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How top sales team create compelling content experiences

Introduction

At Zoomforth, helping companies create amazing content experiences in the form of microsites is at the core of everything we do.

We believe that microsites can revolutionize the ways in which businesses communicate. Our technology has been leveraged by everybody from sales teams through to educational institutions and recruiters, to elevate how they do business.

In this whitepaper, we will be focusing on the sales use-case and, specifically, how you can use microsites to competitive advantage.

We recognize that transitioning from a Powerpoint (or Word)-centric organization to one that is dynamic and digital-first, isn't likely to happen overnight. It's a business transformation that requires planning and management to achieve the best results. That's why we've been sharing lots of content on this blog designed to help you make the most out of our software.

Here, we'd like to tie some of that knowledge together to help you to get maximum impact from your microsite designs. By putting together the most compelling content experiences, you can:

  • Get a technological edge over your competition
  • Send more engaging content to your audience e.g. sales prospects, staff and job candidates
  • Understand how your audience is interacting with your content

Here's the basics that you need to know in order to create the best content experiences possible. Feel free to bookmark and refer back to this guide whenever you need a guiding hand in mapping out the process of creating winning microsites.

Content experience platform

What is a content experience (microsite) platform?

Firstly, before embracing microsites and digital content experiences, it's a good idea to be clear on exactly what technology we're talking about.

Traditionally, when businesses want to communicate information with external parties, they do so by creating static documents. Think about: Word documents, PDFs, Powerpoint presentations.

There are a few problems with these:

Content analytics

You can't measure engagement because there's no way of collecting analytics from a file-based document. If you can't measure engagement, you can't know what's working, who's reading what, and what you could improve. Sales teams are increasingly moving towards data-based performance tracking and measurement. To collate data, you need a way of receiving it. Microsites can help to plug that gap.

Keeping content fresh

Once you create and share your Word document / PDF / Powerpoint, the content is fixed. There's no easy way to update it on the fly. Online content, by comparison, can be edited easily, keeping it fresh for your audience.

Navigation & usability

Creating navigation in a PDF document is challenging. For example, you might need to send a sales proposal to a purchasing committee which consists of 5 people. But each will likely only be interested in one specific part. Under the traditional static document model, it's very difficult to cater for this kind of situation. Everybody gets the same document even though there may, in reality, be many different kinds of audiences that you're interested in communicating with. Microsites enable you to add navigation bars and content menus.

By moving your client communication over to microsites, you can effectively address these issues.

Your team and content experience

Who should be in charge of creating content
experiences on your team?

Read more: Setting up a team to manage your content experience workflow.

If you're dealing with RFI / RFI responses, then you're no doubt already well-versed in what's required to put together engaging Powerpoint decks.

Transitioning to a microsite content experience platform should be relatively easy. The good news is that you already likely have all the core players within your organization.

What might a typical microsite-building A-team look like? Consider looping in:

  • A writer: You'll want to make sure that your text speaks to your target personas and sticks to the company brand and voice. An experienced writer should be able to help out in both regards.
  • A designer: To make sure that the visual elements also represent the brand. By working with a designer, you can also create a template that has the company style guide baked in. This will mean that you can quickly iterate new proposals. Look for someone who has strong UX / UI skills and perhaps a little CSS knowledge to add extra pizazz to your sites.
  • The sales team: Of course, if you're looking to use microsites to build out sales proposals, then the sales team will be core to the operation.
  • A project manager: To guide and ensure larger proposals stay on track.

All these resources can come together to work on the design of the proposal so that it has the best chance of winning business for your firm.

It's worth noting:

  • When you're building out sales proposals in Zoomforth, you can preview the changes and the look and feel of the website. Zoomforth makes it easy to share previews to enable you to collate feedback.
  • If you're sending out an important sales proposal worth millions of dollars' worth of business, then you'll want to double-check that everything is in good running order before sending it out to prospects. We can provide you with a Quality Assurance checklist, if that would be helpful.
  • Compared to putting together Word documents, creating a microsite might require more design input. But if you already have a visual designer on staff, then you have the ability to work hand-in-hand to create a much more compelling experience for your prospects. Alternatively, we offer one-off design services, if you would like to use our design team.
Creating design briefs

What's a design brief and what do you need to include in it?

Read more: Creating an effective design brief for a digital sales proposal

Effective brief-writing is considered an essential skill in creative environments like content and graphic creation agencies.

In order to make the best use of the internal resources on your design and content experience creation team, you'll want to make sure that your sales teams get up to speed on how best to provide them with the information they'll need to make the best possible microsite.

There's no rigid format that you have to follow when putting together a design brief.

