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Tribal White Papers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pete Kloppenburg   
Tuesday, 12 August 2008 14:18

Not every white paper we wrote at Tribal actually earned us money. Some of the papers I wrote were for Tribal's own use. We wrote white papers to help position our services, to try to establish us as thought leaders within the marketing consulting industry, and also with the hope that our clients might actually learn from them. These two white papers certainly attempted to do all of that: The Sales Readiness Index and Selling in Uncharted Waters.

These papers are a fine example of how sometime the act of writing can serve to crystallize ideas that have been rattling around in one's head for a long time. The impetus for these particular papers was much grubbier and modest than the ground-breaking landmarks they were to become. (This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek; I think they are excellent papers with much important thought in them, but we never had the chance to develop them further.)

The original idea was for a single white paper. That paper was essentially a value add give-away for a client fishing expedition my business partner was undertaking at a Microsoft Partner conference in Florida. We wanted to gain some visibility there, so we decided that Pat would hand out printed post cards, and that these cards would include a teaser and a URL for a white paper. With luck, somebody's curiosity would be aroused by the teaser, go check out the white paper, and eventually check out the rest of our website. Then... profit!

Of course the first question that came up was "what would this white paper be about?" As the creative lead, that question fell to me. As everybody else in the board room were mooting about various concepts, inspiration struck me. I thought, what about a marketing maturity model, analogous to the Capability Maturity Model used in the software industry to measure how good a job the R&D group are doing in, well, improving the job they are doing. It's a fascinating idea, because it does not rest on the notion that there is one single best way to develop software. Rather, it begins with the principle that simply having a well defined, closely followed, and self-improving development process will always deliver better software quality than doing things differently every time.

This idea grabbed everybody in the boardroom, but as I was the only one familiar with the CMM and perhaps the only one comfortable enough with the software development jargon, the group felt that digging too deeply into the CMM would frighten off our marketing audience. I disagreed but bowed to the will of the majority. Thus we eventually settled on the name Sales Readiness Index, or SRI.

Obviously, the job of writing this white paper would fall to me.

As I began to write, however, and my thoughts developed further, it became clear to me that what I really had was two white papers. The very notion of a Sales Readiness Index rested on a number of premises that I felt needed to be fully explored and explained. Sales readiness itself is not a well-understood concept, and covering all this material and then finally getting to the Sales Readiness Index seemed to me to be a recipe for a poorly written white paper. So I decided to cleave off the background piece and make it its own white paper, which would then allow me to tackle the SRI cleanly by itself.

The final result was these two white papers.

Selling in Uncharted Waters: The Case for Sales Readiness rests on one rather startling insight I had: Sales and Marketing typically work at cross purposes. Their functions and their foundation literature demand contradictory things. An old professor of mine back at the Waterloo English Department would no doubt call that incommensurability. (I think there must be a blog in there somewhere.)

What's Your Sales Readiness Index? eventually became the value add white paper we tried to tease those poor Microsoft partners with. As I said, the idea is rooted in the CMM. The top level of the SRI, "Evolving", is directly analogous to the top CMM level, "Optimized". We don't know of any company that is doing all that, but if the basic principles are sound (which I believe they are) then it should be possible.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 15:21