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Driven newsletter archive

Issue 20. February 29, 2020

Your sales & marketing content (meh)


How long does it take you to read Driven each week? Is it usually longer than the time I estimate at the start of each issue?

A reader just told me it usually takes him twice as long. He asked how I estimate reading times.

I suspect he wanted to know which is worse, my estimates or his reading speed.

In case you’ve also wondered, here’s the simple answer.

I Googled average reading rates in the United States. Across a few sources, I saw a range of 200 to 250 words per minute (wpm).

Until now, I’ve been using the fastest average rate.

I count number of words in each issue. Then I divide the number of words by 250 wpm, and I round up to the full minute.

This week I used a rate of 220 wpm.

If you think my estimates are off, please tell me by how much. I’ll adjust them next week.

Remember what I wrote 2 weeks ago about business uncertainties related to the coronavirus?

What a difference 14 days have made.

The’ve given a whole new context to the phrase going viral.

It’s not that the virus itself is so scary. It seems no more deadly than common strains of flu. Maybe it’s even less so. We don’t know for sure.

What hurts more is the uncertainty and economic disruption its contagiousness is causing.

Quarantines have interrupted supply chains for both consumer and commercial goods.

In the coming weeks, official or self-imposed quarantines may further affect North American businesses.

In particular, they may first affect travel, restaurants, retail, entertainment, and any other businesses in venues where people congregate.

Biggest equities correction since 2008

In the past week, U.S. equity markets dropped by the biggest amount since 2008.

But the market is not the U.S. economy, which still looks stable.

Even so, it’s prudent to expect more caution from your customers and prospects.

Friday a big U.S. bank predicted near-zero earnings growth for major companies through 2020.

This means prospects may be more reluctant to spend on new purchases — or at least they may delay big buying decisions.

Also look for them to cut expenses to salvage weak earnings.

Some companies will look hard at contract renewals for nonessential software.

In general, all your prospects and customers are likely to be more wary of risk.

Some bright spots

In some segments of SaaS, the uncertainty is creating big opportunities. Zoom, the teleconferencing company is doing great.

So are other companies that provide work-at-home apps.

Another hot spot: SaaS companies that enable greater supply chain flexibility.

What opportunities can you identify for your company?

In this week’s issue…

This week, we look at a common challenge in sales and marketing.

The focus here, as usual, is on B2B SaaS companies that specialize in big-ticket sales to big companies.

Here’s the challenge of the week:

  • Your sales and marketing content is, well, meh.

What can you do to fix it?

Todays article explores symptoms and contributing factors.

Then it suggests 3 takeaways and a handful of things you can do now to improve your content. ​​

Reading time

Your reading time this week is about 11 minutes (at a rate of 220 wpm).


Why your sales team isn’t so happy with the content your marketers create

Smart sales people understand that good content puts food on their table and money in their pocket.

But here’s what you may be seeing instead:

  • Your sales people don’t criticize your content outright, but they damn it with faint praise.
  • They don’t use it as consistently as you think they should.
  • They keep changing stuff your marketers worked hard to create. Or they produce their own rogue content that doesn’t meet company standards.

In this article, we look at a dozen possible reasons why this is happening. Then we suggest a few solutions for you to try now.

Sellers are the problem, right?

Your marketers have tried to work with Sales. They’ve asked sales people for feedback and ideas.

But the responses they get from sales are lukewarm and not very helpful.

Here are 3 possible reasons:

  1. Your salespeople spoiled, entitled, and ungrateful.
  2. They can’t be bothered to help with content until after it’s published. That’s when they make time to share their critiques. Then they ambush you in management meetings.
  3. They wouldn’t recognize good content if it walked up and French-kissed them. (They should be so lucky.)

All 3 reasons are possible. But they’re probably not true of everyone on your sales team.

Maybe your content is also part of the problem

If most of your sales team is indifferent toward the content Marketing produces, it’s probably for other reasons.

Here’s another possibility you ought to consider: They don’t know what good content looks like because they don’t see it often enough.

Why it matters now

About 65% to 80% of content companies produce never gets used. This finding comes from a SiriusDecisions study several years ago.

On average, B2B companies spend about 40% of their marketing budget on creating content.

B2B buyers say the content vendors produce is not very useful. Several surveys have reached similar conclusions.

If any of these stats apply to your company, now’s the time to fix your content.

Put it on the right track so it’s working for you the rest of your fiscal year.

