From the Trenches

Content Marketing: The Turning Point for the Sales & Marketing Relationship

Mike Sweeney | September 12, 2012

Last week, memoryBlue’s Chris Corcoran and I descended upon Columbus, Ohio to attend Content Marketing World and deliver a session focused on helping marketers sell their content marketing investments to their sales leadership counterparts. While the conference was well-organized, the hosts welcoming, and the other speakers talented, it’s the audience from whom we learned the most. Between body language, the question and answer period, and individual conversations afterwards, everyone clearly latched on to the following concepts.

Stop worrying about which types of content belong to marketing and which types of content belong to sales. It should all be integrated anyway.

The first question we were asked had to do with whether we consider all types of content as part of a content marketing program, including request for proposal (RFP) responses, phone scripts and other items people typically put in the sales bucket.

We did not answer this one emphatically enough, so I will do it now.

YES!!!!! Every single piece of content that gets planned, created, published and distributed can be called content marketing, and it should be.

Doesn’t an RFP response tell a story, and isn’t it designed to produce a certain outcome? Don’t you want the recipients to feel a certain way when they consume your content, a way that ought to be a continuation of previous positive experiences with your firm?

And isn’t a phone sales script just a different type of delivery mechanism for a lead generation program like a webinar, podcast or video series?

No matter how you define the stages that your buyers go through, every single stage, from pure prospecting to customer retention, should be covered by content marketing and fully integrated with the content in previous and subsequent stages.

Sixty percent  is the most important number in B2B sales and marketing. Address the 60% and you’ll have happy and productive sales and marketing people.

A survey by CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council revealed that, on average, customers will contact a sales rep when they have independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.

If there is a single number that should make the content marketing investment an easy one to justify, that number is 60%. Until customers get to 61% and start interacting with a sales rep, marketing is the source of information. Marketing creates and manages the dialogue. Marketing is the sales rep.

If your content isn’t pervasive across your entire organization, you’re missing the real benefits of content marketing.

In August, my family spent a week in Bermuda, and we absolutely loved it. Like any significant purchase process, our decisions on where to stay, what to do and where to eat were driven by content. Leading up to the trip, we immersed ourselves in Trip Advisor reviews, Fodor’s guides, resort websites, emails back and forth with friends who had already been there, and much, much more.

Once we arrived, it was much of the same—guidebooks, brochures, coffee table books, and maps. One content piece was so well done, in fact, that it single-handedly convinced us to take a ferry over to the Royal Naval Dockyard and experience something that our kids would be sure to remember: swimming with the dolphins. Like any overly enthusiastic Dad, I threw on my flip flops, marched up to the concierge desk, told them about the trip we wanted to take, and waited to be wowed by the same feeling I had while reading the brochure produced by the resort.

And then the content marketing bubble burst.

First, the concierge could not explain the travel arrangements we needed to make. Then she quoted an entirely different price than the brochure. Then she explained that some people find it too crowded, and that the accompanying restaurants left a lot to be desired. All that was wrapped in a general lack of enthusiasm.

It is precisely in situations like this, where content marketing is not pervasive throughout the organization, and where the messaging is inconsistent from department to department, that content marketing breaks down and a potential customer is lost.

In these situations, content marketing is just another tactic. It’s not strategic. It’s not tied to the bigger brand message. It’s not driven by a set of business or marketing objectives. It may not fail, but it will never become the strategic growth driver that it can and should be.

We thoroughly enjoyed participating in Content Marketing World again this year. Special thanks go out to Joe Pulizzi, Pam Kozelka, and the entire CMI team for putting together a truly classy event again this year.

If you are interested in making content marketing a real growth driver for your organization, download our eBook: How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.

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