content and make it easy for them to find this content, you need to make these names simple to follow even at the expense of making them longer.

File Naming Convention

A few valuable tips here for naming your files:
  • Follow a strict naming convention.
  • Include the business dimension values consistently in the name of the files.
  • When you name files consistently, Dropbox’s default sorting will work for you. And it will be easier to search for them in Dropbox. Imagine you naming a file SolA, and the Sales rep is searching for Solution A. You want to avoid that. Be consistent. It will pay dividends.
  • If there are shorter names for your business dimension values, use them from the beginning. If your product name is Awesome Reporting Product, then use the name ARP when naming folders and files.

If you are reading this post and you are already suffering from a weak structure on your Dropbox instance, you must be thinking “How the hell do I get from where I am to this structure?”. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. But there is a silver lining. Start small. Anyway, your current mess is not helping anyone. So if you have 100 documents strewn across your Dropbox file system, start moving 10 files every day. It will take you less than 10 minutes to do this task. 10 minutes a day and in 10 days you will have a good set up to build your future content structure on. Your sales team will appreciate this structure and the consistency.

Dropbox may not get you to your goal of getting your content perfectly organized. But that is not an excuse to make a complete mess of it. We hope you can follow these steps to reach a more useful and easy to navigate structure for your sales and marketing collateral.

We at Enablix strive to help B2B marketers effectively organize, manage and distribute sales and marketing content to enable sales. After facing challenges in our professional lives using commonly available content management systems, we built Enablix to help marketers address this content chaos and simplify sales content management. If you are ready to look beyond homegrown processes on Dropbox, please contact us at support@enablix.com to find out how Enablix can help you get to a state of simplicity and efficiency. 

“What Worked for You” vs “What Worked for Your Customer”

chess-316658_1280In the B2B world case studies are ubiquitous. They are an important vehicle to demonstrate credibility to your customers and prospects. They are also important to educate your sales force and to scale sales success. However many organizations fail to segment their case studies correctly and end up targeting their case studies to the wrong audience. In B2B world, we come across two broad types of Case Studies:

  • “What Worked for You” Case Study
  • “What Worked for Your Customer” Case Study

“What Worked for You” Case Study

  • This case study is created when you win a deal.
  • It highlights why the customer chose you.
  • It speaks to the “theory” of how your offering is going to address the customer’s pain points.
  • It also elaborates on how the sales process was executed to drive a win.

A “What Worked for You” case study is a great vehicle to scale sales success. Insights from this type of case study help guide other sales representatives in their sales pursuits. And in some cases, this case study provides your potential prospects visibility into how their peers selected you and why.

“What Worked for Your Customer” Case Study

  • These case studies are closely aligned with your customer’s success journey. That is they are created well past the “Deal Win” milestone when the customer has successfully realized the business gain with the help of your offering.
  • They speak to the practical benefits of your offering to your customer. For e.g. the customer saved $X and gained Y% efficiency.
  • They elaborate on the journey of customer success. They provide details about the timeline to achieve the customer success milestone, the resources involved, etc.

“What Worked for Your Customer” case study is highly relevant to other prospects and customers. This type of case study provides reliable data on how one customer achieved success using your offering. It helps others prospects/customers visualize their path to success. Not only the case study works as a soft-reference (as opposed to speaking to the reference), it also establishes credibility with your prospects. The case study screams “we know how to make you successful.” Conversely the “What Worked for You” case study screams “we know how to sell.”

Both types of case studies deliver benefits. However, it is important for organizations to recognize the different values that they bring to the table and invest wisely in creating and utilizing them in their “Go To Market” efforts.

Win Analysis and Case Studies

Win Analysis and Case Studies are popular collateral vehicles for B2B marketers. They both are important to demonstrate credibility and scale your success. However these content types are to be used in different contexts. And this is where we see a lot of organizations incorrectly applying a wrong type of content and thereby diluting its value to the targeted audience.

