How can you make more sales?

Image showing customer at the centre with marketing tactics around them
Fashions change. People don’t

Which one of these is going to work best?

  1. Make a website and wait for people to call?
  2. Go to lots of networking meetings and hope someone you meet will lead you to some business?
  3. Make lots of cold calls, suffer rejection and make some sales if you go long enough?Peter Drucker says that the purpose of business is to create a customer. This means that a business has only two functions – marketing and innovation. Everything else is a cost.Brian Tracy says that sales come from people. Only a person has the ability to give you money. If you can get to the right person and turn that person into a customer then you are doing something right.

    Here is the problem. The inbound marketing people tell you that it is all about content. Create content and stick it in a platform and you will be flooded with more customers than you can manage.

    No, say the networking guys. Business is all about relationships. Get out there and meet people. That is the best way to build your network, and your network is your net worth.

    Rubbish say the sales guys. Sales is a numbers game. The more you hear no, the closer you are to a yes. So pound the phones. Call everyone and someone will buy from you.

    So what should you do? Here are a few tips.

    1. Fashions change. People don’t.

    If you have something that will save people time, money or effort then they will listen to you – as long as they aren’t tired, busy, hungry or ill.

    If you invent a good way to get to them, like cold calling, in a few years everyone will do it and it will be less effective.

    No method will work forever, so just accept that and work with the ones that suit you best.

    2. Try and talk to better prospects, not just more prospects

    Focus is everything in business. If you can get in front of someone who needs what you do right now, then they won’t wait for you to finish talking before placing an order. Get better at identifying and talking to the right prospect.

    3. Build a moat around your business

    According to Bruce Greenwald, you can radically simplify your strategy by focusing on areas where there are barriers to entry for new competitors.

    If it’s easy to do what you do, then you have an unlimited number of competitors and your profits will drop quickly. Drop everything where that can happen and focus all your efforts on products and services where you have a natural advantage over others.

    Ask the question, what do you do better than anyone else?

    4. Listen to your customer

    If you are too caught up in your business, then all you want to do in front of a prospect is talk about your product. But that means you may miss important insights you can get from the conversation.

    One rule is to never ask an ice cream question. The ice cream question is “Do you want ice cream?”. No one says no to ice cream?

    For example: Do you want to increase sales?. Yes. Do you want to cut costs? Yes. These are ice cream questions. No one will answer in the negative.

    But if you ask, what have you done in the last two years to increase sales? Then you will get an insight into what they have done, what they have tried or not tried, and that will tell you whether they are a fit for your product or service or not.

    5. Test and learn instead of plan and do

    A lot of people believe in the plan and do method of working. Make a sales plan. Decide on an approach (like inbound). Put together a budget. Get it going. Hope it works.

    Test and learn is more fluid and experimental. Do you think having more content will help your sales. Put some content together and try it out. See if  you can create it once and use it a few times.

    Coming back to the three methods of getting in touch with customers – why not try them all out with mini experiments. See what works for you and then double down on that method.

    For example, can you commit to producing content every week for your blog? Or would you rather make 50 calls a day?

    Before you buy a a dialling system or an inbound marketing system decide which method is likely to work best for you and your business and then focus on using that method for at least 3 months.

    We have been experimenting with dialling systems recently – get in touch if you want information on free/very low cost options.

How to write content quickly

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s F8 conference

The purpose of this post is to set out a few thoughts that help us create content quickly for ourselves and our clients and that may help you do the same.

A blank page is hard to overcome

Writers have a difficult job. They have to start with an empty page and fill it with content that someone else will enjoy. Is there a way to make this easier?

In the classic book On Writing Well, Willian Zinsser says that there is no “right” way to write. Some people write and re-write, polishing their work until every sentence looks perfect. Others simply spill out what is in their hearts and minds. Some plan a structure, outline and then write. Others write and find a structure emerges from the words they put down on screen.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

The terms plotter and pantser are used by writers to describe the two main approaches they take.

A plotter works out what they are going to do, and then does it. A plotter plans and outlines a story and uses techniques that help them fill in the details.

A good example is Monica Leonelle’s approach to getting out large amounts of content quickly. She first outlines the story. Then she creates beats, which expand on the ideas in the outline. She then chooses words to “show” rather than “tell”, creating the skeleton of the actual story. Then she creates the draft which is a first version of the entire story.

Pantsers work it out as they go along. They may have an idea, or many ideas – but it is the action of writing itself that starts to bring those ideas. Rather than imposing a structure on their thoughts, pantsers let their thoughts out and a structure emerges from the words they write.

Annie Lamott in Bird by Bird says that very few writers know what they are doing until they have done it. Quite often you really understand what you want to say after you have tried to express it once. And then, you can go back and try again. After you have done this a few times, you might end up with something quite readable. She says you should give yourself permission to write “shitty first drafts”.

Writing faster is not the same as typing faster

Both plotters and pantsers write and then revise. The process of revising a draft can take more time than you realize.

For example, if you write in longhand, it is almost impossible to revise much as you go along. The most you can do is strikethrough and write again.

On screen, the delete key lets you go back again and again, changing sentences and fixing typos all the time.

I still have two typewriters in the garage. When you write with a typewriter, the words you create are permanent. You have to keep writing, and leave the editing and polishing for later.

But, I wouldn’t use a typewriter for serious amounts of work because it’s less efficient in other ways. And they are pretty noisy as well.

Oddly, a good way to get create content is to write under constraints. If you have all day to write 500 words, then you will quite possibly take all day. If you have twenty minutes between getting up and being interrupted by kids, the chances are good that you will bang out 400 words in 20 minutes and be 80% there.

Read the Pomodoro Technique to see how you can work with time rather than against it.

An obsession with quality is a curse

Every writer has a fear that what they write is not good enough. Businesses can struggle with the problem of getting material approved by the right people.

You could argue that not publishing at all is more limiting than publishing something that is not perfect. Content is being created by more people in greater quantities. At the same time readers are getting better at telling the difference between good and bad content.

Of course you wouldn’t send a book or a blog post into the world riddled with errors. The kind of quality I am talking about is whether the work itself has been polished so that it is a finished article rather than work in progress.

In the past only finished articles were released because it was expensive to print and distribute content. Today blogs and podcasts allow us to create and distribute work in progress – thoughts that are still being formed and ideas that are still being crystallized.

Move fast and break things

Facebook is now all grown up. But in the past its motto was move fast and break things. Now it’s more careful about getting its infrastructure working and making sure everything doesn’t crash but its first priority was getting things working.

The same idea works for fast content creation. Your first task as a creator or a publisher is to get content created. Platforms like blogs and podcasts help you get material created and published quickly. This content is persistent – it stays on your website but not all of it is of equal value. Some posts will be read by many people while others may not get a single view.

Some authors create books that are the distilled essence of their blogs. They do this because they have built up an audience with their blog or have content that could benefit from being packaged into a compact reading experience.

