Content Is King – But Context Is Queen And Technology Is The Royal Household!

You can read it almost everywhere: “Content is king”. I didn’t notice that anybody would disagree with this statement. Isn’t that at least remarkable?

I won’t disagree with it either, apart from the fact that the statement doesn’t seem to be complete. I will add something. No, I will add someone – first, the queen!

Did you ever recognize a king, leading a kingdom as a lonely king? Probably not.
What is a king without a queen and without his entire royal household?
Let’s assume, that content is king, the role of the queen is pretty clear for me:
Context is queen. Content without context doesn’t create any added value, not for the sales person and – even worse – certainly not for the potential buyers.
And both, king and queen – content and context, are powered by the royal household – which is state-of -the-art 21st century technology.

Three dimensions to look at the queen – What does context mean?

  • First context dimension – Specific selling situations along the customer’s journey: Where are the prospects and  customers along their journey, along their problem identification and problem solving process? Already aware of an upcoming challenge, yes or no. Are they in a problem analyzing phase, yes or no. Are the customers already in an evaluation phase of possible solutions, yes or no. Do they already have a clear future vision in mind and a clear understanding of the desired outcome they want to achieve, yes or no. Is the formal buying process already started, yes or no? Context in this first dimension means to tailor content to the specific stages along the customer’s journey. Context regarding your value messages means to cover these different stages – from value hypothesis and value propositions (why change?) up to unique value propositions and value confirmations (why are you the best vendor out there?
  • Second context dimension – Specific buyer roles: What’s the role of the relevant decision maker, the executive owner of a challenge, a problem? And what are the roles of all the different impacted stakeholders? If you are in complex sales, the number of impacted stakeholders is often increasing, the more cross-functional the challenges are, that have to be mastered. The easiest way to cluster buyer roles is to look at their level in the organization and at their function. These two layers help to define the specific problems and perspectives, these roles have and the different patterns how these roles look at certain challenges – and of course, how these roles get measured differently. It helps also to cluster whether this role is more interested in effectiveness, investment with ROI focus or if the role is more interested in managing budgets and cost savings. Context in this second dimension means to tailor the value messages to the problems, challenges and patterns of your relevant decision makers and the different perspectives all the impacted stakeholders might have.
  • Third context dimension – Vertical color and vertical language: This dimension is very important, if your typical relevant decision makers and impacted stakeholders are in the lines of business. In case of horizontal solutions and services that have to be addressed to those stakeholders, your value messages and your entire collateral need an industry context, a kind of “industry color and industry language”. The service itself remains a horizontal one. Context in this third dimension means to tell the story in the industry’s color and language.

Now, the big challenge is not to add more content. The secret to success is called:
Less is more! How to “prettify” the queen to make the king more powerful? How to improve your context to improve the quality of your content?

  • Define clear milestones along the customer’s journey and define what a sales person has to achieve for each milestone. That’s the purpose, each piece of content should support. Throw away all documents that are not enough purpose-driven and cannot be tailored easily
  • Map all existing content in the above mentioned dimensions and evaluate your results – that determines the way to go. Throw away all documents that cannot be mapped accordingly.
  • Create content packages for each sales milestone or package content for a few sales milestones together (depends on the sales roles you have, which role is focused on which stage and so on). That’s much easier to access for sellers and they get all they need for a certain milestone in one place. Again, be brave and throw away all other documents…
  • The more sophisticated way of content packages is a playbook, defined as an interactive piece of content which guides a sales person along the customer’s journey by buyer role, based on their challenges, view points, patterns etc. – with the specific and tailored value messages, conversation scripts, videos, presentations and so on.

I have forgotten something… The entire royal household – that’s the king and the queen’s foundation: State-of-the-art technology that can drive and connect all dimensions together in an automated way, based on your value-creation models!

  • Imagine – Automated, specific, data-driven, tailored value-creation models per role, stage and industry
  • Imagine – you would have, based on the first three context dimensions, a value creation model for your specific products and services, tailored for your relevant buyer roles, based on industry data, insights from other customers in the same or other industries, other available measurable ROI data from the inside and the outside, etc.
  • Imagine – an engine would build that for you:
    Automated, tailored, specific and quantified, all the time, for all stages and all levels.

You get the picture… isn’t that icing on the cake of your tailored – but often – not precisely enough quantified value messages? Imagine to get that in an automated, engineered way!

BTW: I’m not dreaming.
Today’s technology can do this: Go-To-Customer, powered and automated by technology.
Finally.

Related post: Have a look at this excellent blog post from my good friend Dave Brock:
Mass Customization, Creating “Markets Of 1”

12 Comments

  1. Great stuff, Tamara. It is so easy to forget about the power of context when trying to develop the right strategy. But you have nailed it – you CANNOT have one without the other.

    I would add a couple of extra questions for you to clarify. First, I’m not seeing culture in this explanation. How do you fit it in? Second, where do you place the competitive landscape – both yours and your clients?

    Thanks!

    • Thanks, Tim! You are raising very important “extra questions”!

