If your goal is improved alignment between marketing and sales, it is crucial that your inbound marketing campaign incorporates a content-driven system. However, it can’t just be any content-driven system. Throwing out content without the proper strategy or forethought might get you a few incidental leads, but this will always be more time consuming, less effective, and ultimately more costly. You want to create one system through a marketing and sales collaboration. This will help ensure that the one system serves both team and their goals.
It’s imperative you go into your content creation with a good content strategy—one that benefits both sales and marketing. Not only does this drive positive, healthy, productive communication between the two groups, but it improves sales’ productivity and close rates, and that leads to increased revenue.
If you’re experiencing difficulty aligning your sales and marketing and you’re seeing your inbound marketing efforts flounder because of it, a content-driven system is an essential place to start.
Aligning Sales and Marketing through Content to Increase Productivity and Profits
1. Sales Has the Information to Inform Fantastic Content. Use Them!
Salespeople are always talking to your customers and potential customers. It’s a necessary part of the job. This means salespeople have unique insight into what your customer base needs and wants. They know your customers’ challenges, barriers to success, goals, and so on.
When you’re thinking about the content to create, use that vast breadth of knowledge within your sales team to inform what kind of content you need to create.
If your content answers questions or addresses issues that your customers (or potential customers) are having, that’s going to be highly valuable, and it’s going to establish your company—in the minds of potential customers—as trustworthy, experienced, and knowledgeable.
If you don’t utilize the incredible resources and knowledge of your sales team, you might be putting out content that doesn’t speak as directly or profoundly to your prospects, and the information you’re providing in that content might simply not be aligned with your buyers’ needs.
Remember, the goal of this content should always be to provide value to your potential buyers, and your sales team knows exactly what those potential buyers consider valuable.
2. The Buyer’s Journey, Buyer Personas, and Sales Content
Content should always be directed at your specific buyer personas. (Just like content, every buyer persona should be created in a collaborative process between marketing and sales.) Beyond that, content should also be created for every stage of the buyer’s journey—awareness, consideration, and decision. Some people find it helpful to think of this as top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel.
Whatever terminology you prefer, you need a mechanism in place for your sales team to access and provide content tailored to each person at each stage of the buyer’s journey. In that way, whether your salesperson is talking to a prospect who’s just found your company or a sales-qualified lead who’s almost ready to buy, you will have content that addresses that person’s needs, questions, challenges, and core problems.
3. When Creating Content, Don’t Forget about the Competition
More than ever, the buyer’s journey is directed and controlled by the consumer. With the advent of the Internet, people are able to do their own research before even talking to salespeople.
Because of that, you should always remember that potential customers are probably interacting with your competitors’ content as well while going through this research phase.
You don’t have to address your competition overtly, but you can identify ways in which you outstrip your competition and then highlight those through your content. Good strategy will always take into account your competition so that you can successfully differentiate yourself to a customer who’s likely researching both you and your competition.
4. Implement a Framework: Create a Content Catalogue
A content catalogue is an organized system that’s accessible to both sales and marketing. It segments content into the different stages of the buyer’s journey and the different personas. In this way, anyone who needs a specific piece of content to pass on to a specific person can easily and intuitively find that content.
With today’s CRM systems, this content catalogue is easier than ever to create and organize.
As with every other step, sales and marketing should work together to decide how to put together this framework. Because both sales and marketing will be regularly accessing, updating, and using this catalogue, it should work equally well for both teams—and should, therefore, incorporate the feedback of everyone who will be using the system.
When a catalogue is intuitive, helpful, and easy to use—for everyone—it can truly save time and money.
5. The Importance of Lead Intelligence
Lead intelligence deals with personal information about that lead and tracking how a lead has already interacted with your site. That includes:
- Site pages visited.
- Links clicked.
- Information downloaded.
- Premium content downloaded or requested.
All this information about how a lead has consumed your content is gold! It can indicate some or all of the following:
- What persona you’re dealing with.
- What stage of the sales cycle that persona is in.
- What that person’s professional role is within his or her company (determined via social media accounts, such as LinkedIn).
With your organized and segmented content catalogue, your salesperson then knows exactly how and where to access the pieces of content that are most relevant to that particular lead.
When the salesperson contacts the lead, he or she is then armed with all that valuable information and is primed to confidently, accurately, and knowledgeably speak to that lead’s core challenges, issues, and problems. The salesperson can reference the information that lead has explored and send follow-up information to supplement it or directly ask if that lead has any questions about the content (which can be addressed by quickly and easily accessing the content catalogue for supplemental information).
All of this leads to more productive—and ultimately more profitable—sales calls.
6. The Value of Sales Training and Content Coaching in an Inbound Marketing Campaign
This content-driven system only works as well as the people utilizing the system. That is, if your marketing and/or sales team doesn’t know how to effectively utilize the power of content, your system will not work for you.
Salespeople must use all their skills and sales-related knowledge but direct that to this relatively novel approach. That is, they must learn how to take an even more educational approach to selling and know how to interact with a lead based on that lead’s readiness to buy (or, said another way, his or her current stage within the buyer’s journey).
Content coaching explains:
- Key terminology within inbound marketing (buyer persona, buyer’s journey, content catalogue, premium content, and so on).
- The importance of salespeople reading and understanding the content themselves so they can provide the right information and speak about it intelligently when leads have follow-up questions.
- How to find, access, and use the content catalogue.
- How to have initial conversations with leads in the very early stages of site interaction.
- The power of content as the greatest potential selling tool.
- How content can positively influence any conversation with the customer.
- How content can provide real value, establish your company’s credibility, create trust, and differentiate you from your competitors.
7. Without Alignment, Your Inbound Marketing Campaign Is Dead in the Water
It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in or what product or service you’re offering. The importance of the alignment between marketing and sales to foster an effective inbound marketing campaign still applies—and collaboratively created content is an easy, effective way to start to bridge that gap in a meaningful, productive way.
Sometimes all it takes is a reason to start the conversation between marketing and sales, and implementing a content strategy that puts equal emphasis on marketing and sales is one way to do that.
Using independently created content without the joint knowledge of sales and marketing is going to make success difficult. If you want to effectively communicate with leads and drive them through the sales funnel, this alignment is key at every step.
People today can do their own consumer research. They don’t need to rely on salespeople to get them base-level information because that kind of information is all just a click away. Therefore, when salespeople interact with leads, they need a strategically created, organized, deliberate content system that gives them the ammunition to answer questions, provide education and value, close deals, and generate revenue.