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How to Forge a Stronger Relationship Between Sales and Content Marketing

 

In an ideal world, your company has a truly close alignment between sales and marketing, and communication flows like a river between these teams. In reality, however, there are going to be gaps in communication and collaboration.

Despite those potential gaps in alignment, content marketing can help boost sales when deployed appropriately. It can lead to stronger client relationships, more engaged prospects, and sometimes just gives you an excuse to reach out again.

As a sales professional, how do you ensure you’re getting the most out of your marketing team’s efforts? As a marketer, how can you help your sales team by creating and sharing the right kinds of content?

Let’s start with a story.

This is a real (but anonymized) example from a win our team had not too long ago.

A prospect engaged with a salesperson and had a few positive conversations. Then, the deal stalled due to external budget circumstances. But the salesperson persistently kept in touch with the prospect. He often used content created by the marketing team as an excuse to reach out.

After a few of these touches, the prospect sought out a few additional pieces of content from the company’s website. The salesperson saw these interactions and continued to keep in touch until finally, the conversation turned toward back to buying.

Not long after, the salesperson negotiated a deal valued at more than $750,000. It took nearly a year after that first conversation, but the repeated light touch with relevant and engaging content kept the company top of mind for the prospect so that when she was finally ready to buy, the salesperson was ready to close the deal.

Content didn’t make this deal happen. But it helped create opportunities for the salesperson to stay in touch and contributed to a stronger relationship that paid off in the end. Here’s how you can use content marketing to nurture your prospect relationships.

Sales: How can you make better use of your marketing team’s content resources?

A good salesperson knows how to deliver value in every prospect interaction, and that the value of a strong relationship can pay off in higher deal values. One great way to add value to the sales process is by sharing the right content at the right time. Here’s how.

1. Stay up-to-date on your company’s marketing resources.

Hopefully, your marketing team has been sharing new content as it’s published and making the content catalog available internally. Spend some time reviewing what’s available and how you can use it to your advantage.

If they haven’t shared these resources internally, you can sign up for your own company’s marketing newsletter or browse the public resources page on your company’s website. Either way, be sure you know what the marketing team is publishing.

2. Have a chat with someone on the marketing team.

How well do you know the members of your marketing team? They will likely have additional context to help you position content resources more effectively. They may have tips on what content is the most unique or most interesting. Ask them questions about the best resources for new prospects versus those closer to the decision stage.

3. Attend company webinars.

Sign up for your marketing team’s public-facing webinars. Even if you can’t attend at the time they’re aired live, most teams will send a recording later.

Listen to the experts the marketing team brings in, the points they discuss, and most importantly, the questions attendees – potential customers – ask. Use this intel to inform your own outreach.

4. Add content to your outreach sequences.

Make a plan for when and how you might use content in your sales process. Are there certain pieces you know will appeal to most prospects? Or are there pieces that address a particular issue some prospects encounter? Know your buyer’s journey and how your company’s available content maps to that (more on this shortly).

When you include a relevant resource as a value-add to your outreach sequences, add a note about how it’s relevant to the prospect. Personalize it as much as you can. Connect the content to the contact.

5. Provide feedback back to the marketing team.

As a salesperson, you talk to prospective customers every day. You probably learn a lot about their work and their problems. When you send content to a prospect, they’ll probably share their thoughts about it with you. How can you relay that information back to the marketing team?

Consider asking yourself these questions:

  • Is there content you’d like to use but don’t have? What topics are missing from the current resource library?
  • How do prospects respond to the content you send? What feedback do they have?
  • Are there content formats you’d prefer?
  • How do your performance metrics look when you include content? Do your emails get more opens or clicks? Are you more likely to get a reply?

Marketing: How can you make content more impactful for sales?

A good marketer knows their ideal customer profile, what that customer is looking for at every stage in the buyer journey, and how to create content targeted for every stage of that journey. So how can you ensure that content gets to the right person at the time, especially after that contact has been handed off to sales?

1. Make content easy to access.

Just as you plan an external distribution strategy for your content, you need to plan an internal distribution strategy as well. This starts with an accessible internal content library. Whether you use a shared Dropbox folder or something more sophisticated, you should have one place for all your current public-facing content.

Include a searchable index of your content so pieces are categorized by buyer journey stage, topic, content type, ideal audience.

