Modern B2B marketers understand that a robust content strategy has a place in the marketing toolbox—and the need for written content has never been more in demand. Between long-form content (e-books, whitepapers) and requests from the executive team and sales leaders, there is a neverending queue of content needs.

Speaking of content being requested by the sales department, this scary stat that will make marketers cringe: Up to 70% of the content they develop is never actually used by the sales team. Brutal, right?

In most cases, sales teams feel that content developed by the marketing team doesn't accurately speak to their prospects or address prospects' pain points and, therefore, is not helpful for furthering sales conversations. Whereas lead engagement is of utmost importance to the sales team, often what matters most to marketers is that the content stay on message and remain consistent with other brand assets.

But a content vehicle that can serve the needs of both sales and marketing teams is often overlooked: media coverage. And many marketers mistakenly view PR as solely a news-driven tactic that relies on and is driven by press releases.

However, when executed correctly, public relations efforts can result in media coverage that bridges the gap between Sales and Marketing.

Whether the resulting article is a customer story, CEO feature, or thought leadership piece, such as a bylined article, the media coverage can and should be treated as a content asset to be leveraged by both departments.

Salespeople as Marketers

Salespeople can be the true voice of the customer. Through daily conversations, they intimately understand what problems prospects are experiencing right now.

To secure media coverage that speaks to prospects' current pain points, the perspective of the sales team must be gathered and used as a foundation for thought leadership topics. Begin that process by setting an informal meeting with clear expectations.

The marketing team should not expect sales team members to act as company spokespeople or deliver a formal, written perspective. The goal of the meeting should be to gather authentic responses and seek inspiration.

Answers to questions can yield ideas for thought-leadership content, which can be turned into blog posts or pitched to the media as bylined articles. Questions to start with include these:

  • Why do prospects buy?
  • Why do we lose?
  • What are the top three customer pain points that our product solves?
  • What common questions and objections do you receive?
  • What shifts or trends in the market are you seeing?

Finding Themes for Thought-Leadership Content

After the information is collected from conversations with sales leaders, marketers can put on their creative caps and shape the answers into thought-leadership content. Using the example questions outlined earlier, the info gathered can be transformed into compelling commentary.

For example:

  • Why do prospects buy? Uncovering the pain points prospects experience and what separates the organization/product from the competition can be highlighted in an education piece.

    For example, the response from a sales leader from a marketing SaaS company may include predictive analytics, scalability, and reliability. That input can be turned into a piece titled "The Three Most Important Factors in Choosing a Marketing Automation Platform." An article like that helps educate prospects who are in the consideration phase about what they need to think about before investing in a solution, simultaneously highlighting your top three differentiators as primary consideration points.

  • Why do we lose? By intentionally highlighting perceived weaknesses, an opportunity is presented. By addressing common misconceptions head-on via thought-leadership content, a prospect's fears can be mitigated before the prospects reach a decision.

    For example, a sales leader's response to the question "why do we lose?" may be that prospects choose not to buy because of to the perceived headache associated with buying and implementing new technology, and so they instead choose inaction and stick with legacy or self-built systems. In that instance, crafting a thought-leadership piece addressing the "build vs. buy" predicament (highlighting the benefits of the "buy" choice), or a blog post centered on "when it's time to graduate from self-built solutions" can help overcome prospects' fear of change—before they get on the phone with a sales rep.

Use It or Lose It

Creating touchpoints with prospects is vital to helping account reps keep prospects moving through the funnel, and editorial press coverage provides another reason to reach out to accounts.

Whether sales reps share media coverage via email or social media, PR-sourced content is more powerful than owned content, as press coverage has the third-party credibility of a respected media outlet. And because the topic was sourced directly from the sales team, the content contains messaging that resonates with prospects.

Depending on a prospect's stage in the buyer journey, the type of message and the format of communication coming from the sales rep will vary. It could be top-of-funnel first touchpoint. Or maybe a buyer has reached the consideration stage and you're looking for a touchpoint that assists with product evaluation. Perhaps the prospect is caught somewhere between consideration and purchase and you're looking for some social proof to help push them along.

Media coverage from the PR team can address different stages of the buyer journey:

  1. Awareness. For this stage, bylined articles do not talk about a company or product, but rather serve as education or problem/solution articles, establishing the need for your product/service.
  2. Consideration. Every salesperson has experienced it: a solid call with a prospect—maybe even multiple calls—but now it's been a month and they ghost you. Media coverage can provide the social proof that your solution is being used by respected companies like theirs. Articles highlighting a case study, using a customer quote or otherwise sharing a customers' experience with the product or service, is ideal for this kind of touchpoint to close the deal quickly.
  3. Purchase. For prospects who have decided on a solution strategy, but are compiling a long list of all vendors, product coverage can influence their decision to purchase your solution over competitors'. The need for the product has already been established and they are vetting vendors, wouldn't it be powerful if a trusted, third party agreed? If Sales and Marketing are aligned, product coverage will echo your messaging and build a sense of trust with the brand.

In the end, marketers must change two perceptions: the way PR is being viewed, and the divide between sales and marketing. Just as PR must be brought into the fold as a legitimate source of content, sales leaders must be treated as a source of ideas as the voice of the customer. Companies who adopt this approach will decrease the friction between departments and, ultimately, close deals faster.

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How to Leverage Sales Teams for PR and Content Marketing

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image of Lindsey Groepper

Lindsey Groepper is president of BLASTmedia, a PR agency dedicated to B2B SaaS.

LinkedIn: Lindsey Groepper

Twitter: @lindseygroepper