It’s the end of a quarter, and it’s time for some content marketing reporting. Our marketing manager isn’t worried. She’s had a great few months: site metrics increased across the board, her content pipeline has been optimized in creative ways, and she’s had a couple of articles picked up by mainstream media outlets recently. Things are only going up.
Our manager is on her way to her director’s office when she notices something out of the corner of her eye. A flashy gray suit makes its away across the office floor in her direction, phone in hand and Bluetooth in ear. It’s the company sales manager, and he’s headed for the director’s office too. The content marketing manager’s heart drops a bit as she realizes this meeting isn’t going to go the way she had hoped.
What follows is an hour-long practice in patience. The director listens intently while marketing walks through all of the metric growths, waxes poetic about the place for content in today’s business, and lays out a few recommendations for the coming quarter. The sales manager, on the other hand, is brief; he shares how they’ve directly grown conversions over the past three months, speaks briefly about some tweaks to their sales script, and says the future is going to be mostly more of the same—steady growth.
Guess who impressed the director the most.
Image attribution: Tim Gouw
In many of today’s businesses, a divide has grown between sales and marketing teams. While both are vitally necessary for the growth of a company, the prevailing difference in philosophies makes it difficult for the two to always see eye to eye, and this goes double for content-oriented marketing teams. But how did this come to be? Aren’t marketing and sales supposed to work together?
Defining the Divide
At the core of the issue with sales and marketing teams is ROI and differences in methodology. Sales teams often have the advantage of working with customers either one-on-one or as they’re about to make a buying decision. In this scenario, the time and actions between interaction and buy become very short and, by extension, much simpler to track. Sales will always have the easiest job demonstrating their worth (or lack of) to a company because their job is directly generating value.
This dynamic becomes more difficult for marketers, particularly those operating in the content space. Content marketing reporting has to cover much larger audiences and longer periods of interaction, from first awareness of a brand to growing interest to eventually taking an action that shows they’re ready to buy. This longer span of time, multitude of touch points, and circuitous path to purchase mean that most marketers struggle to directly tie their activities to revenue. For companies that understand the importance of marketing to prepare audiences for a sale, this isn’t always a death sentence. But for companies that are focused on the bottom line, it can mean a lot of strife for marketers.
This huge gap doesn’t have to exist, though.
Image attribution: Gert Boers
Crossing the Gap
For marketing and sales teams to come together effectively, they have to address two primary issues: the perceived cultural divide between marketing and sales communication and marketing issues related to demonstrating ROI. Here are some powerful ways to get started.
- Open Up Dialogue. The first step before anything else can be established between your marketing and sales teams is to get talking. Set up meetings or a regular gathering time to open a dialogue with your sales compatriots. Your teams might have differing views on the best ways to approach people, but that doesn’t mean your marketing work can’t help sales. What does their process look like? What obstacles are they tackling? What questions do they have about your shared audience?
- Identify Content Opportunities. The next step after starting a conversation is to find ways to inject your content into the sales process. What articles or blog posts might add interest to your sales team’s outreach? What video content could help answer commonly asked questions? Content marketing plays a powerful role in generating leads and nurturing sales conversations. You’ll likely have to do the work of showing your sales team exactly where those opportunities lie. In return, gathering common inquiries or expressed interests from sales interactions can guide your content team as they produce new material.
- Combine Tracking Resources. The last (and by far most technical step) is to work with your sales team to implement full life-cycle tracking for your brand. The technical schema necessary to do this can differ greatly based on the customer-relationship management system you use and your company’s specific use case. When properly implemented, however, your team should have more accurate information about what actions eventually lead to sales conversations. This information not only helps your sales team know whom to proactively reach out to and when, but it also makes it much easier for your content team to begin attributing sales to pieces of content.
As long as conversations continue, marketers will find that there are many powerful ways to work with a sales team. While the sales team provides frontline information that keeps marketers savvy about their audience, content marketers play a powerful role in creating material that continually brings customers back (potentially increasing lifetime customer value), establishes trust (potentially reducing friction during outreach), and engagingly informs audiences about their product offerings (potentially reducing confusion that blocks a sale). The divide may be real, but it’s up to marketers to make the first move to cross it—and we stand everything to gain by doing so.
Featured image attribution: William Stitt
About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Kyle Harper