A business that has created a number of posts can create a book authored by its CEO. Can you imagine meeting with a new prospect and talking about your business, and leaving a book as your calling card? That should help them remember you when they need services like yours.

Get the right balance between quality and output

So, the first step in creating content fast is to realize that there is a trade-off between quality and output. If you are too restrictive in what you consider good quality, you or your business will stop content being created in the first place.

This may seem simple but it is too easy to impose roadblocks on your own process. There will always be people out there who say it is too risky, what you are doing has not been sufficiently checked and you need a committee to get started.

For businesses in particular, committees are places where good ideas go to die.

In general, create an iterative process. Create, edit, publish. Revise.

Publish to an appropriate platform. Publish early drafts to a blog, where you can explore ideas and change posts if you find something is wrong. When you get to publishing a book, you need to take a lot more care in making sure the content is tight, the concepts flow and the words are well chosen.

Get your support systems working well

As a professional content creator and manager you need content creation systems. A basic content creation system has a number of moving parts. The better you can get all the parts to work together, the more time you can spend on writing rather than on your systems.


It takes time to create content. Someone, somewhere has to sit down and create the words. You may write, type or dictate. But you have to spend the time to get the words out of your brain and into your system.


You need a number of roles to create content.

  • A researcher will get facts, commentary and supporting information.
  • A writer will create the draft
  • Editors will check the drafts, polishing it for clarity and accuracy.


You can use a variety of tools to create content.

  • Microsoft Word – perhaps the tool that most people are familiar with. Best on windows.
  • Scrivener – a favourite of authors and bloggers on mac.
  • Emacs
    An all-purpose super tool on linux.


There are a number of choices for server technology. You can set up your own server, rent a small virtual private server or go for a dedicated server. The important question about technology is whether you have the capability to manage it in-house, or whether you need to get in some support.

Your server and control of what you do on it can be critical for your business. Make sure you have enough control and a backup option if things go wrong with one of your providers, especially in the early days of your website or blog.


How do you get your material out into the world? Is it a blog post? Do you promote it through influencers or social media? Does what you write need to have general appeal or target a specific subset of people?

Select a genre to write in

It may be easier to create content quickly if you have a clear idea of the types of content that will help your readers. The fiction writer’s idea of genre can be very helpful here. As Shawn Coyne explains, genre tells the reader what to expect – you manage audience expectations.

Adapting the ideas that Shawn Coyne dissects to non-fiction / business / blog writing, your audience has a number of expectations:

  1. We expect the headline of each blog article or chapter to give us an idea of the content.
  2. We expect to be able to scan the content and get the main points quickly.
  3. We expect to know whether the content can be relied upon – is it factual or is it made up?
  4. We expect a style or a particular experience from the content.
  5. We expect to know how long the content is going to be.

Select a headline with a promise

David Sloly says that he was once told there were only three types of headline that all newspapers magazines and bloggers follow and gives the following examples.

  • The Promise Headline: Cure for baldness found
  • The Intrigue Headline: Man bites dog
  • The News headline: First humans land on mars

Create a structure that can be scanned quickly

If your content is longer than a few hundred words, then break it up to make it easy to read. Use subheadings that can be scanned and give the reader your main points. Use lists to create whitespace and make it easier to understand your points.

Talking about lists – use bulleted lists when you are simply listing a number of thoughts but when you use numbered lists, order the points from most important to least important.

Make it clear whether your content can be relied on

If you are simply making things up, then it’s probably important to make that clear so no one actually follows your advice. In most cases, it’s probably less clear – and you have to rely on a mix of facts, informed opinion and speculation to construct your point.

The reader also has a responsibility to look critically at what you have written and make up their own mind about whether it is something that that they should rely on or not. But you can make this easier by choosing to write in a way that make this clear.

For example:

  • If you are explaining a concept, make your point and support it with facts and references.
  • If you are reporting news, make your words objective and put across all relevant points of view.
  • If you are writing a history or biography, write connected ideas that follow a timeline.
  • If you are discussing an idea, make it clear that you are having a debate or thinking out loud.
  • If you are showing how to do something set out your instructions step by step for someone to follow.
  • If you are trying to persuade someone choose points that support your case and handle objections.

Select a style that works for you

Are you writing to build a personal or business brand? A personal brand is all about you – your thoughts, feelings and interests. A business brand is more about what you are selling and why someone should be interested.

Many people now have businesses based on personal brands. They create products and services that sell because they have an audience that will buy what they create. Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss are good examples of people with personal brands.

A CEO of a small business may be so intimately associated with the business that it makes sense to build the business brand around the person.

Product brands like Apple uncompromisingly build their content around their products – and you buy the product because it is good and the marketing is great.

The choice of style matters most when you want to do something with your content. For example, if you want to make money from your blog, get more sales through it or sell your business then you will need to be very clear how the content supports your objectives. A little thinking early in the creation process may help you avoid creating a personal brand that can’t be separated from you when what you really want to do is build up a business and sell it in five years.

Decide how long your content is going to be

The length of your content depends on what you think your readers are interested in. But, to get in front of your readers, you also need to think about what the search engines are interested in.

In a previous post, we looked at how long a post should be and posts that rank higher have 2,000 to 2,500 words.

If you are writing news, then a large number of 500 words posts may be fine. But if your content is going to be evergreen, in that it doesn’t change too much and could be useful for a long time, then long form posts are the way to go.

Summary and conclusion

In summary, you will need to develop your own way of writing fast. But it will make things a lot easier if you think about yourself and your team and what you are trying to achieve, and remove the blockers that will make it hard to create and publish content.

Think about the following:

  1. Decide if you are a plotter or a pantser: do you like planning and then writing, or do you want to write and let a structure emerge?
  2. Don’t get worried or blocked by thoughts of quality. Create content quickly, preferably under time pressure in short bursts. First create it and then worry about revising or polishing it.
  3. Get your systems working well. Select your tools and then use them, reducing the amount of time you spend with tools and instead focusing on creating content.
  4. Make it easier for you and your readers by making it clear what they should expect from your content.

What is a content machine? Your online salesperson.

Managing content is more than just writing. It is about having a system that can help your business grow. A content machine is the human and technical system you put together to create and publish your content.

As a business owner your main concern is how to sell more product and grow your business.

Maybe you started your business and grew it steadily with your own contacts and network. You may have a few salespeople already that have been steadily working with prospects in your market.

But it’s a hard economy out there. Are you still growing at the rate you wanted? Should you hire another salesperson?

There are many reasons why that isn’t the best idea. In most companies, 20% of salespeople generate 80% of the sales. These are the stars.

But if you hire one of the star 20%, there is no guarantee that the success they had in the old company will magic its way over to you.

The problem is that the traditional sales funnel doesn’t work anymore.

Customers are busy, shy and don’t like being put under pressure. Talking to a sales person is increasingly the last thing they do, rather than the first.

Increasingly they find you, rather than you finding them.

But that doesn’t mean that selling doesn’t work. It’s just that it’s really hard work. And it gets harder if all a salesperson has is a list of numbers and a phone.

