Marketing and sales play different roles, but they are both telling key parts of a brand’s story. Unfortunately, in many organizations, that story isn’t always aligned.
As content becomes an increasingly powerful tool for sales teams, telling a consistent story is more important than ever. So how can marketing and sales get on the same page, create deep funnel content that tells prospective customers what they need to hear, and cultivate a more seamless brand experience across the customer journey? Read on to find out.
We know how much good content marketing can help a brand build a relationship with an audience. But you need good sales content if you want to turn that relationship into a stronger commitment. That said, creating that content is a constant challenge for brands in all industries.
In the 2021 Creating Content for Sales Enablement report, Vidyard and Content Marketing Institute surveyed marketers across a variety of organizations to identify the biggest challenges that prevent sales and marketing from collaborating effectively on content. The most common problems cited included:
- Lack of communication/collaboration between marketing and sales
- Limited support/resources (process, infrastructure, bandwidth, buy-in)
- Lack of shared goals/defined success metrics
- Challenges creating content for buyer journey/telling the right story
- Ad hoc requests for sales content
If these challenges are familiar to you, you’re not the only one. (We’ve faced them too.) Ultimately, these challenges are usually the result of teams that are siloed.
“The critical pieces to linking content marketing and sales enablement are communication and collaboration.”
—Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, CMI
Without an intimate understanding of the sales team’s needs, marketers can’t create content to support them. Without a standardized content process in place, sales can’t proactively reach out to marketing with those content needs. The fix? Break down the walls.
How to Create Sales Content That Supports Your Team
If you want to close the gap, you need to approach sales content as strategically as you approach marketing content, with the same level of planning and foresight. Here’s how to do it.
1) Schedule regular meetings.
To create strong content, you need to actually talk to each other. This may sound like the most obvious step, but it’s important to formalize these discussions so that everyone is present and participating in these conversations. (Also, all subsequent steps we’ve listed here rely on these meetings.)
This is the time to talk about…
- Pain points customers are facing
- Pain points the sales team is facing (which may be alleviated through additional content, such as decks, checklists, presentations, etc.)
- What content is and isn’t working (and why)
- New content trends
- Upcoming events/milestones
Not only can these conversations keep you informed (and accountable to each other) but they can inspire sales content themselves (e.g., an AMA with a lead sales rep).
Tip: If you haven’t updated your personas in a while, now is the time to do that. Here’s how to create personas that accurately reflect your audience.
2) Map your customer journey.
To create a seamless experience, you need to tell a complete story and say the right thing at the right time to keep people interested in that story. You might even think of your brand story as chapters—each stage tells you a new and exciting part of the story. For sales and marketing to successfully work together, you need to know who’s telling what part of the story and make sure everyone has the tools (aka content) to do it effectively. (According to the CMI report, only 39% of respondents agreed their sales teams use the right content at the right stages in the buyer’s journey.)
Tip: To do this, reassess your customer journey (or rebuild it) to ensure everyone is on the same page. Start by downloading our free customer journey template, and follow our guide to map your customer journey. This is the most important thing you need to support both marketing and sales goals through content.
3) Audit your existing sales content.
With your fully fleshed-out customer journey, you can look at the sales content you currently have with fresh eyes to identify opportunities to improve or add content. This is important to do when you start a larger content initiative, but it’s especially important to do regularly. (We recommend assessing content quarterly. According to CMI, only 14% of respondents review content quarterly.)
With a formal audit, you can…
- Identify the gaps in your own story. By looking at content as a whole, you can identify opportunities to improve existing content or add more content. For example, you might want to update your current explainer video, or spot an opportunity to educate your audience more effectively (e.g., a visual brochure vs. a text-only pamphlet).
- Look at your competitors’ content. If you want to make a memorable impression, you need memorable content. Remember: The more you serve your audience the content they need and want, the stronger your relationship will be. If your messaging, design, and materials are identical to your competitors, you won’t stand out. But if you can use content to better educate them or connect with them, you will be that much more likely to close the deal. (Note: Only 12% of respondents said their content differs from their competitors. This is a huge opportunity for most brands!)
Tip: Follow our guide to complete a content audit, which you can use to assess your own sales content and your competitors’ sales content.
4) Prioritize your needs.
Getting content created is one of the most common challenges both sales and marketing teams face. Thus, creating a proper plan and infrastructure is key.
Once you’ve identified your weak spots and opportunities to differentiate, you need to prioritize the most important/high-value sales content that can help your team.
If you don’t have a strong, centralized content operation, it’s easy for sales content to get Frankenstein-ed together, resulting in content that is inconsistent (at best) and entirely off brand (at worst). That’s what you’re trying to avoid by going through this process. But before you start brainstorming, review your current collateral to ensure everything you’re using now is accurate and updated.
- Is the messaging current?
- Is content on brand?
Before you create a bunch of new stuff, make sure these elements are in order. (You may replace them entirely later on, but it’s important to start where you are.) Once you’re ready to create fresh content…
- Identify content goals. When you’re creating any type of content, be it sales or marketing, you don’t want to put your energy into something without a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve. So, before you brainstorm, think about the end results you’re trying to achieve with your sales content. Do you want potential customers to feel confident that they’re choosing the right brand? Do you want them to feel excited to enhance their lives via your product/service? More importantly, how will you measure what success looks like? The more concrete your goals are, the easier it will be to brainstorm the best idea.
- Brainstorm new ideas. Now is the time to meet and chat through new and creative ideas for sales content. Remember, too, that sales content doesn’t have to be purely promotional. Expert thought leadership can be a great way to establish trust and credibility; a handy checklist or infographic can demonstrate that you’re invested in helping a prospect.
- Choose the right format. This can make a drastic difference for both sales and potential customers. You might work hard on a 50-page deck, but if no one ever shares it (or prospects are too overwhelmed to read it), it isn’t doing its job. Choose the format that will 1) tell the most compelling story and 2) empower the sales team to communicate effectively.
5) Create the infrastructure.
It doesn’t matter how great your content ideas are if you can’t actually produce them—or get them into your sales teams’ hands easily. When you’re ready to create content, make sure you have an optimized process to ensure the sales content you create is of quality.
- Identify your stakeholders. When working across teams, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks or get back-burnered indefinitely. To avoid this, and ensure both teams are involved in the process, assign roles and responsibilities up front.
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Who creates the content?
- Who approves the content?
- Who distributes the content?
- Create templates (if applicable). According to the CMI report, 42% of respondents said their marketing and sales teams lack the ability to produce personalized sales content quickly. To empower sales teams to customize content—and avoid tying up other resources—consider creating easily replicable templates. This is especially helpful for presentation decks, information packets, etc. This reduces the likelihood that content will go out the door disjointed and off brand.
- Make it accessible. If you’re creating customizable content, version control can be a challenge. In this case, make sure everyone has access to the most current version (and that there is no confusion about which document is which).
Tip: See our guide to master content creation and avoid the most common pitfalls in the production process.
How to Tell a Strong Brand Story Across the Customer Journey
From the first introduction to the final sale, every interaction you have with a person communicates your brand story in some way. What matters most is telling a consistent, well-rounded story about your brand. As you continue to create content, look for opportunities to tell new and unique stories that make an impact. If you’re looking for more inspiration…
- Put your values front and center. Get inspired by how these brands create values-centric content.
- Tell a variety of stories. Find out how to curate the right mix of content on your blog.
- Get inspired by others. Here are great marketing campaigns that do brand storytelling well.
And if you don’t have the bandwidth or inspiration to create strong sales content, turn to expert help. We’d love to chat about how we can help bring your brand story to life at every stage of the customer journey.