This article is a summary of a conversation, held between our Head of Content, Erika Davis, and our GM, Theron Glenny, on the content writer function of a successful sales execution capability.
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We hope you will enjoy the video and benefit from reading this article, as a way to review and capture the key points.
Content writers, simply put, write content. However, there is a lot more to this role than meets the eye. The content writer’s main responsibility is not to describe the products and services of the client in their own words. Instead, the real objective is to ensure that reps believe in the content that’s being created, but the voice and message also align with the go to market strategy. The “voice” of sales content is often complex, and it’s the writer’s responsibility to capture it.
Without having the confidence of reps, they won’t adopt the platform. They will revert to their former sales messages and strategies, and the metrics of those one-off emails and rogue communications will not be captured. The learning you could gain from using an SEP is lost, and you won’t see the ROI you were looking for.
Content writer versus manager
In many orgs, reps are the ones writing content. This is why we separate functions from roles. Those reps who are part of the content writing process will often need to bring in other people, when writing a sequence, to be sure they’re capturing everything the business needs to have represented in that sequence.
Content managers are conductors who gain that higher level perspective, from marketing and other capabilities, on what needs to be in that particular piece of content. In addition, they are a project manager and a point of contact for decision-making so the writer can focus on creating content and not get bogged down by the process.
Managers and writers will also work together in instances when sequences are not performing as hoped. Managers may work with analysts to see cases when A/B tests need to be run or when reps are not adopting messaging, so the content needs to be revisited.
The writer’s role here will be to do additional discovery with the reps and writing B threads or otherwise making adjustments to the core messaging to meet the updated set of expectations.
Beyond writing ability, content writers need to be curious and gifted listeners. They will hear assumptions which may need to be validated, or disagreements which need to be resolved, and they need to ask the questions needed to get to the bottom of what needs to happen next.
Strong content writers are not focused on their own opinions, but must be imaginative and creative within the parameters of what the metrics show is working well and what the reps actually want. This often means adapting one’s personal style to accommodate a project, and this requires a careful combination of empathy and flexibility.
Content writers will also need to understand the best practices of A/B testing. Content writers can be tempted to throw a lot of things out there to see what works, but a superior content writer will isolate variables like subject lines, calls to action, and tone, to understand what really works. It’s more important for a content writer to do a few A/B tests well than to run a higher volume of tests which won’t give clear results. Content writers can work alongside those contributing to the content analyst function for more help here.
The biggest challenge content writers will often face is the difference in “voice” between marketing and sales. Marketing messaging is very effective for company to prospect or client communication, but it differs from effective sales messaging, which needs to feel like a conversation between individual people.
If reps read a message, and it doesn’t sound like something they would say to a prospect in a conversation, they may be unlikely to adopt it. This is particularly the case if a message sounds like a blast email which could have gone out to hundreds of people. That works great in the right context, but it doesn’t often support the day to day workflow of the average rep.
This is one specific example of misalignment, which is most common, but misalignment can happen in other contexts as well. If a writer does discovery with different stakeholders, and each wants something different to come out in that sequence, then he or she will have to navigate those perspectives to write a message which suits all audiences as well as possible.
If this is not possible, then the next steps needed to resolve misalignment are the role of the content management function. However, throughout the process, the content writer needs to maintain confidence in their ability to create value and to be willing and able to push back, if you believe one party’s voice needs to be prioritized over another. At the end of the day, the content writer is the closest advocate for the core message which needs to be communicated.
Why you need a designated content writing function
Many teams we work with are not yet to the point of designating this function. As a result, content will be written outside of the sales team, perhaps by marketing, or it will be a wild west scenario, with many people contributing content outside of official channels and support.
If content writing is a “side hustle” for many people, then this erodes quality and ignores best practices which could be gained by centralizing learning, measurement, and strategy.
How leadership can support content writers
Leadership should support writers in getting the facetime they need with stakeholders. It happens often that, when a writer is getting started, the teams for whom they’re writing will push back on the time commitment the writer needs from them to do adequate discovery.
Content writers know their processes, and they need face time with subject matter experts to gain the perspective needed to create good content the first time. Sales managers may not always want to give up an hour of a rep’s time to share insights for content creation, but that hour will have a significant ROI in contributing to quality sequences which will win a lot of business.
Not protecting that time, and facilitating needed discovery steps, will mean more editing time spent on the back end, correcting messaging which could have been nearly ready to go on the first draft.
As such, when assigning a content writer to a project, levels of leadership above that writer should be doing what they can internally to facilitate the process that writer needs to follow to produce the best possible content with efficiency and confidence.
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