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Content Strategy 101: Why Bother Aligning Your Sales and Marketing Teams

‘Smarketing’ is a term describing the alignment of the sales and marketing processes. This alignment means your marketing and sales teams share measurable goals, tools, and strategies to get better results together rather than operating in separate silos.

But why should you bother aligning your marketing and sales teams in the first place? 

Sales and marketing alignment means consistent customer value is created, whether they’re reading a free eBook or visiting a landing page. When sales and marketing teams work together, they can increase company revenue by promoting a streamlined buyer experience. 

Ultimately, smarketing enables teams to focus on company goals and drive consumers exactly where they want them, instead of pulling buyers apart in different directions. 

Why You Can’t Publish In A Vacuum

Misalignment between sales and marketing teams are common in any organization. Even though both teams share the goal of creating customer value and driving company results, they don’t always get along because of differences in how they interact with customers. 

For instance, marketing teams may think of buyers in terms of aggregate customer segments while sales teams consider them as individuals. A marketing department is also more inclined towards analysis and processes versus sales reps who focus heavily on relationships and results. 

While this problem continues to persist, the relationship between customers and businesses has changed drastically. Modern consumers don’t just want to talk to a sales rep or read content. Driving meaningful results means putting your best foot forward on all fronts, whether it’s in your blog or on a call. 

Overall, any content your marketing team chooses to produce should be purposeful. Your blog posts can’t just cover random topics; customers are looking for insights that can help fix their problems. Sales usually has a better grasp on what clients are looking for so they can inform your content creation. This strategy also works well in reverse: depending on the type of content consumers demand, your sales reps would understand what problems they should talk about. 

A unified strategy will allow you to create consistency over the messages in your ads, lead magnets, and calls. You can focus on building relationships and improving your sales process once you bring marketing and sales practices together. 

Content Marketing and Sales Alignment: Why It Matters

Modern buyers are no longer impressed by outbound marketing tactics and old-school sales techniques. Consumers want personalized solutions and actionable information through content. To give your sales team a competitive edge, you have to produce content such as whitepapers, blog articles, e-Books, videos, and how-to guides. 

As an organization, it’s imperative to embrace a unified strategy that balances content marketing and sales alignment. If sales had a better appreciation of content marketing and the role content plays in the buyer’s journey, wouldn’t their sales improve as they use the collaterals provided by content marketing?

And if marketers can better recognize unique customer needs through the sales reps, won’t they be able to create more valuable content? 

According to highly aligned sales and marketing teams, their synergy allows them to be more creative and address multiple sides of an issue. They also keep each other accountable in doing their jobs better. 

4 Reasons To Bother With Marketing And Sales Alignment

Many companies are now realizing the importance of sales alignment, with some even listing it in their top 3 marketing priorities. Pursuit of a customer-centric approach, internal productivity, a streamlined customer experience, and overall growth are major reasons why you should take time to align sales and marketing. 

Reason #1: A traditional sales approach no longer works. 

The power in the buying process has shifted from the seller to the buyer. Even before your sales team approaches a prospect, they might have already found a solution to their problem. Customers may also encounter content, either from you or your competitors, and are trying to see who they would prefer to work with. 

The content your customers see are the blogs, social media posts, videos, and other materials developed by marketing. Traditionally, marketing has the sole responsibility for creating content that appeals to your buyers. However, it’s not marketers that have one-on-one engagements with customers every day, it’s the sales team. 

Optimizing your content strategy through alignment ensures you deliver answers customers want to hear while supplying your sales team with the right kind of content to bring prospects closer to a sale. 

Reason #2: The conflict between sales vs marketing becomes unproductive. 

It’s never healthy to have two departments working in conflict against each other. When sales and marketing alignment is nonexistence, these two teams would not be able to integrate their unique perspectives into content creation. Instead of producing useful customer resources or winning deals, they could even be undoing the work of the other team. 

Fostering a productive, collaborative relationship between sales and marketing can improve the type of content you create. Field sales reps can inspire the marketing team’s editorial calendar based on the questions they hear from customers. Similarly, the marketing staff can direct sales representatives on how to appeal to a certain type of customer. If these two departments don’t communicate properly with each other, this synergy cannot take place. 

Reason #3: The customer experience becomes confusing. 

A unified customer experience builds customer trust. In the current buyer landscape where everyone is connected on social media, customers expect personalized, relevant engagement -- a process that falls to marketers rather than sellers. But this doesn’t mean that marketing teams should forget to take perception in consideration.  

When your buying process is misaligned, your customer may simultaneously receive different communications from sales and marketing. This leads to a confused customer experience. Sales and marketing alignment can jointly decide on what customer experience they aim to offer then act on that intention in unison. 

Reason #4: Your business will miss opportunities for growth. 

Marketing may have a lot of long-term strategizing in their work but your salespeople are also in a good place to tell you where to head next. Since sales reps face customers and talk to them on a regular basis, they hear first-hand impressions about the brand. Your sales team has a lot of information about where your business fits in the market and where it should be going. 

Unknowingly or not, customers also give sales reps inside information on customer pain points, what they need, how these needs are being met, and what gaps your business can fill. With proper alignment, this information can be fed back to marketing to drive strategy and evolve your business in line with customer demand. 

The Benefits of Aligning Your Sales and Marketing Strategy

When your sales and marketing strategies align, the sales cycle shortens, conversion rates improve, revenue increases and forecast accuracy is enhanced. 