If you don’t do so now, you’ll waste a lot of time and money.

You may recoup the money you’ve wasted, but you’ll never make up for the lost time.

What do we mean by content? And what’s good?

We’ll explore possible causes and remedies for weak content in a moment.

Let’s think first about what good content is and what it should achieve.

Sales and marketing content is nothing more than information you provide to an audience you want to influence. You create it to help move a buyer’s decision process forward.

The main role of content is to inform and educate. To answer questions. To be interesting, helpful, and useful.

It’s purpose is not to persuade – at least not overtly. Obvious persuasion is the job of sales and marketing copy, not content.

Good sales and marketing content does its job well. Bad content does it poorly.

Why your content is less than great

Here are 12 of the more likely reasons why your content doesn’t get higher marks:

1. It doesn’t help generate interest or opportunities in accounts your sellers care about.

Your sales people care most about getting into specific accounts. Maybe they care only about the named accounts for which they’re personally responsible.

Anything else is of no interest.

Many marketers think their content is doing its job if it generates “leads.”

But most of the people who consume your content aren’t leads. They’re just contacts who wanted your content. They may have no immediate interest in buying anything.

2. Your content doesn’t help sellers advance their deals.

Your content focuses too exclusively on generating leads and getting opportunities started. (This is what marketers call “top-of-funnel” content.)

It doesn’t do enough to help advance a prospect’s decision process after sellers get involved.

It could and it should contribute more in later stages of a buyer’s decision process.

3. Your content sounds (or reads) like marketing bullsh*t.

It’s narcissistic and self-centered. It brags.

It’s mostly about your company or your products.

It doesn’t talk enough about your customers and prospects. It’s all about us (your company), not enough about you (your prospects and customers).

It uses too much jargon. Its full of expressions most people never use in conversations with their friends. It uses words like seamlessend-to-endintuitive user interface, and even worse.

It uses too many clichés. When did every process, no matter how simple, become a journey?

The writing is tone deaf. It doesn’t feel honest, authentic, or credible.

It feels like someone shouting to a crowd from a soapbox.

4, Your content focuses too much on the products or benefits your company provides.

It doesn’t talk enough about the things every prospect cares about:

  • Their problems, challenges, and pains
  • Their likely concerns and objections
  • The potential costs and risks of changing their status quo

It doesn’t answer the questions on the minds of your prospects at each stage of their decision process.

Many marketers wrongly think they should focus only on the positive. They skirt these tricky topics.

But good salespeople welcome the harder conversations. They understand the maxim, “No pain, no sale.”

They know they can win a prospect’s attention and interest by tackling tough topics head on. They know such topics can build the seller’s credibility.

5. It doesn’t offer fresh industry insights, perspectives, or information.

Would your target prospects value your content even if they don’t intend to buy from you?

If not, your content isn’t doing its job.

Does it appeal only to the 3% to 5% of people who are actively shopping for a solution like yours? If so, it’s ignoring the 97% who aren’t.

You’ll need a relationship with the others when they’re ready to buy.

6. It doesn’t help you stand apart from your competitors.

It just makes you sound like everyone else.

7. Your content doesn’t share good stories.

Top-performing sellers know that stories offer the most interesting, credible, memorable, and effective way to influence prospects.

Stories also offer a great way to build overcome concerns, build credibility for the sales rep, and establish expertise.

By providing good stories, content can help new reps be productive and confident faster.

8. It’s superficial and insubstantial.

Your marketers are usually trying to save money or time. They’re under pressure to achieve more with less.

So sometimes they outsource content creation to low-caliber freelancers who have little subject-matter expertise. Or they delegate the writing to junior staff.

Sometimes your marketers can’t get enough access to your internal subject-matter experts.

It’s also possible they’re too inexperienced or too narrowly focused to know what solid content looks and feels like in your industry.

Whatever the reason, the stuff they produce is often a mile wide and an inch deep.

For B2B enterprise sales, it’s usually better to go an inch wide and a mile deep.

9. Your sellers don’t know how to use your content.

You haven’t explained the role, purpose, and objectives of each piece of content.

Your salespeople don’t know when to use it in a customer’s decision process.

They probably don’t know these things because no one has explained them.

Except when someone blew through it during a sales kickoff meeting or a quarterly business review session.

It’s also possible the people who created the content don’t know these things themselves. They weren’t clear on its role, purpose, and objectives before they created it.