But here are some tips to help you to get started:

  • Target audience: Besides just letting your team know who the target is, provide them with some information about the type of client you're going after. Is it a large staid Fortune 500 organization? A small and nimble startup? Again, these things will affect the design.
  • Context is key: If you're going to be working in a cross-department team to put together proposals, then information sharing is absolutely key. One piece of information that you shouldn't hold back from sharing is the context of the microsite being created. At a minimum, the design team should know: what business you're going after; whether you've had prior commercial engagements with the prospect; who the key stakeholders at the prospect are. Once the design team is appraised of this information, they can make the stylistic and textual adjustments that will best reflect the messages being communicated.

The design team should also be informed about:

  • What unique selling points (USPs) are being highlighted. These should be afforded a prominent place in the microsite's design and attention should be drawn to them throughout. Visual elements that can make it easier to highlight specific points include larger font sizes, offset elements (like pull quotes), and the use of contrasting colors.

In addition to the above you'll also want to include all the core information that your design team will need to pull together an effective microsite:

  • Which pages you want included
  • The navigation that you think would make the most sense

Naturally you don't want to overwhelm your design team by including lots of irrelevant information or bogging them down in details that only sales really needs to know about. But a measured degree of quality background information can go a long way towards helping them put together the best possible design for the job being undertaken.

Design Brief Example

Scratch vs. template

From Scratch Or Template: What Makes The Most Sense?

Busy bids and pursuits teams don't have time to build a fresh new site every time they want to put together a proposal. At Zoomforth, we see many users making extensive (and effective) use of our template and hide/reveal feature in order to more quickly roll out versions of microsites.

In fact, this kind of iterative replication process is how most of our customers use the tool and even how we use it ourselves internally.

Using Zoomforth you can create a core template for all your sales proposals. Into this template, you can:

  • Bake in your core company branding guidelines, boilerplate wordings, site navigation and common sections (e.g. team bio section, about us, key milestones, pricing)
  • Build in content that can be hidden or revealed as needed (e.g. individual team members' bios)
  • Add placeholder content to indicate to those who are creating sites from the template, where they will need to personalize those sites

Non-designers can then use the template to create the ‘bones' of their sites in seconds, quickly and easily adding the personalized content they need - e.g. Executive Summary, imagery, video etc.

Some organizations like to maintain various different templates in their Zoomforth accounts while others prefer to model everything off the one skeleton. It's important to remember that there's no right or wrong approach. But both these options will save significant time and make using the tool more scalable than building from scratch every time.

That said, even users that work with templates sometimes prefer to build a new microsite from scratch. Using Zoomforth users can:

  • Create completely new microsites
  • Embed video and audio objects into new microsites
  • Apply totally different styling guidelines to different microsites

Ultimately, most design and sales teams will find the approach that works best for them. This can be a gradual process.

How experience is done

5 core design principles for compelling content experiences

Read more: Five UX Rules For Designing Beautiful Digital Sales Proposals.

When it comes to creating microsite-based content experiences, the only limit is your imagination! Nevertheless, it's advisable to keep some core design principles in mind when creating your sites.

Audiences expect certain visual clues in materials that they read. By deviating from these, you risk making a less than professional impression upon those you are sending your digital sales proposals to.

Specifically, designers should:

Ensure that sites have a clear navigation

As we mentioned earlier, multiple stakeholders are likely to be involved in evaluating a digital sales proposal. Not everybody is going to be interested in reading through the whole thing. To make your recipients' jobs easier, add a clear navigation to your proposal that makes it easier for certain recipients to jump to the section(s) that interest them the most.

Provide a standard user experience (UX)

Decide upon your visual branding guidelines and then stick to them as you iterate on your sites. Remember that with Zoomforth you can utilize templates to make this substantially easier.

Read for scanning eyes rather than linear readers

Research has proven that people don't read online—they scan. You should write in short paragraphs and break up long stretches of text with bold subheadings.

Design for user experience (UX)

You want to make the proposal as engaging and easy to read as possible. The microsite is there to provide color to your proposal but there is no reason why you should not also include the written proposal document as a downloadable file as well. That way, recipients can choose to consume the content offline if they prefer. Remember that you're trying to work with your recipients' content preferences and not box them into staying on the site.

Optimize your design

We recommend running A/B testing on certain elements. You can then accrue useful data that proves that your digital sales proposals are working for readers. With the advantage of analytics at hand, there's simply no need to rely upon guesswork when designing sales proposals digitally.

Design trends

Design trends to consider

This year, visual designers are expecting to see several design trends receive more prominence.

You'll want to consider:

  • Video: Add rich, multimedia elements into your digital sales proposals. The lines between text and video are getting blurry and many sales teams are choosing to integrate traditional sales decks along with some other elements in pitch videos. Don't be afraid to use these features to spice up your pages — they're supported in Zoomforth!
  • Whitespace: Ensuring adequate whitespace and ensuring a clean and easy to ready layout throughout your microsite.
  • FAQs: Remote working is going to continue well into this year. This has led to a shift in how people communicate. Don't be afraid to provide lots of information online. If you can preempt objections and provide FAQs through your microsite, then you'll make life easier for your prospective customer as they'll have a single, easy to navigate place from which to find your information.
Maximize your engagement

Our recommendation: use both core and advanced content for maximum engagement

It would be a pity to make the transition over to digital sales proposals without taking maximum advantage of all the perks of communicating in this manner.

