BrandExtract Chairman, Jonathan Fisher, and SVP Sales Programs, Mark McCary are answering a popular question: how can I make my sales and marketing teams more effective when attracting and engaging leads? How can my content be leveraged to support my sales and marketing teams?
In a successful business, the marketing and sales teams need to work cohesively. Team members from both sales and marketing departments must communicate openly to teach their clients how to identify any challenges, how to overcome those challenges and understand how to keep up with industry trends.
Working across traditional organizational boundaries and reporting levels within your business can be a challenge. This could be because company budgets and strategies are often segmented for each team’s objectives, so there is a lack of communication or understanding of what each team does. Larger organizations could rely on outside sales teams, so marketing and sales professionals may rarely interact, which also contributes to poor communication. Despite these challenges, it’s necessary to leverage content for both marketing and sales teams.
How to create content that serves both teams—and ultimately, the customer
Collaboration between marketing and sales within your organization is especially important when developing content that will be leveraged for both teams. Your team members should be asking themselves: what content do we need to fulfill our needs and how can we use that content in our job responsibilities?
If executed effectively, one piece of versatile content backed by a thorough content strategy can benefit sales and marketing specialists. Examples of this multi-purpose content could be:
- Case studies
- Blog posts
- Webinars or presentations
Whatever you decide to leverage for your content, it must tell your customers how it will benefit them. Don’t just tell them how to accomplish a sales goal or attract new business, explain why this is important and why your client needs your business.
Content traditionally used for marketing teams that can be leveraged for sales teams
Content comes in a variety of forms and channels and often overlap. Here are examples of content that typically align with marketing objectives and are documented in a communications plan:
Brand awareness objectives are supported by content that introduces your brand to your target audience. This content may provide an overview of your brand’s primary mission, vision and values as well as your products or services and areas of expertise. These may include:
- Direct marketing content (mailers, emails, etc.)
Education objectives use content to show thought leadership and insights about your business. This content may also support brand awareness objectives and can include:
- Blog posts
Lead generation objectives require content that encourages users to contact your brand. Education content may be “gated” in order to drive leads, but additional lead generation content may include:
- Promotions and special offers
- Product demos
While your marketing team is distributing this content through mass channels like social media, emails or your organization’s website, your sales representatives can use specific pieces of content to pass along to their clients they believe would benefit from it. This way, your sales team gets direct feedback from your customers on how effective your content is or is not.
Once you’ve developed this compelling piece of content, make sure your sales team knows where it can be accessed. For example, if your marketing specialist publishes a new blog post, make sure they communicate with the sales team where it can be found on your website or business server. This is where building your content library—which we will introduce shortly—will come in handy. After working hard to create compelling content to support your sales efforts and finding various delivery channels that are effective, you’ve struck gold.
Advice from Jonathan
"Where I think a lot of marketing professionals go wrong when developing sufficient content for sales is leaving out testing procedures, such as reporting metrics and analytics. If you don’t think about the layers and channels for leveraging your content, that piece is virtually useless. I always advise clients to test the methodology and channels of delivery before developing it."
In order for your business’ marketing and sales content strategy to be successful, your sales team needs to be coached to listen for your customer’s needs. Additionally, both teams should research and test various content delivery methods in order for your content to engage your business’s target audience. Skipping this important step of the process could mean wasting a lot of time and resources along with unhappy clients.
Traditional sales content that your marketing team can leverage
Because your sales team is in direct contact with leads and new customers, they have an advantage when it comes to understanding customer needs. Sales is critical for developing evergreen content because they can identify weaknesses in messaging, trends that apply to specific clients or where gaps of information are for your clients. Your sales team can also provide great insight on which stages of the sales cycle are missing content that they can pass along to their clients. Not only can the sales team help marketing develop appropriate content, but they can provide marketing with feedback on how that content is being digested by consumers. Even after the content has been crafted, your sales experts can frame it any way they need in order to maximize their sales enablement strategy. Here are some examples of how sales reps use marketing content:
- Product demonstration videos: especially for B2B businesses, videos are great for showing clients why your services will benefit them.
- Whitepapers: used as lead generation tools, these can be distributed to your leads.
- Direct marketing: marketing teams often create direct mailers, emails or brochures to educate their audience. Put your prospective clients on the email or direct mailing list to make sure they're receiving all this information.
