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Where Should Content Marketing End and Sales Begin?

You’ve heard of trees falling in forests and not making a sound, yes? The concept can apply to content marketing as well. Let’s say you have a big, heavy, beautiful “tree” — i.e., a piece of content that really hits. It informs. It educates. It could be ideal for early-stage funnel work and even has some value later in the funnel. It’s a work of art. It’s a 200-year-old redwood of content marketing efforts.

It’s released. It’s live. It’s launched. It has “fallen,” in a way. The sound should be majestic as it reaches inboxes and eyeballs and people begin to flood in with questions and conversations about your product/service.

But … nothing happens. There is no sound. There’s not even a whimper; certainly no thud.

This was a beautiful, majestic “tree” of content. Why is the release so quiet?

The Case of the Disappearing Content

Start by taking a look at this chart:

That’s the number of posts published on WordPress websites from 2006 to 2015. See how it continues to grow? Since 2015, that trend has continued. As you can see above, May 2015 had about 58 million total posts on WordPress sites; that’s now up to about 70 million total per month, which isn’t even taking into account sites like Medium or social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, etc. There’s a ton of content out there.

But has people’s supply of time to consume that content really increased? Did we scale up from 24 available hours in a day?

No. There is a massive supply and demand problem in content marketing.

But still, your beautiful redwood. It should have cut through all that clutter. You dug deep to create your personas, and you built an editorial calendar and amplification strategy that is perfectly aligned. Even your editors are top-notch. They embody your brand and work with the best writers in the industry. What happened? You did everything right. Or so you thought.

The Missing Ingredient

In our experience, content strategies that miss their mark are usually missing one key ingredient: marketing and sales alignment.

Why is integrating sales so important?

  • Salespeople have the knowledge. They actually know the customers and talk to prospects every day.
  • Salespeople can get the content into the hands of potential customers. They have huge networks. It’s their job.
  • Your sales team is a great barometer of good content. They know which leads convert and why.

Why is this relationship sometimes fraught?

There are a lot of reasons, but we’ll keep it to a few core examples:

  • Different incentives: Sales and Marketing are often evaluated differently as departments. It can even get confusing down to MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) vs. SQLs (sales-qualified leads). The leaders of each department typically have different incentive structures, and that alignment harms the potential for collaboration. Also consider that salespeople often operate in a more pressurized week-to-week environment than content marketers: Hit this number or your job is in danger down the road. As a result, Sales tends to employ more immediate strategies, whereas effective content marketing can look further down the road.
  • The classic argument: “They don’t understand what we do!” Content Marketing says “Our content is great. It’s just that Sales doesn’t use it!” Sales replies: “We can’t use this stuff. And the leads you’re piping over to us are old and cold!”
  • Lack of communication: We’re siloed. Sales and Marketing are often separate departments with separate teams and leadership. That creates barriers to collaboration and integrated strategies.

Those are some of the issues. Now let’s see if we can resolve them.

The Ideal Relationship Between Sales and Marketing

In the broadest terms, a success story between these two teams hinges on success in a few key areas:

Personas and purchase cycles

Remember: Content marketing teams are not often included on sales calls (although that can be very beneficial, so consider that periodically). Because they’re not on sales calls, they may not inherently understand the different personas of people Sales is talking to — and what someone seems concerned about at each stage of the purchase cycle. Sales and Content Marketing need to work hand in hand on these concepts. If Marketing creates personas without Sales’ input, the personas will be wrong. There’s no other way to say that. If the personas aren’t accurate, your content won’t be relevant or compelling. It just goes into the internet vacuum.

Now, if the personas are developed with marketing and sales alignment, and Sales is saying, “OK, this type of person needs this type of asset early in the purchase cycle. Later, they need … ,” now the process is informed. Now the content is geared toward stuff your audience values and Sales can use. Each side is benefiting.

Editorial calendar

Topics and your editorial calendar are typically developed based on your overall value proposition, supporting proof points, industry trends, etc. Who can help make sure it’s on target? That’s right. Sales. An important component of good content strategy is the creation of an editorial board that has strong representation from Sales. Just like with personas and purchase cycles, Sales can help guide the topics and cadence of content.

Events

Events aggregate a large amount of content that seems to vanish into thin air as soon as the event is over. Why can’t we capture all that great content and give it a life online? In fact, let’s integrate all your events with your editorial calendar to seed the event, enhance the experience, and capture the key stories and highlights for amplification ongoing.

Shared metrics

Where does your MAP end and your CRM begin? Marketing automation platforms (MAPs) and customer relationship management platforms (CRMs) should be fully integrated.

Unfortunately, even within F100 companies, this is often not the case. Sales and Marketing would benefit from integrating their key performance metrics across the entire purchase cycle, from click-throughs to contract negotiations. This ensures a holistic view of the customer journey and enables optimization within the context of the complete customer experience.

Leadership

Aligning sales and content marketing is not easy. Many companies don’t get it right. And there are hundreds of companies around the world still tracking Instagram impressions as a metric of relevance or funding “transactional” events for prospects who are still in the awareness phase. This is not easy stuff. But sales and marketing leadership can make it easier by committing first to better communication between departments. They should be sharing information, discussing areas for improvement, and talking about big wins from both sides. It simply won’t happen if leadership is not driving it.

So keep creating those beautiful content trees. In fact, you should be creating a content forest; a national park of great content that addresses every persona at each stage of the purchase cycle. Just don’t do it in a vacuum. Salespeople have so many insights they can share and vice versa. When we take a comprehensive view of the customer journey, we will create better content and sales experiences.

To learn more about sales-and-marketing alignment and strategies, contact D Custom.

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