Salespeople are human. Eventually they get tired of rejection and if they feel like they can’t make their numbers they move on to a different business.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, you have an expensive salesperson on your books who has to start producing. If your sales cycle is 18 – 24 months, that is a long time to wait to see returns.

And, if your salesperson leaves before the sales come in, then you lose your investment and possible the sales opportunity if the salesperson takes that to the company they move to next.

So what is the answer if it’s not hiring more people?

Charles Handy in The Empty Raincoat: Making Sense of the Future tells the story of one approach from a large pharma company.

The chairman’s strategy was to have half as many people working in his business in five years, paid twice as much and producing three times as much.

That was his secret to productivity and profit.

So, instead of adding to your existing pool of salespeople, should you be helping the stars you already have to produce more?

But how can you do that?

Let’s start by asking your best salespeople to tell you why they are valuable. They might say that:

  • They listen to prospects to understand their business
  • They talk with prospects about the problems they face
  • They work with prospects to discover what impact the problems have on the business
  • They show prospects that they can solve their problems and make them money

Unless your product can be sold during the very first meeting, your salespeople know that a pushy, hard-sell approach will not work. You won’t sell another item to the same person. And you probably won’t get invited back.

You may need to convince a lot of people in the prospect company. The person you speak to won’t remember everything you say and will struggle to tell someone else. You might need to go in again to explain it all.

Your salesperson needs to show the value of what you do to enough people in the company so that they agree that working with you is a good idea.

In particular, for expensive items, the prospect more often than not buys from one company rather than another because of the relationship built up with the salesperson.

This takes time. A good salesperson will want to spend as much time as possible with the customer. That investment of time is what gives the customer the confidence that the salesperson cares and genuinely wants to help.

You want your salesperson to be investing that time in prospects where you have a realistic chance of getting new business.

So, the first thing you could do is take the job of prospecting away from them. Get someone cheaper to hammer the phones and set up appointments.

That might help. Although your salesperson is now going into a meeting where the prospect has been qualified by someone else. They know they have an appointment, but they don’t know much else.

In an ideal world, your salesperson will go into a meeting where the prospect already has an idea of who you are, what you do, why you are different, where you are and how you work. Their job is to talk to the prospect, discover what you can do for them, and negotiate a deal.

If you boil down all the words used by professionals – marketing, advertising, integrated marketing communications – they all come down to one thing.

You want to have a conversation with people.

But it takes far too long to have an individual conversation with everyone.

One strategy is to create and share information that your prospective customers will find useful, interesting and informative.

Today, this is called content marketing. In 1895 when John Deere used it, it was probably just seen as a form of advertising.

What it’s called doesn’t matter. The important thing is that by using content effectively in your sales process you can help your salespeople sell more.

You can do this because you can filter prospects by looking at how they engage with your content and direct the ones that are more likely to be interested in working with you to your salespeople.

The content you use is simply another salesperson with a very definite job. This salesperson’s job is to answer the questions the prospect has until the prospect has either had enough or wants to talk to a real person.

Your content can be your hardest working salesperson. Available day and night all through the year and taking no holidays or sick day. Your content is a machine; it doesn’t get tired or hungry. It’s simply there, waiting to help a prospect whenever needed.

If you have a content machine supporting your sales team, you have a force multiplier. You can take your team of stars and give them the support they need to go out and grow your business.

But you have to remember that a machine is simply a collection of parts that work together to do something.

A lever might be the simplest machine there is. Archimedes said that if he had a place to stand on, he could move the earth with a lever.

He could, but only with the right kind of lever. Why do you use a lever made of metal rather than one made of cardboard? Because the metal lever is the right machine for the job.

A machine that has parts that don’t work together may be less use than not having one at all. The wrong kind of machine might lose you business, rather than helping you grow.

Efficiency tells you how much useful work the machine does. What you really want is have an efficient content machine. One that works for you and helps your business to grow.

How can we engineer an efficient content machine?

Most people think that content means sitting down and writing a lot.

That is a big part of it, but an even bigger part for you as a business owner is thinking like a publisher

The difference between a writer and a publisher is like the difference between a cook and a chef. A cook is someone who can make food. A chef is someone who can manage a kitchen.

A writer can write an article or blog post that is riveting and keeps you hooked till the end. A publisher needs to plan and serve up content regularly to readers that they find useful, interesting and informative.

As a business owner, you need a machine that will create, edit and publish content on a schedule over time. You need the tools to manage it over time, and the processes to allow you to add content from different people as you scale up.

You will need to create publishing processes for different types of content, from written material to images and video.

Your content can be on a simple blog, where you publish one article a week all the way to a media hub, where your team pushes multi-media content daily.

Your content machine, on the other hand, is all the moving parts that are needed to create and publish your content. This includes how you come up with ideas, how you work with writers and editors, the publishing platform you use and the publishing schedule you follow.

Three quarters of companies plan to produce more content in 2016. Is it time for you to get your content machine checked so it’s ready to start working for you?

How to set a budget for content marketing

This post explains how business to business (B2B) marketers can set an effective budget for content marketing and understand what they get for their money.

How can you set a budget for content marketing that won’t break the bank? And how can you create enough content for that budget to create a measurable increase in sales?

Making a link between what you spend and what you get for content marketing isn’t easy. In this article, we’ll explore a content marketing model and work out how you can create a right-sized budget for what you want to achieve.

You need to think of all the roles and resources you need

This is a content marketing model that will apply to many businesses. What are the main cost headings that come out of this?

  1. Your costs: You can’t just put the process on autopilot with an agency and expect business to roll in. You will need to spend some time to think about the strategy and direct your resources. Budget for the opportunity cost of your time to work out what prospects want and consider the range of content needed.
  2. Costs to create content: You will need someone to carry out research, someone to write and someone to edit. Depending on how you get your people, you could spend $3.30 per hour to $200 per hour.
  3. Costs to distribute content: You can spend a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands on marketing automation. You will also need technical support to operate your software.
  4. Costs to monitor how prospects engage with your content: You need an analyst looking at the marketing data coming out of your systems who helps you interpret and act on that data.
  5. Costs to engage with leads: At this point, your budget may overlap with sales, where you pass leads onto the sales team, or you might have a person who helps engage with questions and opinions on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

As you can see, the majority of your costs have to do with heads – people that are carrying out the activity. There are several good reasons to consider outsourcing these cost – the most significant being that you can invest a little money with an agency and then ramp up your investment as you see results, rather than putting in a few hundred grand up front with no guarantee of seeing a return. If you are interested in things like being P&L positive at the end of the year, a big part of these costs should be outsourced.

Take a step back and think about what your prospects want

A business to business sales process follows a four step model:

  1. The customer recognises that they have a need and asks questions like, “Do we have a problem?”
  2. They evaluate options asking questions like, “Who is cheapest, or has the best service?”
  3. They resolve concerns asking questions like, “Can we trust them?”
  4. Then they negotiate terms and actually become a customer.

