The lack of sales and marketing alignment has been a top pain point for B2B organizations for decades. But one element that is continually missing from the conversation is content; specifically, close collaboration between B2B marketing and sales teams to develop digital content that fuels the buyer journey.
Each profession brings unique skills to the table: sales reps understand customer needs first-hand, and marketers bring data insights and content creation skills. Now, the challenge lies in how to properly marry these teams, harnessing their combined strengths to enhance the buyer journey.
In this blog post, we explore how to bridge your marketing and sales team through collaborative content planning, development, and measurement to tighten team alignment and boost content performance.
Siloed Teams Deliver Lackluster Results
In the digital-first age, sales and marketing need to redefine their relationship. The marketing-to-sales hand-off after initial lead gen doesn’t work anymore. The digital buyer journey does not follow a linear path that previously supported the old model of tossing MQLs over the fence to sales. Today, sales and marketing must collaborate throughout the entire buyer journey. Sales needs to be more involved at the top of the funnel, and marketing at the bottom, recognizing that buyers now spend most of their time doing research (i.e., consuming content) on their own.
A new survey report from the CMO Council underscores this Tendo POV by what its findings say—and what they don’t say.
- 70% of marketers don’t feel confident in their current sales and marketing model to sell effectively in the digitalized customer journey.
- 60% of marketers say marketing and sales don’t co-own customer strategy and data.
- 61% of marketers say fragmented technology across marketing, sales, and service restrains sales-marketing alignment.
Even though the report outlines initiatives for how sales and marketing alignment must change to support digital, self-reliant buyers—such as defining shared KPIs or collaborating on campaigns—there is not a single mention of content, or how sales-marketing collaboration can produce more connected, engaging, and relevant content.
Content: The Glue that Connects Marketing and Sales
Today, marketing and sales teams must work together to collaborate on persona development, ABM campaigns, sales enablement content, high-value assets, webinars, and more. Together they can shape and improve the content experience at each customer touchpoint. However, collaboration for collaboration’s sake rarely succeeds—it requires tight integration from the start with extreme focus on shared business outcomes.
To bridge the gap between marketing and sales with content, collaboration must be:
We’ve all heard the phrase “random acts of content,” the dreaded scenario that occurs when teams go rogue and create content to meet their short-term objectives. This often fosters poor results because the content does not align with the broader strategy. To improve marketing and sales alignment, content planning should be collaborative from the start, ensuring sales and marketing are fully aligned on the content objective, what content will be created, who will create it, and when it will be published.
- Case in point: A marketing leader at a SaaS company learned that their sales team was refusing to follow up on MQLs generated from a 60-page eBook. After addressing this issue directly with the sales team, the marketing team—with input from sales—divided the eBook into smaller “chapters” targeted to specific industries. This significantly boosted conversion rates, as well as sales’ willingness to follow up on opportunities generated by the eBooks. By including sales in the process at the start, you avoid wasting your precious marketing budget creating siloed content that does not perform.
Often, marketing and sales are sitting on top of a mountain of data, individually housed in walled-off, disconnected platforms. Without shared visibility into all this data, each team will struggle to gather the insights needed to inform the content plan. Both marketing and sales must come to the table to share insights that will help them drive better business outcomes together.
- Case in point: A B2B marketing leader, sales ops leader, and data analytics expert collaborated on the development of an interactive Tableau “funnel report.” The report enabled sales and marketing to drill down on each funnel and sales pipeline stage and determine which content generated quality leads that converted to sales opportunities. This shifted the sales team’s focus from questioning marketing data, to having a collaborative discussion on ways to improve conversions through content and content marketing campaigns.
Developing content that incorporates customers’ needs from the start takes internal biases out of the conversation. Since sales is on the front line every day talking to prospects and customers, they are a key stakeholder in this process and can help marketing adopt an “outside-in” mindset. Sales has a unique perspective that marketing can benefit from to determine which accounts to target, who is on the buying committee, buyer roles, pain points, and objections. In addition, marketing and sales can also collaborate on mapping content to the buyer journey, based on buyer roles and each persona’s information needs at every stage.
- Case in point: A data security company produced a complex and expensive solution that had a multi-year sales cycle. Marketing struggled to develop the right content for the product due to the challenge of finding third-party research that would help them understand buying patterns for this specialized solution. The sales team gave marketing access to Gong—a revenue intelligence platform—that allowed them to listen to recordings of actual sales conversations with prospects. This helped the marketing team understand prospects’ pain points and enabled the team to quickly identify opportunities to address those challenges through new content, such as solution guides and FAQs. The result? The marketing team learned to articulate customer needs from a customer or “outside-in” perspective, improving their relations with sales.
Collaboration efforts must be measurable to identify what’s working, what’s not working, and what should be changed. Shared goals and KPIs are a great way to measure how marketing and sales are working together and hold them accountable as one team rather than separate functions.
- Case in point: A technology company adopted an ABM approach, requiring the marketing and sales teams to work in small groups, called “pods,” that were based on high priority accounts in a specific industry. Each pod had to first agree on how to measure success and develop KPIs. The pods worked cohesively on persona development, buyer journey mapping, and content planning. As a result, the pods’ success was not attributed to individual marketing or sales employees, but rather as a collective team working on the same goals. Over time, the ability to measure the impact of the “pods” vs individual teams, proved that collaboration—when done well—delivers better results.
Get Started with a Shared Content Creation Process
How do you start bridging your marketing and sales teams through content development? We have found that successful teams follow the formula below.
First, allow your marketing operations and sales operations leaders to drive the content creation process by:
- Establishing joint content planning guidelines, meetings, and regular check-ins.
- Creating content planning and reporting templates.
- Developing dashboards and reports.
- Managing editorial calendars and project plans.
Second, let your content marketing and sales development teams implement the process by:
- Creating a shared content plan that addresses buyers’ needs across their journey.
- Developing content that includes both sales and marketing perspectives.
- Using tools to gather data and collect insights on content performance (e.g., Gong, Seismic).
Are you ready to improve the relevance and performance of your content by increasing collaboration between marketing and sales teams? Reach out to Tendo to learn more about how to develop content creation processes that will drive alignment.
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