      Competitive landscape: In my opinion, it should be part of the first context dimension, regarding the specific selling situation. I described the stages along the customer’s journey, and we should add the competitive scenario (such as defending strategy, besiege strategy or development strategy) and map this as well to the customer’s journey. Overall, regarding the customer’s journey, I think that the value messages should be focused on “why change” first, before we add too many competitive information in the “why are we the best vendor on the planet” phase.
      Competitive strategies should be defined in the very beginning. No doubt.
      But I think, the execution should always be focused on the customer first …

      What do you exactly mean, when you mention “culture”? Do you mean the cultural fit between sellers and buyers, or the sales organization’s selling culture, which could define the transformation needs?

      Thanks for challenging my thoughts and adding these important issues!

      • Thank you, Tamara.

        When I first mentioned culture, I was leaving the door open for any interpretation. Your answer illuminated two very important ideas – that selling context involves a match of cultures between the buyer and seller AND that the selling organization’s written and unwritten rules affect the context.

        I believe the match between the buyer and seller cultures is crucial to customizing your value within the context of the buyer’s journey, roles, and vertical. I literally closed a deal this week because we were able to match cultures. Our competitors did not do this. The best part of this deal is that our cultures naturally fit together, so our process of matching was relatively easy to do. But we are also working on another deal that is not so clean. We are having to put in extra effort to find where our cultures overlap to guide how we position our value.

        And as far as the seller’s own culture affecting the context, it seems that the ability to match a buyer’s culture is driven by the willingness/flexibility of the seller’s own written and unwritten rules to begin with. Internal barriers are most often created by cultural dynamics (beliefs, priorities, acceptable behaviors, etc. that have become toxic). If this aspect of culture is out of control, it will eventually affect the salesperson’s interaction withe buyer’s journey, roles, and vertical.

        Does that make sense?

        • Tim, that makes a lot of sense!

          I think, this is exactly where world class sales people make a huge difference. But the cultural fit or the cultural mapping, however we want to call that, is the customization, a sales person needs to focus on. But sales people can only do this in an effective way, if they are supported with world class value messages, tailored to the customer’s journey and the relevant buyer roles, powered by appropriate technology . That opens the space for them to really focus on how to customize each of those messages, how to position the specific value they can create for a customer – as your own example shows.

          Thanks for sharing your additional thoughts and your own experiences – highly appreciated!

          Enjoy your weekend, Tim!

  2. Excellent post Tamara.

    To continue the metaphor, in my humble opinion, “kings” that are successful almost always owe it to the “queen”. Often, the queen saves the king from himself! When I worked at a major technology company, the proposal group produced beautiful 200-page compilations of generic boilerplate that no one (except perhaps the authors) ever read. We undertook a project to get very specific, not unlike what you describe, so that we would produce something that might actually have some value to the prospect and to us. All by hand, there was no automation. It is exciting to see what can be done with the capabilities available today combined with the FOCUS you prescribe.

    Without that focus, I’m afraid content producers are just building more stuff faster, and making it less and less consumable.

    Well done and well said. Thanks for the insight.

    • Jim,
      thanks for your very valuable comment!
      “Often, the queen saves the king from himself!” – I love this!

  3. Outstanding post Tamara, it’s truly a case of “One size does not fit all.” Content is king, but context may actually be emperor rather than queen. Content has great power when it is specific and relevant to the customer.

    You do a great job at identifying critical issues on this. Increasingly, the tools will enable us to “mass customize” content so we can develop content for markets of 1. Probably the ultimate step in relevance!

    Awesome post–as always!

    • Dave, thanks a lot for taking the time to write a comment! Glad, you loved it… It’s all about relevance in context and being timely – for markets of 1.

      I’m thinking about a phased approach how to get to “markets of 1”, how to get from GoToMarket to GoToCustomer to “GoToDave”.
      A topic for another post..

  4. Tamara – Excellent Post. I often think that the best technology for sharing content is the sales rep. They can use the content to have discussions with the each stakeholder. They should put the content in context and use it to help create clarity with the buyer on their needs/goals. How do you see the sales reps using content in the sales process?

    • Cliff, thanks for your comment.

      This is exactly my scenario! What content management can do, is to create, to provide and to tailor 70-80% of the content, sales reps need for their job. Then, the sales reps need to add the context to be relevant and valuable for a specific conversation.

  5. Yes, content without context has little going for it – getting the right content in the right context is critical to success. Content technology and business models have changed, but the core process remain the same. However, too often these days, when I am working with clients I find that their content management is being made subservient to the technology – a bit like publishers asking typesetters to write their content for them….
    http://contentincontext.me/2013/06/25/publishing-is-dead-long-live-publishing/

    • Thanks for your comment!
      Yes, the homework has to be done and implemented before technology can really make a difference and leverage the entire potential.
      “A fool with a tool is still a fool”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Context Makes The Difference: Sales Enablement In Complex Environments – Or Why Kings Need Queens | Sales Enablement Perspectives - [...] Luckily, I could resist to write immediately another post on the same topic, without really reflecting the root causes.…
  2. The Perils and Possibilities of Content - Glider Blog - [...] answer, as Tamara Schenk says, is that content might be king, but context is [...]
  3. The Evolution Of Sales: The Survival Guide – New eBook! | Sales Enablement Perspectives - [...] and the social content kingdom, which is my contribution to this eBook – you may remember the content is…
  4. The Evolution Of Sales: The Survival Guide – New eBook! | Il Commerciale - The SalesmanIl Commerciale – The Salesman - [...] and the social content kingdom, which is my contribution to this eBook – you may remember the content is…

Submit a Comment