When organizations think of sales and marketing alignment, they often focus on demand generation. As content continues to grow as a critical component in successful selling, organizations must now take steps to align around content as well. Because buyers are savvier and more educated, they expect salespeople to present them with content that is relevant to them in their buying journey. A recent study of B2B buyers found that 95% of buyers chose a solution provider that “provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.”

Sales and marketing must work together to deliver on the promise of alignment. Marketing must agree to move beyond demand generation content and build content designed to be used in the sales process. Sales must agree to use the content and provide feedback on what is working or not working. Sound familiar? It’s the same ground rules for demand generation alignment except we filled in the words “content” for “leads”.

Like demand generation, content won’t be successful without alignment. This post outlines the process for sales and marketing content alignment.

1. Co-develop buyer personas

The most important factor in content selling is to understand what content your buyer values most. Both sales and marketing must develop personas together and agree on them. Actually, it’s the first step to ALL sales and marketing alignment: Agreement on the target buyer and their challenges.

Persona building is not just a matter of “who is the decision maker, influencer, and recommender” exercise. Your goal is to build a deep understanding of each critical stakeholder in the buying process. This exercise will not only inform content but also provide invaluable data for messaging and sales plays. Each persona should explore the following:

  • Who the buyer is from a demographic perspective
  • The role that the buyer plays in the organization
  • What the buyer’s objectives, priorities, and challenges are
  • What a day in the life of the buyer looks like
  • How the buyer makes purchasing decisions
  • What content they value in their capacity as a buyer

2. Map the buying experience

Step one is to develop buyer personas, then you need to map their preferred buying experience, which is how these make purchases. A buying experience map follows each step your buyer(s) take from status quo to purchase. For content selling, you will want to understand their content preferences for each step along their journey. The critical information needed to build the buying experience map should come from your target buyers and from sales.

For each step in the buying experience you want to understand the following details:

  • Their key activities, pain-points, and challenges
  • How they consume content and where
  • How they communicate internally and externally
  • What they need to get to the next step
  • The roadblocks that prevent them from advancing in the process

3. Map and create content strategy

Now that you agreed on the buying experience for your buyers, map content that you will deliver across each buying step. The goal is to provide content that help the buyer move from one step to the next. For example, when faced with a buyer who is still happy at status quo, sales should be equipped with content that helps the buyer ask the right questions about their current situation and help them identify they have a problem or that they could be doing things better. Like everything else, the content map should be built collaboratively.

Examples of Content Types

  • Buyer Persona Documents
  • Product Documents
  • Case Studies
  • Sales playbooks, scripts, and competitive battlecards

4. Have a dedicated resource

If you are going to commit to delivering content to sales, then commit resources. Companies will often say their going to deliver content to sales, but it only part of a list of a million things for marketing to do. For content selling to be successful, there needs to be a content organization of one or more dedicated people who are committed to delivering and optimizing content for sales. This resource is usually the sales enablement role or closely tied to a dedicated content manager or writer.

5. Collaboratively prioritize content

Even with a dedicated resource, you will not be able to create all the assets you need immediately. There are three important things to remember when trying to overcome this challenge:

  • Crowdsource from other sources – Many organizations feel like all the content needs to be created internally which is simply not the case. The goal is to move buyers from one step to the next with content and there might be material already created by others such as third party thought leaders, analysts, or partners that provide the information buyers need.
  • Repurpose content – When you are deciding what content to produce, audit your current content assets first. You will often find the raw material necessary to complete your content mission. In some cases, you can just use the content asset as is or you might need to take the raw material and re-package it.
  • Ask sales to stack-rank their content needs – Marketing should be very clear with sales how much content they can create and the amount of time they need in order to create it. Marketing should then ask sales to stack-rank the content they want created based on urgency or need. Organizations typically suffer from one of two problems: Marketing creates the content they want without sales’ influence or marketing always agree to one-off requests for content and there is no agreement on the trade-offs.

The goal of this exercise is to create an editorial calendar with an expectation for sales of what they will get and when.

6. Train sales

Most organizations create content, send it over in email, and then assume sales will use it correctly or at all. For sales to be effective using content, then organizations should invest in training sales on:

  • What content to use
  • Who to send it to
  • When and how to deliver it
  • How to track engagement and its impact on sales

Many marketers are surprised at the level of engagement from sales during these training sessions. What they realize in these training sessions is how eager sales is to have great content at their disposal. In many organizations, training is the real problem. Marketing has created incredible content that goes unused. The issue was sales didn’t’ know how to use it or even where to find it. A sales enablement platform like Seismic is the perfect content management solution to organize the marketing materials and sales collateral that sellers use every day.

7. Develop a new content handoff process

This is a very short bullet but is often a major problem for organizations. When you realize new content, have a process for letting sales know the new content has been released and allot 15 minutes training them on the “who, what, when, and how.” You don’t know how many times I have heard: “I emailed them the pdf” and then seen nothing happen. Remember, sales wants content but has to understand what to do with it.

8. Provide content selling tools and automation

One of the simplest problems that organizations need to solve is how to keep content in a single, easy-to-access repository. Content should be easily accessed from their CRM application. Great content selling tools can even recommend content based on the type of buyer or their current stage in the buying experience. Seismic was recently named a leader in Sales Enablement Automation Platforms by Forrester Research.

Another critical feature in content automation is the ability to track what content is being delivered and the effectiveness of this content. An example of how organizations use tracking is to determine what content should be emphasized, optimized, or archived. Sometimes tracking will just help you identify how to help sales. For example, if sales is struggling in current stages in the buying experience, you might see what content they are using if they are using content at all and guide them to the more relevant assets or replace them with new ones.

9. Measure marketing content’s impact on sales

It’s important to have regular meetings to review metrics (analytics and engagement insights) and to allow sales to provide anecdotal feedback, go over the editorial calendar, and make suggestions for new content pieces.

When you can see which pieces of content impacting sales opportunities and conversations you can invest more in the kinds of assets that improve your sales performance. And you can eliminate or tweak the content that doesn’t positively impact your opportunities.

The key elements that need to be tracked are:

  • Which content was shared and by who?
  • What was the sales context in which it was shared? E.g. what is the industry, sales stage, persona, geography (or whatever segmentation matters to you)
  • How successful was the content? (Did prospects view or download the content? Is it correlated with advancing leads or closed deals?)

The good news is that Seismic does all of this tracking and provides sales content analytics. It connects content usage back to the sales context in which it was used. And it measures the performance of that material.

10. Optimize

The final step in sales-and-marketing content alignment is to optimize the program based on metrics and feedback. It’s that simple. If sales is seeing new trends in the buying experience that requires new sets of content to help close business, then the editorial calendar must change. If a piece of content isn’t working, then find out why. The process of creating a successful sales content program takes time and there will be challenges along the way. If both sides are committed to making the program more effective, then you will see a continued lift in results which ultimately leads to more revenue.

Interested in learning more? Download the 8 Challenges of Sales and Marketing Alignment Guide.