Over the last couple of decades, the marketing world has become more complex and sophisticated than ever before. Since the digital marketing boom in the late ’90s and early ’00s, companies have had to keep pace with an array of new technologies and methods: SEO, PPC, social media marketing, native advertising, interactive ads… the list could go on and on. Of course, with increased sophistication comes the potential for confusion. When it comes to sales enablement, many people wonder: “What’s the difference between sales enablement and marketing? Are they the same thing?”

In the information below, we’ll take a look beyond the buzzwords, and examine the overlap between these two concepts. And how they are significantly different from each other. Let’s start by defining both terms.

The Definition of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement, as the name suggests, is the process through which you help your sales reps to sell effectively. A solid strategy is about providing salespeople with the resources they need to consistently add value to interactions with prospects. Moving leads down the sales funnel, toward conversion. These resources typically include:

  • A well-designed, ongoing training program (not just for new hires, but for experienced sales reps as well)
  • Content that will address each stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Tools and technologies that facilitate the selling process (e.g., a suite of software programs, or an “all-in-one” platform)

It’s important to note that this is an iterative process; i.e., it needs to be periodically reviewed as well as refined for best results.

The Definition of Content Marketing

Usually, when people ask whether sales enablement and marketing are the same things, they’re really talking about content marketing in particular. Content marketing has been defined as:

“The process of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience, and ultimately drive profitable customer action. [It’s] a way to interact with prospects without selling. It educates prospects before, during and after interactions with salespeople.”

Content marketing encompasses a wide range of “content assets,” including:

  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Comparison sheets
  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Videos
  • Vlogs
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts
  • Etc.

In all of these cases, the ultimate goal of content marketing is to help your prospects move through the sales funnel, and eventually become paying customers. A solid content marketing strategy will ensure that content is available for each and every stage of the buyer’s journey. From the initial “awareness stage” when the prospect first discovers your brand, to the final “decision stage” when the prospect is ready to make a purchase.

How Sales Enablement and Content Marketing Overlap

There’s no denying that there is some major overlap between these two concepts. After all, one of the main functions of sales enablement is providing valuable content for sales reps as they work to guide prospects through the “pipeline.”

So you may be wondering: “Is content marketing a part of sales enablement, or is it the other way around?”

Some would argue that content marketing is a larger subset that aids the sales process (and, by extension, sales enablement strategies). Whatever the case may be, the relationship between these two is definitely a symbiotic one. For example:

  • Content marketing usually produces the greatest impact in the first and second stages of the “classic” sales funnel (awareness and consideration). Sales enablement practices often come into play during the second and third stages (consideration and decision), when sales reps are actively engaging in conversations with prospects and leads.
  • Many sales enablement teams rely on content marketers to produce relevant, valuable content for their reps. These pieces of content are like the “ammo” that reps need to overcome objections from prospects, convince them of the value of the product or service, as well as guide them towards a final decision.
  • Content marketing informs brand voice, tone, as well as messaging. It has a powerful influence on public perception of a brand, and on company culture. Both of these things play a subtle but important role in sales enablement strategies. (As an example: should your reps be strictly formal when speaking to customers, or take a more casual approach?)

The takeaway is simply this: content marketing and sales enablement are two sides of the same coin. Under ideal conditions, they work together to move prospects all the way through the sales funnel. Winning more customers for the company.

How Sales Enablement and Content Marketing are Different

Of course, just because there’s some overlap between sales enablement and marketing doesn’t mean these two terms are referring to the same thing. There are also some key differences between these concepts. Let’s list a few big ones:

  • Content marketers focus on content creation, especially for buyer consumption. Sales enablement specialists focus on how their reps can effectively access, promote, as well as distribute such content.
  • The content marketing team may manage a certain subset of assets within a sales enablement platform (such as the content library, in whole or in part). The sales enablement team usually manages the selection, roll-out, as well as optimization of sales enablement platforms.
  • Content marketing teams often report to the company’s chief marketing officer (CMO); sales enablement teams may report to the company’s chief sales officer (CSO).
  • Content marketers are more concerned with the actual development of content; sales enablement specialists emphasize the guidance and training that reps need in order to effectively use pieces of content when engaging with customers.

The above differences don’t make up a comprehensive list by any means. Nevertheless, they clearly demonstrate that sales enablement and content marketing are not only similar in some ways but very different in others.