By Laura Nurzynski
Group Vice President, Custom Solutions, IDC
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The notion that storytelling is an important part of the customer creation process is an increasingly popular one, as discussed here, here and here.
This begs a number of questions for marketing and sales enablement professionals looking to help their sales teams tell a good story: “How can I make our story compelling?” “How can I weave our core messaging into different stories suited to diverse buyers?” “How can I tell our story at different levels of detail suited to various communications streams?”
In today’s post, I will discuss how you can leverage the promotable cascade framework—a research-based approach for developing a marketing story—to develop sales enablement assets connected to your marketing story.
IDC has published a content development framework called the “promotable cascade.”
IDC’s name for this methodology, the “promotable cascade”, describes the way that the content development flows and is presented. The content springs from a specific source — an original, provocative, research-based story. Then it flows in layers of descending detail, complexity, and completeness from long-form content, through short form (“snackable” content), and finally into shareable crumbs. Importantly, these layers are all linked in a specific way.
At the root of a promotable cascade is a special story. Stories that make a promotable cascade work best are stories that create dissonance in the status quo — provocative stories that challenge your audience and send them seeking a resolution. The best story must support your brand and your value proposition and is a story that your company can uniquely own.
The most effective stories are rooted in facts and real experiences. IDC finds that these stories are mined from research such as a survey, experiment, or user data. This research can be from the company. For example, a trucking company had access to data about how certain practices dramatically improved driver safety. This research can also come from a third party. For example, when IDC works with clients to identify and create foundational stories, we use a combination of focus groups, surveys, and individual interviews to gather insights for integrated marketing and thought leadership programs. These sources are used to validate a theme or story developed by the analysts and/or IDC’s clients.
Keys to success:
Identify a challenge. The best stories identify a seriously unsettling, business critical challenge that keeps senior executives up at night.
Look for killer facts. Research-based stories make it more difficult for the audience to dismiss the challenge that the story uncovers.
IDC finds that there are three attributes that make a promotable cascade work:
- Start with an Original, Provocative, Research-Based Story
- Create a Content Family
- Link Content Family into the Cascade
This approach is not limited to developing marketing content. It can also be leveraged to develop compelling sales enablement content in the form of market education, selling tools, and buyer engagement content.
I recommend that as you develop an approach for conducting research, crafting a unique and relevant story, and planning the content family you will need for you marketing outreach, that you also consider how the research and story can be crafted into compelling sales enablement companion content. This approach also supports a premise from my last post.
Assure that your sellers—direct sales, inside sales, channel partners—are prepared to carry on the “digital” conversation you have started with your buyers.
As you develop the research methodology and survey questions, ask your sales staff what type of questions they often get from prospects. If you can find answers to these questions via qualitative and/or quantitative research, you will have additional fodder for your unique and relevant story. You’ll also be increasing the relevance of your sales enablement assets, increasing their adoption rate.
Your research will provide the foundation for the “whole story”. The “whole story” can then be developed into a content family comprising long-form content, snackable content, and sales enablement and education content.
A few key areas to consider as you build out your research approach are the “flavors” of information you may need for you marketing and sales communications initiatives.
Are you targeting different types of buyers on the buying team? IT, Line of business, senior execs, C-level, information workers, etc.?
Will your audience have varied needs and concerns based on the vertical industry in which they work? Healthcare, financial services, utilities, manufacturing, government, retail, etc.?
Will you need to communicate with people in different geographic areas? Regionally at a country-specific level?
If yes, then you want to be sure the research will support the ability to “slice and dice” your data and insights by these key areas. Once you have a comprehensive body of research on the relevant topic area, you can build a story and derivative assets to support both your marketing and sales enablement approaches. You leverage your investment in a core research-based study that fuels your unique story and can be spun off into myriad assets supporting multiple content and messaging needs.
The following visual illustrates a recommended approach for developing and then distributing and promoting both the highlights of your story in concise messaging and the “whole story” in your long-form content. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect the “digital dialog”—online communications— with the “interpersonal dialog” that will be conducted with your buyers as they engage with your sellers. Developing marketing content as well as a strategy for repurposing that content for sales enablement delivery in an interconnected manner will ensure your story is consistent across your communications channels with your target audience. It will also serve to up-level your sales conversations by enabling a fact-based dialog that contains customer-relevant insights. Bottom line: Plan ahead, use the promotable cascade framework, invest in the right research to fuel your story and communications, and you will save money and time as well as benefit from a connected and integrated story. More bang for your buck!