Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Makes Marketing Content Insightful?

For the past several months, the Corporate Executive Board has been advocating a new approach to selling, one that is based on the premise that what business buyers really want from potential vendors - and by extension their sales reps - is fresh insights about how to improve their business. The new approach was described in a book by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon titled The Challenger Sale that was published in the fall of 2011.

In a recent post at The Sales Challenger blog, Mashhood Beg outlined CEB's view of what constitutes insight, and more particularly commercial insight. To define these terms, Beg compared them to some of the other types of information that are used in sales messages. These various types of information are illustrated in the following diagram.

CEB defines five types of information.
  • General Information - The full "universe" of information that is available to potential buyers. General Information may or may not be credible or relevant to a particular prospect.
  • Accepted Information - Accepted Information is information that is both credible and relevant for a particular prospect. Accepted Information does not teach a prospect anything new - it just confirms what the prospect already knows.
  • Thought Leadership - This type of information is credible and relevant, but in addition, it teaches prospects something new - something they would not have learned elsewhere.
  • Insight - According to CEB, Insight is information that disrupts a prospect's status quo. Think of it as Thought Leadership with a kick. Insight introduces prospects to new ideas and simultaneously highlights the disadvantages (costs) of their status quo. The idea is to cause the prospect to feel a sense of urgency to act.
  • Commercial Insight - CEB describes Commercial Insight as information that points a prospect to one specific potential supplier. In other words, Commercial Insight introduces new ideas to a prospect, highlights the disadvantages of the prospect's status quo, and argues (either expressly or by implication) that one specific supplier is better suited than others to help the prospect address the issue or problem.
In CEB's view, Commercial Insight is the most powerful kind of information for sales messaging because it emphasizes (again, either directly or implicitly) the unique or superior capabilities of your company.

From a marketing perspective, I have a couple of concerns about the emphasis that CEB places on Commercial Insight. First, marketing content that qualifies as Commercial Insight may also be fairly promotional. Promotional content can be appropriate for prospects who are in the later stages of the buying process, but the same content may well be a turn-off for early-stage buyers. Second, if it's not really well-crafted, marketing content that qualifies as Commercial Insight may come off as biased and, therefore, not completely trustworthy. It takes a good bit of skill to create a content resource that points to your company and retains an "objective" look and feel.

For these reasons, I contend that most marketing content should strive to qualify as Insight, but not necessarily Commercial Insight. Marketing content, particularly content that is intended for early-stage buyers, should provide new ideas and highlight the disadvantages associated with current practices, but it shouldn't try too hard to point to a single company.

1 comment:

  1. I read several times the book of Matthew Dixon titled The Challenger Sale, I was impressed because of the information he shared to his readers which I enjoyed.