Content marketing is about building trust not making sales. This long-held marketing truism seems simple enough. But, once you’re at the point where your content needs to start driving the sale, it all becomes a little more complicated. To truly create effective content that enables your B2B sales process, you need to consider the whole picture of your content strategy and the buyer journey it’s designed to support.
Let’s start by distinguishing between these two (equally important) types of content:
Marketing content is designed to attract traffic and generate leads in the awareness stage and into the consideration stage of the buyer journey. It addresses your customer’s goals and challenges, answers questions, and helps them solve problems and weigh their options while forging a relationship with your brand. This content leads with high-level solutions that position your company as a thought leader without pushing the sale.
Marketing content may include:
Sales content takes over as buyers move deeper into the consideration stage and onto the decision stage of their journey. It gives your sales team the tools they need to have meaningful conversations with prospects, demonstrates the value you offer, and, in a complex sales process, helps gatekeepers sell this value through to other key stakeholders in their organization.
Sales content may include:
Now that we understand how each type of content comes into play as you’re working to enable the modern sales process, we can start to explore how to make sure they both work together to fuel the process.
You need to consider the whole picture of your content strategy and the buyer journey it’s designed to support.
To truly do your part when it comes to sales enablement, you’ve got to work with your sales team. They’re on the front lines with your potential customers. They understand the pain points each one faces, the value they see in your brand, and how to message around any objections that might arise. Sit down and meet with them as you start to build out your editorial calendar to ensure they understand how and when to use pieces you’re creating, so they can use them effectively.
Your sales team can help shape top-of-funnel marketing content to ensure leads are qualified and primed for sales conversations. They’ll also be able to tell you what sales content they need to move these qualified leads through the next stages to close the deal.
Keep in mind, depending on the complexity/cost of your product or service, your sales team may take an account-based approach to the process. This means, instead of targeting a single decision-maker, they must appeal to a variety of stakeholders within the organization with account-specific content that speaks to the goals and needs of these individuals. If this is their approach, they’ll want content that appeals to each of these individuals along the entire buyer journey.
Once you know what content you need, someone’s got to create it. This, too, should be a team effort. Rely on the strengths of your sales team to guide content execution. They’re the subject matter experts when it comes to your customers and your marketing team knows how to take this expertise and turn it into meaningful content.
For each piece you create (from ebooks to sell sheets), meet with a key person on your sales team for a quick interview and discuss what your audiences need to know. If your sales team knows you’re working to get them tools that will make their job easier, they’ll be happy to give you 30 minutes of their day to ensure those tools are effective. With this context combined with your marketing team’s brand expertise, you’ll be able to create a suite of pieces that both maintains your brand voice and messaging and fits the stages of the buyer journey. By sticking with your strengths, you’ll have what you need to create content that resonates, and they’ll have what they need to make the sale.
Though sales and marketing both agree content is key in when it comes to enabling sales. It’s been reported that up to 70 percent of this content goes unused. Part of this is because marketers are creating content that doesn’t align with the buyer journey. But you’ve already taken care of that hiccup by asking your sales team to weigh in on the planning and creation of the content. The other hurdle when it comes to creating usable content is organization.
While your marketing team likely knows where every piece of content is, your sales team needs to be kept in the loop. Set up an internal drive or intranet with content organized by topic, audience, and buyer journey phase. Educate your sales team on how to find what they need as they have important conversations with your leads.
As each new piece of content is created, notify your sales team and let them know where it will be housed. This goes for both your sales and marketing content. A marketing blog post about key pain points your audiences face might be just as useful to your sales team as a product sell sheet. But neither will be helpful if they don’t know it exists.
When it comes down to it, the most important aspects of fueling your modern sales process with content is teamwork and communication. Both sales and marketing need each other on the same page. And your audiences need you working together to deliver relevant content that will help them make the right buying decision.