When organizations think of sales and marketing alignment, one of the main things they often focus on is demand generation. Additionally, content has grown as a critical component in successful selling, so companies must now take steps to align around content as well.
It is important for sales and marketing teams to gain alignment and create content that leads to sales effectiveness. They must work together to deliver on the promise of content selling. Marketing must agree to move beyond demand generation in terms of their content strategy and build content designed for use within entire funnel including the sales process. Alternatively, Sales must agree to use the designated content and provide feedback on the items that are working and the items that are not working. The continuous communication will not only lead to effective content, but true sales and marketing alignment.
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Craig Rosenberg of Knowledgetree.com outlined a recommended process for sales and marketing content alignment:
1. Co-develop buyer personas – The most important element in content selling is understanding what content your buyer values the most. Both sales and marketing must develop personas together and agree on the characteristics of each persona. This exercise will not only inform content, but also provide invaluable data for messaging and sales plays.
2. Map the buying experience – Map out your personas’ preferred buying experience, which means map out how these targets make tend to make their purchases. For your content selling strategy, you will want to understand the content preferences for each step of the buyers journey. The critical information needed to build the buying experience map should come from target buyers, sales, and historic sales and marketing data.
3. Map content – Map out the content you will deliver across each buying stage. The goal is to provide content that helps the buyer move from one step to the next. Like every phase of your content strategy, the content map should be built collaboratively.
4. Have a dedicated content resource –In order for content selling to be successful, there needs to be a team of one or more people who are dedicated to not only building content but this team needs to be held responsible for the delivery, execution and success of the content selling strategy. Furthermore, this content resource needs to interact with sales on a regular basis to optimize the program and keep the communication open between sales and marketing.
5. Collaboratively prioritize content — Even with a dedicated resource, you will not be able to create all the assets you need immediately. There are three important things to remember when trying to overcome this challenge: (1)crowdsource from other outlets, (2)re-purpose existing content, and (3)ask sales to rank their content needs. Create an editorial calendar to establish an expectation for sales of what they will receive and when they will receive it.
6. Train sales — For sales to be effective using content, organizations should invest in training sales on:
- What content to use
- Who to deliver it to
- Why they need it
- When to deliver it
- How to deliver it
Many marketers are surprised at the level of engagement from sales during these training sessions. Marketing often creates incredible content that goes unused and the assumpion is that Sales just doesn’t care. Most often, the issue is that Sales didn’t know how to use it or even where to find it.
7. Develop a new content hand-off process – It is important to have a process for making Sales aware when new content has been released and allot at least 15 minutes of training for them on the “who, what, when, and how.” Remember, sales wants content, but they also have to understand what to do with it.
8. Provide content selling tools and automation – One of the problems that organizations have in terms of content is how best to store it in a single, easy-to-access repository. Content should be easily accessed from a CRM or CMS application. This application should have the ability to track content activity, both internally and externally. Organizations need to be able to measure who internally is utilizing the content and also how customers are responding to the content that is sent.
9. Create a feedback loop –Set up bi-weekly meetings between sales and the content team to review metrics, allow sales to provide anecdotal feedback, go over the editorial calendar, and make suggestions for new content pieces. The most important thing is that the meeting happens on a regular basis and both sides are committed to attending and actively participating.
10. Optimize – Strategies are written in pencil not pen, they are meant to change and be adjusted. Optimize the program based on metrics and feedback. If sales is seeing new trends in the buying experience that requires a new set of content to help close business, then the editorial calendar must change. If a piece of content isn’t working, find out why. If both sides are committed to making the program more effective, you could see a continued lift in results which ultimately leads to more revenue.