10. Your sellers have little evidence that your content works.

Prospects and customers rarely comment on how helpful they found your content to be.

Your less successful reps probably don’t know how your more successful reps use content to advance their sales.

You don’t share data on how many times visitors to your website have downloaded a piece of content.

You don’t tell them how many leads or opportunities it helped generate.

You don’t track who in a targeted account has downloaded, viewed, or shared your content.

You don’t know how much time anyone has spent with each piece of content or whom they’ve shared it with.

You don’t know who has visited your website, which pages they’ve visited, or how long they stayed.

11. Your sellers can’t find the right content when they need it.

You post your content online in a place that makes sense to your marketing team. You also use filenames that make sense to your marketing team.

But the filenames you use and the places you store your content are far from obvious to your sales team. And they’re inconsistent, so your sales team can’t learn your secrets.

They can’t find what they’re looking for when they’re in a hurry.

12. Your content is out of date.

It contains information or references that are no longer current.

It’s not consistent with current sales messaging.

Your sales reps can’t find the most recent version. That’s because you haven’t put a version number or publication date in a way your sales reps understand.

Key takeaways

Your sellers may be part of the problem. But more than likely, your content is also deficient.

Either way, it comes to the same thing: If sellers don’t see how your content will help them achieve their quota, they won’t use it.

To improve content (and to stop wasting money), Sales and Marketing must collaborate to produce good content.

Some things you can do right now to help

If you’re in Marketing…

1. Check your content to see how it measures up against the preceding 12 points.

Ask your salespeople about how useful they find the content to be.

Find out what its real shortcomings are. Commit to fixing them.

Talk directly to sellers, not just their managers. Managers are a step removed from what works in the field.

Don’t give your sellers homework to do. Don’t ask them to fill out forms or surveys.

Call a few “friendlies” and have coffee or lunch with them. If they’re out of town, talk by phone.

Listen for as long as they’re willing to talk. Learn what you can.

Don’t let yourself get defensive. This isn’t personal. It’s about strengthening your business.

Read between the lines for things they don’t say.

Take notes and share them with your team.

Send them a short email that recaps what you understood from the conversation. Invite them to correct anything you’ve misinterpreted anything.

2. If you can commit more resources to this, do a more systematic audit of your content.

For information on how to do this, ask me.

If you’re in Sales…

1. Step up now, if you haven’t already done so.

Marketing can’t create good content without your help and support.

They need your insights, expertise, and guidance. Without that, they’re flying mostly blind.

It’s in your interest to participate. Look at it as an investment that can yield big dividends in the future.

2. Be honest and thoughtful.

Encourage more collaboration from Marketing by thinking carefully about what you say. Give them feedback and insights they’d really value.

Even if you’ve been frustrated in the past, be tactful, diplomatic, and constructive now.

If you’re not, marketers won’t ask your opinion again.


How CEOs at startups can prepare for an outbreak of coronavirus

What can young companies do to be ready for when the coronavirus spreads?

Consultant, investor, and serial entrepreneur David Kellogg shares some solid ideas here.

How to engage more prospects through cold outreach

Are you having trouble engaging prosects through cold email outreach? Or through LinkedIn messaging?

If so, maybe it’s because your messages are too easy to ignore.

For a free series of 4 outstanding webinars about how to write better cold outreach messages, go here.

The sponsor is Jeff Molander and his company is Make Social Media Sell.

I know Jeff and have paid hundreds of dollars for his advice. It’s some of the best I’ve seen on this topic.


Please share

If you find value in this week’s edition, please share it with friends and colleagues who may be interested. They can go here for their own copy of future editions.

Tell me what you think

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Please feel welcome to communicate your comments or feedback. Email me. I respond fast, and I take every suggestion to heart.

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I’d rather keep a small tribe of people who value these emails than a bigger group who rarely read them.

Just click on the link at the bottom. You’ll be out in a second. 

Have a great week! 

See you in March. 

​​Dave Vranicar


Driven is a free weekly email for time-strapped revenue leaders in business-to-business SaaS companies.

Its goal is to keep you informed about a broad range of topics related to revenue growth.

We scan the horizon for insights and ideas from sources you may otherwise miss.

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When I provide links to articles from vendors, it does not imply an endorsement of their products or services. I link to them because they offer good content.

I’ll make it clear when I’m recommending a product or service. 

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