How To Align Stakeholders Around A Sales and Marketing Content Platform
Having engaged with hundreds of companies around their evaluations of a sales and marketing content platform, one thing has become very clear – this is an incredibly high-stakes, often career-defining decision that requires alignment between multiple organizations including sales, marketing, and IT.
So how can organizations arrive at the right answer while navigating internal stakeholders that may have competing interests?
Though they are the ultimate customers, there is no group that has been more burned by sales portals and content delivery solutions than sales. They have historically not been involved in evaluating solutions and have therefore had limited input. Ask reps what they want and the answer is simple and consistent:
- 1. “A single view of all our content”
- 2. “A way to quickly find the right information for each sales opportunity”
- 3. “Google for our collateral”
Marketing and/or Sales Ops
Marketing and sales operations are usually the teams responsible for vetting solutions and driving alignment amongst stakeholders. They face a tough balancing act of trying to appease all key stakeholders and also ensuring their own requirements around content governance and control are met. The biggest frustration faced by these teams is usually around rogue content and, as a result, the focus of many projects shifts to “trying to limit what the field can access.”
The top challenge for Marketing and Sales Ops stakeholders is how to prioritize requirements in a way that ensures a successful initiative.
Depending on the size of company and overall infrastructure, IT may also play a critical role in the evaluation process. IT is typically brought in to vet vendors from a security and compliance perspective and to ensure the vendors can integrate seamlessly into the existing environment.
So how does a project manager get all these diverse stakeholders on board?
Based on our experience in working with best in class organizations, we have identified a number of best practices:
It’s The Adoption, Stupid — You can buy the greatest system in the world but if sales doesn’t use it, it doesn’t matter. Therefore, all initiatives need to start with the fundamental question – how do we get sales adoption and what solutions will be most adopted by sales? Without adoption, there is no data or analytics to collect and no real value that is created for the organization. In fact, you are back to square one. That is why Sales is the first and most important stakeholder to address. How do you do this?
- First, engage sales reps and leaders early and ask them to describe their ideal solution.
- Second, once you shortlist a set of vendors put the solutions in reps hands with their content and ask them what they prefer.
- Don’t leave it up to chance!
Peeling the Onion on Analytics –- Marketing today is flying blind on how content is actually being used and what is most effective. The promise of sales and marketing content platforms is to provide marketing with real visibility and actionable insight into content usage and effectiveness. Marketing wants to have a complete view of the content supply chain. This is the second most important requirement for any solution.
Unfortunately, when you peel back the onion, most solutions fall well short of this. Content today is spread out across many silos and many systems where it is accessed by the field. A user may pull a document from Google drive, their desktop or email. All of those represent important actions.
A full 100% view of what is happening to content requires solutions to understand not just how users are interacting with content on their own system – that’s easy and table stakes – but what activity is happening via email, in the underlying repositories, the changes that are made to a piece of content, when a user does save-as. Basically, every change in the content supply chain. But most vendor offerings today only provide for the former giving marketing a highly inaccurate view of content usage and effectiveness.
As part of any vendor evaluation process, be sure to drill into the source of the analytics and where data is being collected from. Remember anyone can show you pretty charts. To truly understand the value peel back the onion and understand what is underneath those charts and where the data comes from.
Ready Set Go — IT wants a solution that is going to seamlessly fit into the existing environment and be easy to set up, deploy, and maintain.
Yet this is one of the most overlooked requirements.
For some reason companies are accustomed to long 6 to 12 month deployment cycles for enterprise software. As the CEO of a business and being responsible for both the top and bottom lines that is a crazy use of resources in my book! Second, it’s difficult to actually determine how easy a solution is to set up and maintain without actually doing so. In today’s environment these sort of timelines are completely unacceptable.
As a project manager your goal is to get real practical insight into deployment process, complexity, and ongoing maintenance. How?
- First and foremost, ask the vendor to “stand-up” a solution for you and see how long it takes. If they say they can’t or it’s impractical, I’d suggest running for the hills
- Second, focus on a number of key questions:
- Does data have to be moved or migrated to the new platform, if so, how will that work?
- How will content be managed – is tagging required etc?
- How will new content be added and categorized?
- How many FTEs are required to manage the system on an ongoing basis?
Choosing a sales and marketing content platform is an incredibly high-stakes decision. I hope this post helps you with your evaluations and educates you on the questions to ask and the things to ask for.