Does your sales content strategy need a digital transformation?

Digital Transformation Digital Proposals
Team making a business strategy content

Every year brings a new set of business buzzwords. Last year we reached out, touched base, circled back, disrupted, doubled down, and grabbed the low-hanging fruit.

This year, as we lean in to the new normal, everyone’s pivoting, getting agile, going cloud-based, bringing forward their digital transformation agendas and leveraging their sales content strategies.

But what do these things actually mean, and should you be doing them, too?

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive (sorry, couldn’t resist) into the subject of digital transformation.

We’ll give you a 4-point strategy, or framework, that you can use to:

This digital transformation strategy can be used to evaluate your software needs in any area of your business.

Since it’s currently a hot topic, we are going to use sales content as an example, as we work through each of the 4-points of the framework.

Let’s start with some definitions.

What is a sales content strategy?

Sales content includes all of the assets that help you sell your product or service.

It can include published literature such as brochures and sales decks, as well as online content like product landing pages, thought leadership articles, videos and social media posts.

A sales content strategy is simply a plan of how you’ll use the content you create, in an engaging, cohesive way, to influence sales.

In the past, most sales literature took the form of a PDF or PowerPoint deck.

New and emerging technology, such as digital proposal software, is causing enterprise firms to review their sales content strategy, in a bid to keep pace with the times.

This brings us to the term, ‘digital transformation’.

What does digital transformation actually mean?

Digital transformation is the act of replacing manual processes with digital ones, or replacing older digital systems with newer ones.

As a concept, it is far from new.

Growing up in London, I distinctly remember the first personal computer arriving at my school in the early 80’s. It was a Sinclair Spectrum with a range of just 8 colors, but to us kids it was magical! Overnight, it changed the way we interacted, learned and played; the very definition of digital transformation.

Fast forward 40 years and the digital revolution has permeated every part of our lives, from our social interactions to our business transactions. Technology continues to evolve and we continue to find new and innovative uses for it.

Billions of dollars are spent on digital solutions each year. And yet, according to McKinsey, a staggering 70% of transformation programs fail to reach their stated goals.

Ouch. So why do so many digital transformation programs fail?

The chances are, it’s because there was a lack of thought in one of more of the four steps we’ll be discussing below (and, spoiler alert, it’s probably Step four).

Four steps to a successful digital transformation strategy

Ok, let’s get started.

Because there are so many exciting technologies out there, it’s easy to be seduced into thinking one of them might just be the silver bullet that will really move the needle for your firm. (Ok, I’ll stop with the annoying business buzzwords, now.)

So how do you decide what to invest in? And how do you ensure that your purchase is going to lead to the right result?

Answer – you don’t start with the tech at all.

Here is the golden rule. Technology should support your strategic objectives, customer proposition, operational processes and company culture, not determine them.

A good digital transformation strategy will consist of four key elements:

  1. Strategic focus
  2. Customer focus
  3. Operational focus
  4. Cultural focus

Let’s work through each of these to look at how you might evaluate the need for an upgrade to your sales content strategy.

1. Strategic focus – what’s it all for?

Your digital transformation plan should seek to solve one or more of the following strategic challenges:

Start by articulating which of these apply and get really clear on the problems you are trying to solve.

Once you have outlined the problems, it’s much easier to define clear strategic objectives. For example, in the case of your sales content strategy, your objectives might be:

Now you have your high level objectives front and center, it’s time to think about your customer proposition.

Two persons analyzing a content strategy Being clear on the strategic focus helps you stay on track.

2. Customer focus – surprise and delight

The second step in a good digital transformation project is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Most firms think of the customer from their own perspective and so it’s common to see objectives like:

These are all great aspirations, but what’s in it for the customer? Consider questions like:

By considering their perspective, you’ll be able to set some customer-focused objectives for your project. If you’re struggling to do this, try writing them as stories, by finishing the following sentence:

As a customer I want:

The more you can narrow down your objectives and those of your customer, the easier it will be to determine whether a digital solution is needed and if so, which kind.

3. Operational focus – think processes not systems

The third step in creating an effective digital transformation strategy is to look at your operational processes.

Notice, we are still not talking about software at this stage! Questions to ask yourself include:

For example, in Step 2 we identified a need to present our customers with information in a visual format. Things to consider might therefore include:

Resist the temptation to drift into discussion with regard to new systems or solutions at this stage. Focus instead on the processes you need to upgrade and the teams needed to operate them.

When you’re done, it’s time to consider the most important ingredient of all. The one that will make or break the success of any digital transformation project. Your people.

4. Cultural focus – the key ingredient

Several years ago, I was called in to help a financial services company expand its business.

Six months prior, the company had invested tens of thousands of dollars in a revolutionary sales content software that claimed to pinpoint a customer’s deepest emotional drivers for purchasing financial products such as insurance and investments. It would then generate a report, using cleverly targeted keywords, to convince the customer to buy.

The software company claimed that anyone using the system could emulate the most skilled salesperson in the company and achieve the exact same sales quotas. Imagine – every member of your sales team being able to perform to the same standard as your very best!

So did it work? No.

Within a few months of implementation, sales had dwindled to almost nothing and more than half of the national sales team had left the company.

I came in to steady the ship and here is what I found.

The moral(s) of this story?

  1. When considering a digital transformation, whether it relates to your sales content strategy or any other part of your business, consult widely, consult early and consult often.
  2. The success or failure of any new software will depend on its adoption by your people, so ensure they have a say, early on. Make sure they have the bigger picture, know the objectives and have a chance to discuss and evaluate options before you commit.
  3. Don’t lose what is good about your current offering in the race to automate things. You’ve heard the old adage that ‘people buy people’ and it’s as true today as it ever was.
  4. And if something looks too good to be true, it probably is!

It’s time for your digital transformation

Ok, let’s recap:

By going through the 4-step digital transformation framework above, you’ll end up with a much better idea of the kind of software you might need to help solve a particular problem.

It will also help you build a compelling business case, if you need to seek budget approval for any new purchase.

You can then head to Silicon Valley with a clearly defined shopping list, safe in the knowledge that you have a team committed to the success of whatever digital solution you purchase.

Happy shopping!

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