Smarketing (n): When sales and marketing work together in perfect harmony.
Much to their detriment, these two departments have traditionally functioned in silos. And it hasn't been good for either. The Aberdeen Group reports that 92 percent of organizations experience below-average conversion rates within the funnel due to marketing and sales friction.
But as more organizations are noticing the power of content for generating leads and driving sales (74 percent of companies indicate that content marketing increases their inbound lead quality and quantity), more marketing and sales teams are joining forces to strengthen their content marketing practice.
The obvious solution is to remove communication barriers that separate the two departments. Unfortunately, as most organizations have experienced at some point, it's easier said than done.
How to improve content marketing with sales and marketing alignment
Here are six ways that sales and marketing can improve their communication efforts, work as a united group and achieve content marketing success.
Understand sales and marketing's goals and priorities
We all know what happens when we assume. Still, marketing and sales teams have pre-conceived ideas about what each person does in their role, and that could lead to conflict. Marketo lays out examples of the teams butting heads in this blog post:
“Marketing activities are difficult to measure, and therefore perceived as less important than easily measurable sales outcomes. Marketing generates lots of activity, but Sales doesn’t always see connections between those activities and revenue. Sales thinks Marketing is lightweight and easy, Marketing wonders why Sales cannot make its numbers.”
To prevent these misunderstandings, set up expectations and accountabilities for every role. Brandpoint president Scott Severson explains in a Forbes article that, “the sales team must have a clear understanding of the strengths and bandwidth of the marketing team. They should be able to help prioritize projects and provide feedback on the content’s performance.” That way, marketing isn’t pulled in too many directions, which could prevent them from meeting a goal.
The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is a structure that supports the sales/marketing alignment. Within this system, department leaders meet every quarter to set company, department and individual “rocks,” or goals for that quarter. This creates a stronger focus within an organization and allows sales and marketing to take time to assess how that relationship could improve.
Content marketers can improve by participating in sales calls, trainings, and meetings
EOS also suggests that teams meet once per week (called a “Level 10 meeting”) to identify issues and prioritize actions for the week. While marketing and sales should have separate meetings, a representative from one team may participate in the other’s Level 10 meetings occasionally to address any issues in working with the other, discuss updates, or review performance. These meetings present opportunities for feedback and transparency.
In addition, think of opportunities for the teams to educate or train each other. Marketing may want to sit-in on sales calls to see how they talk about the company’s products or services. Is it in line with how marketing talks about the products or services? Is the sales team using all of marketing’s content to its advantage? Marketing could lead trainings to help sales better understand how they can use marketing content when selling.
For advanced smarketers: Try physically moving the sales and marketing members so you're all sitting next to one another in the office. This way, they are more likely to communicate, ask questions and stay up-to-date with projects and priorities without needing to wait for a formal meeting.
Communicate content marketing using the same data and metrics
Again, EOS presents another great tool for helping sales and marketing alignment: the scorecard. Here’s where teams record their KPIs on a regular basis, which also documents who is responsible for what number.
When sales and marketing teams communicate through data, it minimizes the opportunities for one team to make assumptions about the other team’s work. For example, if marketing does not meet their number of leads for the quarter, no one has to blame them—the scorecard proves it and they'll hold themselves accountable.
A scorecard for the marketing team better illustrates how their efforts can be measured. These numbers help the rest of the company see marketing as a revenue generating department, with similar responsibilities as sales.
Bonus: Organizations with strong marketing and sales alignment average a 76 percent higher contribution to revenue from marketing!
Improve content through collaboration
While data-driven methods help content marketing teams determine the best content topics and types to cover, don’t dismiss how the sales team uses content. An infographic that outlines a process could be sent to a prospect to educate them and demonstrate your company’s expertise on the subject. Or sales may be targeting a specific demographic or audience, which your content should reflect.
Billy Cripe, founder of B2B marketing and social business strategy agency BloomThink, recommends setting up a SurveyMonkey or Google Docs survey to poll your sales teams. What are they aware of? What are they using regularly or only occasionally? What do they think is the best and worst content?
When polling them on the assets they use, Cripe says, “show them a thumbnail of the assets and ask them which they recognize and use, rather than making them try to remember what they use. You’ll get better, richer results.”
In general, focus on attention-grabbing and easy-to-digest content, says SocialPilot.
Set a process for collecting customer feedback and testimonials
Marketers typically don’t interact with customers on a regular basis, but understanding who the customers are and the kind of content they want is crucial to a marketer’s job.
Enter your sales team. Set up a process for sales to deliver happy customer reviews, feedback, and testimonials to marketing. Sales will know which customers may have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and which customers may have interesting stories to share for case studies and other content.
To spice up how to use customer testimonials, Cripe suggests using “inside-out” stories. “Each sales win is based on a unique situation and challenge that the customer believes will be solved with your product or service,” he explains. “So capture that ‘win rationale’ from your sales team. Ask them to brag about themselves. Why did the customer buy or renew? What problem were they solving or expecting to solve? What was the key sales message that resonated most with the customer?”
Once these stories are collected, Cripe suggests assembling them into a customer reference website or printed book to share with the sales team at the next all-hands meeting or sales kickoff.
Think outside the box on ways to showcase customer success stories. A great project for content and sales teams to collaborate is to fill the funnel using white papers with customer testimonials.
Marketing and sales can also work together to increase your brand’s online reputation. Marketing should keep a close eye on popular review and social media sites for ratings (like Facebook, Yelp, or G2 Crowd), while sales can encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on the site that marketing wants to focus on.
Marketing automation’s role
Finally, using a marketing automation software provides the opportunity for sales and marketing to see how leads interact with the content that marketing creates — whether a customer clicks a link in an email, visits a product page, or signs up for a webinar, these actions are meaningful for both teams to see.
This information can provide insight into what kind of content performs best. An Aberdeen Group report shows that 59 percent of the most effective marketing and sales data users will inform future strategies and decisions with their data, and 57 percent use it to personalize content or communications.
Marketing can also use marketing automation to assess the quality of a lead and when they are far enough along the funnel to be passed on to sales for a conversation. This process is called lead scoring. Each action (page view, download, sign-up, etc.) is assigned a number. As a lead interacts with more content, the score will increase. This helps marketing pass better leads to sales while allowing prospects to move through the funnel on their own terms, providing a great way to use content in your lead scoring.
The power of improved content marketing
By aligning sales and marketing departments, each group’s work will become more effective and provide customers with a better purchasing experience at every stage of the funnel. But at the heart of this alignment is a strong library of content that educates customers, supports marketing automation, provides sales with credible resources and helps fuel lead generation.
To ensure that marketing teams can consistently deliver quality content, a content strategy will help outline a strategic process that generates results. Visit brandpoint.com to learn more about creating and implementing a content strategy.