Marketers are busy creating collateral for their sales teams every day. How many times have you heard “I can only close this big deal if you give me a 125 page market report”?
Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but most marketers have experienced “hamster wheel syndrome” - you’re so busy creating new collateral your sales team says will close deals that your brand awareness and lead generation strategies falter.
It can be tough to argue with your sales team since revenue is much easier to measure than brand awareness, but these days, it’s just as important. If your business isn’t found online when prospects go looking for answers to their problems, chances are you won’t ever get the sale.
I’m not saying anything new here. You’ve probably heard the buzz about content marketing, inbound marketing, business blogging, etc. etc. The most effective marketers create content that they use to:
Get found via search engines
Educate, inform, and delight prospects and customers
Generate and nurture leads for their sales teams
If you’re looking to learn more about inbound marketing, check out this quick infographic blog post or download this resource pack (free tips, templates & checklists to help you develop your own inbound marketing strategy.)
But what about all those requests for new sales collateral? How do you convince your sales team that your digital content creation efforts (like blogging) are worth reducing the emphasis on their collateral? How do you get them to buy in?
With so much emphasis on meeting quotas in the short term, is it too much to ask sales to help invest in building relationships for the long term with content? I don’t think so. A recent report found that:
95% of buyers chose a solution provider that ‘Provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.'*
If you work with your sales team to create online content that is highly relevant and valuable to your target audience, you will almost certainly generate more awareness and leads, and close more deals.
So how do you create marketing and sales alignment with content?
1) Get sales and marketing on the same page about prospect/customer FAQs
One of the easiest and most effective ways to get your sales team involved is to set up an FAQ meeting. Get your whole marketing team and your whole sales team in one room and get them talking about questions frequently asked by customers.
Because salespeople are the “feet on the street,” listening to every question, concern, and objection, they bring to the table valuable insight you’ll need if you’re going to create relevant content.
Record what they say and refer back to it when looking for content ideas. They will probably love talking about their experiences with customers, and will be more excited about the initiative if they feel their perspectives are important to you.
2) Offer to create blog content that meets the needs of leads in the pipeline
Make yourself available to create blog content that would be relevant to prospects your sales colleagues are currently in touch with.
For example, John the sales guy is on an introductory call with a lead, Carla. Carla describes how her business works and a particular challenge she sees in implementing John’s product. After the call, John asks his marketing manager to write a blog post explaining how the product can be implemented in spite of several challenges (including the one Carla mentioned.) John shares the post with Carla, Carla feels understood and valued, and buys the product. Now, Carla is delighted, the marketing manager has a broader understanding of customers like Carla, and John knows he can turn to marketing content to help him close deals.
The best part is that unlike brochures or sell sheets, blog content lives on, bringing traffic and leads to your site for months - sometimes years - to come. Even though it might seem crazy to turn out a blog post for a single lead, you’ll actually be killing two birds with one stone - you’ll help your rep close a deal and generate leads over time. It’s a win-win.
3) Use marketing automation to implement lead scoring and lead nurturing
Ask your sales team what makes leads the most qualified. Is it their company size? Their industry? Their location? Is it that they’ve read a certain number of website pages? That they’ve downloaded a certain number of premium content offers? Ask your sales team to rank the most important qualifying criteria and then use your marketing automation platform (MAP) to assign points to each. This way, when leads enter information and/or take actions on your website, your MAP will give them a score that your sales team can use to prioritize the hottest leads.
If this seems too basic for you, you can also create multiple levels of qualifying criteria and nurture leads before sending them over to sales.
Here’s what that might look like:
Let’s say your ideal buyer is in a company with over 5,000 employees AND has downloaded 2 or more premium content offers from your site.
One such buyer - let’s call him Ryan - indeed works for a company with 5,000+ employees, which he indicates on his first form when he downloads one ebook.
He doesn’t go on to download a second one, so he isn’t passed to sales, but we want to do something to stay top of mind since he’s an ideal buyer interested in our content.
We’d want to set up a workflow that sends Ryan emails with content similar to what he’s already downloaded.
- When he clicks on one of the emails and downloads his next premium content offer, he is qualified and can then be contacted by sales.
Still not sure how you’re going to get your sales team to help?
Below are a few marketing and sales stats* you can share to:
- Make yourself look extremely smart and well-read, and
- “Sell” your sales team on the merits of content for closing more deals...
By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their interaction with the enterprise without interacting with a human. (Gartner) Tweet
B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth, and 27% faster three-year profit growth (SiriusDecisions) Tweet
Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoyed 36% higher customer retention rates (MarketingProfs) Tweet
Companies with aligned sales and marketing generated 208% more revenue from marketing (MarketingProfs) Tweet
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.