Recently, our CEO, Russ Heddleston, sat down with Robin Pam, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Optimizely, to talk about content creation for sales teams and what to do about “rogue content,” content that’s created by individual contributors on the sales team that hasn’t been approved by marketing. Key topics discussed include:
- Why rogue content is both a blessing and a curse
- Why rogue content is a symptom of a bigger problem
- Why the best sales reps alter content from marketing before sending it to a buyer and how to best enable them to do so
Russ: Thanks for sitting down today Robin, we’re super excited to interview you. To start, can you tell me a little about yourself and your role at Optimizely?
Robin: Sure, I’ve been at Optimizely for almost two years as a senior product marketing manager. I came to Optimizely from a company called Practice Fusion, and while I was at Practice Fusion I had been a product manager for our website, in addition to doing product marketing. While I worked on the Practice Fusion website, I did a lot of A/B testing using Optimizely.
Joining Optimizely was really exciting because I got to actually work on a product that I had used in the past that had made a really big difference in how I did my job day-to-day. A/B testing is such a powerful tool in the marketer’s toolbox, it’s a methodology for actually making decisions as a business and affecting change across your digital customer experience. For the past few years at Optimizely I’ve been focused on working with the company as it grows and matures to help tell our story around customer experience, and how A/B testing and personalization platforms are such powerful technologies that can help businesses succeed in this new era of customer experiences.
Russ: Great! Today I wanted to talk about what to do when sales reps create unapproved content, also known as rogue content. So my first question is, how do you define rogue content and do you consider it a problem?
Robin: When I think of rogue content I think of the deck that lands in your inbox three weeks after, or maybe even three months after the sales team has developed the deck and sent it around to each other. You’ve seen it here and there with slight changes, but now it has different format or messaging and before you know it you have this Frankenstein deck that lands in your inbox. As a marketer you sort of say “Wait, where did this come from and who’s coming up with this messaging?” because you’ve never approved it.
It’s important to keep in mind that rogue content, in itself, is actually more of a symptom of a problem rather than an actual problem. Sales people on the ground are constantly experimenting. They have the fastest turnaround cycles in terms of experimentation with testing messaging and testing your company’s stories. As a marketer, especially as a product marketer, it’s your job to be in touch with how the sales team is telling your story. The best product marketers help sales teams tell that story and give the sales team the tools they need to do so in a way that is consistent across the entire organization.
If you’re not giving the sales team the tools that they need, if you’re not actually providing them with the messaging, or the skeleton decks that they need to be able to do their job and go have a conversation with a prospect, then, that’s the real problem. The sales team doesn’t have what they need to be successful. And that’s on marketing to do better. So I think rogue content can pose problems, you don’t want your sales team going out and saying whatever they want to say to anyone who walks in the door. But, it’s really a symptom of a larger problem, which is that sales doesn’t have the resources they need to do their jobs, to sell your product.
Russ: What’s the most important aspect to consider when you’re creating collateral?
Diana: You want to look at the sales funnel/ There’s an infinite number of pieces of collateral that you can create so we look at the sales funnel [and determine] where are we seeing a lot of drop-offs, where are we struggling, and how can we use content as a way to improve that particular piece of the sales funnel.
Russ: So in a perfect world, if you are doing your job at 100%, then rogue content won’t exist because they’ll have the messaging they need to do their job?
Robin: Surprisingly, no – The best sales reps are not going to be using what you give them to a tee. The best reps are going to take that first meeting deck, the new product collateral, the call scripts and the email templates and they’re going to tailor them to the specific conversations that they’re having with particular accounts.
This is especially the case with PowerPoint decks. We’ve had experiences in the past at Optimizely, where we’ll see a deck come in from a rep where someone says “so and so has this amazing deck they’ve been using and it’s been working really well.” As a marketer, I love hearing that. I love getting that deck and being able to use it to inform what we give the rest of the sales team, because I think the best reps are always going to adapt the materials that you give them to fit the particular situation that they’re in and specifically tailor it for the company they’re talking to.
The big challenge for a product marketer working with a sales ops or sales enablement team is to ensure that whatever that best rep is doing, you can enable other reps to succeed in that way as well. Getting feedback from the field and understanding the content that reps are using that’s actually working is critical for enabling your entire sales team, not just the top performers.
Russ: Got it, so there’s some rogue content that’s bad and you don’t want it out in the wild because it’s just not very good, but on the other hand the best reps are creating content that you can distill down and then disseminate across the rest of the team?
Robin: Exactly! You’re going to want to incorporate what’s actually working and make sure the learnings from past experimentation cycles with sales collateral are influencing the materials you’re developing now. I think one trap that a lot of people fall into is thinking of content as static.
There’s this common fallacy that when you develop a deck and send it out to the team, it just works. In reality, the marketing team is going to develop a deck and the sales team is going to take it and change it around for their needs. If you have 50 reps, then there’s going to be 50 different variations of your content out there. There might even be 100 different pitches as people start to tailor it to different clients that they use.
So I think, as a marketer, the best thing you can do to get out ahead of rogue content is to develop close relationships with the sales team and make sure that you’re helping them refine the pitch and get comfortable with the material that you’re producing for them. By listening to feedback from sales, you can better understand where your material is and is not working. That information helps you to run these rapid iteration cycles that allows you to prevent bad rogue content from getting out there and taking root.
Russ: I agree completely with everything you’ve just said and it’s really fun to hear it articulated so well. This is clearly something that you’ve thought about in detail.
Robin: It’s definitely something we’ve had to work on at Optimizely, it requires turning around your mindset and accepting that you’re never going to be in total control. You’re not going to be able to control all your sales reps and they’re always going to be doing their own thing and changing things on their own, so your job is to work with them and enable them to do that in a way that works for everyone. Because if you try and control everything, you’re just going to drive yourself crazy.
Russ: Working with the sales team at Optimizely, what have been your biggest challenges?
Robin: Good question! As a product marketer the biggest challenges revolve around making sure everyone is marching in the same direction at the right time. It’s as much art as it is science. It pays to have strong relationships and clear channels of communication so you can just walk over to a sales rep, poke them and say, “Hey, how did you close that deal again?” We want to learn everything we can from that deal and determine what, if anything, we can incorporate back into our content for the whole team to use. To get everyone on the same page, having those relationships and having clear channels of communication is key.