When you say "content," we say "marketing!"
Content... Marketing... Content...
Your sales team should be on the starting lineup of your content strategy.
They need to be involved in choosing the plays and calling the shots, because they will be the ones responsible for driving it home.
It's rudimentary knowledge to understand the importance of aligning sales and marketing, but there are many ways to actually do it. Sales could act as an advisor or captain the whole ship. Marketing could sit under sales or they could work side-by-side in a continuous loop.
We spoke with 10 marketing executives, and they shared their best practices for involving sales in their content strategies.
Here is what they told us.
To loop together sales and content decisions, Fuze decided to set up two advisory boards: a sales advisory board and a content advisory board.
The sales advisory board is made up of 10 people from the sales organization. This includes individual contributors and senior level executives from all geographies. When marketing develops a content calendar, they run it by this board to get their ideas of what's working and what isn't.
One of the biggest contributions from this board was the move to producing more video and less text. Brian said marketing went from cranking out 3,000 word posts to 800 words or fewer per post.
They also created the content advisory board, which includes sales people, product people, and marketing people from across the company. Brian wanted everyone in the company to be a content contributor, not just the marketing team.
If an idea is in someone's sweet spot, Brian will have them write the piece of content themselves. Marketing helps other team members not get intimidated by a blank screen, while still leveraging their expertise in that specific area.
Sales plays an important role in content decisions for product marketing and sales enablement, especially when it comes to drop off points in the sales funnel.
Dianna and her team analyze their sales funnel and find points where they're seeing the most prospects drop off. She says that the drop off typically happens because something isn't effectively communicated at that stage.
Marketing asks sales what type of content is needed at those crucial drop off points, and sales provides valuable insight...ultimately optimizing the sales funnel and increasing the number of conversions.
Dianna also mentioned that they make sure to involve the success team (technical support) in their content strategy. Your technical support team is getting questions everyday about your product and the industry, making that team a goldmine for interesting topics for new content.
3) Hope Frank, Global Chief Marketing and Digital Officer at Kiosked
At Kiosked, sales runs parallel to the content team, and ensures that whatever content is produced is in line with their conversations in the field.
Hope tells us that they believe in full integration between sales and marketing, which created a continuous cycle that feeds off insights from both sides.
Both teams work together to identify the topics that are most timely and relevant to address.
Ivan told us that Jibe's marketing team takes input from sales on what they hear from clients.
Sales is most useful to them for ideation to know what sales thinks is relevant for the market, and to know the topics that specific buyer personas are talking about.
This method is particularly true for long-form content.
Kraig says that their sales organization's chief role in their content strategy is feedback.
Sales interacts with prospects on a daily basis, so they provide marketing with the list of things people want to talk about. Sales is helpful when deciding on words that resonate with a particular group, and how best to communicate with potential users across different geographies, companies, sizes, and industries.
They create a feedback loop through dedicated reports in Salesforce. From that, marketing can sort by industry, geography, company size, close date, and other indicators to gain knowledge about sales conversations.
Campaign Monitor creates content based on different industries, so they can use industry language and keywords. They can also see free form notes on what the discussions were about, the specific product their prospects are interested in, objections, types of questions asked, etc.
They even structured their physical office space so that 90% of the sales organization sits on the same floor as 90% of the marketing organization. With that setup, face-to-face meetings naturally happen on a regular basis.
Kate told us that marketing sits under sales at Dstillery.
The content that the marketing team creates is required to stay consistent with the conversations that the sales team is having with prospects. To make sure the consistency is there, the content editorial team includes a variety of people from the sales team.
In addition to working together during the editing process, both teams also collaborate to iron out the overall content strategy for Dstillery.
For Nintex, Kim has realized that most people want educational content at the top of the funnel, not so much product content.
It's easy to talk about yourself all day, but it's a lot harder to provide content that is genuinely educational and doesn't look self-promotional.
Sales brings their insight to marketing, which leads to the production of more educational content.
Thomas found that salespeople do a ton of marketing, and have almost become scouts for the marketing organization at TIBCO.
Salespeople are talking to customers all day long, and for TIBCO, the sales team acts as a network that can provide content suggestions or sometimes even create the content.
Sales gives input on new things and helps marketing understand what's relevant to their audience. This is their secret to identifying trends before competitors.
The sales team may not be experts in every domain, but they have knowledge and receive input from all across the globe.
At Lavante, Tom told us that their sales and marketing VPs have conversations every single day.
Tom put it this way: On the road, marketing is the rockstar. But in the office, marketing is a servant to the larger organization and understands what sales needs.
At Lavante, if sales has direct content requests, those get bumped up to the top of the priority stack. Marketing always has an existing stack, but when they get a request from sales, marketing basically stops what they're working on and re-prioritizes around what sales needs.
This structure also comes with honest conversations. Sales may ask for marketing material that might not actually contribute to a sale, which results in busy work for marketing.
Sales has to be able to show a demonstrable conversion from one bucket to the next. This level of communication presents the question - "What's going to move the needle? What does sales absolutely need?"
They don't just get any new piece of shiny collateral they want; it has to move the needle. There must be a trust factor between the teams.
Marketing also reports to the sales team every week about the content calendar, updates on new collateral, new initiatives, what experts they're speaking to, and specific content metrics.
Utpal takes his team at Neo Technology through an exercise called Key Adoption Blockers.
He has sales help marketing understand how far they are taking the buyer, and then the types of objections they face in the sales cycle (broken down by personas).
Then marketing asks sales questions like - "How comfortable do you feel talking about xyz?" This exposes the weak areas that salespeople don't feel confident in.
With this knowledge, marketing arms them with content that they can use with a decision maker and feel confident about the value their company brings to the table.
Sales also helps marketing tailor content for specific functional groups or industries.
When it comes to your content strategy, connecting sales and marketing goes way beyond the cliche feud between the two teams. You can't have one without the other.
In order to provide content your potential customers actually care about, sales must inform marketing and marketing must aid sales. A feedback loop must exist.
Figure out what methods work best for your company, test, iterate, and see what moves the needle.
Once you get your sales and marketing partnership established, your content will never be the same.
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast production service for B2B companies. He's a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show: a podcast dedicated to helping B2B executives achieve explosive growth.