The Challenger Customer: Chapter 6, section 2 (part 7 of 10)

So how do marketers build that path? Take a look at figure 6.2 (on page 122). It’s a simple model that identifies the steps to overturning a customer’s mental model. Let’s unpack this then bring it to life with the Xerox example.

Fig 6.2 – Spark-Introduce-Confront (SIC) Content Path [Spark Exploration of Frame-Breaking Idea – Introduce Frame-Breaking Idea – Confront with Frame-Breaking Idea – Commercial Insight]

First off, the whole idea here is to have all of the content you produce, publish and curate – all the blog posts, all the testimonials and case studies, all the white papers, all the infographics, you name it – lead to a Commercial Insight.

There are three mental stepsthat Mobilizers (or any customer stakeholder, for that matter) go through to have their A state challenged, creating the drive for them to rally other stakeholders and mobilize change toward a B state.

The first step is to spark exploration of the frame-breaking ideaat the heart of your Commercial Insight. You need your content here to hook the Mobilizer into revisiting her mental model in the first place. That might be a killer infographic or an intriguing tweet. Individual sales repsincreasingly have a role to play here as “micro-marketers,” deploying marketing curated “sparks” in social networks. The thought bubble you’re looking for that Mobilizer to have is “Huh … I never thought of it that way before … I need to learn more” or “I’m not sure I believe it, but I’m kind of intrigued … tell me more.”

Having gotten the mobilizer to want to learn more from the Spark content, the Introduce content (second step)lays out the idea in more detail. It presents the rational evidence and makes a powerful emotional appeal that breaks the customer’s frame. That could be an animated video or an interactive white paper or a trade show booth. You want your Mobilizer to come away from this content with the thought bubble “I ‘get’ the insight conceptually … I believe it could be true generally … but I wonder how that plays out in my world – in my business.”

That’s when you path the Mobilizer to Confront content, the third step. This is where you confront the Mobilizer with the frame-breaking idea in her own terms. You dial up herpain, so that she can’t escape the sense that the pain of same is greater than the pain of change. By the way, this isn’t about pressuring the Mobilizer as a personin any way; rather, it is diplomatically but convincingly leading the Mobilizer to pressure-test her own ideas, assumptions, and beliefs about her business. Often, these kinds of content are online diagnostics or interactive pain calculators, which enable the Mobilizer to plug in information about her own reality, so that she can see where the gaps are or how big the pain really is. The thought bubble coming off this content should be “Holy cow! I had no idea we were taking this kind of hit. I need to learn more about fixing this.”

We’ll refer to this Spark-Introduce-Confront content progression as an SIC content strategy. Through a progression like this, you’ve blown up the Mobilizer’s mental model through compelling content at arm’s length. You’ve broken down the A state.

At this point, you can path Mobilizers to content that builds up the B state. But we can’t overstress that customers who consume only B state content are unlikely to feel the need to break from current course and speed.

When you put it all together, if you’re looking to teach Mobilizers with content like this, it boils down to three rules.

  1. All content should be tied in some way to a Commercial Insight
  2. Content that isn’t itself frame-breaking should directly path to content that is
  3. All other content should be discarded or never created in the first place

This won’t be easy to do. It means discarding content that doesn’t fit the model. As we’ve spent time with CEB members, running content audits on their existing content portfolios, we find that there are often pieces of existing content that can be repurposed for Spark, Introduce, or Confront. White papers that can be atomized into bite-size pieces, with some atoms being repurposed and others disappearing altogether. Blog posts that can be repurposed. Sales decks with pages that can be torn out and used.

And then there will always be the practical spec sheets that are necessary for the transactional parts of the selling process. Those can stay (but you can’t lead with them … you have to lead tothem).

But we don’t want to understate the importance of staying tightly aligned to these SIC content paths. Stay on message. Keep beating the drum. Tear down the A before you build up the B.

This is a big shift for marketers. For the majority of content types you produce, following this content strategy will shift the focus from supplier-centric to supplier-agnostic. That will feel really unnatural, at first.

For example, most marketers are used to creating customer testimonial videos focused on the B. Over 90 percent of the testimonial videos we review from marketers focus on the B. To create content paths that break mental models and drive urgency instead, they’re have to start creating testimonials about A. Imagine creating video testimonials of Mobilizers talking about how they discovered a hidden connection in their business and how it was costing them so much more than they realized. And then, how they rallied the 5.4 around a consensus view of the drivers of that pain and what kind of solution it would take to solve it. You want these kinds of A state testimonials to lead back to your Commercial Insight and the differentiators underneath that insight. It’s a really different approach, but it’s so important to breaking down the A and changing the customer’s direction.

Testimonials are but one kind of content. We’ve seen marketers apply SIC principles all over the content portfolio, from trade show booths to white paper design to online booking toolkits.

Less Is More

Create less content … but drive greaterimpact.

See example in Figure 6.3, page 126 and Figure 6.4, page 128

Example 2: Xerox

The idea is to create “on-ramps” that spark a Mobilizer, no matter where she is in the journey, to travel down a teaching content path that challenges her mental model. … For Xerox, that sparking content took multiple forms:

  • Provocative data points promoted through social media, where Mobilizers are doing Passive Learning
  • A series of e-mail scripts that sales reps could use to promote the research findings on the link between color and student performance
  • A K-12 segment microsite with resources and banner displays promoting Xerox’s Commercial Insight content
  • Third-party affiliates posting comments and blogs about the Xerox K-12 color research

Note the implications on your search engine and optimization efforts. Because your content is focused on surprising or unexpected aspects of the customer’s business, those customers won’t naturally be searching your content keywords. So the key is to find adjacencies. … the idea is to locate Mobilizers where they are searching on adjacent terms and “spark” their exploration of your Commercial Insight – take them to your infographic or a mention of your insight somewhere in earned media.

Xerox’s Introduce content included a blog series, a white paper, and testimonial style videos. … Their Commercial Insight meant it was achieving strong engagement with Mobilizers on the Spark and Introduce content alone. Leah and her team found they could rely on sales reps and  account executives to do the work of Confront content.

Sometimes the strength of a Commercial Insight will win early engagement between Mobilizers and sales reps. Here, it’ll be about having sales tools that are custom-built to Confront the Commercial Insight. At the same time, marketing will need to create Confront content so Mobilizers can engage with the personal ramifications of the Commercial Insight before they speak with the sales rep. The disciplines of field marketing, content marketing, product marketing, demand generation, and sales ops/training all need to work closely together to co-create these SIC content paths that transition seamlessly into sales conversations.