To put it simply, Win Analysis are created to highlight “What Worked for You” and Case Studies are geared towards elaborating on “What Worked for Your Customers”. You see, they are very different in their value and how they get leveraged in the field. Here is a short actionable comparison that will help further distill the unique characteristics of these content types,

winanlysis_casestudy_compare
Let us know how you are using Win Analysis and Case Studies in your organization to drive sales success.

Atomizing Content

Do you like to read long emails? Most likely not! No one does. There has been expansive research on shortening human attention span. Yet we always see the classic error of loading your collateral with too much information. It is not that information is not useful. The problem is that more often it gets managed in an unusable way. It is very common for product marketing teams to create large slide decks that include anything and everything about a specific offering of their company. It is loaded with:
  • Market Context
  • Market Pain Point
  • Details of the Offering
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Competitive Landscape
  • Competitive Differentiators
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Discovery Questions
  • Objection Handling
  • Buyer Personas
  • etc.
The result is that this document or presentation is unusable. Why? Imagine if a sales rep needs to find the Discovery Questions for an upcoming qualification call with a prospect. The rep has to:
  • Access this document from your content repository (assuming she knows that she will find the discovery questions in this document. A big assumption in my opinion)
  • Navigate to the Discovery Questions section to use it as reference.
It’s just too much work. Instead the rep will pick the phone and ask her trusted advisor in the organization to either come on the call to help with the discovery or shoot her a set of discovery questions. And that is not only a huge efficiency drain but it basically makes your painstakingly put together content useless. Plus you never know whether this trusted advisor is asking the right questions.
Therefore it makes more sense to atomize your content. Break it into logical sections that can be leveraged by the sales reps. Not only this makes the content more usable and easy to distribute, it also has other  important benefits:
  • Easy to Access: Atomized content is easy to search for and access.
  • Easy to Track: In the above example, one could track (if they are tracking at all), whether the presentation was accessed. But no one would know why that presentation was accessed. By atomizing content, you have more granular insights into what is used when and why.
  • Easy to Provide Feedback: Its easier for the sales rep who accesses the atomized content to provide feedback on.
  • Easy to Maintain: Its easier to maintain a document or presentation that is focused on one topic than a 50 slide presentation that covers a broad set of topics.

Content Blueprint Series: Do you have a content blueprint?

We all recognize that content is crucial in sales enablement. Every organization has a set of content that they make available for their sales community. Usually someone in the product marketing group is maintaining a spreadsheet to track what content is made available to the sales community for a particular product or offering. Some of the type of content that usually gets published by the marketing team in a B2B software company are: content schematic-1 The list goes on. No matter which industry, avoiding a content library is not possible. Even though marketing teams are consciously not defining a content blueprint, they are building one inadvertently. We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to embrace a content blueprint for your organization’s offerings and use this blueprint as a vehicle to plan, organize, and monitor the effectiveness of your sales enablement content. Here are some simple guidelines on how to effectively leverage a content blueprint:

  • Communicate: Please communicate this blueprint to everyone in the organization. Your sales enablement content strategy has to revolve around this blueprint. Your product, marketing and sales teams should be aware of what constitutes the blueprint. This helps everyone in the organization to speak the same language and also helps set expectations on what to expect when a product is released to the sales team.
  • Plan: When you are planning a new product launch you can leverage this blueprint to ensure that the minimum set of collateral is available to ensure sales success. Sales will always demand more collateral. But having communicated the content blueprint upfront and then planning your content building activity around that blueprint will ensure that minimum criteria for collateral is met.
  • Monitor: This may not be possible for every organization. But it is very helpful to monitor what content type from your blueprint is more popular. You will start observing some interesting patterns in this data. This data will further help you focus your marketing and product’s team energy on content that the sales team finds more useful as opposed to content which lies around occupying space on your shared drive.
  • Consistency: A content blueprint offers an opportunity to define templates from commonly used content types. These templates can ensure consistency and reduce the individual effort to produce the target content.

There are several other advantages of having a well defined blueprint for your products and offerings. In this series we will continue to focus on improving sales enablement through a well defined content blueprint.