Converting leads into customers has long been a hallmark of a successful business. But companies often experience a disconnect when it comes to one of the strategies that makes it possible: content.
According to a recent survey by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, the Content ROI Center, and NetLine Corporation, 22 percent of marketers indicated a belief that sales teams are roadblocks that rarely contribute to the content marketing value chain.
By and large, great salespeople are notoriously hard to coordinate. You can often find them in back-to-back meetings, with another four hours of calls lined up after that. They shine in chaotic situations and can turn any conversation into an opportunity, but asking them to follow regulated deadlines is overwhelming enough without including them in the content creation process itself. It stands to reason that marketers might be nervous about relying on their sales team members for input on content, but that doesn’t make collaboration between the two teams any less important.
As the buying cycle moves almost exclusively online, marketing and sales see little division. The content your marketing team creates is valuable for connecting and following up with leads, and your sales team can use content to overcome objections during the sales process.
But if marketers and salespeople don't coordinate regularly, that content can and will miss the mark or sit unused entirely. In fact, research firm SiriusDecisions reported in 2014 that anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of B2B content isn’t used effectively.
And ultimately, isn’t everyone working toward the same goal? As you bring these two teams closer together, you can do a few things to help marketers create content that better enables sales:
1. Listen to sales calls.
Taking stock of the issues facing your leads not only serves as another resource for your content development efforts, but also can make that content much more relevant to your target audience. Why are prospects hesitant to sign up? What trends in your industry do they hope to learn more about? If marketers aren’t at least part of the conversation during the sales cycle, then your content isn’t going to be very useful to your audience.
2. Connect the dots to the bottom line.
While it’s easy to focus on surface metrics, they don’t always tell the whole story. For example, a piece of content may have attracted the most views but produced very few leads. The same could be said for a whitepaper that generated a record-breaking number of leads yet only a handful of qualified ones. If you don’t ask the right questions and connect the dots, then metrics can affirm the wrong answers for your team.
To encourage more relevant content development, consider tying your marketers’ commission goals to sales numbers. Give them credit when the content they create generates high-quality leads or helps close an outbound lead. It ensures you’re tracing all efforts back to the bottom line.
3. Gets sales and marketing in the same room.
The more these two teams communicate and learn from each other, the more focused they’ll become on the end goal. You never want your content creators to see their role as just meeting article production goals each month. Keeping marketing teams in constant communication with sales can help them see their purpose as creating a more direct path to a sale — which makes for better content and more sales.
Our company, for example, has seen the most success when our marketing and sales teams meet and communicate regularly. Even though our sales team is pretty remote, we hold meetings every two weeks to discuss specific topics, review particular accounts, and expose marketing to the tactics the sales team uses to connect with our audience.
The conversation usually leads to article topics for content on external sites and our blog. It also leads to new sales materials and helps our marketing team reposition messaging that may need slight tweaks to better resonate with our audience. In the end, it’s all about transparency, and our two teams experience less tension as they learn from each other.
4. Utilize sales expertise as often as possible.
This step isn’t always as easy as you’d like, but you still need to leverage the expertise of sales to develop the kinds of content that sales reps can use. Tapping salespeople’s knowledge can take shape in a number of ways, from topic approval to seeking straight-up feedback on an article.
Our company makes a habit of asking sales to answer questions through our knowledge extraction process to provide the foundation for pieces of content on our blog or external sites. We also challenge sales to promote certain pieces to their networks and leads — not to mention track those audiences’ reactions.
The more marketing and sales can see the roles they play in creating the best content, the better your organization’s results will be. Everyone starts to better understand that your team’s content isn’t there just to entertain, but also to close business. And isn’t that what it’s all about?