How to empower a sales team through content marketing

If you're going to create content to benefit sales, make sure you make the connection real.

BY Erin Slater
SVP, Business Development, Imagination

Last year, my colleague and Vice President of Content Marla Clark introduced me to a staggering statistic: 70 percent of salespeople do not use materials created by marketing.

When we share this statistic in presentations, there is an audible gasp from our prospective clients. People who work day in and day out to create effective and strong materials to ultimately benefit sales want to make sure they are actually accomplishing that goal.

As a salesperson myself, I understand how this disconnect takes place. It all boils down to communication. For any content marketing program to be effective, you need to consider those ancillary users—the sales team, the financial advisers, the resellers—and empower them to easily use the materials you create. They are a powerful part of the program’s ecosystem. By thoughtfully incorporating their needs into your content marketing program, you not only end up with a more well-defined and informed program, but you also are much more likely to demonstrate key success at the end of the year.

Here are three tips for integrating sales into your marketing planning:

Stakeholder interviews

Before you even launch a program, designate a discovery phase to talk to top-performing sales reps. Dig deep into their pain points, the questions customers ask most often, the language they use to describe their business, the marketing materials that they return to again and again, the materials they have developed on their own (I know—gasp—but these usually exist) and their wish list of support materials. You’ll walk away with great fodder for a content program and buy-in from a team that’s eager to use it.

Develop a strategy

Use the insights from the stakeholder interviews to determine how you can best support sales. What channels make the most sense, for example: an existing intranet, a printed piece or perhaps email newsletters? Decide how frequently you should deliver this information. Outline potential buyer journeys and ensure that you are providing a full spectrum of materials that can be used in every stage of the journey—from awareness to consideration to purchase. This is all a core tenet of content marketing, but you’d be surprised how often people skip this critical strategic step.

Execute and assess

In conjunction with any live content program, develop a guide for your sales team that announces new initiatives, provides possible talking points to facilitate discussions with prospects and leads, and suggests specific content pieces that the sales team can use depending on what stage of the funnel the prospect is in. For example, Imagination client Dawn Foods executed this flawlessly with the development of its monthly sales guide titled The Batch.

However, the work doesn’t stop with simply delivering such a guide. Circle back to the sales team to see if (and how) the materials are actually being used. If they’re not, ask why not, and then reassess the plan. If they are being used, analyze what is working well and what materials could be expanded.

This additional consideration for your content marketing program takes a little extra time, but the payoff is a well-informed strategy that is supported across the organization.

published: June 29, 2017