How much content do you need?

The short answer is, as much content as is needed to answer all the questions your customers have, given the budget you have.

A customer will understand what you do by asking questions. Your content needs to answer the questions customers have in their minds. It needs to answer questions they have asked, and also bring up and answer questions that they have not yet thought about.

Your content will be used across many channels and platforms

You will use content with prospects and customers at every stage of the selling process.

When negotiating terms

  • Proposals: This is what we will offer and what we will charge

When resolving concerns

  • Testimonials: This is someone we did this for before
  • Case studies: This is who we did it for.

When evaluating their options

  • White papers: This is a problem your industry faces

When recognizing need

  • Blog articles: Come up in search requests
  • Industry articles: Become aware when reading trade magazines
  • Direct mail: Contact via email or direct mail

70% of companies don’t think they use content marketing effectively but over three quarters of all companies still intend to produce more content in 2016 ranging from presentations and webinars to blogs, case studies and more output on social media platforms.

How to select an approach that works for your business

There is no one approach that is guaranteed to produce results. You need to select one that matches the way your company works. Use the list below to think about how your company works now and select an approach that works.

Make decisions as you go along.

If you are fairly new to content marketing, and don’t know what you want, or how much you want to spend, the best thing to do is just get started.

Write a blog post. Create a landing page. See if you can get an article accepted by a trade journal. Do something, anything to get started. If you have a go and create 5 – 7 pieces of content, you will learn more about how you or your staff write than through all the discussions of what you would write if you did do content marketing.

You can keep a tight rein on costs by deferring decisions, and focusing on simple, low cost actions to start with.

Spend what you can.

If you know how much content marketing can do for you, either from previous experience, or because you see others in your field using it to generate leads and business, then the question is how much can you afford to spend?

If you are on a constrained budget and want to make every penny count, it’s important to focus. Don’t spread yourself across every platform. Don’t create long form and short form content plus images plus tweetable material. Instead, spend your budget on content creation, and a minimal distribution system that gets your material in front of prospects.

Don’t spend all your money on creating lots of material, with nothing left over to pay for distribution or following up with analytics and lead management.

Spend what you spent last year.

If you already have a track record of spending, then protect your existing budget and plan how you can use it effectively.

There is a shift in budget allocation from advertising to digital marketing. Marketing budgets are forecast to increase, with digital marketing taking up 75% of budgets by 2020. Keep this in mind when planning the total budget and how you strategically allocate it.

Match the spending of a competitor.

In all industries, there is usually one company that seems to invest more in marketing and reaching customers than everyone else.

Research by Neil Rackham showed that companies that succeed focus their efforts. They reduce the number of opportunities they work on, but increase the amount of resource they devote. This means that they might go after a smaller set of customers, and use fewer channels to get to them, but they put more effort and content into the process.

If you go up against such a competitor but are spread more thinly, you might spend half as much as they do, but only win 20% of the time. They, on the other hand, spend twice as much as you, but win 70% of the time.

Researching and understanding how a competitor spends their marketing budget is a good way to benchmark your spending and see if you are doing the right things.

Use a formula like percentage of sales.

Many companies spend 7 – 10% of sales on marketing. The CMO survey updated in February 2016 shows that marketing budgets are now over 10% of a firm’s overall budget for the year and run at around 7 – 10% of sales. This kind of formulaic approach is the easiest way to benchmark how much you are spending relative to other companies.

Marketing costs include:

  • Direct expenses of marketing
  • Social media
  • Marketing analytics
  • Marketing research
  • Marketing employees
  • Marketing training
  • Sales employees
  • Other overheads

Advertising spend is falling, while digital marketing is seeing an increase in spending.

In 2005, Colgate-Palmolive spent 2.5% of their advertising budget on digital. They increased it to 13% in 2014 and it is heading to 25% quickly.

88% of business to business marketers use content marketing to engage with customers. On average, companies spend 32% of their marketing budget (excluding staff) on content marketing.

If you are spending a lot less than this, then you may need to consider whether you are committing enough to strategic marketing to protect your competitive position in the market.

Test and learn with experiments.

A test and learn model accepts that there is formula for success and you need to be willing to experiment. This starts with asking questions and having a view on what could happen.

For example, are your target customers more interested in videos or in reading descriptions. If your selling point is design, then a video might make the prospect more interested, while if you have a complex product you may need to use more written content. If you are not sure, however, then you can try both and see how customers respond.

The key here is to start with a hypothesis – a belief that if you do something, customers will respond in a certain way. Then, you validate this with customers, either asking them through careful questioning, or creating a prototype and testing how they respond to it. Testing and learning needs you to be comfortable working closely with customers to validate your thinking, and if you do this well your customers will end up telling you what they will pay for, and help you create your marketing system and tuning your business.

Create a marketing model and simulate scenarios.

In a larger organisation, you may not be able to create small experiments without some level of buy in. You will be asked about the business case for what you are trying to do, and what the expected returns are.

In this situation, you need a marketing model. This is like a financial model that lists out resources and expected outcomes. If you can make it a dynamic model that lets you see what happens if you increase or decrease resources and model a number of outcomes, then you can create marketing model that people understand. If they understand what you are planning to do, it is more likely that they will support you in your work.

Set an objective and a funded project with a plan and resources.

Organisations that believe in managing by targets will set an objective and expect you to hit it. Financial services companies, in particular, are fond of targets. Having a clear objective or target is an amazing way to focus a team on outcomes.

Objective based management is much less useful if target setting is used as a stick, rather than as a prized outcome. A team that fears that they will be sacked if they don’t meet target will be much less effective than a team that believes it will be rewarded if it hits its targets.

You also need to make sure that money and people are available if you want to make meaningful progress, along with regular review and monitoring.


Content marketing sounds simple – make great content that attract prospects and converts them to customers. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

Use the content marketing model in this post as a way to think about how you can set a budget that will result in generating effective content that you can use to promote your business and grow sales.

You can do content marketing on almost any size budget. If you don’t have the money, you can put in the time.

But, if you don’t do content marketing at all, expect to lose business to competitors that understand the value of content marketing to get in front of customers before you do.

Get started using one of the approaches described in this post. Whether you just jump in and have a go, or create a funded plan with targets and objectives, the important thing is to make sure that you are building your content marketing capability year on year.

How to use a test and learn strategy to invest your marketing dollars in what works

It’s not easy to know what is working and what is not.

John Wanamaker said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.”

This is true of many companies. In our experience, many companies don’t really understand why they are carrying out marketing and whether what they are doing is effective. They rely on experts to tell them what they should do, and try to interpret trends from analytics and make sense from statistical noise.

They try and copy others who look like they are doing well. But marketing does not follow natural laws like physics. It is very hard to show to show that following what someone has done before will produce the results when done by someone else.

As a result, it’s difficult to see how one formula or approach can be guaranteed to deliver increased sales. This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no point in planning and having a strategy. It just means starting with an understanding of the limitations of strategy and being open to creating an evolving strategy that changes as you understand more about your situation.