Above all, don’t just direct the sales team to your company’s public resources page. The easier it is for a salesperson to find the piece of content they need, the more likely they are to use that content.

2. Communicate the content’s value.

As much as marketers would like to believe otherwise, most people inside an organization are not actually going to read every company eBook or watch every video. So it’s up to you to make sure your teammates know what to do with your content.

For every piece of major content, consider preparing the following to enable the sales team use that content most effectively:

  • Executive summary or list of key takeaways
  • Positioning tips for the sales team
  • Ideal audience profile
  • Links to related content if someone wants to learn more

3. Share new content regularly.

This may sound simple, but you need to tell your sales team when you publish new content. Send regular updates about recent content and tips for how to use it. Send a weekly email, set up a Slackbot, schedule monthly reviews – whatever works best for your organization. Remind the sales team what they have to work with.

You should also tease what content is coming up, especially if your team is working on a major project. This gives the sales team time to plan how they might use it or even use it as a talking point with prospects, like a preview or sneak peek that only they know about.

4. Take feedback from sales seriously.

Marketing leaders should check in regularly with sales for feedback on how they’re using the content and how prospects have responded. Salespeople are on the front lines, talking to prospects and customers every single day. They may have feedback that can help you understand how content is performing in the real world.

Sales can be a great source of inspiration for future content topics and formats. Listen and learn.

5. Know how your content performs down-funnel.

You hopefully already measure awareness and lead conversion with metrics like views, downloads, demo sets, and sales accepted opportunities, but you also need to know what happens to your content when prospects engage with it.

What is your contribution to actual revenue?

There’s a lot marketers can learn from your company’s sales data. Dig into metrics like the following to understand the larger context of your content.

  • Demos held. How many demos are held relative to how many were requested or set?
  • Close rate. How many deals close successfully?
  • Opportunity age. How long does it take to close a deal?
  • Retention. What percentage of accounts or revenue are retained at renewal?
  • LTV. How much is a customer worth over their lifetime with your company?

To know what content contributes to sales, answer questions about what the opportunities associated with a piece of content look like. Do they behave differently than the typical opportunity in your company’s sales pipeline?

Sales and marketing: What kind of content works best when?

We typically associate content marketing with the awareness stage of the funnel. It’s written to attract new leads, not nurture them through the sales process.

But the reality is that an effective content marketing strategy will address customers throughout your company’s entire sales funnel. There should be content for every buyer at every stage in their journey.

Awareness

In the awareness stage, you mostly want prospects to know you exist and what you do at a high level. Aim for discoverability and credibility.

Content for generating awareness can mention your product, but shouldn’t be product-focused. In fact, the less it mentions your company or product, the more credible it will seem.

It should be engaging and informative and focus on topics like industry trends and further your company’s thought leadership. That includes content like:

  • Blog posts
  • Gated content about trends in your industry
  • Thought leadership published in external sources
  • Product launches
  • Earned media and press

Consideration

In the consideration stage, you want prospects to get to know more about your company and your products. Your goals are persuasion and commitment.

Content at this stage should make a compelling case for why your product is the best and why someone would want to do business with your company. This is especially effective if you can show how someone similar to your potential customer succeeded with your product. You need quantitative data and a good story. Try content like:

  • Case studies
  • Ratings, reviews, and testimonials
  • Research papers based on exclusive data
  • Webinars

Decision

In the decision stage, you want prospects to choose you and feel good about it. The goal is confirmation.

This content should be focused on cementing the decision your prospect is this close to making. Demonstrate your product and your company’s competence. Show credibility. Provide them with content that helps them to say yes. This includes:

  • Product-focused guides and webinars
  • Analyst reports about your industry or company
  • Product comparisons
  • Case studies

Sales and content marketing go together like cheese and wine

They’re both good, but they’re even better together. The best sales professionals are closely connected to their colleagues in marketers, and the best marketers are closely connected to their colleagues in sales.

They both know how content contributes to the sales pipeline, who their audience is, and what they’re looking for at every stage of their journey. Using that, content marketers can produce content that generates quantifiable value for a company, and salespeople can use that content when and how it will be most impactful. An effective content marketing program can help boost sales and keep prospects engaged.

The bottom line:

  • Salespeople: Get to know your company’s content resources, and use them to add value to your outreach.
  • Marketing: Get to know your sales team and sales process, and support them both with relevant content that helps move a prospect down the funnel.

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