Why sales belongs in your content marketing

If your content team and sales team aren’t aligned, you’re missing a prime opportunity for ROI in financial services.

BY Chris Matt
Senior Vice President, Strategy, Imagination

Think about the audience map that fuels your financial services content marketing. It likely outlines demographics, psychographics, behavior trends, device usage and much more. It also has an internal audience component, right?

Right?

If not, you’re limiting the impact of your in-market message by ignoring an important audience target: your own sales team. Branch bankers. Relationship managers. Financial advisers. Insurance representatives. Brokers. They need to be part of your audience map, too. This is particularly important in the B2B world, where content marketing delivers communication touch points throughout an elongated sales cycle.

To understand why this audience is important, consider the following hypothetical—though very possible—scenario for a commercial bank and its relationship manager in the field.

The relationship manager pays her monthly visit to her client, a manufacturing company on the West Coast whose owner has been with the bank for three years. After some small talk, she asks what’s new since they last talked—and what’s keeping him up at night.

The owner says recent data and privacy issues in the news have him concerned about the security of his customers’ data and transactions. He manages a vast inventory across myriad vendors as a manufacturer, after all. In fact, the owner turns his laptop around and shows the relationship manager a piece of content her bank provided through a LinkedIn InMail deployment.

The relationship manager acts surprised because she is surprised. She can’t build off the ideas the content presented. She can’t make it specific to the owner’s needs. She simply can’t connect the dots.

Call it an opportunity lost. Disconnected internal teams often can lead to disconnected client relationships. This is an issue many financial organizations face today. Fortunately, it’s solvable.

Start by assessing people, process and technology.

People

Sales and marketing are on the same team. Say it again, with emphasis: Sales and marketing are on the same team.

For too many brands, these groups speak different languages. They’re executing different game plans. They barely talk. In fact, data from LinkedIn and the Content Marketing Institute shows that while 81 percent of “high-alignment” organizations—those with strong alignment between content and sales—collaborate regularly on how to use content, only 25 percent of low-alignment teams do so. Worse, 31 percent of low-alignment teams meet “only when necessary” instead of having regular communication.

That can’t happen.

Content marketing has a rap of generating a more-evasive ROI than traditional forms of marketing or advertising. Much of that is perception versus reality, but there’s no need to perpetuate that notion by operating in silos. Content marketing provides valuable touch points during extended sales cycles that any salesperson should welcome, as there are only so many product one-sheeters and demos one can deliver.

Through regular meetings and communication, marketing teams socialize the full-funnel capabilities of content marketing. Acting on such a vision can create buy-in within the sales team. When they see how content marketing supports demand generation and nurtures efforts over short- and long-term conversion periods, they use it.

Meetings between sales and marketing should be table stakes, but instead they’re often tabled within financial services firms. These organizations are built in a product-first way, and that mentality is hard to break when marketing shifts—at least in part—from product-first, direct-response marketing to value-first content marketing. Bringing sales into early and ongoing content strategy, execution and measurement meetings is critical to establishing a high-performing relationship.

Process

With the right meetings and communication channels in place, it becomes much easier for you to turn external-facing content into sales-support collateral for your internal team.

Consider a package of content a brand is creating on life insurance for new parents.

The package contains a video of two policyholders discussing their emotions as they eagerly await their first child, an infographic on the latest data trends for life insurance and a checklist for new parents with key life insurance questions to ask.

Internally, that package also should include a sales primer for customer representatives within the insurance company’s phone banks or local branches. A sales primer is a document that raises internal awareness of the content the brand team is producing, where it lives and how it is being distributed. It also outlines conversation starters the sales force can use with prospects and current policyholders.

This extra effort benefits both parties: It motivates sales to use the content in a meaningful way, and it maximizes the effectiveness of a marketing investment.

Technology

Numbers 1 and 2 above rely on people power to execute, but there are ways to build in automation and other tools to improve the content-sales dynamic.

  • Account-based marketing (ABM): Used within a B2B model, ABM focuses on specific accounts and the potential decision-makers within those accounts. Using data from both marketing and sales, teams work together to determine the strongest integrated message for those decision-makers. ABM simply doesn’t work without a strong sales-marketing relationship, as it forces these groups to collaborate as part of executing.
  • Marketing automation: Implementing marketing automation systems may seem like a marketing play on the surface—until you outline how to plug them into customer relationship management systems. That integration efficiently marries data from marketing and sales within the system the sales team is intimately familiar with. Marrying content-engagement data with sales data offers a more holistic view of a lead’s pain points, challenges and, most important, potential needs.
  • Sales-centric social media: Using a tool such as Hearsay allows financial advisers and relationship managers to share brand-approved collateral with their followers. For example, when creating a post for a social platform, content teams can write two to three “adviser posts” simultaneously and place them into a library within Hearsay. Then sales staff can select and post the content that is most relevant for their followers. This extra effort by marketing provides sales with digital touch points they likely can’t create and post on their own within a regulated industry like financial services.

Ultimately, you want to create an environment where the hypothetical situation we walked through earlier ends with the relationship manager turning to the owner and saying, “Yes, that’s a really important topic for your business. Let me show you more.”

published: August 03, 2018

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