Should you invest a lot of money in software and people?

You should not buy any tools before you have a first go at trying to deliver what you trying to do with the resources you already have.

What does that mean? Well, you could start today so that auto marketing plan, and put aside 50,000 dollars as your budget.

You could invest in a marketing automation platform like Hubspot or Marketo. This costs between $2,000 to $14,000 for a starter package for one year.

But you also need a person with experience to drive it for you. Say you can hire someone for $40,000.

Now, your first year costs are nearly $55k, and you have nothing to show for it during this financial year other than the potential pipeline you could create if you used the system the way it should be used.

If you are new to using marketing automation and you are in an industry where it hasn’t been used much in the past, then be prepared for some negative reactions.

If it’s hard to make your numbers right now, and you need to bring in 10 customers to pay for the $50k you are just spending, then you are going to get a lot of questions about why you doing this and whether it makes any sense to put all your money into this kind of activity.

You will have to succeed and quickly before you can convince people who think this is a bad idea that they should either suffer in silence, or agree with you. Nothing succeeds like success.

Use a test and learn strategy to start a conversation with customers

One approach is to try out a test and learn strategy, which is a process of planned experimentation. You try and set out to prove or disprove something and in doing so you get a better understanding of what you are trying to achieve, and you use this learning to try again and refine your approach.

The main objective of marketing is to start a conversation with potential customers. The first thing you need to do is figure out how you are going to get customers to talk to you. Are you going to do this by going to them, or having them come to you?

If you want them to come to you, you have to be able to show them something that is useful and interesting. This usually means that you are helping them understand an issue, solve a problem or make a decision.

Most businesses already know why their customers need their product. You will already have sales material, presentations, proposals and other documents that explain this. If you are in a fairly well-developed industry, there will be trade publications and journals that talk about the issues faced by your customers.

Research what existing publishers are talking about to find out what is considered important and interesting

Understanding what is out there is your starting point, and then you align yourself with the ideas in your industry. There are a number of publishers looking for content, so why not try and build a relationship with them and their audiences? Start by creating content that a publisher will accept as useful and interesting, and you are on your way to getting in front of potential customers.

All you to get started is a computer, access the Internet and Microsoft Word, Google Docs or OpenOffice. But you need to get started because the important thing is starting to understand your audience and start creating content.

Create a system to produce your content that creates relevant and useful material

You need a system to help you create focused and good quality content. No one gets up first thing and pushes out 2,000 words of perfect copy without thinking.

Start the day with some free writing, just a stream of consciousness set of words to clear out your brain and get it prepared for the day. Then you can get into flow and create something good.

What you do that you need to do is focus on writing content that is being created because you want it published. If you think of everything you write as due for publication and commissioned by someone else, your thought process will have a customer at the centre of your work from the start.

This publisher is a person who wants your material for a reason and is willing to promote it for you. This means that you are going to operate like a professional writer and have a commissioned list of topics. Each topic should have a proposed title, a purpose statement that explains why you are working on it and a synopsis of what the article is going to be about.

From the synopsis you can then create an outline of your argument with topic sentences, and fill in the details with copy, proof points and images.

Keep in mind that you want to use your content across a number of channels. You might be able to use all material you create on a web page or blog post but it could also make its way to into a document, presentation, brochure or sales letter.

Simply working like this is going to help you create more focused and targeted content that works for your customer.

If you haven’t got enough content already, then you should try and set a target number of content pieces to create using existing systems at no additional cost before starting to spend any money. For example, a reasonable target might be 50 blog posts on your site of at least 1,000 words each to get started.

Only then invest in productivity systems and software to expand your reach through better distribution

Once you have a system creating useful and relevant content then you can try and reach as many people as possible.

This is when you can start thinking of systems that help you automate your work, or streamline your workflow.

At this point, you know that by spending some money, you will save time and there is a clear business case for the investment you are about to make, which will help you grow sales and your business.

How to write a sales script

What is a sales script?

A sales script is a collection of words that helps you in your selling process. A script is not a collection of ideas, or loosely related concepts. Instead, it is the words you want to say using the tone and cadence with which you normally speak, set down in paper.

Many sales people have a negative reaction to working with scripts, thinking that it will make them sound robotic or unauthentic. But it is far worse to go into a meeting and fail to get your point across. A script will simply help structure your thoughts and help you bring them out clearly.

When do you need sales scripts?

Sales scripts are incredibly useful when you need to put on a performance, for example during:

  • Cold calls
  • Presentations
  • Meetings
  • Negotiations
  • Difficult conversations
  • Sensitive issues where it is important to use the right words

There are a number of benefits from working with sales scripts:

  • It helps you discover what works during a sales presentation
  • It’s a great way to train new staff
  • Creating a sales system helps you step away from the coal face

Is there a structure you should follow to write a sales script?

A script is a conversation, and should be written in a conversational style. You need to convey your personality, but more importantly, you need to be honest and helpful. Customers today are bombarded with calls and have their guard up during initial meetings. Your reassuringly honest and helpful approach will help them warm to you.

The chances are that your conversation will follow 4 steps:

  1. Start the conversation
  2. See if you are talking to the right person
  3. Have a discussion about needs
  4. Agree a next action

Start the conversation

Everyone gets cold calls. No one is usually pleased about this. Why is that?

The first reason is that the call is an interruption. They didn’t ask you to call, they don’t know you, they were doing something else at the time and, quite frankly, they are tired of sales calls from call factories.

But you are different – aren’t you?

Not if you do the same thing everyone else does. After asking to speak to me and getting me on the phone, if you say “How are you today?”, I answer, “Fine, thank you”. But immediately I have my guard up. The question marks you out as a salesperson immediately. I don’t know you, you don’t know me. If we worked together, then we might ask the question and answer as we passed in the hallway as a pleasantry – but we don’t work together. So why are you acting like you know me?

Perhaps you could be surprising and just be honest. Say something like “Hi, I’m a salesperson at BIG Inc, and I wanted to see if you were the right person to talk to about computers?”.

You need to try different approaches and see which work. The test is not that a customer grudgingly lets you proceed, but that they willingly give you permission to continue. The right words will help you with this. If your customer does not respond, then try a different approach. But remember that being honest and helpful is better than being pushy and obnoxious.

See if you are talking to the right person

The best pitch in the world will fail if you are talking to the wrong person. You need to qualify your conversation as early as you can. It might be as simple as asking if the person you are speaking to is the right one for your product. If it’s not, ask who you should speak to, thank them and hang up.

Have a discussion about needs

Your salespeople are often already personable and approachable. They don’t need to manipulate the customer – they need to understand them first.

The best way to understand someone is to see what they have done before. For example, instead of saying “Are you interested in working with an insurance broker”, you could ask “When was the last time you used an insurance broker”.

