How to Get Sales and Marketing in the Same Kitchen

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August 22, 2019 10:00 am

Omelets and scrambled eggs have the same ingredients – cracked eggs mixed with a liquid and seasoning. But they aren’t the same. One is an elevated egg dish and the other is a banal breakfast item.

The difference? Technique.

An omelet involves a gentle lift of the edges of the cooked eggs so the runny eggs can flow underneath. And it finishes with a flip to fold the smooth egg mixture. Scrambled eggs involve stirring the eggs until cooked.

An omelet generates a better reaction – and often a higher menu price – than a few scrambled eggs.

And technique is the difference between a well-aligned sales and content marketing strategy (the omelet) and a disparate strategy where sales and content marketing operate separately (the scrambled eggs).

Amy Higgins shared her experience in creating several varieties of sales and content marketing omelets during her content marketing career at her ContentTECH Summit talk, Using the Power of Data to Make the Perfect Marketing and Sales Omelet. (Amy is now a content strategist at Salesforce.)

Invite sales into the content kitchen

The alignment of sales and content marketing is like any relationship. It’s important to have a clear line of communication and for each team to understand the other.

A good sales & marketing relationship requires communication and understanding, says @amywhiggins. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

To start the process of omelet-making-magic Amy opened communication lines by letting Sojern’s sales team see how the content sausage gets made. One-to-one discussions often proved the most fruitful. People in a group setting are inclined to sit on their hands (i.e., not speak up), while a one-to-one session can generate deep, direct, and fruitful feedback.

During these private conversations with sales, Amy detailed the content marketing strategy and even showed the status of in-progress campaigns. She walked through the content strategy, showed content drafts, and asked for their input on what else the content should include.

When the content team incorporated sales team feedback into the content, Amy said, final drafts often prompted the response: “Oh! This is exactly what I need.”

This up-front alignment gave sales an incentive to share subsequent successes with the content marketing team and to come back with ideas and requests for more content.

Up-front strategy alignment incentivized sales to share content successes and new ideas. @amywhiggins #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

Co-create recipes

When Amy worked with Sojern, which provides data-driven traveler marketing services, the work with the sales team took content marketing from “nice to have” to a strategic business asset.

For example, guided by input from sales about what mattered to the client, Amy and a colleague sifted through Sojern and third-party data to zero in on the trends the customers most cared about.

They presented the data in a way that sales and the customers could understand at a glance:

Click to enlarge

Ultimately, they created a 125-slide deck focusing on each of the markets important to the customer. And they did it in a day. Though that sounds daunting, Amy says the input from the sales team made it possible.

As Amy says, relating a quote from Shira Abel, CEO at design agency Hunter & Bard: “Sales knows the customer better than anyone. Pull them in to help focus the content on what’s needed to close a deal or build an account.”

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Ask sales to serve the content

Twitter, LinkedIn, email, Google AdWords, paid social, Facebook, syndication, and industry influencers often make the list of top distribution methods for a brand’s content.

Jane and Jowan, who sit in the next cubicles, usually aren’t on it. But they’re on the brand’s sales team and should be near the top of the content distribution list.

The sales team should be on the top of your #content distribution list, says @amywhiggins. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

One-on-one conversations to build awareness and co-creating content gave some salespeople an incentive to share content, Amy said. But she didn’t stop there.

For example, at Concur, Amy used Mailchimp to send internal emails to the sales team, arming them with content to share with their contacts. She appealed to their results-driven nature by providing metrics around the impact of their sharing.

She tracked metrics such as open rates and click rates. Amy also was able to measure the impact of the sales team’s shares on website traffic because she added UTM (tracking) codes to the URLs of all the content she asked the sales team to share.

Place UTM codes on all #content to be shared by sales team to measure impact, says @amywhiggins. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

“For (one) e-commerce campaign, 15% of blog traffic came from sales. I used this to encourage the team. In the email that I sent out, I’d write, ‘Hey guys, here are more messages. By the way, keep doing what you’re doing! You’re driving 15% of all views,’” says Amy.

Since she knew the sales team at Sojern used LinkedIn Sales Navigator, she opted to use its PointDrive feature, which is described as “a more professional way to deliver personalized content and drives greater engagement between buyers and sellers.”

As Amy explains, “I used it to store all of my information for campaigns. Here’s your deck, the blog, the video, five case studies that go with it. A one-stop shop. Sales goes there and then they can tailor that content and how they deliver it to their contacts.”

Fill the brand’s content pantry

Like B2B Content Marketer of the Year finalist Heike Young of Salesforce, Amy sees the wisdom in going beyond “sales as a distribution channel” to “all employees as a distribution channel.”

Amy shared that it’s critical to create a system that allows all employees in the organization to obtain and use its content. For example, she has used Google Docs and Google Sites to create an internal wiki with information on content and campaigns. The wiki pages contain links to content assets, along with suggested social share copy.

She also made a searchable Google Doc index that tagged terms like mobile, expenses, and size of business. That made it easy to find resources when sales or others came with requests like: “I want something that’s talking about mobile expense management for a small business.”

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Do you want scrambled eggs or an omelet?

In my past marketing roles at B2B software companies, I worked hard to create alignment with sales. I found success, but there were always things to improve upon.

If you’re looking to create better technique to align with sales – or if you’re in sales and looking to create better technique with marketing – I’d start with the underlying element of any relationship: understanding and communication.

How can you gain this higher level of understanding? You could, with colleagues’ permission, spend a few days in their shoes: Listen in on their calls, join them on client visits, and review objections that prospects send via email.

You could even take a few fresh leads and contact them yourself.

Then you’ll know how to elevate your content to make the perfectly aligned sales-marketing omelet and soon forget about those less-tasty-but-quicker-to-cook scrambled eggs.

How about it? How are you looking to improve sales and content marketing alignment? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s an excerpt from Amy’s talk:

Amy Higgins talks career growth in content marketing at Content Marketing World Sept. 3-6. Join her and dozens of other experts to advance your career. Register today using code CMIBLOG100 to save $100. 

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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