Is Content Marketing the Missing Link Between Sales and Marketing?

One thing I like about engaging with my social networks is being able to ask questions and get people’s thoughts on issues, problems, and trends. Recently, I asked on Twitter, “Do marketing and sales still have trouble working together?” The answer was particularly telling: “No. They just do it badly.”

In many organizations, the challenge of marketing and sales operating in silos has been an ongoing one. Sales doesn’t trust marketing to help them. They feel that since marketing personnel aren’t in the trenches, they can’t truly understand what customers want. Marketing, meanwhile, doesn’t trust sales to deliver the accurate marketplace data needed to provide effective leads and sales tools. They view sales as renegades — they don’t get the message, position, and value of the brand and frequently go off and do their own thing.

So there you have it — a major impasse. As a result, the organization suffers because an MQL (marketing qualified lead) and a sales lead tend to be miles apart.

I guess you could call me an optimist because deep down I think marketing and sales want to work together. After all, they need each other to be successful. One thing is certain — there is a missing link preventing sales and marketing from achieving that goal.

Content marketing can help bridge this gap. But in order to be effective, it has to be methodical, on point, and on brand. Skip Bestoff, CEO of InboundWriter, has said that “in content marketing and online publishing, the subjective ‘hit or miss’ approach is a ‘miss’ 80 to 90 percent of the time.” That number seems high, even to me, but it does seem to substantiate sales’ claim that marketing doesn’t understand whom the target customer is and how they can be helped. Add to that Marketing Sherpa‘s estimations that more than 75% of marketing leads don’t convert to sales.

There can be many reasons for this disconnect, but the following come to mind first:

-Marketing and sales are not working together.
-Marketing’s research is not thorough enough or accurate enough, resulting in the wrong content reaching the wrong person at the wrong time.
-The storytelling of the brand and/or product may not be genuine enough or well-written enough to truly connect and resonate with customers and prospects.

Here are three ways marketing can help address these problems and ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction.

1) Get Sales Management Buy-In

It is really important for sales management to understand the value of content marketing and its direct benefit to them.

Two key metrics that will help make the case are:

-It costs about 62% less to acquire a customer through content marketing efforts than other acquisition efforts.
-By the time a prospect contacts sales, they are typically more than 75% through their decision-making process.

Be ready to show sales some examples of what companies in your vertical are doing with content marketing and the results they are getting. Marketing needs to remember that sales is their internal customer and in order to gain their trust, marketing must be willing to genuinely listen and help sales do their job.

2) Conduct a Content Audit

Pull together every piece of marketing content and other content that is being used to acquire and retain customers. Create a content audit spreadsheet listing such things as:

-Content name
-Content Type
-When is this content used (which phase of the buying cycle)?
-Is this content used in combination with other content? If so, which ones?
-When was the content last updated?
-Who owns the content and updates it?
-Where does the content reside?
-Include any metrics or input you may have about the content

3) Collaborate with Sales

The sales team is looking for marketing to help them do their job. Keeping in mind that sales is their customer, marketing must listen to sales’ issues and needs, and get sales’ feedback on the content that is and isn’t working, not to mention who the buyer really is and how they can be helped.

Marketing’s biggest tool and best competitive advantage is sales input. Working with sales in concert to develop content that is laser-focused and resonates with their target audience will help everyone involved in the customer acquisition process (including the customers) be more successful.

A version of this post appeared on OpenView Marketing Lab.

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