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How to run an effective content brainstorm Blog Feature

November 10th, 2020 min read

As a digital sales and marketing coach, I have facilitated many initial content brainstorming sessions and have seen how they can transform the way teams think and collaborate, when done correctly.

A great brainstorming session can ensure that sales and marketing teams are collaborating on content creation instead of staying in their silos.

This means the type of content that is created will help the sales team sell more and produce better quality leads. I’ve seen my share of “lightbulb” moments when someone on the sales team realizes that if they had just had a certain piece of content several weeks ago, they likely could have closed a deal instead of just playing a game of telephone.

These moments remind me of how powerful marketing and sales can be when they work together.

If you are a marketer who wants to impact revenue and break down the barriers between sales and marketing, then learning how to run an effective content brainstorm can be a game-changer for your company's bottom line.  

Therefore, this post is for you. The tactics below are broadly applicable, and you should be able to easily adapt them your organization’s needs

Before the content brainstorm meeting: Create a plan of action

Like any meeting, it's essential to have a plan that ensures that your brainstorm is not only practical but impactful, and that it addresses the most challenging questions that your sales team tackles daily.

Who to invite?

Firstly, to ensure the content impacts revenue, we need to have the right people at the brainstorm.

We need to invite key players from the sales and marketing team because each brings different, complementary perspectives. Sales has a deep relationship with customers and hears first-hand what their questions, concerns, and needs are.

Marketing brings the expertise of parsing those questions and helping create cohesive, digestible content that can help the sales team answer those questions faster.

Large organizations with multiple divisions will find that breaking the content brainstorm sessions by those divisions is beneficial. These types of companies typically have a complex sales process where some salespeople are supported by product experts.

In these cases, it is more productive for the marketing team to run a brainstorm with each division separately to ensure that content created will directly impact the sales team selling that particular product or service.  

We need to invite the subject matter experts to this meeting.

The subject matter experts are those go-to people who can explain the organization’s solutions, products, and services in detail. They are either those who have intimate knowledge of the product itself or they have extensive experience in administering the product or service.

You can identify the subject matter expert by seeing who the sales teams consistently go to for expert knowledge. 

Create a value proposition for your meeting

It's important to remind the sales and marketing teams that inviting them to the brainstorm meeting benefits the company’s bottom line — and also shortens the sales cycle. There needs to be a value-add that is clearly communicated to those attending and giving their time.  

A great value proposition for the sales team would be to emphasize that content created by marketing is going to help them sell faster, and the only way this can be achieved is by the sales team sharing what questions are being asked by their customers.

Salespeople may not be interested in attending any meeting if it isn't with a prospect. Casting a vision of what it means to their bottom line will help encourage participation.

Determine what success looks like

Setting the value proposition and understanding the needs and challenges of each participant creates clarity for all parties. Once there is clarity, then the outcomes, too, will become clear.

A clear outcome might sound like this:

We will determine three key questions that get asked in the middle part of the sales process; answering these questions will help move the customer down the funnel.

Set a timeframe

Brainstorming meetings don't need to last for hours; they can be as short as 20 minutes. Make sure to let those you invite know that the brainstorm has a clear start and end time — and make sure those are the hard start and stop times so next time they know to trust your schedule.

Also, explain that for this effort to impact the lead quality, the brainstorm needs to happen periodically, ideally bi-weekly or monthly.

Plan the agenda

A practical agenda for a content brainstorming meeting would have the following schedule:

  1. What assignment selling content (written and video) has published since you last met, and how is it valuable?
  2. What assignment selling content (written and video) is currently in the production pipeline?
  3. How has the previously published assignment selling content (written and video) been performing for sales?
  4. What questions are you now being asked by buyers in the sales process that should be answered in content?

The 'adult agreement'

Before starting any brainstorm, one thing that we do here at IMPACT is to have an adult agreement.  This is a declaration by each participant of shared cultural values. The adult agreement is recited together at the beginning of the meeting to foster trust, openness, honesty, and respect amongst the participants. It looks like this:

The goal here is to foster a psychologically safe space regardless of the ideas that transpire through the session. The adult agreement reinforces a conducive, open environment.

During the meeting

To ensure success, we want to make sure we have a list of go-to-questions to get the conversation started.

With the sales team, we can start with asking these questions:

  • What questions do you get asked that indicate the buyer is not qualified?
  • What do your clients and buyers push back on the most?
  • What are your buyer's biggest doubts or worries (with respect to the product, the process, or the company)?
  • What do your buyers have to convince the key decision-makers of?

For subject-matter experts, starting with these question will help get the juices flowing:

  • What information from customers helps you create the best solution for their problem?
  • What do you wish the salespeople asked the customer?
  • What is the question you get asked the most?
  • What is a challenge that takes too much of your time?

We can then ask follow up questions to probe deeper to understand the nuance of each question.

  • Is this the exact question being asked, in the words of the prospect? Or have you reworded it in any way, based on what you know the actual problem is? (Hint: It should always be in the words of the prospect.)
  • Why are they asking this question? Did they ask this proactively? Or is it in response to something we told them or asked them to do? Is it a question in response to us saying no to something?
  • Where in the sales process can this piece of content be used? Content that we create needs to generate better quality leads and sales. Is it always at a particular stage of the sales process? When does this question arise in the sales process?
  • What is the question specifically about? Are they asking about our sales process? A specific product? (In other words, does this question need to be answered multiple times across multiple pieces of content for each product/service, or is it just about working with us in general?)
  • Will this piece of content make us money? All content we create needs to generate revenue. In other words, does this piece of content help address objections customers have in the sales process thus, removing any friction to purchase.

Asking probing questions helps whittle down to the questions' bare essence.

Some additional questions that can help distill the problems even further:

  1. What questions do you get asked that immediately indicate the buyer is not close to ready to make a decision?  The sales team innately knows what the triggers are that indicate a buyer isn't ready. Let’s answer those objections before they become a challenge.
  2. What are the things that would cause a client not to move to the next stage? We should be probing deep to uncover the friction a client needs to overcome to move onto the next buying stage

Liz Moorehead created this sales content sandbox tool that you're welcome to use to facilitate brainstorming.

After the meeting, have a clear follow-up plan to ensure those topics get produced and published promptly

  1. Create an internal communication method that considers how your team functions. This might look like sharing a document and combining it with Basecamp, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. Remember, over-communicating isn’t a bad strategy — especially if this is a new way of working.
  2. Create a process to let the people who participated in the brainstorm know when content was published and how it performed.  
  3. Share how the content generated revenue or generated sales!

Meet customers where they are in their buying journey

Meeting your customers where they are in the buying journey is important and can impact your bottom line. However, equally important is to meet your internal team where they are — ensuring everyone is on the same page and shares that vision creates that team cohesion.

For leaders who want to increase their bottom line, it starts with the sales and marketing team collaborating and brainstorming on content that educates and provides value to the customer. 

To have effective brainstorming sessions it is important to have sales and marketing team leaders attend and be engaged to have a healthy question and answer sessions that result in topics of content that will be used by the sales team in their sales process. This, in turn, fosters trust and loyalty, and helps bring in revenue.

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