In a recent planning meeting with a client, I was surprised to hear the sales manager complain to the marketing manager. She didn’t think marketing was producing much in the way of good content her sales team could use. In fact, she argued that a major focus for the new year should be producing better quality content.
I had recently worked with the marketing team on creating some amazing content in support of a product launch, designed to be distributed to target audiences, end users, and prospects. Where did all those assets go? What happened to all those hours of creativity, insightful research, and brilliant strategic focus? More to the point, why were the sales teams unaware these quality assets were available and waiting to be shared?
Turns out this issue is common in organizations, potentially feeding the rift between marketing and sales. Marketing teams apply laser focus to the message, audience, and buying cycle, but, when pushing content for distribution, barely consider their internal sales teams.
It reminded me of an experience I had while working on a global marketing team in a Fortune 500 company. We had fine-tuned the product message, developed dynamic examples and graphics, and published engaging new assets for a launch. Only when sales management caught wind of the new release did we realize the launch notice had not been given to their sales teams. Suddenly, we were playing catch-up.
It was a hard lesson when our content survey later told us that less than half of what we developed was being used and distributed by the sales team.
How we made friends with sales
The biggest change we made was to throw open the doors and invite the sales team to the table during the planning and strategyof our next campaign. This became a best practice in our team and was adopted by other marketing groups within the company. These discussions led to the realization that several process gaps impeded the alignment between our teams.
We determined that three major areas should be addressed:
Communication between the teams
Delivery of relevant, useful content sought after by customers
Ease of access so the sales team could put its hands on that content when needed
Communication, collaboration, and consistency
Our first order of business was to set regular meetingsacross teams and get them engaged.
Many teams are distributed across the country or the globe, so we worked with online calendaring tools and web-based conferencing to manage ongoing discussions. We also shared information across an intranet system that notified the sales team of planned releases, updates, launches, and content recently added to the central digital asset management site. These discussions kept the dialogue going and ensured that the right content was being used at the right time.
Bring the content closer to sales
A 2015 reporton sales productivity by Docurated noted that sales reps can spend 31% of their time looking for the content they need. As a director of marketing, I saw a simple solution — content clearly communicated and easily found is content most used. We used the systems on hand, only adding a few new tools to link the content into the process. Keeping the process inside the box eliminated the need for retraining.
Centrally accessed systems work best — Dropbox, file shares, DAM, home-grown intranets. If there is a single location for all sourced content, less time is spent searching and more time spent distributing.
Most CRMs also link to (or offer) a content repository, making it possible to tie content assets directly to the management of accounts, which can be even more convenient for sales teams. Working with Salesforcein my previous company, we found the connection between our content repository and the CRM made for a natural delivery of early- to mid-stage material. If you have the technology, make sure you can track the use of the content. If not, then go out and get it.
Which content works best and why?
For the most part, the sales team needs early-stage content. This should be highly engaging information that helps the sales team differentiate the organization.
According to Mary Byrne, chief operating officer for Personal BlackBox Co. in New York City:
Most important is to keep things short, sweet, and very engaging. Once something is highly tangible, it goes viral in the sales team. And be sure it’s mobile friendly.
Mary monitors which content the salespeople gravitate to — and what they are sharing — to get an insight into the most effective ways to deliver their message.
In my experience, the most-requested materials are e-guides (visual and interactiveweb-based files, less text-intensive), case studies, and blogs— all complemented by a set of social posts to drive traffic.
My clients’ metrics reveal that the consumption of these assets has increased as much as 100% as a result of internal distribution of content. This, in part, is tied to the regular cadence of publishing, but also due to the sources tapped within the organization as subject-matter experts.
Look inside the box to find content enlightenment
As CMOs and heads of marketing are tied closely to business revenue, it’s critical for marketing teams to align with sales to focus on the same. Measurementsare no longer just leads and opportunities and “likes” and shares. There are also conversion rates on those leads, ROI for marketing spend, and consumption rates for the content.
It’s worth taking time to investigate the inner workings of what happens to content inside your organization — in particular, how sales engages with it — and to make sharing with that team the first priority, even before sharing with the audience.
You may find the simple act of opening those lines of communication can develop a world of new opportunities in your marketing plans.
A version of this article originally appeared in the August issue o f Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to their print magazine every quarter.