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How content plays cupid for sales and marketing

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Content marketing is the best way to foster alignment, new research says.

Content marketing could well be the glue that helps B2B companies bring their sales and marketing teams closer together.

Research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and LinkedIn shows that businesses with marketers “highly aligned” with their sales teams were much more sophisticated users of content marketing than their “lowly aligned” peers. Eight in 10 marketers in highly aligned companies show their salespeople how and when to use content created with a common view of what works for their customers.

Although almost all respondents said that sales and marketing alignment was necessary for their organisations, researchers found that less than half (46 per cent) described their teams as highly aligned. Only 42 per cent of marketers in businesses with more than 100 employees said they had high alignment with sales.

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Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Adviser, Content Marketing Institute

“Content marketing and sales alignment might just be what enables true marketing success and revenue growth,” says CMI’s Chief Strategy Adviser Robert Rose in a white paper explaining the research results. Most of the 1246 marketers CMI surveyed for the research were based in North America.

According to the researchers, marketers at highly aligned B2B companies showed certain behaviours and received specific benefits that separated them from their lowly aligned colleagues:
*They were more likely to work closely with their sales teams in using content: 81 per cent of marketers at highly aligned companies collaborated with sales on how to use content compared with the 25 per cent who work at low aligned companies.
*They were more likely to collaborate with sales on the content itself: 79 per cent highly aligned v 19 per cent lowly aligned.
*They were more likely to have a documented content strategy: 75 per cent highly aligned v 41 per cent lowly aligned.
*They used account-based marketing (ABM) as an alignment signal. “Content marketers looking to communicate the benefits of content marketing to their sales teams may find that ABM helps provide great structure for their business case,” Rose writes.
*They created a central content resource for marketing and sales: 79 per cent highly aligned v 55 per cent lowly aligned.
*They enjoyed bigger budgets. Three in five marketers at highly aligned companies expected their budgets to grow in 2018 while just one in three marketers at lowly aligned companies expected a budget increase.
The report found that nine in 10 B2B marketers with highly aligned sales and marketing teams have clear, shared objectives and goals. Those with both high and low alignment cited revenue growth as their top metric. Other top metrics were pipeline growth, quality of leads, quantity of leads and audience engagement. The report said 13 per cent of marketers with low levels of sales alignment measured nothing at all.

Rose writes that content marketing and sales alignment requires more than an understanding of each other’s strategies. “True alignment requires integrating into one, cohesive strategy,” he writes. “Sales teams need to develop clarity around their definitions. Marketing teams need to sharpen their focus on where and how to apply content to the customer journey. ABM may be a bridge, but one thing is clear: frequent and true collaboration among the teams is key.”

Rose suggests three ways to encourage better alignment between sales and marketing on the back of content:

*Schedule frequent meetings, promote active collaboration and agree on shared metrics to measure performance.
*Invest in the right systems and technologies to help develop a single view of the customer.
*Use controlled experiments that assess process changes and investment decisions.

“Content marketing, as a new practice, is often just established as the latest silo in an already stratified enterprise,” Rose writes. “If, however, a strategic approach to content marketing is taken – perhaps infused with the principles of ABM – there is a better opportunity to create alignment between sales and the content marketing silo, which may also be the key to a broader sales and marketing alignment within the enterprise.”

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Further reading: The artificial intelligence pushing sales and marketing together

Photo: Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

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