Sooner or later it had to happen: a useful, intriguing piece of content went splat into my inbox the other week. I mean really good content. Lots of stats, great insights, actionable ideas, the whole shebang. Naturally, the phone rang about five minutes later, and about every ten minutes for the rest of the day. Ignoring the sales lady, I put on a pot of coffee and got on with the reading.
Outstanding. I took the sales rep’s first call the next day. Had I read the ebook, she wondered. I had. Did I have any questions? I did. I wanted to know how they had done their research. I wanted to know if the data differed by size of company, geography and industry. What long-term trends did this suggest? What were the sources for some of the third party stats? Was there a webinar I could join? What other content could she help me find?
Let’s just say things didn’t go quite as either of us had planned.
I wanted to have a great conversation about employee engagement and value propositions and things like that. She wanted to have a great conversation about selling me something.
Both of these are valid aspirations, but with a couple of problems. What I was looking for was the beginning of something, and what she was looking for was the end of something else.
Content Starts Conversations
And here is the issue a lot of content creators don’t really understand. When you fling something into the universe, you are starting a conversation, not closing a transaction.
For many communications people and marketers getting the latest video or the white paper out the door feels like an accomplishment, which it is. But it’s just the beginning of the whole thing. Now you’ve started a conversation and you have an obligation to keep it going. Anything else is a RAOM (random act of marketing).
In the case of marketing content that means your sales and service teams know how to have a decent conversation about the material, and how to get non-buyers like me off the phone and into the nurture funnel, where we belong. This looks a lot like making sure every piece of content includes a briefing note for market-facing people, with helpful information about what the content is about, how it can help a customer or prospect, and why that matters.
A great briefing note also helps sales or service people tie the whole thing back to whatever it is your organization does. Personally, I like a little sales script that gently probes whether the person on the other end is even close to being a buyer or influencer, and dispatches everyone who isn’t to additional valuable resources. It also gives the front-line person a few FAQs so they don’t sound like they haven’t read the content (and, yes, I realize they probably haven’t, but nobody has to know). These highlight the key findings or points of the content, underpin it with a bit of credibility and help our folks engage in a conversation about the area of concern we share with our customers. All of which is very, very good for our market brand.
Managers Need Content Context
Employee communications people could take a page from this playbook as well. Probably to a greater extent than in marketing, there is a one-and-done mindset inside organizations as well. I, too, have done an end-zone happy dance when the damn holiday message or the restructuring announcement have finally thudded into inboxes across the company, but as with external content, the goal posts aren’t the doing but the understanding, and the subsequent actions.
Just as we need to arm our front-line staff to continue the conversation with our customers we need to make sure our front-line managers are set up to talk to employees. If your managers are seeing organizational messages at the same time as everyone else, you’re not starting a conversation; you’re starting a misunderstanding.
Here, too, a little briefing note or a video or a managers’ Slack group can help these folks understand what’s going on, pick up and repeat key themes, answer questions, give context and, most important of all, listen to what employees are saying and help that get back up the chain to the executives. All of which is also very, very good for our employer brand.
Before you click send, make sure you’re arming your front-line people with the information and context they need to keep the conversation going. And even though this isn’t really the goal, by all means, go pull your shirt over your head and run around a little bit. For some reason, it’s oddly comforting.
Related Posts (or not)
BizMarketer is written by Elizabeth Williams
I help organizations build their brands through great conversations with employees and customers
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org