Ah, sales and marketing. They're like two siblings fighting in the back seat while mom, pop—or a company executive—drives the car.
I don't know how to stop all this bickering (and as a battle-weary father myself, I'm not interested in "who started it"), but I can suggest a few ways my brothers and sisters on the marketing side can ease the tension by better serving their sales brethren with more productive collateral.
1. Make them responsible for defining the target
We've all been through this: After months of hard labor, your campaign has generated leads that now sit, undisturbed, under the sales guy's fantasy football crib sheet. You're angry because he's not leveraging the leads you worked so hard to get. His defense? They're "bad" leads not worth pursuing.
You can both stop this fight before it even begins. Bring the sales team to the table to define exactly what a qualified lead should be. Include factors such as industry, region, company size, titles, budgets, purchasing timeframe, etc. Your goal? A precise target to which you'll aim your lead-generation campaigns and your collateral systems—their formats and content. You'll have a better idea of what to write because you'll know who you're writing for.
Getting sales team buy-in on lead definition is both good practice and good politics. If you hit the defined target, sales can't blame marketing for failing to deliver. More important, their shared sense of responsibility is a powerful incentive for collaboration—for making your efforts work.
2. Think beyond the lead
Here's where sales has a legitimate beef with marketing. Often the overwhelming bulk of the marketing budget goes to the top of the sales funnel, toward lead generation. But for big-ticket items with long sales cycles, the sales people have to make multiple contacts before they even come close to the close.
Typically, a follow-up call becomes a voice message that sounds something like this: "Hey, it's Joe Blow from WishfulThinking. We talked a few weeks ago and I'm touching base to see how things are going..." Not particularly compelling.
Now imagine that same call, but this time Joe is armed with a reason to call and the prospect is motivated by a reason to listen or reply:
- "I'm calling because I have a case study about a company just like yours that saved more than two million dollars in health expenses this year."
- "Did you see our article in Trade Aware this month? It's about the new accounting rules and how they affect financial planning in 2007."
- "I'd like to send you our new guide on project management: 10 Easy Ways to Accelerate Time-to-Market."
The lesson is simple: Put money and effort into collateral pieces—such as case studies, articles, reports, whitepapers, and guides—that help your sales people push their hot prospects along the sales pipeline.
3. Plan on recycling your work
Budgets are always an issue. So plan to invest your marketing dollars on producing collateral that can serve double or triple duty—or more.
That whitepaper you're planning? Make it the subject of several blog posts. Offer it as a premium in a lead-gen mailing. Be sure it's available as a download from your Web site. Send it to trade publication editors to see if it'll lead to an interview with your in-house subject-matter expert.
Got a case study? Tuck it into your press kits. Send it to your current prospects. Format it as a hand-out for trade shows. Put it up on your Web site. Include it in your next newsletter.
Easy, right? But it's amazing how often this simple multiuse idea isn't applied. Make it a rule: Write. Re-use. Repeat.
4. Concentrate on content customers and prospects can really use
Think from the prospects' point of view. Information that can help them do their jobs better is information they'll read and keep. Use this motivation to your advantage. A brochure about the Contact5000 barcode scanner may be a snooze, but an article about cutting pick and pack time in half is probably a winner.
Instead of writing "about" your products and services, write about how to solve problems, find opportunities, increase productivity, save money, etc.—in ways that position your products and services as means to those ends. Your formats may include articles (as in the example above), tech guides, reports, podcasts—just about anything that doesn't look like a product brochure.
In this way, you're not only increasing your power to attract and hold attention—you're establishing your company as a credible expert your prospects can trust.
5. Reconsider that corporate-capabilities brochure
The flip side to creating content that prospects want is eliminating the collateral that no one really needs. Case in point: the big corporate-capabilities brochure. It's expensive, time-consuming, and tends to have a short shelf life. Worse, few of your prospects care. (Those few who ask to see one are probably looking for an easy way to shake off a salesperson.)
Sometimes, for practical or political reasons, you just have to create one. But if there's no gun to your head, reconsider. There's almost always a better way to spend your marketing money.
6. Organize collateral by issues, not by industry
Many B2B sales people like to have a library of case studies or whitepapers they can draw upon when approaching prospects. These are typically categorized by the industries they want to penetrate, say healthcare, high-tech or financial services.
But, by definition, new markets are ones in which you don't have much experience—yet. How can you demonstrate your expertise in unfamiliar territory?
By focusing on issues instead of industries. For example, data decay is data decay, whether it occurs among a hospital's patient records or within an investment bank's spreadsheets. The problem, and the expertise required to overcome it, remain the same (or very similar) regardless of industry, so focus on the problem.
A library of materials based on challenges gives your team the flexibility to target any industry in which the challenge—and your products or services—may be relevant.