If they have never used one, then you could focus on the benefits a broker can bring. If they have used one, but don’t use them now, you first need to explore the reasons why they stopped as it gives you clues about the service they expect. For example, the broker might not have explained the provisions correctly and the company might have suffered a loss. A small change in the words you ask can result in very different results.

A key part of making sure you understand your prospects needs is by not asking ice cream questions. An ice cream question is like asking, “Do you like ice cream?”. No one says they don’t like ice cream. A salesperson could take this as validation that they should try and sell ice cream to the prospect. But perhaps what they really want is a carrot cake with custard – and you haven’t discovered this need in your discussions, and the person that does wins the business.

Agree a next action

The goal of any sales interaction is to nudge the process forward. This means agreeing the next action step. Agree to call back. Ask for a meeting. Ask if the person would like a call back. The next action depends on your business process, but you need to make sure you ask for just one action out of the call – many options cause conflict as people struggle to make a decision.

Common questions about sales scripts

Are you in a business where your prospect gets a number of calls like yours?

If you are in a business where cold calling customers with pressure sales techniques is common, then you are going to start by talking to customers who already dislike you.

You might need to start by changing your business. Try and choose a product that isn’t pushed by everyone else and see if you can have a conversation about that instead. If you can get a meeting, then the prospect might be willing to talk about your other services as well.

Should you start with your elevator pitch straight away or ask a question?

Too many sales calls start with a canned elevator pitch – this is my company, this is what we do, this is how we can help you, can we set up a meeting?

This is like throwing a handful of sand in the prospect’s face and hoping they will fall in love with you.

Try breaking up the conversation, and getting permission to speak with them and explain what you do. That way you might get them interested and engaged, rather than overwhelmed and wanting to end the call.

Should you describe what you do or ask questions?

A number of research studies have shown that there is a clear statistical link between asking questions and the success of your conversation.

Many people suggest that you should ask open questions and get the prospect to do most of the talking. Research by Neil Rackham showed early on that there was no relationship between the type of question and the success of the sales call.

Instead, successful conversations followed a pattern that he labelled SPIN. Successful salespeople used questions to first understand the Situation, then the Problems the prospect had, followed by the Implications of the problems. Once they understood this, then they asked about Needs and the payoff or benefit from taking a particular course of action.

How does your prospect react to words?

It is very easy to offend someone without realising it. For example, if you use the word “you” when being critical, your prospect will stiffen up as they feel you are criticizing them. But if we use the word “we” when being critical, your prospect may be more willing to acknowledge that there is an issue to deal with.

Now read the last two sentences again. Do you feel any differently when reading the first sentence with the word “you” compared to the second sentence with “we”?

How do you deal with objections?

The best salespeople don’t handle objections. They prevent objections by bringing them up themselves and defusing them before they turn into an issue. Some of the best presentations follow a format where they introduce a big idea, and then go through the objections and responses that the audience might have.

Do closing techniques work?

You need to ask for the business at some point. Some people suggest that you ask early and ask often. Some subscribe to NLP and methods that come close to manipulation. Should you use these techniques?

The thing to remember is that a buyer can always pull out of the deal. When you are finished and walk away, the buyer might think about what has just happened, and decide that actually this deal is not for them. This is buyer remorse.

Instead, perhaps ask them what they think the next step should be. If you have answered all their questions, then they should be willing to move the process on. If they are not, then there is still work to do.

What kinds of scripts can you have?

You can create scripts for every interaction you have with a prospect – and for the other interactions you have in your business. Some examples:

  • Getting past gatekeepers
  • How to start a conversation
  • How to deal with different kinds of initial responses (can you play games?)
  • How to play the game – what can people do with your emails
  • How to ask for the business
  • How to respond to objections

What kinds of questions can you ask?

  • Budget
  • Reasons to buy
  • Reasons not to buy
  • Who is involved in the decision making process
  • How you make decisions

How do you know when your script is working?

Before you test your script out on a prospect, have your computer read it back to you. In Microsoft Word, you can enable playback, and the computer reads out your words. It’s a great way to listen to your words and experience them the way a prospect might.

Amateurs practice till they get it right. Professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong.

A sales script is a tool that will help you and your team sell more. It is worth taking the time to work on your scripts, cutting out words and jargon that aren’t clear. Make it easy for your prospect to listen to you and understand what you say. Use stories that show why they need you.

The idea of creating sales scripts to help you sell more is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Perhaps that is why so few salespeople and sales managers do it. By using this powerful tool, you and your team can grow your business and persuade more prospects to turn into customers.

How to do a content audit

A content audit is a planned review of your marketing content. Think of it like carrying out maintenance on your car – it’s something you should do regularly to make sure that your website and marketing tools are working well.

There are three steps to carrying out a content audit:

  1. Identify the types of content you want to review
  2. Create a database of your content and analyse it
  3. Make a plan to improve and develop your content

What types of content should you review?

Your website is going to be the single most important collection of content you have.

Even if you have more content in brochures, sales presentations and proposals right now, you can bet that over time more and more of this content will move onto your website so that you deliver the same message over every platform you operate.

You should review every web page on your site. This can be done manually, but it’s much better to use a combination of tools to help you out. This guide will focus on easy to use methods and the most you will need is the Microsoft Office package of software.

You also need to look at all the offline material you have, and think about how you can start to create a single collection of material that you can use across the various platforms you use.

Don’t limit yourself to just traditional sales and marketing material. Everything a reader sees from you should be reviewed, including analysis you send out, spreadsheets and presentations. Everything a reader sees affects their opinion about you and what you do.

Each page should have a clear purpose. Taking a guide from copywriting, Jonathan Kranz in Writing Copy for Dummies says that your copy should help you in one of three ways:

  1. Make sales
  2. Attract customers
  3. Build relationships

Content that helps you make sales

Order forms

The order form is your online close. It’s like having a salesman hand a pen to a prospect and say ‘Sign here’. You want your form to be easy to understand and simple to complete.

Google images screenshot of order forms
Order forms screenshot

Source: Google Images

Specification pages

What does your customer get for their money? Companies selling software as a service online now almost always have a number of pricing options from a free trial to different levels of upgrades. Do your specification pages get across the features of different products clearly?

Google images screenshot of specification pages
Specification pages

Source: Google Images

At this point, the customer is making a choice between your products or taking a decision to buy from you or someone else. They are going to make a list of all the things you offer, and compare it with all the things someone else offers – and the longer list for less money could well win.

Sales Landing Pages

You could call every web page you have a landing page. But, when it comes to making sales, you probably have a few that are designed to make someone click through to a specification form to choose between options, or to an order form to place the order.

These pages are critical in the sales process. The copy needs to be clutter free and communicate benefits. Here is a list of examples showing how well designed landing pages clearly get across exactly what the reader needs to do next.

Content that attracts customers


The traditional way to attract customers is through getting their attention by advertising. The right kind of advert can result in sales that are an order of magnitude greater than another one. The wrong kind of advertising can reduce sales and be worse than no advertising at all.

