Sales and Marketing, Sales & Marketing….Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage. Though these lyrics don’t have the same ring as Frank Sinatra’s “Love & Marriage,” the message holds true – especially in today’s consumer research climate.

If you haven’t heard, the consumer sales cycle has changed drastically from its former days. A recent study by Google and the CEB Marketing Council found that on average, consumers are 57% through the purchase decision-making process before engaging sales. At the upper limit, this number was as high as 70% complete.

The Disappearing Sales Process

To fill the void, marketing has stepped in and taken over the first half of the sales process to drive demand, educate consumers and assist them in the vendor selection process before handing off the lead to sales. When we dig a little deeper into the partnership between sales and marketing, we see some troubling trends:

  • “49% of B2B marketers confess to not measuring ROI.” -The B2B Barometer
  • “79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance.” -MarketingSherpa
  • “Just 56% of B2B organizations verify valid business leads before they are passed to Sales.” – Smart Insights
  • “61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified.” – MarketingSherpa
  • “42% of sales reps feel they do not have the right information before making a sales call.” – Lattice Engines/CSO Insights
  • “90% of business buyers say when they’re ready to buy, they’ll find you.” -DemandGen Report

Source: SalesStaff – Intelligent Demand Generation

Like a marriage, the relationship between sales and marketing can be challenging and dysfunctional at times. However, successful partnerships triumph by continuing to support each other each step of the way. To help sales and marketing teams continue to build their relationship, we’ve put together three tips on how to improve lead generation and grow overall lead quality. Think of it as “marriage counseling” for sales and marketing.

Marriage Counseling for Sales & Marketing

1. Define the Buyer & Purchase Journey Together

Prior to launching any demand generation activities, the first step is to identify your target buyer personas and their journey to purchase. Defining your buyer personas should not be a one sided effort! Marketing can conduct industry research and pour over web analytics to begin forming a picture of each buyer type, but valuable insight is also required from sales who have existing relationships with your current customers. Sales can provide insight on:

  • Buyer pain points and challenges
  • Average close rate timeline
  • Common questions buyers ask

Once you have your buyer personas and their purchase process outlined, it is time to identify the content relevant to each segment.

Marketing Content Funnel

Start with aligning your current content to the buyer and their purchase process, then schedule a plan of attack for any holes you find during this discovery phase.

 2. Optimize for Conversions & A/B Test to Improve Lead Data

Now that you have your content needs outlined, it is time to focus on your website – your brand’s ultimate information resource. Regardless of which marketing channel your lead first engages with, when a consumer is ready to continue their research process, they will ideally be searching directly for your website if your marketing campaigns have been successful at keeping your brand top of mind. When they arrive, don’t make them search your website for all your great marketing content. The will likely bounce before finding the content you want them to see. Instead, surface the content most relevant to them using content personalization.

  • Persona driven web personalization allows your one website to speak to your multiple buyer personas in different stages of the buying process instantly, helping marketers to optimize the relevancy of content for an increase in conversions.
  • Use persona driven personalization to continue the conversation with that lead according to any previous interaction they had with your brand, whether through email, social, previous website visits or an ad campaign.
  • This is also a good opportunity to start A/B testing different calls to action or even types of content to better inform buyer personas and optimize content for each stage of the buying process. This allows your to more quickly and efficiently drive leads down the funnel towards a hand off to sales.

 3. Qualify and Nurture Leads Before & After Hand Off to Sales

If a customer isn’t ready to buy, handing the lead off the sales prematurely could be detrimental to your prospect of a purchase. Email marketing is a great way to nurture leads using all the great content you outlined for each buyer persona and their purchase process.

Marketing automation platforms are also a great tool for nurturing leads and grooming them for the hand off to sales. These platforms typically offer integrations with CRM solutions that allow you to gradually build data and knowledge on each lead. This data is not only incredibly valuable to sales, but also informs your buyer persona content marketing and personalization strategy.

  • Gate high value content on your website using forms to begin collecting lead data for nurturing.
  • Nurture emails should address consumer pain points and keep your brand top of mind, so that when visitors are ready to continue their decision making process they search for your site first. When they arrive, your persona driven marketing personalization engine allows you to pick up the conversation where you left off, improving the relevancy of content to better drive visitors through the purchase process.

So if you try separate sales and marketing, “you only come to this conclusion – you can’t have one without the other!”