How to Determine Sales Content Effectiveness

The Content Effectiveness Heuristic for Social Selling by Greg Hyer of Linking into Sales

Introduction to The Content Effectiveness Heuristic

Sales Professionals and Marketers often wonder about content effectiveness. When they send a piece of content out into the wild they might ask if it’s the right time or if it will resonate with the recipient. Currently, we use a number of tools that track engagement with our creations and lead us to make assumptions based on quantitative metrics that have been adopted over the years. The problem with this is we are only looking at engagement, rather than effectiveness.

When we consider the effectiveness of content we recognize the decision process the buyer. However, most sales people have the same piece of go-to content they use for every sales engagement. They may make a little tweak here or there, but they think because it assisted in “closing a deal” they can continue to use that piece of content because it’s all they know. Or maybe it’s all Marketing knows and doesn’t have time to make new content for sales. So they tell sales to keep using the same old piece of content until they get around to making an updated document. It’s time to think smarter with content.

To be honest, this is a challenge I’m faced with each day. As we create new content we need to take a closer look at who receives this collateral and at what stage of the buying cycle they receive it. We need to take a “Moneyball” approach to content marketing and sales enablement content. In an effort to measure it’s effectiveness, the Content Effectiveness Heuristic was developed.

A heuristic is a technique used to solve problems and find the best solution. In essence, it’s a way to get to the best result without a need to find the guaranteed solution. We use this trial-by-error method every day without even realizing it. Stereotyping, buyer personas and common sense are all examples of heuristics.

You should note that heuristics can also be explained in what looks like, a mathematical equation. Keep in mind that not all heuristics function like a mathematical equation. In some cases, you can rate each variable on a scale and develop a scoring system. This is typically applied in trial-by-method approaches. This may be an approach that can be applied to this heuristic.

The Content Effectiveness Heuristic is made up of specific of variables that determine if the content is effective as it was intended to be by its author. To start, lets see what makes content effective.

The Content Effectiveness Heuristic
ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)

The Variables of the Content Effectiveness Heuristic

The Content Effectiveness Heuristic is a combination of unique variables that invoke the perception of the recipient. Each of these variables carry a certain weight that the author must consider when creating and delivering this content to achieve maximum effectiveness.

a – Authority ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)
The content had the power to influence the reader, especially because of the market position of brand or thought leader that produced the content.

d – Distinctive ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)
The content is distinguishable from others like it.

b – Brand ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)
The content aligns with the identity or image of the company or person.

e – Engage ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)
The content causes the reader to become involved in (a conversation or discussion.)

r – Readability ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)
The ease in which text can be read and understood.

i – Insight ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i)
The content’s ability to provide the reader with the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding.

s – Stage of Buying Cycle ce = s(a(d+b)) + e(r+i))

Stages of the Buying Cycle

  • Oblivious – Before they realize they have a need
  • Awareness – Having knowledge or cognizance of the need for a solution
  • Consideration – Careful thought placed on selecting a solution, typically over a period of time
  • Comparison – Estimate, measure or note the similarity of dissimilarity between solutions
  • Purchase – Acquire by paying for it.
  • Renew – Extend the relationship for a further period the validity of (a license, subscription, or contract.)

Each stage of the buying cycle should be adopted to what your organization uses during the “Opportunity” phase of your relationship with the prospect or customers.

How the Content Effectiveness Heuristic Works

The mathematical order of operations still applies here. So lets take a look at each part of this heuristic to understand how it works.

(distinctive + brand) – Here we must ask if the content is distinctive by sharing a new perspective that is relevant to the brand and is this content something the brand would benefit from creating.

(authority (distinctive + brand)) – If the content is distinctive and benefits the brand then we must take a look at our perceived influence on the reader. If our authority has influence it multiplies the distinctiveness and branding of the content.

(readability+insight) – Here we think about how your content reads and if the reader can walk away having learned something from it.

(engagement(readability+insight)) – If the reader understands the purpose of the content and engages with it (shares it on social, among colleagues, or even discusses it with the salesperson) then this amplifies the effectiveness of the content.

stage of buying cycle (authority (distinctive + brand)) + engagement (readability+insight)) – The stage of the buying cycle in which you use content is critical to the overall effectiveness of your content. How and when we use content should help the buyer navigate through the buying cycle. It’s a tool to help nudge buyers down a desired path. If you use the wrong content for that stage, you could send them on the wrong path and lose them.

Thinking about how the content you are using will impact a buyer’s decision is important in any sales and marketing engagement. We know that if we use the wrong content at the wrong time, it could negatively impact the buyer’s ability to make a decision in your favor. This is why “storyboarding” the buyer’s journey is so important. We must use tools to help us measure the effectiveness of content and use the data they collect to help us improve the buyer’s journey.

In future posts we will take a look at how this heuristic applies in several examples of content used during a sales engagement and what tools we can use to help us understand the effectiveness of our content marketing and sales enablement efforts.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn by Greg Hyer on May 21, 2015 and has been updated since.

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