Some of the adverts your company might place include:

  • Facebook ads
  • Ebay product descriptions
  • Youtube adverts
  • Print adverts
  • Paid for editorials
  • Sponsored content

An advertisement is successful if it convinces you to buy the product being advertised.

With an advert, in addition to the copy, you have to pay attention to the number of words, the space it occupies, which words are most dominant and the design and layout of the content. While this is important in all content, it is particularly important in an advert where the reader may only give you a fraction of a second to get their attention and interest them.

Long tail pages

An advertisement tries to attract a few people from a large number that view it.

The internet, and search engines in particular, have created the ability for advertisers to target specific markets.

This means that an advert can now be written to attract exactly the people whose needs match your product’s benefits.

The way that these people search is by asking questions and entering in longer phrases into a search engine. 70% of search traffic falls into the long tail category.

This means that pages that answer specific questions that readers have will first attract them to your website and then, if the content they find is good, get them to explore more of your site.

Email templates

Don’t forget about the emails you send out, either on a regular basis or on autoresponders. Make sure you capture these in your audit and check if they are still working for you.

Content that builds relationships

As you get further away from the point of sale, you need content that will help you build a relationship with the reader.

This includes pages about your products and services, pages about you and your company and contact forms.

This also includes marketing material such as brochures, case studies, white papers, tutorials, guides, data and research material.

Most of this content will not lead directly to a sale, but it will build your reputation and credibility with the reader and help them relate to you and your product.

Get started with a spreadsheet

You need a database to get started with a content audit. The easiest way to begin is to start with a spreadsheet.

Open a blank spreadsheet. Title it ‘Content Audit’ and enter in a number of headings:

  1. Sl. No
  2. Title
  3. Link
  4. Purpose
  5. Status
  6. Next Action
  7. Date

Select the cells and click Format as Table and select a table format.

Screenshot of Excel's Format as Table button

When you are done you should have a sheet that looks like this.

Example of a Content Audit Spreadsheet
Content Audit Spreadsheet

Enter the title of the content in the Title field.

Use the Type field to identify the content, for example:

  • Web page
  • Order form
  • Brochure

Use the Link field to link to the content on your website or a network folder if you have one.

In the Purpose column you can use any categorisation that works for you, but as a starting point you can label each row as:

  • Sell
  • Attract
  • Relate

In the Status field, enter in comments about the content. Use this cell to put down your thoughts and ideas in a short paragraph.

In the Next Action field, enter a specific action you need to take. Limit this to a word, or a short sentence. For example use:

  • Delete
  • Send to editor
  • Re-write
  • Add image

Use as many types of actions as you need, but make sure they are specific and you can take action and tick them off. If you are unsure, write out those thoughts in the Status field, not the Next Action field.

Don’t worry about priority now. Use the Trigger Date field to enter when it should be done. For example:

  • Immediately: Use today’s date.
  • Soon: Use the end of the week.

Use this field to indicate importance when you fill in the spreadsheet. If the task is important, schedule it sooner. If it’s less important, push it further out.

If your website is quite small, or you don’t have a large amount of analytics and sharing data, then you can start to fill in the rows listing your content now.

It might take a few hours, but when you are done you will have a list of all your content, and a list of actions that need to be taken.

Remember to also work through your offline content. Put all your pdfs in a folder, or link to them on your network and enter them into your spreadsheet as well.

When you are done, sort the table by Trigger Date, selecting Oldest to Newest.

Screenshot of Sort option in Microsoft Excel
Sort the spreadsheet from Oldest to Newest

Now you will have a list of all your pages, ordered by Trigger Date, which is the same as having a priority order.

If you have a small site, then this is all you need to do to get started.

What metrics can you use to improve your content?

Metrics fall into two broad categories.

  1. Metrics that measure quality
  2. Metrics that measure success

Metrics that measure Quality

Microsoft Word has built in tools to help you improve the readability of your content.

First, select File – > Options and make sure that ‘Show readability statistics’ is selected.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word Options for Readability Statistics
Microsoft Word Options for Readability Statistics

Copy and paste your content into a blank Word file and run the Spelling and Grammar check on your content.

Screenshot of spelling and grammar check

Once the spelling and grammar check is complete, the key readability statistics come up.

Screenshot of readability statistics pop up page

Edit your Content Audit spreadsheet with four extra columns

  • Word Count
  • Passive Sentences
  • Flesch Reading Ease
  • Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level
Screenshot of Content Audit spreadsheet with readability metrics
Content Audit spreadsheet with readability metrics

The word count will help you make sure your content is the right length.

Try and eliminate passive sentences, or at least keep them under 10%.

Most guides recommend that you try to have a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60 – 70 (the higher the number, the easier it is to read) and aim for a Flesh Kincaid Grade level of 7 – 8.

Metrics that measure success

At the point, depending on how technical you are and how big your site is, you might want more information on the traffic to your site and a variety of social metrics. A good tutorial post on Moz takes you through the steps to get much of this data, and all you need to do is have a modified spreadsheet to store your data.

Now, start making improvements

A Content Audit is something you should carry out regularly. Once you have set up your database and key metrics, it should be easy to update it over time.

Once you have gone through this process, you can refine it and add more metrics if you need. You will also find that you will start to create content that is right the first time because you know what will be picked up during the next audit review. If you document the process you follow, it can also act as a style guide for training purposes.

By having a carefully designed and regularly run Content Audit, you can make sure that your content helps you grow your readership and business.

Should you outsource content marketing – views around the web

Is there any research showing whether working with a partner to create content for your business is a good idea or not?

Skilled-up commissioned a survey of 200 professionals that found that a third of them found it difficult to find individuals with the right expertise.

This ranked third in a list of challenges they faced doing content marketing.

Bar chart of top three challenges faced by content marketers: budget, time and expertise
The top three challenges faced by content marketers

The Entrepreneur looked at the costs of hiring an internal creative team and the costs of an in-house writer, designer and web developer can quickly go over $100k.

If your company make a gross profit of $20 on every $100 of sales, this means you need to bring in an extra $500k of sales to cover the costs of the team.

An alternative view says that firms are bringing content creation back in-house as it becomes increasingly core to their revenue generation strategy.

Google’s algorithms value quality over quantity, and outsourcing to a cheap provider that creates low quality content can make your results worse, not better.

Hiring professionals and training them may be better in the long run.

But is your only choice between internal and external content creation?

Just over half of all companies keep their content creation in house.

Very few use only outsourcing but the rest have a mix of internal and external content.

Interestingly, large companies are more likely (61%) to use a mixed approach rather than just using in-house content.

The need for content is going to increase and three quarters of small businesses are using content marketing.

Keep some of these stats in mind when thinking about how to design your content machine:

  • $1 in every $3 is going to be spent on content marketing
  • 15 blog posts a month generate 1,200 new leads on average
  • Less than half of B2B marketers have a written content strategy
  • 85% of transactions will be carried out without talking to a human by 2020

How much content should be on your website?

Sketch showing increase in the amount of content on the internetYou need to get your point across in less than 10 seconds

The amount of material on the internet is growing every second.

