130826_content_marketing_sales-02Some time ago, I made some observations stemming from my stint in B2B solutioning on how the marketing and sales functions in an organization can overlap and complement each other. But is function everything?

While not all marketers are content marketers, those that are, surprisingly, can do more than a bit to help their often-estranged sales cousins in the line of fire. Content marketing isn’t just a tool to attract interest or demonstrate your organization’s expertise.

A mind once stretched…

There are other things you can achieve with content. One of them is directly helping the sales reps do their jobs (as opposed to only targeting the customer).

Your mission defines your focus. Take a look at the content you’ve been putting out so far – how much of it is doing ‘just that’? There’s a frequent perception that marketing only comes in at certain stages of the buying cycle – like finding and qualifying leads, before handing them off to be courted and converted.

The problem is, if you set out to create content for those purposes, you’ll likely create content for those and little else. Content marketing can and should be used as part of an overarching strategy, providing collateral and tools that act as sales aids as well as educating customers – as well as saving the reps time spent cooking up their own, which may not be in line with your organization’s direction.

Tunnel vision is seldom a good thing. Look beyond the scope your content has been restricted to and remind yourself that other resources – slide decks, cheat sheets, review compilations – can be just as helpful to the sales folks as they can be to a client.

Don’t hobble your allies

Content isn’t just for the customers, either.

No, really. Imagine the mortification when little or none of all that rich, resonant, useful information you’ve been putting out to them is known to their sales reps.

It’s crucial for you to arm the sales with the same knowledge you’ve been giving to their customers and prospects. It may sound basic, but it has to be stressed: taking it for granted that the reps know what their customers do can be a huge mistake, especially if content marketing has been working well for you!

Effort has to be made to ensure the sales folks are following what you’re putting out. Otherwise? There’s every chance they’ll not bother – or they’re likely to focus on what’s less relevant. Even if they do know, again, you need to be in sync with them so everybody’s on the same wavelength. So they know the right things.

Who feels comfortable working with somebody whose left hand doesn’t know what their right hand are doing? Don’t put your own side down and hurt conversion chances.

Content that blurs the line

That’s one of the very real and pertinent reasons why sales and marketing traditionally ‘don’t mix’. But those aside, one of the places this issue rears its head the most is – surprise – content.

Thought leadership is useful for a business and valuable to customers, but it’s not always all it can be. What happens when, as a buyer, a marketer tells you how a solution will solve your problem, only to be followed by a sales rep who goes into detail on what exactly the solution does? This: nobody selling you on how those details solve your problem, or why, indeed, you should buy it from them.

That’s why good marketing content always comes with a variable dose of sales-speak. A piece of content not only has to cover an offering’s pros, it also has to assist sales by showing readers how those pros add value. Why expound on high-brow issues if you can’t relate them to the ground?

Get out of the armchair

This is worth repeating, if in a slightly different context. Unless you’re a marketer in some sort of deviant organizational structure where marketing sells and sales evangelizes, it’s the latter role whose job it is to know the customer inside and out.

Much has been written about the ‘silo mentality’ and disconnection between departments in the same company, but the heart of the matter is really much simpler to define: you’re not always right when you think you know the audience best.

Truly relevant content stems not only from what subjects resonate most with customers, but how those subjects are put across. Remember, each customer is different. Whether you’re personalizing content for one or creating catch-all content for many, you need front-line insight into how they consume content and what they look for in it to add those little touches that convince.

As a content marketer, your own sales folks are targets as well. And they win deals by getting out on the streets, by knowing what the customers want. Unless you can do the former, leverage those personal relationships reps have with their clients to get the latter.

Yes, content marketing is a strategic, long-haul thing. But by also using it as sales enablement, especially in B2B environments, an organization can reap dual benefits from the same source. Are there more? Tell us below.

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