The struggle is real. Any b-to-b marketer has likely experienced the uphill battle of pumping out sales content, tirelessly demanded by their sales teams, only to see it fall into the dark abyss of a content library and never to be used again.
The reality is that 60 to 70 percent of content produced by b-to-b marketing organizations goes unused. What’s more, is that many marketing departments have reported “their content non-usage rates were even higher,” according to SiriusDecisions.
So, where’s the disconnect? Sales claims to need more case studies, buyer persona-specific content, research and thought leadership pieces. Yet, producing more content seems to fuel the fire of demand, rather than taming it.
It’s time to get to the bottom of this Catch-22 that’s embedded in the sales-marketing relationship: why salespeople don’t use marketing content.
Why Salespeople Don’t Use Marketing’s Content
If marketers are calling for change, they first need to understand sales teams’ concerns:
B-to-b marketers are out of touch with sales’ needs. That’s the sentiment, at least, from the sales perspective. Communication between sales and marketing has historically been a challenge, yet effective communication is key to aligning priorities and executing successfully. Ultimately, it’s not that marketing ‘doesn’t get it,’ it’s that most marketing teams don’t involve sales in the content prioritization process.
Salespeople can’t find what they need, when they need it. IDC reported that salespeople spend an average of seven hours a week searching for content and reference material. The impulse is to desperately remind sales that the assets exist and give instructions on how to find it (again). This is not the way to solve the problem. Despite marketing’s best efforts to build content libraries, put systems in place and lay out rules of engagement, sales team still don’t seem to use it to their satisfaction. The solution is not in the existing process. It’s in changing the process to make it easier for salespeople to find and deliver the right content at the right time.
Salespeople don’t see value in the content. This is the hurdle with the biggest impact on whether sales uses marketing content. If a system, process or tool seems like it creates more work, why would a salesperson want to use it? They won’t. Salespeople can sniff out time-consuming, low-value activities from a mile away. After all, in sales, time is money.
3 Tips: Getting Sales to Use the Right Content
Forget force-feeding; this is a collaborative process that needs both marketing and sales buy-in. Use these three tips to get sales to use marketing-generated content.
Involve sales in content prioritization. Encourage involvement in the content process by providing visibility to prioritization and having consistently scheduled conversations with select sales team leads and influencers. In these conversations, sales should be responsible for shedding light on prospect needs based on their conversations. Marketing should be responsible for asking follow-up questions, getting balanced insights and focusing on learning what salespeople value.
Expand upon data collected. If 70% of marketing content produced for sales isn’t being used, guesswork has no place in this process. Measure which content is being used most by salespeople, interview or survey sales team members to collect feedback on favorite pieces, and, technology permitting, track sales deliverables. Technology now enables sales and marketing teams to track sales materials after being delivered to prospects, producing a goldmine of prospect engagement data that can be a game changer in later stage sales interactions.
Forget rules – give salespeople value. This is the most important takeaway. There are many software solutions that help with content management, but policing how sales teams use content or building a new content library will not solve content usage problems. Before implementing anything, marketers need to ask these questions:
Is it saving salespeople time?
Is it simplifying the sales process?
Is it providing new insights?
Is this providing value to help sales?
Providing value to sales teams requires more innovation, rather than relying on traditional approaches. Streamlining communication, collaboration and technology is critical to building a more innovative, connected process. Bringing the sales process online, measuring prospect engagement with sales materials and leveraging data to refine content used at later sales cycle stages are just a few of the practices modern businesses can embrace.
In sum, the solution isn’t always to produce more, faster. The objective is to master the art of producing smarter – which, in turn, helps sales teams sell smarter. By making it easy for salespeople to use the right materials, and implementing key learnings from interactions with prospects to stay relevant in the final stages of the deal, marketing will help close deals with content.
Mitch Frazier is the Vice President of Marketing at TinderBox, a sales productivity suite that powers a more effective way to create, deliver and track sales proposals, contracts and presentations online.
Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.