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Field Note #2: What We Really Want From Marcom

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by Client Valerie Ashe, Regional Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk

As a field marketer, part of my job is to strategically plan and place marketing offers in my campaigns and various media that will attract qualified leads. The ultimate goal: convert those leads to revenue. It’s a tall order, and reaching that goal partly depends on designing strong offers to attract the right prospects. I often get the question from my peers in marketing communications: what, exactly, constitutes an offer?

It’s a fair question. My marcom counterparts are accustomed to producing content for print or online brochures, interactive pdfs, whitepapers, web copy, and customer case studies—all core assets to the marketing mix. But in the field, we always seek compelling, interactive assets that convey a transactional value to our prospects: something good enough to make them willing to forfeit their contact information in exchange for the asset.

Think about the kinds of things for which you would complete an online “Contact Me!” form: a friends-and-family discount to your favorite shoe store; a free killer app for your iPhone; the first chapter of an upcoming bestseller you’ve anticipated for months; exclusive investing tips; a series of workout videos that promise to shed pounds in weeks without equipment. These are examples of assets that constitute marketing offers.

While offers come in many forms depending on the kind of business you’re in (i.e., B2B offers are vastly different from B2C offers), the crux of all good offers is the same: attracting prospects with something valuable enough to compel them to closely evaluate, and eventually purchase, your products or services. As a secondary goal, you want to keep the prospects coming back for more, fresh, new offers while they’re deciding to purchase.

Here are some tips to help you create compelling content and assets for the field:

1. Clearly understand what your target audience wants or needs.
This involves surveying or talking to customers who have already purchased your products or services. Why did they decide to buy? What hooked them? What could have improved their decision process or purchase experience?If you don’t have direct access to customers, call your sales or field marketing contacts to take a pulse on what prospects are looking for. When the asset is all about your targets—and not so much about how great your company or products are—it becomes an enticing piece for them.

2. Invoke a clear call to action.
This is a classic disconnect between marcom and field marketing. Often marcom professionals are happy with their polished piece—say, a brochure—that pontificates on all the glorious capabilities of a product but may not lead the reader to clearly understand what to do next. Other times, when an asset does include a call to action, it can be weak, vague, or misleading. Make sure to understand the general lead flow and sales process at your organization so you can include appropriate, compelling calls to action in your assets. Which is why it’s important to…

3. Collaborate early and often.
This may be an overwrought tagline for many a software company, but it can’t be stated enough. Include a field marketing or sales contact in your content planning and review processes. First, be clear on the field’s goals and objectives before creating content, and work with them to understand how they may plan to deploy your assets as offers. Understanding the response or conversion results from field offers is a great way to measure the performance of your content.

Second, make a plan to create content on a consistent timeline. Few things are worse for a field marketer than to have to recycle or repackage an old offer and hope prospects don’t notice. Keep the assets coming on a mutually agreed upon schedule throughout the year to keep up the response momentum.

4. Plan varying levels of content to address different phases of the sales cycle.
The intent of most marketing offers is not an immediate sale—think “try and buy”. Marketing offers can help drive awareness, allow a prospect to evaluate your product or service, generate a sales appointment, or hook the prospect with the first part of a larger transaction (e.g., a loss leader product or product trials). The content for each of these offers will be different. Plan accordingly with your field representative.

5. Create compelling, interactive content.
Brochures and web copy are important awareness and education tools, but they are often static, requiring little interaction from the reader. Even an interactive pdf can sometimes be just a glorified brochure. Incorporate a decision tree into the navigation of an interactive pdf to engage the prospect. Make them linger in the asset to build preference for your company’s products. Use brief video clips to offer tips and tricks or introductory messages to the content.

Again, the most compelling content is all about the prospect. And who do they love to hear from most? Their industry peers. Customer case studies in all forms are difficult to acquire, but they work the most magic in a marketing mix. Create an online flip book of ROI results from several customers, or compile a photo slideshow of customer success photos. Even the old, tried-and-true .pdf case study can pose as a compelling offer if it conveys a strong story, with demonstrable results of how your products or services have helped the customer save time, money, or face.

Effective, compelling content is not created in a vacuum. When creating content for the field, it all comes back to strong, frequent communication—internally with your field contacts, and externally with your prospects and customers.

And to follow our own advice and leave you with a clear call to action: let’s hear about your hits and misses creating marcom that really engages the market. Comments?

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