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Three Reasons Why Content Marketers Need to Make Friends with Sales Reps

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Sales and marketing alignment is hardly a new challenge for organizations, but its importance to content marketing doesnít 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, thatís all great stuff (particularly the last one). But the role of marketing isnít to just drive new leads; itís to drive new business.

The question is: Are content marketers really doing enough to enable sales? Like every other business function, chances are thereís always more marketers can do to add value to the sales process, and thatís 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.

Iíve seen this happen firsthand (heck, Iíve been guilty of it myself plenty of times), but thereís no doubt in my mind that communication with sales reps is critical to effective content marketing. Here are three reasons why.
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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.

ďIf the organization sees Marketing's role as Ďlead generation,í then they are likely to behave with a much narrower (and less effective) focus than if Marketing's role is seen as Ďsales enablementí or (even better) facilitating the buying process.Ē

In other words, if your content strategy is only geared toward generating buzz and filling the top of the sales funnel, youíre 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 salespersonís time is spent finding and creating content to share with prospects and customers. Maybe itís just me, but that seems like an awful lot of wasted time that could be spent doing other things, doesnít 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 toÖ

2. Sales reps know what the audience wants.



Salespeople simply spend more time communicating directly with prospects and customers than marketers do. Itís 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 itís 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 companyís 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 doesnít 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, Iím sure you can see the ďchicken and the eggĒ 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 arenít stupid; they donít 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? Thatís much easier. So get up, walk over there, and make friends!






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Brendan Cournoyer is a content marketing manager at Brainshark, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter at @brencournoyer.

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Comments

  • by Chris Finnie Fri Jun 21, 2013 via blog

    Considering the amount of content my clients and I create, the 40% figure surprises me. But I suppose the issue is that they can't find the right content, or the content they need. Which is why I've been telling my clients the second point for almost 30 years. Before I was a copywriter, I did sales. So I always value the direct client perspective the salesperson can offer.

  • by Gerae Bisson Fri Jun 21, 2013 via blog

    Having many years in corporate Marketing & Trade Show management, I decided to spend a year or so as one of my (former) company's Sales Rep (aka Mortgage Loan Consultant). My big project had just won a prestigious and coveted marketing/trade show exhibit award from one of the nation's largest associations, when I elected to go "get some experience working in the role of my customer" (our Sales Reps). I was certain it would be an enriching growth experience as a marketing professional. Yeah--I was laid off after 3 months for not meeting my sales goals! (It's humorous now, but certainly wasn't then!) But when the Sales Reps capture the ear of someone from "corporate" they make use of the time! I learned more than I expected--and it HAS changed how I approach work. This article is SPOT ON!

  • by Nikola Sun Jun 23, 2013 via blog

    Okay. So I'll admit to being a content marketer that has known this but also, sort of, mostly, definitely ignored it just because I am truly horrible in the sales area and it frankly intimidates the junk out of me. But this article was very helpful in reducing my anxiety about it, and understanding the basics gives me some confidence as well. Thanks for a great share. Sharing with my own network!

  • by Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    Couldn't agree any more with #2. Whenever a client comes to me and says they don't know what you write about my first piece of advice is always to talk to their sales and customer service teams. They are the ones who interact with your customers on a day to day basis and know exactly what they are looking for.

  • by Brendan Cournoyer Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    Right on Nick, I'm right there with you. I firmly believe the best content marketing is about answering questions for people, but you can't do that if you don't know what the right questions are. Sales, BDR, support -- these are the people at an organization that have a keen insight into the issues and challenges of your customers, and that insight is invaluable to any content strategy.

  • by Brendan Cournoyer Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    Right on Nikola! It can certainly be tricky for sure, but that relationship between sales and content marketing benefits everyone. Not only does it help marketers create more impactful content, but the more connected sales reps are to the process, the more likely they'll be to use that content as selling tools with potential customers.

  • by Brendan Cournoyer Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    Wow, that's quite a story Gerae! I'm sorry things didn't work out as a sales rep (believe me, I KNOW I wouldn't have even lasted 3 months, ha), but it sounds like you gained some great perspective from the experience. Thanks for sharing!

  • by Brendan Cournoyer Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    Oh for sure, Chris -- access and awareness are huge hurdles here. I wrote a post for CMI last week (below) that talks a little about that too. Basically, don't assume sales reps are using what you create, or even know about half of it. It's certainly no easy task to keep those lines of communication open.

    http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/06/online-content-marketing-can-enable-sales/

  • by Sarah Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    I am both a sales rep and the CMO for our company. One of the challenges of depending on the rep for information about an account/market/industry is that they are also protecting their knowledge/client so their perception can be skewed. I just implemented a program where I am speaking to the top 5 accounts within the reps account base. Including them in the process so we're working as a team to glean information that may be missed when you're focused on trying to make a sale. It's an interesting perspective to be both in sales and marketing; what comes easy in sales can be quite challenging to market and vice versa! However, the sharing of this effort is bringing me closer to the reps needs as well as the customers needs so I'm anticipating a win/win for the rep, for me and for the customer as well as future prospects/customers. Timely and helpful article.

  • by Shauna Proctor Mon Jun 24, 2013 via blog

    I could not agree more. I find myself very lucky to be working as the Director of Marketing and Sales for a small, but growing manufacturing company.

    Sales is a subset of Marketing, an extension of the marketing process if you will.

    To drive traffic you must give valuable tools, resources and information to your targeted audience(s). You cannot possibly do this without having a full understanding of the sales process, your full product line and full understanding of your customers and their business.

    I try to always let the sales process guide my marketing efforts and ensure my sales team has a full understanding of our marketing plan, objectives and corporate culture.

  • by Steve Faber Sat Jul 20, 2013 via blog

    Brendan,

    Nice post. I've always viewed marketing's job as generating hot leads, and sales' job as converting them into actual sales. To make sure those leads are hot, marketing needs to make sure that qualified leads are generated. They are further warmed by marketing's brand positioning and "give value to get" activities before the sale.

    Later, marketing plays a key role in retaining the customer and generating additional hot leads for the sales team form existing customers. You're right, they're facilitators, always greasing the sales wheels to make things easier for the sales team. That, in addition to lead qualification is what makes marketing effective.

    Some call this "pre-selling"

  • by Steve Faber Sat Jul 20, 2013 via blog

    Shauna,

    Those tools, resources and information you give your prospects and customers not only contributes to the facilitating Brandan is referring to, it also helps qualify and presell the prospect. In addition, it casts a net to begin the lead generation process.

    It's interesting, because properly implemented, a content marketing campaign will fill or help fill multiple roles.
    Prospect Attraction / Lead Generation
    Brand positioning
    Preselling
    SEO
    Lead Segmentation / Qualification
    Streamlining the Sales process.

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