What’s the opposite of “customer facing”?

We produce all kinds of content for our clients, from whitepapers and brochures to presentations and apps. Most of it is aimed at end customers, but a lot is designed for internal use only. The stuff that’s aimed at potential buyers is, naturally, called “customer facing”. But what does that make the rest?

When content escapes…

We all know that internal documents get out into the wildwhether it’s accidental or deliberatepartners, customers and analysts often get their hands on documents never intended to leave the company. This might include content that:

  • You don’t want a customer to see: For instance, a sales training document on a new product, which reveals that your products lack important features and so aren’t as good as your competitors’ offerings, or which uses phrases like ‘stickiness’ and ‘lock-in’.
  • You didn’t design or phrase for customers: Such as a list of key features or messages intended to be read by a salesperson and ‘translated’ before a customer sees or hears it.
  • You’re not allowed to share: Such as details of recent wins or deals in progress with named organisations.

Damage limitation

When internal documents leak, you could lose sales or find yourself pilloried on social media. So what can you do to limit the damage? The answer lies not in locking down distribution, but in changing how you produce content.

We’d like to coin a term: “customer safe”. We think that it should apply to almost everything that you produce. And that includes the nitty-gritty of sales training and compensation plans.

Thinking about making all your content “customer safe” will even help your salespeople do a better job, for example:

  • If you’re writing information for salespeople to use with customers, why not make their lives easier and write as if you were talking directly to customers in the first place? Include proper elevator pitches and lists of key messages that you’d be happy for a salesperson to deliver verbatim, not just lists of features and stats.
  • If your products are missing features, shouldn’t you be explaining what your roadmap is for adding those features, or how and why your products are better in other ways, or for other audiences? Salespeople will need to know this anyway if they’re dealing with an informed buyer.
  • If you’re writing about lock-in, margins and commission, try expressing these concepts in terms of mutual value for your business and the customer. You may get lock in, or stickiness, but the reason your product is sticky is because it offers so much value. You may be able to justify high prices and therefore high commission because you know that customers can’t get such a great product elsewhere. You can be proud of these things if you express them the right way, and it never hurts to cultivate an internal sales and operational culture that is respectful of your relationship with your clients.
  • If you’re writing about customers and they’re not happy to have their names used publicly as references, consider anonymising them even in internal materials. You can guarantee that knowledge of the wins will spread anyway on the sales grapevine, but you can spare yourself as much embarrassment as possible in the event of a document leaking.

Keep the customer in mind

We’re not saying you should merrily hand out your battlecards or cheatsheets at customer meetings, but if you approach every piece you produce with the customer in mind then you can’t go far wrong. In essence, it’s not just about how you handle sensitive information, it’s about committing just as much to the quality of internal documents as to customer-facing ones. In the revealing words of one of our clients:

Don’t make it look too good, we don’t want salespeople to think it’s for customers.
(Actual client)

Well, why shouldn’t they?

Posted by John on 18 January 2013