Sales and marketing alignment is hardly a new challenge for organizations, but its importance to content marketing doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
We hear a lot about the different ways marketers use and create content to boost website traffic, add to their social media following, and generate new sales opportunities. And hey, that’s all great stuff (particularly the last one). But the role of marketing isn’t to just drive new leads; it’s to drive new business.
The question is: Are content marketers really doing enough to enable sales? Like every other business function, chances are there’s always more marketers can do to add value to the sales process, and that’s certainly true from a content perspective. Unfortunately, the common disconnect between B2B Sales and Marketing teams can keep even the best content strategies from reaching their full potential.
I’ve seen this happen firsthand (heck, I’ve been guilty of it myself plenty of times), but there’s no doubt in my mind that communication with sales reps is critical to effective content marketing. Here are three reasons why.
1. Content is about more than just inbound.
I was fortunate recently to do a short Q&A with Bob Apollo, sales coach and CEO at Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, in which he made a great point about sales and marketing alignment for B2Bs.
“If the organization sees Marketing's role as ‘lead generation,’ then they are likely to behave with a much narrower (and less effective) focus than if Marketing's role is seen as ‘sales enablement’ or (even better) facilitating the buying process.”
In other words, if your content strategy is only geared toward generating buzz and filling the top of the sales funnel, you’re likely missing the boat on additional opportunities to truly help your sales teams sell.
Sales reps require selling tools and resources to more effectively engage with their audiences and nurture leads further down the funnel. Recent research shows that 40% of the average salesperson’s time is spent finding and creating content to share with prospects and customers. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like an awful lot of wasted time that could be spent doing other things, doesn’t it?
That is especially true when you consider that these content assets can be (and often already are) created by marketing. By getting on the same page with sales, content marketers can not only make it easier for reps to find the resources they need faster, but also gain a better understanding of the types of content that helps them sell better, which leads us to…
2. Sales reps know what the audience wants.
Salespeople simply spend more time communicating directly with prospects and customers than marketers do. It’s no contest. This gives reps a unique insight into the needs, questions, and challenges of the people you are trying to market and sell to.
Marketers often think they know what kind of topics and formats will resonate most with potential customers, but it’s amazing how much insight can be gained by taking the time to chat with the people sitting a few cubicles down the aisle.
Reps can be especially helpful when targeting specific personas (industry, role, company size, etc.), which makes it easier for marketers to gear their content to support the conversations salespeople are actually having. The result? More relevant content resources that will actually help reps close more deals.
3. Communication leads to consistent messaging.
The other issue with leaving reps to their own content-making devices is that the end results can veer away from the company’s brand message. This can not only create confusion over your value proposition, but in some of the more regulated industries, open you up to potential compliance risks as well.
Marketers can control the messages sales reps relay to prospects and customers by developing content for them to use... but again, salespeople will only use those assets if they are valuable. Everything from customer testimonials and product demos to case studies and infographics can be powerful selling tools, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily will be. By taking the time to talk with reps about the resources they find most useful, content marketers can further prioritize and hone their strategies.
By now, I’m sure you can see the “chicken and the egg” aspect of all this. Sales reps need selling tools from marketers to engage with audiences. Marketers need insight from salespeople to develop valuable content. Obviously, marketers aren’t stupid; they don’t create content on a whim. They do their research ---surveys, analytics, A/B testing, and so on. Of course, all that stuff takes work... a lot of work. Taking the time to have a conversation with a sales rep? That’s much easier. So get up, walk over there, and make friends!