Here are some benefits of sales alignment with marketing that will let your business achieve stellar numbers: 

  • Better lead qualification and lead nurturing: When sales and marketing are aligned and communicate regularly, it becomes much easier to figure out who are the best-qualified leads. They can work on lead scoring and lead nurturing together. Marketing can hand over the nurtured leads to sales at the right time. And when it comes to conversion, timing is everything. 
  • Informed content creation: Marketing content is designed to answer questions or address pain points that customers experience, and who knows your customers better than your sales reps? When your sales team reveals what’s on your buyers’ minds, your marketing team can actually create valuable articles, videos, and other materials to attract leads. Sales can also utilize these marketing materials to help prospects make better decisions. 
  • Strengthened internal collaboration: Working in separate departments means limited ideas and perspectives. When marketing and sales work together as a unit, they can create impactful campaigns and help each other handle leads better. 

Signs Your Sales and Marketing Teams Are Misaligned 

Many organizations like to think that their sales and marketing teams are aligned because they seem to be getting along well. However, businesses fail to realize when these relationships are ineffective and that they are missing a lot of opportunities. 

If you’re not sure about how closely aligned your marketing and sales teams are, take a look at these signs of misalignment:

  1. Sales isn’t listening to marketing: It’s easy for sales to brush off marketing guidance because marketers “are stuck in an ivory tower” or “don’t understand what talking to a customer is really like”. These aren’t excuses for sales to ignore the marketing point of view. Marketers play an essential role in making sense of marketing trends and creating an approach strategy for sales. 
  1. Marketing isn’t creating useful content: Sometimes a sales team doesn’t want to use the content marketing produces because the collateral fails to meet the sellers’ needs. If this is the case, then marketing time and resources are wasted because marketers fail to share a coherent vision with the sales team. 
  1. They’re playing the blame game: You hear sales complain about not meeting the leads they need. On the other hand, the marketing team complains about the quality leads the sales team wasted. When no one in the team wants to take responsibility for slumping sales, they aren’t aligned with one another. 
  1. You’re missing opportunities: Even when your organization invests time and money into sending sales reps to trade shows and other events, they can still miss opportunities if they don’t have a plan to collect information from attendees. An integrated sales and marketing strategy can help you accommodate any opportunity that comes your way. 
  1. They’re running in separate directions: When the internal process is rushed or delayed, it’s one clear sign that they aren’t moving in the same direction. This is counterproductive because each department may be wasting the other’s valuable time and efforts. 
  1. No one is speaking the same language: Misalignment is clear when marketing and sales aren’t viewing and treating customers with the same lens. This becomes evident in the language they use: marketing might think a prospect is someone who has met X qualification standards, while sales might define prospects as someone who has interacted with them. 
  1. They learn separately: Sales and marketing often train separately - which leads to varying degrees of respect and understanding towards one another. Rather than focusing on their separate goals, sales and marketing alignment should bring their unique techniques and perspectives together under one common goal. 
  1. Your buyers have a disjointed experience: Customer journeys could be disjointed due to misaligned sales and marketing practices. If your buyers are getting one message from marketing and another from sales, it may cause a lot of confusion for them. 
  1. They’re working a little too harmoniously: Both departments could be getting along in perfect unison -- even if their ship is headed towards disaster. Lack of conflict doesn’t mean actual sales and marketing alignment; it often means complacency. Without healthy conflict peppered with questions and ideas, your organization’s growth will stagnate over time. 

Tips on How To Implement Sales and Marketing Alignment For Better Content

Essentially, sales and marketing alignment or ‘smarketing’ is the ability to bring marketing-qualified leads (MQL) and sales-qualified leads (SQL) together. 

As your organization builds a better understanding of your customers, you can refine the process for measuring, grading, disseminating, and following-up on leads for your business.

To get an idea of how to implement sales and marketing alignment, here are a few things you can start with: 

  • Collaborating on the customer journey

A customer journey is the complete set of experiences each customer goes through as they encounter your company’s brand. Since both sales and marketing departments are involved in various stages of the customer journey, restructuring this process is the perfect place to start aligning these departments. 

Instead of separating the experience for your prospects, both sales and marketing should weave together a seamless journey that takes them through the buyer’s funnel down to the brand advocate stages. This way, your organization can easily track where a customer is and create personalized content to get them where they need to be. 

  • Creating a reader/buyer persona together

It’s likely that your sales and marketing teams don’t have a unified view of who your ideal customer is supposed to be. Perhaps sales reps want to pursue leads who can afford the product while marketing may have a more specific idea of who their target customer is. Without a single vision of who they’re supposed to sell to, these two teams won’t come up with a cohesive, effective strategy. 

In order to resolve this problem, sales and marketing have to create their ideal reader or buyer persona together. They have to sit down and agree on the customer type they should be doing business with: who they are, what challenges they face, what makes them tick, and so on. This will help both teams streamline their process and make sure they reach the right prospects. 

  • Deciding on shared KPIs 

Sales and marketing performances are often measured differently. Marketing teams are challenged to promote brand awareness as well as lead quantity and quality. Meanwhile, sales teams are entirely focused on closing deals or renewing contracts. Without a shared goal, it’s impossible for them to stay in sync; they will only focus on what their team needs to achieve independently. 

To make sure they function as one unit, they need to share key performance indicators (KPIs). Once they have a shared metric like revenue growth, they would be more encouraged to help each other. Setting up regular meetings to identify weak points and measure how well both teams are doing can drastically improve their performances.

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