How to get the most out of your content strategy
When coaching our clients, we tell them in order for sales teams to be successful in generating leads, they need to be aware of this multipurpose content. It often happens that marketing will develop killer content, but the sales team has no idea it exists. Setting up a content library (see below) is one way to eliminate this problem. Don't forget to coach your sales team on when and how to utilize this content for your customers. This could vary depending on what stage of the sales cycle your customers are in, so your sales team needs to communicate with the marketing team to have content for each stage of the sales cycle. Sales program experts utilize this content by distributing it to prospective clients and ask for their feedback on how helpful it was.
Setting up your content development process
Starting to develop a new article, case study or presentation is difficult. Where do you start? What do you want the end deliverable to look like? Start by referencing your sales and marketing strategies. Your content should be aligned with your goals, objectives and strategies in order for it to be effective.
Before you put pen to paper, start by building an editorial strategy. Building a solid piece of content takes a significant investment in order to provide long-term value for your leads and customers, as well as for your own business goals. Your editorial strategy should involve a plan to define the following for each content piece:
- Objective: how the content should bring value to the reader as well as what the content is supposed to achieve to support your sales and/or marketing goals
- Writer and editor: who is responsible for creating your content
- Design and content packaging: how your content will be presented to your clients
- Promotion plan: what you'll do to make your content more visible
It’s important to promote your content through the appropriate channel so your team can reach your target audience in the most effective way possible. Your marketing team may be responsible for promoting content by pitching stories to industry influencers, posting it on your business’ website, promoting on social media, and more.
Your sales and marketing teams will need to collaborate and brainstorm in order to develop objectives for each piece of content. Begin by asking the sales team to bring questions they typically hear from their leads or where there's a gap of information, while the marketing specialists can provide topics they’ve encountered through relevant conversations on social media, for example.
The truth is, there’s no cookie-cutter method for developing content or what a piece of content should look like. It all depends on the industry, promotion channel, timing and frequency by which it’s being delivered.
Advice from Mark
"When my clients discover a problem - which could be misinforming their customers or losing sales leads - a strong piece of content will enable conversations in an attempt to reach a solution to the problem at hand. If the content is easily digestible and delivered through the appropriate channel, it can be successful in finding a solution. In my opinion, an effective piece of content consists of the essential who, what, where, when, why information."
Combining content for your sales and marketing teams
During workshops or training sessions with clients, we advise leveraging content for sales and marketing through a content library. This library can serve as a place for marketing to store case studies, white boards, infographics or whatever content they’ve developed for the sales team to pass along to clients. Your sales team can contribute to the library by storing examples of effective content they’ve seen online, for example. A few simple elements to begin your content library are:
- Content that reflects your strategy. You need a clear definition of buyer personas to understand what makes each of your clients different and how they move through the sales cycle. This will give your sales and marketing specialists a better idea of how to appeal to their target audience. You also need to determine who on your team will be developing this content.
- Effective organization. Not only does the content have to be appropriate, it needs to catch your customers’ attention immediately. You can organize your content library by type of content, target audience, messaging, or whatever best fits your content goals.
- Make it easy for both teams to leverage the content. Your library needs to be easy to find for the sales team and up to date. There’s no point in having a library if nothing is current or impossible to access. This can be achieved by storing all relevant content in a clearly labeled folder such as “Sales and Marketing Content Library” in your business’ online server.
Advice from Jonathan
"I always ask my clients, 'what’s the difference between cake and soup recipes'? The answer is a tomato in a pot of water can be classified as soup. Even adding a few more tomatoes or starting with less water is still classified as soup, even though the taste or consistency is different. But if you don’t add the right amount of flour and eggs, mix them in at the wrong time or leave them out entirely, you’ll likely get a pile of mush rather than cake. So when I’m helping my clients think of content strategies, I tell them to think of cake recipes. You need to plan for success, measure the content process and concepts necessary for success. Sales reps are like your taste testers because they can tell if you need more sugar or what color to frost the cake. They can help your team identify where the gaps in information are, the topics of interest and the areas that are under-leveraged."
Content is not a static entity. It should serve a larger purpose than a simple blog post or article for your business’ website. Marketing specialists need to think of content as a tool that’s evergreen rather than a one-time project. Your marketing team could develop a brilliant piece of content to support your sales pipeline, but if it’s not delivered through the appropriate channel or at the wrong time, it’s not going to be effective for either department. Your sales team can help extend the life of your content.
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish with your content strategy standpoint, what defines a solid piece of content is not highlighting what you’re selling, it’s about highlighting why your client needs your business. Your content should always answer the question of “what’s in it for me”? Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, your marketing and sales team support each other through every stage of the funnel, and building a solid content pool will help significantly.
To learn more about how to properly develop a marketing and sales content strategy, contact one of our content strategist experts today.