In recent years, the SiriusDecisions Summit 2014 has come to define the state of the art for modern sales and marketing organizations. Part of the reason is SiriusDecisions’ ability to plug into and analyze top-performing organizations across a variety of industries. Most likely an even bigger factor is the SiriusDecisions team’s talent for condensing its knowledge into compelling models and frameworks.
This year’s Summit, held in Orlando, Fla., was no exception. A number of sessions featured SiriusDecisions’ analysts rolling out new or modified versions of its frameworks, covering activities such as measurement, messaging, competitive analysis, teleprospecting and many others. In this week’s feature, however, we’ll focus on a topic that turned out to be particularly rewarding: content marketing, messaging and management strategies.
Launching the Messaging Nautilus
From a content marketing perspective, the week’s most interesting event was the introduction of the SiriusDecisions’ “Messaging Nautilus.” The nautilus, based on the mathematical progressions often found in nature, was designed to organize a company’s messaging strategy as a series of progressively evolving steps.
“This is the logical, sequential additive order to the creative process of B2B audience-centric messaging,” explained Marisa Kopec, VP and Group Director at SiriusDecisions, and the creator of the model, along with Erin Provey, a SiriusDecisions Service Director.
Fortunately (given some of the nervous looks in the audience), the Messaging Nautilus is less about mathematics and more about a very simple principle: Put the buyer — not the business or the product — at the origin of the messaging process.
From this starting point, Kopec and Provey laid out a series of messaging activities, or “arcs,” that build on one another, expand an organization’s messaging capabilities, and support the next step in the process:
- Isolating and identifying a target audience;
- Identifying and understanding target buyer personas;
- Establishing a market context for the messaging, such as a new paradigm or new concept;
- Articulating a buyer-focused value proposition;
- Aligning messaging with key inflection points along a buyer’s journey;
- Creating narrative elements — the actual messaging components to support the strategy;
- Activating the messaging through the appropriate delivery channels and formats; and
- Operationalizing the messaging strategy.
The goal, said Kopec, is to give organizations a formal methodology for rethinking messaging strategies that are often too product-focused, too reliant on ad hoc content formatting and delivery processes, and too difficult to measure or analyze.
“If marketers don’t change their messaging, they run the risk of becoming extinct,” Provey stated. And while many organizations will find a “rip and replace” approach to their current processes to be impractical, Kopec advised using the Messaging Nautilus at least as a starting point for an honest evaluation of current capabilities.
“Look at what your content originators … are using in terms of the tools to originate their messaging,” said Kopec, offering an example of how to apply the model. “Is it standardized, and does it include these components?”
Are Your Personas Designed to Deliver?
Buyer personas were another hot topic at this year’s Summit. Based on our experience, this can be a controversial topic; while some B2B marketers consider personas to be of strategic importance, others question their impact and relevance — especially when they’re over-designed.
One solution is to see personas as a discrete set of defining buyer attributes — including a job role and title, demographics, buying center, challenges and initiatives, content and tactic preferences, and watering holes. This gives marketers solid ground upon which to begin developing personas, and it helps them to avoid the hyper-complex and overly detailed personas that may generate an organizational backlash.
But during a case study-focused session on buyer personas, another key requirement surfaced: Designing personas as living documents, rather than massive one-off projects.
“If you’re committed to persona marketing you have to be willing to go back out into the market regularly and gather updated intelligence,” said Greg Thomas, Content Strategist for semiconductor maker LSI Corporation.
Another presenter, Miriam Newton, Director of Product Marketing for Adobe, described an approach where the company’s persona work was managed on a wiki-style platform that made it possible to make and distribute updates instantly. The result, said Newton, was the ability to create “living, breathing” personas that constantly adapted as new information and new trends came to light.
Avoiding the ‘Content Wasteland’
Finally, the SiriusDecisions team presented some eye-opening data concerning the value — or lack of value— in many organizations’ existing content investments. In fact, said Kopec, SiriusDecisions has determined that some organizations waste tens of millions of dollars each year due to ineffective content creation and delivery processes.
Drilling down into the underlying causes for this waste, Kopec cited survey data looking at the reasons why firms believe their content is not getting used. Among the firms surveyed, 29% said they published irrelevant content, 25% published content users were not aware of, 17% was not used because internal stakeholders could not find what they needed, and 13% reported low-quality content as a problem.
The solution, said Kopec, is to view content as a process lifecycle, not as a set of assets. By looking at the content process as a series of phases — including discrete inputs and outputs, raw materials, manufacturing processes and distribution channels — organizations can rationalize their content strategies and get more value from the content they produce.
For firms with the resources to do so, Kopec also urged creating a content operations job role, which she describes as a “foreman” who owns an organization’s content processes and methodologies.
Kopec also made a recommendation that will resonate with many B2B marketing organizations: Taking a ruthless approach to finding and eliminating useless content. In one example, she described a firm that removed 60% of its library of 5,000 assets based on their age, low usage or redundancy. According to SiriusDecisions, this is one of the key areas where a content operations specialist can take charge and get results – while setting the stage for a more rational and methodical content strategy.