3 Ways for Sales to contribute to your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Picture this. As an inbound marketing agency, we’ve been working with a new client partner for 6 months. We’ve gotten to know their CEO, Director of Marketing, IT manager and product manager. We’ve dug deep into their business to get to know their competition, buyers and services. A comprehensive inbound marketing strategy was developed, mapping content topics and offers to their buyer’s journey, including relevant keywords, CTAs, internal links and sales funnel stage for each piece of content. We’ve written 20 blog posts and launched two lead generation campaigns to educate their prospects, generate marketing and sales qualified leads and nurturing those leads via email and social until they become customers.
Sounds great right?
Then we ask the age old question: How is your sales team leveraging all of these great new content assets? They must be pretty happy to have all these additional resources.
While this is a (mostly) fictional scenario, it’s based on some actual events. Time and time again, we’ve heard that Sales teams, whether they are 1 or 100+ people, have NO IDEA ABOUT THE INBOUND MARKETING PROGRAM that is in full force. They have NO IDEA about all of the great content assets that are being produced.
The Inbound marketing strategy and content development process is being “owned” by Marketing. And, like the age-old theory of “separation of church and state” Sales and Marketing are often still separate departments in 2016. Sometimes these people do not even really know each other and meet for the first time due to a meeting we've requested (that’s a true story).
3 Essential Ways Sales Can Leverage Inbound Marketing Content
1. Get their input.
It’s that simple. Involve the sales team, or at least the top players on your sales team, in your inbound marketing program from day one. Ask them to share the top questions and objections they hear from prospects throughout every stage of the buying cycle. They are the ones out there talking directly to your customers and prospects daily. They’re the best resource for getting to know your customers’ journeys and challenges. Use those insights as the foundation for your content strategy.
Here are a few other ways they can contribute:
- Have them participate in buyer persona development.
- Invite them to content strategy meetings.
- Use them as internal subject matter experts for blog posts, guides and white papers.
- Give them a byline. Interview sales team members for blog posts and use their byline. Or get them to start a draft for you. We’ve discovered many a budding writer in-house when they are just asked!
Give them a voice, invite them to participate and leverage their hands-on experience to help create great content that your customers and prospects are really looking for. Then you will empower them with the answers (in the form of interesting content) their prospects are asking for, on the spot.
You will not only be seen as an industry expert, who really “gets” what your customers need, but you will close more sales and build trust doing so.
Download our free guide, Performance Content: Turning a Jog Into a Marathon One Blog Post at a Time.
2. Involve them in Content Sharing and Promotion
In the world of B2B sales, where the decision making process tends to be more complex, it’s critical to maintain contact with prospects throughout the buying cycle, which can be for up to a year or more. Your content strategy should be based on the notion of educating people, yet supporting the business case that your salespeople are trying to make. A key indicator of the effectiveness of your content is how frequently salespeople actually use it.
Here are a few simple ways that your sales team can share your content and leverage it for sales:
- Set up automated social sharing of your content directly to their social channels, especially LinkedIn and Twitter. Why? It’s effortless for them, it shows their expertise, and gives them great content to share with the world.
- Have them sign up for your email newsletter. This sounds obvious, but time and time again, we discover that internal teams aren’t even aware of the content that the company is creating.
- Have them include links to a new blog post, case study or ebook in their email signature.
- Create a resource library of links to or PDFs of content by topic that they can access in a click.
3. Continue to empower them with great content.
If your sales team is armed and empowered with great content, they will naturally speed up your sales cycle. The biggest challenge is just getting them started and making them feel comfortable using content to their advantage, not in a typically “salesy” way but to be genuinely helpful. Once they get going, and see the amazing impact that it can have, they will become the greatest evangelists of your content. (as they should be)
How can you keep them empowered?
- Review all of the content inventory you have with them on a regular basis.
- Involve them in the content planning process so they know what’s coming out soon.
- Ask them what content pieces they wish they had at their disposal based on prospects most common questions and objections.
- Find out what their greatest challenges are in the sales cycle.
- Ask them what competitors are doing that they wish they had too.
Sometimes the biggest challenge is as simple as letting salespeople know what content you have. Ensure that your entire organization is signed up to receive notifications of all of the content you publish, that they’re involved in the ideation process from start to publication. And remember, never create content for content’s sake because that’s the thing to do. Strategy and planning are absolutely critical to inbound marketing success.
Find out more about creating content that really works for you.