Pulling Back the Curtain on "Content in Context"

There has been a lot of talk lately about putting your sales content "into context." B2B sales and marketing organizations are beginning to understand the competitive advantage they achieve by serving sales reps contextually relevant collateral for each sales conversation.

But when companies claim to deliver "content in context" as a sales-enablement cure-all, what do they really mean? If they mean simply tagging content for specific selling stages in CRM, or slide-picking personalization, they aren't really doing what they claim. Believing that serving up static content based on a few criteria is a sufficient way to provide "content in context" can give companies a detrimentally false sense of security.

The truth is that content isn't entirely contextually relevant until it can be personalized for each and every sales conversation—and to do this, you must leverage all of the data sources marketing and sales organizations have invested in, not just a few fields within Salesforce (not that that’s a bad place to start).

According to CSO Insights, only 41 percent of sales reps' time is spent actually selling. The rest is wasted on operational tasks, on searching for the right content, and on trying to tweak and personalize that content for a specific sales conversation.

But the value provided by personalized sales content is undeniable: Leads that are nurtured with personalized content produce a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities, and 61 percent of customers feel better about a company that delivers custom content, making them more likely to buy.

Creating a single-use presentation for every sales interaction, however, is tedious and time-consuming. As a result, personalized content that can be delivered efficiently has quickly become a high priority for sales and marketing organizations.

The ultimate goal of a sales organization is to balance efficiency with effectiveness. Sales reps want to have the most personalized and productive conversations with prospective customers as frequently as possible. This one-to-one experience typically cannot be streamlined without bogging down marketing teams with the task of creating thousands of permutations of presentations, proposals, and contracts. And the second marketing falls behind, companies find themselves with just another content graveyard, filled with collateral left unused by sales reps.

The "content in context" misunderstanding exists because of the illusion that tagging or organizing content based on the context of a sales interaction is sufficient for sales success. But tagging doesn't deliver the level of personalized sales collateral that sales reps need. Companies that don't understand the importance of real content in context and invest in a solution that delivers it will find that sales conversations aren't as relevant or helpful as they could be, and this disconnect sets marketing and sales teams against each other.

To succeed on the promise of content in context, you have to solve for both sides of the sales and marketing equation. Sales reps need to be able to easily find what they need. And sales materials need to automatically personalize themselves, which is what allows marketing to scale their efforts and achieve one-to-one sales conversations. A solution that truly provides content in context recognizes a fundamental problem in the customizability of sales collateral: that generating relevant, personalized content and presentations is a colossal time-suck for sales and marketing alike. The key to "content in context," then, is sales materials that build themselves, using all of the available data sources that you would have used to manually build them. When your solution enables presentations to build themselves for the right sales interaction, you’re not costing sales or marketing teams valuable time. Without this automation capability, the problem of inefficient personalization of sales content cannot be solved.

"Content in context" is being treated like the great Wizard of Oz behind his emerald curtain; we need to recognize that the term is being used incorrectly and isn’t what some are making it out to be. The next time you hear the term "content in context," pull back the curtain—you'll probably see the sales equivalent of a harried man yelling into a microphone and turning gears. Don’t be fooled.

Doug Winter is CEO and cofounder of Seismic, a leading end-to-end sales-enablement solution.

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