It’s impossible to read and remember everything. In 2008, a study of web use showed that:

  • 17% of page views lasted less than 17 seconds
  • 4% of page views lasted more than 10 minutes
  • 28% of words were read on an average web page (593 words)

Readers ruthlessly discard pages that do not interest them.

But, if they find something that interests them, they hang around.

The magic number is 10 seconds.

If they stay this long, then they will look around some more.

And if you can interest them for 30 seconds, then they could look around for ages, or at least 2 minutes, which is the same thing on the web.

But, you need to have good content to get readers in the first place

Sketched histogram showing the number of words on webpages

Search engines appear to think that if you have less than 200 words on your web page, it’s not worth reading.

An image heavy site is going to suffer if there isn’t enough text in the page for the search engine to read.

Each image should have a description of its content. This also increases the accessibility of the page.

So what is a good length for content on a page?

Data from serpIQ shows that top ranking pages have 2,000 to 2,500 words and they suggest that 1,500 words could be a good target.

So its crucial that you can create good long form content that helps search engines rank your pages and put them in front of prospects.

Break up your content so it can be scanned quickly

Many readers decide if a page is worth reading by looking at the headline, scanning the sub heads and getting a feel for the docment.

According to Neilsen, pages should be:

  • Concise
  • Scannable
  • Objective

Your sentences should be short and to the point.

Use headlines and bullet points to break up the flow.

And let the facts speak for themselves.




What kind of person should your content speak to?


Your content needs to be adapted to target different people in a business. People will have different views depending on the role they have.

  • Initiators are the ones that will get things going, sparking interest in your product
  • Users are the ones that actually use the product when it is introduced into the company
  • Gatekeepers are the ones that control the purchasing process
  • Influencers are people whose opinion matters in the process
  • Deciders have the power to make the final decision and authorise the purchase


An initiator is someone who identifies a need and brings it to the attention of other.

An initiator’s interest could be sparked by a number of things.

  • An employee could notice that equipment was broken and notify purchasing
  • A senior manager could get an email on your product and ask someone to look into it
  • An engineer might be looking for a specialist add on

Anybody in an organisation could be an initiator.

Your content will motivate them to take action if it resonates with them, describing the need they have and the benefits they could get from engaging with you.

An initiator’s view is likely to be positive, as they are the first to recognise the need they have and want a solution.

Initiators need content that they can send on easily to others, with a note suggesting they look into it further.

The types of content that might work with initiators are:

  • Short emails asking for a referral
  • Short emails stating a benefit and asking for a meeting
  • A newsletter with industry updates
  • Checklists
  • Numbered lists of best practice (7 things you should do …)


A user is someone who will actually use your product.

A user could be an employee on a line that works with your product. It could be the driver of a truck you sell, or an engineer that works with the machine you develop.

The user may be interested in all the things your product can do for them. Or they might be very averse to the idea of changing from what they are doing now.

It depends on whether they are excited or fearful of the change brought by your product.

Content aimed at users should:

  • Stress the benefits
  • Show how the features are different
  • Show how there is little risk
  • Show how the product is being used by others
  • Ideally, let the user feel and play with the product – offer free trials and test equipment

A user has the ability to champion your product or bring out all its flaws.

Your content needs to convince them that the cost/benefit equation is positive and the benefits to them are greater than the costs and risks.


A gatekeeper has the responsibility of ensuring that a process is followed when making a purchase.

Others can enthuse about the product and its benefits. A gatekeeper must make sure that a rational approach is taken and:

  • The purchasing process has been followed
  • The right people have been involved in the decision
  • The company has been vetted
  • Its credentials are good
  • References have been verified
  • The company is in good financial standing
  • The company’s products are the right ones
  • Alternatives have been considered
  • The price has been negotiated to the lowest possible
  • Guarantees are in place
  • Service level agreements have been negotiated

There can be a raft of documents associated with a purchase, increasing with the complexity and cost of the purchase.

The more expensive or disruptive a product is to operations, the more care gatekeepers will take in ensuring that the process has been followed.

A gatekeeper almost always has a score sheet in place. Your content needs to answer their questions and tick all their boxes to have a chance to succeed.

This is where the strength of the relationship and personal rapport has the least impact.

Your content is doing the selling for you, sentence after sentence.


An influencer is an expert within the company, or a person with experience that is respected.

This person may be brought into the process to provide an independent opinion on your product. The might be seen as knowledgeable but uninvolved, so without a conflict.

The influencer’s opinion carries weight, and they may be able to persuade people on the fence to decide one way or the other.

Content targeting the influencer needs to inform them without being threatening.

For example, you may want to persuade an organisation to move from a hydraulic solution to an electric solution and a key influencer is an expert on hydraulics.

In this case, content that is simply dismissive or negative of hydraulics is unlikely to be accepted well.

You will need to carefully explore the pros and cons of both solutions, and bring in factors such as future trends, increased operating and maintenance costs and the lack of experienced hydraulic engineers.

If you can get the influencer nodding in agreement, then you may have created an ally.

The types of content that may help here are:

  • Trend analysis
  • Forecasts
  • Scenario analysis
  • Case studies
  • Lifecycle costs
  • Product lifecycle analysis
  • Capability matrices
  • Product maturity cycle

An influencer needs to agree that the strategy of going with your product is the right one.


The decider is the ultimate decision maker. In smaller companies it might be the CEO or FD, who authorises the purchase after listening to the case. In larger organisations it may be a consensus reached by the purchasing committee.

A decider needs two things at the point they are approving the purchase:

  • They must have a gut feeling that this is the right purchase
  • They must have a credible business case for the purchase

The decider may be involved at the very start, approving the decision to investigate your product and at the very end, approving the decision to purchase your product.

They are unlikely to immerse themselves in the detail of the product, your company or the way in which the product will be applied. They will delegate this to the right colleague to investigate and report back.

Content that targets the decider needs to be short, clear and to the point.

Deciders make up their minds in 3 to 30 seconds on whether there is any point going ahead.

They are also very aware of trends, what is happening in the market and have a keen political instinct.

Content that may help influence a decision maker include:

  • Industry articles about best practice
  • Cost/benefit analyses about strategic decisions
  • Press releases showing other companies and how they have benefited from the product
  • A succinct business case
  • Short emails asking for referrals
  • Invitations to exclusive content or events

The more familiarity a decision maker has with you – seeing you in their inbox or at events, the more comfortable they are that there is something of substance in you and your company.

The less familiar they are, the more likely they are to dismiss you or ask for detailed evaluations.

Wrapping up

Your content needs to speak to multiple people within a company.

The same product specification sheet cannot be used for a decider and a purchasing agent.

You need to craft your content so that it can be used to target different individuals in the company, and speak to them in a voice they recognise, understand and agree with.

If this happens, then when they come together to make a decision, they are more likely to support the case for buying your product.

This post is based on material in ‘Marketing: Real People, Real Decisions’ by Solomon et al, (2013).