Six years on – what has changed in sales management?

In Atom, Clients by Christoff Lewis0 Comments

ChristoffAs I busy myself preparing my handover notes, I have paused on one client who has been a loyal supporter of our publications for many years. And they have been doing it the same way since year dot in the form of branded PDF versions of our Directors’ Briefings for which they have a ‘hardcover-only’ licence. They print and then hand out on demand these excellent 4-page briefings on all aspects of running a business. No call here for online access and no tortuous conversations on SEO, no-index links, and duplicate copy. And they faithfully go to our shared filing system to retrieve the latest updates. I love them! And they are still doing what they need to do which is providing great content to local small businesses who are searching for advice.

But this is not how most of our clients now consume our content, and traditional account management is a far cry from what most clients now demand and expect. Obviously the main difference over the past 20 years for creators of business content has been the explosion of availability from the web. And all content is now not just padding for your site, but critical to how you are found by prospects anywhere in the world, and how you are valued and used by existing clients and visitors. For most businesses, the website is the main marketing tool for the company. Not being found, or, once found, not being valued, appreciated or used can make all the difference between a business with a website and a business who understands how most people now want to engage, compare you with the alternatives and then ultimately spend some money with the business.

So the role of sales manager has morphed from a provider of niche business advice to a content provider that can be a critical plank in a company’s marketing plan. Providing content on its own is not a sufficient reason to buy from Atom: we have to help clients appreciate the value of how content can be used to delight existing visitors and clients and also to be a part of the process to convert web grazers to paying consumers.

And plopping a whole library of information behind one linked word like ‘useful reports’ will not do justice to the content or the money that the client has paid for the licence. Working with a client’s web team (in-house or outsourced) is also part and parcel of account management these days, making sure that both sides are clear on the value and use of the content we provide.

How we package and deliver content and keep to up-to-date are important as well. There are many options including white label websites, RSS feeds, APIs or the good old PDFs that some are still so fond of. All methods have their different appeal, and the benefits of branding, efficiency of receiving updates, SEO and hosting all need to be balanced to meet the client’s requirements.

As account managers, we need to understand all the marketing avenues that our clients use. Promoting content across the client’s marketing communications is critical to getting the best out of the resources and presenting a human face for the business. And apart from anything else there is a considerable saving to the business in not having to pay for a marketing resource to create good content. It is amazing how many ‘experts’ in a business feel that their professional qualification means that they can also communicate effectively on their subject for the non-professional reader. One law firm commenting on the 90 pre-written tweets we send them every month said ‘what you offer us has definitely enhanced our web presence, and our approach to social media’.  (Gardner Leader)

And Atom’s clients are not just consumers of content. Clients such as Sage and HSBC who want to get closer to small businesses value the monthly 700,000 visitors across the 5 Donut sites and our 60,000 Twitter followers. This means that our sales team is constantly learning new skills and the latest vocabulary of a digital marketing agency world. We encourage our clients to position their offers alongside interesting and contextually relevant content rather than just shouting from the home page. So when we promote accounting software in a newsletter, the offer can be fenced with engaging articles including a guide to auto-enrolment. If you help a potential customer with some proper advice (as opposed to paying lip service to having content) then they are much more likely to be receptive to solutions that the sponsors offer.

And, finally, measurement. In the past, a fire and retire approach to a sale might have worked but everything is now measurable, and if it can measured there will inevitably be key performance indicators attached. And so there should be.

Of course, my faithful client records how many PDFs they print each year without all the fuss and highfoluting marketing jargon that can accompany this obvious activity, and then are still happy to renew their licence each year – and that suits me fine too.

Christoff is, sadly, off to pastures new (in Oxfordshire), but leaves his well-trained sales team and content experts to carry on his good work. If you would like to know more about how content marketing can help you reach and retain customers please call Jack or Emma on 0117 373 6160. They can also talk to you about having your own branded resource centre using our expert content. And, of course, they know all about PDFs.