Our latest for The Marketing Scope, by: Ganesh Shankar (RFPIO) and Lori Coffae (SHI, International)
Do you develop content once and then walk away forever? Are your customer needs exactly the same from year to year? In your dreams maybe, but in reality, we all know those are ridiculous questions to even ask. As a marketer, you know your company’s content is never static. It gets developed, reworked, and revised constantly. Content requires attention, consideration and testing. It’s no simple task to stay on top of steady change and making sure that you are improving your content effectiveness as well as keeping sales teams up to date.
For many companies, the intersection where marketing content meets the field organization is the request for proposal, or the RFP. If you work in a company that responds to a large number of RFPs, one surprisingly effective way to curate, manage and share content – one that is often overlooked – is through this very process: the RFP response.
The RFP response process can give marketers a chance to gain valuable feedback from your most important audience – your potential customers – on the impact of the company’s content. Sound like a stretch? Today, proposal managers (professionals who own the RFP response process for a company) gain deep insight into the content that leads someone to action compared with content that doesn’t initiate any type of result. Put simply, marketers can use the RFP process to improve content effectiveness.
The RFP process can help create cohesion to your content across a variety of elements like voice, message development, and tone. When content is moved to a centralized answer library, you can start to compare and assess content effectiveness based on what really matters – win rates. This assessment is enabled through the use of response management software with an intelligent, centralized answer library. With such a system in place, marketing and sales teams can begin to learn the effectiveness of various messages with different types of customers, helping shape future responses in unexpected ways.
Marketers can use the RFP process to ensure that sales teams are armed with the latest answers – even technical content – reducing the need to call a scarce resource like a technical expert every time.
When integrated into sales tools like Slack or Salesforce, an answer library becomes a single source of truth for responses to customers. Having a repository of content to address specific questions becomes an increasingly valuable asset over time. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time your company responds to an RFP or launches a new email marketing campaign, they can go into the content repository to tap into the strength of your most powerful content.
In addition, marketing leaders can cultivate accountability, ownership and responsibility for teams owning the content. Marketers can assign someone on the team to be a reviewer of a particular piece of the content. This way, the rest of the team has visibility into who added or edited the content, changes that were made and when. With a good content library, you’ll see who is working on what content, and you can assign a moderator to ensure facts are facts and company branding is on point.
A good first step is to set aside a few hours to review all of the materials in your content library. Why? Because identifying and using your best content will improve your chances of winning RFPs. But for marketers, the key is understanding the nuances of how content resonates with target audiences. A good rule of thumb is to do a content audit at least once a year to keep your content fresh and increase content effectiveness.
Marketing owns a company’s brand and the key messages that can be delivered through a variety of channels including the website, social media, white papers, case studies, YouTube, public relations and email campaigns. Once you have a better idea of which content is valuable, you’ll be in a much better position to update your content library so that everyone in the company is able to provide consistent messages to your audiences.
When you review your content, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the content address your customer’s business challenges?
- Is the value that your company’s products or services offer coming across clearly?
- Does the content read well? Does it tell a cohesive story?
- Is the tone of the content consistent throughout all of your marketing materials?
- Has the content performed well in RFPs over the past year? How much interest has there been?
Final thoughts: It’s like gardening
As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, content is never static. It requires attention, consideration, and cultivation. It’s like being a gardener where your content answer library acts as your greenhouse, housing your content, keeping it protected from the elements, and providing it a fertile environment in which to grow. By thinking about your precious content like a garden, you’re being sensitive to its environment – what grows in Florida doesn’t work in upstate New York.
While the RFP team may reach out to the leaders of the marketing department to participate in an RFP, marketing executives should also see the opportunity that an RFP presents to fine-tune marketing content and messaging and increase content effectiveness.