While that’s an impressive number, only 9% of survey respondents felt it was “very effective,” while 33% said “effective.” That tells me people are jumping on the bandwagon without clear strategies, tactics, or implementation.
So that we’re all on the same page, let’s start with defining what we mean by content marketing. Or, more appropriately, how Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, which publishes the annual B2B survey, defines it:
“Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
This content can take any number of forms: blog posts, videos, white papers, printed or electronic books, infographics, case studies, emails, newsletters, articles, and so on.
Even though it plays a valuable and critical role in today’s marketing mix, content marketing is often misunderstood by those in sales. I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time a sales rep has said: “That’s just a download; what am I supposed to do with it?”
Given all the investment and focus being spent on content marketing, the only way to make an impact — to drive profitable customer action — is for marketing and sales to be in sync and supporting each other.
Here are a few tips to better align marketing and sales to optimize a content-based marketing approach.
- Survey the sales team to get input on what support materials they would like to see from marketing and to glean insights from their daily experience with clients, prospects, the market, and even competitors in the field. Not only will you get more buy-in and alleviate a “throw-it-over-the-wall” approach, but the marketing team also will benefit from greater exposure to the overall business environment, enabling them to create more relevant content.
- Communicate the content strategy and publish an editorial calendar. Sharing your strategy is a critical step for successful alignment with sales. Give them a copy of the editorial calendar so they can plan related activities around the launch of specific content.
- Create relevant content. Make sure to feature content that is relevant to your company and products and services. Don’t make it hard for the sales team to relate the value of marketing content to their targets; even the best content can distract from the sale if it’s not relevant to what the company offers.
- Make sure sales can find the content. If the materials are just thrown into a folder on a network, no one will know where it is or what a specific piece is about. At Richardson, we use SAVO’s Sales Content Pro to house and manage all of our content. This is a great tool to tag and provide information about the content, which is linked to the appropriate stage in the selling process, which brings me to the next point…
- Have a strategy that creates content appropriate for each stage of the selling process. Content should be different for each stage of the sales process: qualification, discovery, proposal, presentation, and close. What’s relevant for prospecting is not the same when sales is presenting or expanding a relationship. Make sure marketing fully understands the buying and selling process to ensure the content will support the acquisition of new customers and growing value with existing ones.