Static Powerpoints are notoriously dull. By sending secure microsites, you can really provide your recipients with a much more immersive reading experience. To learn more about Zoomforth's security settings, please see our help resource.

Our recommendation is to use a mixture of core and advanced content types when building in Zoomforth. Your core content can be the textual messaging that you use to communicate your bid.

Your supporting content can be things like:

Videos

Images

Interactive maps, graphs

Social feeds

This can really take things to the next level. You can also:

  • Embed static documents into the microsite. That way, if viewers wish to download and print off these resources they can do so. You can get the best of both worlds!
  • Save the recordings from your Zoom, Teams or Google Meet calls.
  • Add audio clips.

Not sure how your proposals are performing? Don’t forget to dive deep into the analytics. You’ll be able to see which parts of the site are captivating your audiences’ attention — and which might be leaving them in the cold.

Maximize your engagement

Match your proposal to your recipients' personalities

Read more: How to influence a potential customer that you've never met

At this stage, most of us have become quite well accustomed to working remotely—including selling.

One of the pitfalls of this way of doing business is having to get used to online-only relationships. How can you suss out the personalities of those to whom you are selling? And why does it even matter?

Spoiler alert: it does, and it's a relevant consideration for your design team to keep in mind. Getting a handle on what kinds of personalities you're dealing with can actually give you a surprise secret power when it comes to selling more effectively remotely.

Want the specifics?

  • Some decision makers will be led by the head, whereas others are led by the heart. Make sure you have included a good balance of measurables (objectives, expected results, costs, delivery timescales) and more human elements (team bios, your values, social endeavors etc.)
  • Some people prefer high level information, whereas others need the detail. Cater to both by including clear headlines, executive summaries and charts, as well as more in-depth content in the form of downloadable documents.
  • Some people appreciate engagement. Video and audio content will resonate well with them, as will anything interactive. Consider including resources like interactive pricing calculators in your digital proposal. Others prefer quiet reflection. Consider offering this type of recipient downloadable resources like embedded PDFs. Packaging information in this manner will provide everyone with the materials to work with in their own way.
  • Some folks prefer to approach their evaluation in a planned, organized way. Others like to surf around. This is where microsites score over PDFs every time. Your recipients will be able to consume the proposal information in their chosen style, especially if you have clear navigation throughout your site.
Tips for content experience

Our other top tips for creating compelling content experiences

Want to get the most out of your content experience design? Keep the following tips in mind to design the most impactful proposals that will have you converting sales leads into customers in no time!

  • 1. Remember that remote is the new normal. Don't be shy about sharing a lot of quality information in your digital sales proposal or integrating more up close and personal features like personalized video pitches. This is the kind of thing that prospects are increasingly expecting and a trend that's going to very soon entrench itself as the new normal. The more you can stand out from your competition and the richer a content experience you can provide for your audience the better the chance you stand of capturing their attention.
  • 2. If you haven't already done so, then take the hour or two to work out some basic visual styling guidelines for your brand. People pick up on small things like differences in font and content that seems to have been designed in a haphazard fashion risks making your organization look less professional. You want to aim for a reasonable degree of consistency. Using a template is a great way to achieve this.
  • 3. Make sure that every element in your digital sales proposal contributes something to the message that you're trying to communicate. For example, don't add images just for the sake of it. It's also worth looking over the order in which you've laid out the site and the content on the pages. Is it logical?
  • 4. Don't settle for bland stock images. Spruce up your site with exciting visuals. Consider building up your own stock image library. Make sure that you're using high quality imagery with a resolution that will be high enough to render well even on large monitors. Grainy pixelated images will make you look amateur.
  • 5. Be selective about what content you choose to appear above the fold. That's the part of the web page that appears before users have to scroll. You want to prioritize information and keep the most important content here.
  • 6. Don't forget quality control. Run through our checklist if you're unsure what kind of thing you need to be keeping an eye out for.

Better design leads to better results

Moving towards immersive content experiences and away from static documents can make a significant difference in terms of how engaged your prospects are with your sales materials. It also gives you access to an entirely new pool of data that you may not have been able to tap into before.

Follow the above tips to make the most of the new and improved way to send digital sales proposals to prospects.

Contact Zoomforth

Communications Software for the Visual Era

Gather and manage media, easily create content-rich microsites, and analyze communications effectiveness. Create stand-out digital experiences for your clients from scratch—no design skills required.

In addition to our self-service software, we also have a professional design team who can build your microsites for you as a managed service.

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