4 Ways Marketers Can Use Content to Work Smarter with Sales

July 30, 2018


Research by SiriusDecisions shows that optimized sales and marketing alignment can drive anywhere from five to 36% of a company’s growth. Conversely, the same research shows that companies with subpar alignment achieve subpar performance.

With so much on the line, it’s understandable why business leaders are doing whatever they can to get these teams to work in harmony.

According to research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and LinkedIn, the answer (or at least part of it) may lie in something you’re already doing: content marketing. Here are four ways you can use content to work more closely with sales.

1. Invite Sales to Contribute to the Content Strategy

Research has shown that as much as 80% of marketing content goes unused by sales. Maybe it’s because salespeople believe that marketing creates content in a vacuum. If the sales team is never consulted, why would they think otherwise?

Both marketing and sales need to believe in the credibility and value of the content they share with potential customers. That means content should reflect a deep understanding of the ideal buyer. It starts by collaborating to define those buyers, and then determining how content can address their top concerns, challenges, goals, and aspirations. By documenting a shared understanding and key topics to cover, marketing and sales pave the way for content that sales will use and prospects will consume.

As you figure out the best formats for your content, keep in mind the following preferences at each stage of the buying process according to the 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report from DemandGen Report.

2. Make it Easy to Find Content

Sales reps will want to share content with prospects throughout the buying cycle. But first, they need to know where to find it and how to use it.  

Digging up content and perusing it for relevance is hardly the best use of a salesperson’s time. To make matters worse, that time becomes a total waste when reps can’t find the content they need.

You want it to be easy for both sales prospects and sales reps to find the content that applies to them. For your prospects, you want to provide a well-organized website along with a central resource repository where they can easily locate the content they need.

Strive to deliver the same experience for your sales team in the form of an online content library they can easily access and navigate. In fact, 79% of the highly aligned sales and marketing teams in the CMI/LinkedIn survey said their organization provides just that. It’s not enough to park your assets in one location. Make it as easy as possible to sort through all the options by categorizing your content on many dimensions, such as industry, buyer persona, buyer role, buyer challenge, and stage in the sales cycle – whatever meshes best with your team’s methodology.  

3. Help Sales Put Your Content to Good Use

If the sales team doesn’t know which content is available and how it maps to the buying cycle, they won’t know when and how to use it. On the other hand, when marketing and sales is tightly aligned, the sales team understands when and how content should be used. Per the CMI/LinkedIn research:

  • 81% of highly aligned marketers work with sales on how to use content (compared to 25% of those with low alignment)

  • 79% of highly aligned marketers work with sales on when to use content (compared to just 19% of those with low alignment)

Be on the winning side of that equation by creating online playbooks that summarize your content and key messages. Keep this updated with every new content release (whether you update existing content or publish new content).

Make sure this isn’t a one-off exercise that only occurs at the annual sales meeting. Remind your sales reps about key messages, programs, and content, and update them as changes occur. In fact, notify them every time new content is available. In that message, summarize the following:

  • Asset type, length, and location

  • Content theme

  • Buyer persona target

  • Buying stage

And don’t forget to follow up with your sales team to learn how prospects and customers are responding to your content. With feedback from sales, you can continually refine your topic selection and messages to deliver more relevant, impactful content that moves conversations forward.

4. Make the ABM Case for Content

If you struggle to get the sales team engaged in your content marketing strategy, try positioning its value in the context of Account Based Marketing (ABM). Why ABM? For salespeople, ABM is intriguing because it means bigger deals, with ninety-one percent of respondents to a SiriusDecisions survey noting that their average deal sizes are larger for ABM accounts than for non-ABM accounts.

By focusing your content marketing pitch on the value that content adds to ABM efforts, you are more likely to get sales’ attention. In an era when the average B2B buying committee contains nearly seven individuals, successfully engaging and driving consensus among committee members starts with an understanding of the role each plays in the purchasing process and what motivates them to pursue and drive change.

This aligns perfectly with the key principles of content marketing, where success hinges on delivering relevant, buyer-centric content to the right person at the right time. Connect the dots for sales so they see the overlap between content marketing and ABM, and how targeted content can expedite the buying process.  

Pave the Way for More Content Marketing Funds

Extending the content marketing olive branch to your sales counterparts might just be what it takes to improve the relationship. But you’ll get more out of it than friendlier interactions – you could very well land more budget. According to the CMI/LinkedIn survey, 61% of content marketers in highly aligned organizations expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2018. That’s significantly more than the 35% lesser-aligned teams who expect a bigger budget, and reason enough to use content to work more closely with sales.

To learn more about how content can close the divide between sales and marketing, check out the full report, Content Marketing: Unlocking Sales and Marketing Performance.