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Valerie Thomassin
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications–Europe, Global Demand Center and Sales Enablement, Xerox

Valérie Thomassin wears several hats within Xerox. She is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Europe, responsible for driving marketing and communications strategies and execution to support Xerox’s services, technologies and brand transformation initiatives in the region.

Valérie Thomassin has global responsibility for both Sales Enablement and Xerox’s Demand Center, the global hub for demand-generation marketing campaigns. In all three areas, content is king. It’s critical, Thomassin says, that content is optimized for maximum impact on Xerox’s business, and that requires an integrated strategy for every important piece of content.

How has your approach to content marketing changed at Xerox in recent years given changes in buyer behavior and new channels of engagement?

There has been a major change. Xerox has always had a very strong sales focus. Much of our content was focused on our products and services, but we’ve shifted. Marketing is no longer just about our products and services; it’s about the stories we tell. This has been a big change in terms of culture, and it’s happened because of the transformation of the customer’s buying journey. Let's say that, today, 60–70 percent of the buyer journey is completed prior to engaging with a vendor. Also, consumers or clients engage with more than 11 pieces of content prior to making a purchase. That is a behavior change that we must vitally support with our content strategy.

In a place where the buyer is much more in control, we need to feed them down the road. We’ve seen that content can very much influence research and buying criteria because it stimulates ideas and action, and it provides the buyer with information and tools to make a change in their own process, desire and need. It also influences buying criteria and positions our brand to be in the conversation. If you're not doing that, then by the time sales reps engage, it's too late. Last but not least, it reinforces our credentials as a supplier together with our unique differentiators. This is really an influence game where content is playing a critical role because our reps and channel partner reps who are selling the Xerox brand are engaged much later in the selling cycle. Our role as marketers is to ensure that they are not only in the conversation, but also favorably considered once they enter the client’s room.

Can you provide an example of the kind of content campaigns you’re talking about?

I’ll give you two examples. One is on the traditional printing side of our business, and the other is on the services side—the business process outsourcing side. On the technology side, we conducted a major survey about digitization at work. A majority of our large, midsize and small clients are facing this huge challenge of digital transformation, though very few know how to deal with it. We produced a report about what digital transformation is, what it describes, what activities and functions are impacted, and what kind of returns it can provide in terms of operations and engagement with clients and employees. Rather than talking about Xerox, the report talks about the pain points, challenges and concerns that are facing enterprises of all sizes, and we provide insights and ideas that can help them with these challenges. Only late in the process do we position Xerox as one of the key suppliers that can actually help in this conversation.

The other example is an initiative that is now in its third year. We began by running European transportation research that is now being extended globally. We conducted the research with a new audience of local authorities, including politicians, transport operators and citizens. It examines how to improve local urban transportation—buses, subways, metro, underground trains, etc. The impact that we’ve had and the kind of media coverage and market engagement we’ve achieved have been unimaginable. We’re able to compare major cities in terms of simplicity of transportation, accessibility of transportation and whether digitalization is playing a role or not. We even had our sales teams being called by prospective clients who wanted to discuss the results of their respective cities, so it presented new opportunities for Xerox.

Describe the Xerox Global Demand Center. What is its function?

For Xerox, the demand center covers our outbound capability, including the direct mail team. The center is built on a software automation tool, with a series of processes and business rules to run end-to-end digital marketing campaigns with the objective of generating leads to the sales force. However, what is probably a bit different is that it’s integrated with inbound marketing, with the desire to also plug in the sales enablement practice in support of our sales force. In a digital world like ours, marketing cannot stop once a lead is created. We must ensure that the lead is properly handed over. All of the other touchpoints, such as events, are also captured. Finally, the tools that the sales teams use ensure that clients continue to be elegantly and effectively engaged along a digital journey. Our demand center has been built with a fully integrated vision, delivering blocks one after the other as we progress and become more mature.

We created this capability in Europe three years ago, and it is now a campaign factory that is used by the entire organization globally. If one of the business units has a new product launch or another one wants to build awareness of a specific persona or would like to work better with its client base to increase renewal rates, we’ll work with them to develop a strategy for the campaign and execute on a well-defined plan, which could be as simple as a single email blast or as sophisticated as a multi-touch, multi-language program over several countries. We track every campaign with our demand center dashboard. Not only we are able to assess how technically a campaign performs at each stage, but we can also tell our internal clients, the business units, the number of qualified leads we are giving to the reps. I'm then able to measure how many leads the reps have transformed into the pipeline and, ultimately, how many new signings have been generated. Content is essential here because without effective content creation, no matter well executed the campaign is, it will not perform without a relevant content stream.

How do you measure the impact of content?

We create content for every stage of the customer journey, so the metrics change based on where the intended user is in the funnel. We've established KPIs across three categories to measure the effectiveness of every piece of content. The first category is the classic usage of content—the number of views, number of visits, number of likes, etc. That's what I would consider to be soft KPIs.

The second category, which is a bit less classic, is PR. We measure everything that our content is driving, including initial coverage and continuing coverage. We systematically challenge all of our PR agencies, when we give them a piece of content, to come back with specific results on coverage—both initial and continuing coverage—because usually, when we build a piece of content, we don’t have only one goal. We want to bring it to market in stages so that it lasts and created maximum impact on the long run.

The third category of measurement is the impact on the sales pipeline, from new leads to business closings. These are the hardest KPIs as attribution in this area can sometimes be challenging, but we are making progress on this.

What channels are you using to distribute your content and reach prospective customers?

Once we have created our content, we put together a content promotion plan that incorporates a variety of go-to-market channels. First, there is social media—LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, in that order of importance—to direct clients and prospects to, our web platform, which is the cornerstone of our strategy. Social selling is the second piece. Using LinkedIn's Sales Navigator, we give all of our channel partners and sales representatives, who are on the program with us, a series of content assets that they will use to post and secure new contacts.

The third is pure promotion—sponsored ads, search, email, etc.—both inbound and outbound, such as simple email blasts and also nurture programs. Using our demand center, we've connected all of these services within the sales CRM.

Fourth is sales engagement because we must have the sales reps aligned with what the customers are seeing. If we don't, the reps are disconnected, so we are ensuring that they are fully aware of what is being promoted on their behalf.

Last but not least is employee communication. Even if you are not a sales rep, you can absolutely use our content and ideas for your own social media activity, and all of us should be Xerox brand ambassadors.

How does Xerox establish its content agenda?

We have developed a master framework for content based on five pillars. The first is the “who”—who we are targeting by functional title, responsibility, industry, etc. The second is the “what”—what is our point of view? Why would customers and prospective customers care? Here we have a discussion on what are we willing to give away free of charge before a client is engaged. There is a balance that we need to find specifically as we want to ensure our sales force continues to be relevant when they engage, but we cannot tell everything in advance.

Then comes the “where” and “how.” We need to determine what channels we will use, both paid and owned. Channel selection and distribution are critical and must be done with the field marketers. Otherwise, it remains a very corporate-HQ conversation, likely disconnected from the field needs.

The next piece is “when”—when will the content sit in the buying cycle: the top, middle or end? And what formats are needed? Is it an e-book? Is it a slideshow piece? Is it just a post somewhere on one of our social media sites? And the last piece is results. How will a campaign perform against those KPIs we discussed above? Delivering against this is what counts in the end.

“"In a digital world like ours, marketing cannot stop once a lead is created."”