Double your strength
with sales and marketing alignment

May 29, 2020

Companies with aligned marketing and sales operations grow faster – this has been true for many years, but the accelerated digitalisation of the buying journey and growth of marketing automation makes the topic of sales and marketing alignment more important than ever.  

Failure to align sales and marketing teams leads to wasted resources. According to Forrester, up to 70 percent of B2B content is not distributed effectively and close to 75 percent of marketing leads never convert into a sale. Forrester also reports that aligned organisations achieved an average of 32 percent annual revenue growth.

When teams aren't aligned, the result is a fragmented brand message, unclear value propositions, and ultimately, fewer conversions. Sales and marketing teams need to communicate and take each other seriously. Content marketing stands at the centre of this process.

At CBC, we often see that even for mature organisations, it is a real challenge to create and activate content that both sales and marketing teams can buy into. Here are some strategies to get your teams on the same page.

Understand why you need sales and marketing alignment

Research from Gartner shows that before making a purchase, the typical B2B buyer now spends more time conducting independent research and less time meeting with their potential suppliers. That means many of your sales reps’ traditional responsibilities are now shared with marketing.

B2B businesses often rely on a strong sales force and product engineers to win the deal, but that approach ignores the elongated research period in the buyer's journey. In order to move the modern B2B customer forward to a closed deal, they need to be engaged with targeted, value-adding content early in their buying process.

Across industries, B2B marketing teams are increasingly responsible for identifying and profiling the potential customer, generating leads through inbound marketing, nurturing the customer with targeted content, and handing qualified leads over to the sales team to close the deal. With this changing paradigm, aligning your marketing and sales teams is critical to success.

Agree on your audience and create customer personas

The marketing content you create should do more than just capture your customer’s attention. With an inbound marketing strategy, your content should engage the customer and pull them into your sales funnel. In order for an inbound strategy to work, you need to create premium content that is valuable for your audience – valuable being the keyword here.

Misalignment between marketing and sales can lead to irrelevant content created without clear objectives. If you haven’t agreed on the target audience and what you want them to do, it will be difficult to create targeted content, and you won’t generate strong inbound leads. The good leads you do manage to pull in will get lost in the shuffle and you’ll miss the chance to nurture them further.

Creating buyer profiles, a customer journey map, and value propositions will help your teams agree on who the target customers are, identify the key decision makers within those organisations, and create content that speaks to the specific needs of each of those decision makers.

With that done, you can dig into your personas to become more customer-centric and produce content that helps your audience solve their problems. This can come in the form of thought leadership content, research-based white papers, or practical how-to guides and handbooks.

Set KPIs and define your way of work

We’ve seen marketing departments get frustrated when salespeople don’t follow up on leads – and sales departments that get annoyed by the low quality of the leads generated by marketing. Establishing shared goals and KPIs will help your teams pull in the same direction, so it is important to agree on responsibilities, desired outcomes and what makes a good lead.

An interactive workshop is a good place to start gathering high-level ideas from your internal stakeholders. This will help identify which customers to target, what types of content to create, and what key messages to focus on.

An agreed upon structure and way of work will help keep your teams engaged in open, honest conversation. Maybe this comes in the form of weekly or monthly check-in meetings, a dedicated Slack or Teams channel, a Kanban project management tool like Trello – or all of the above. The important thing is to communicate..

Incorporate digital lead generation and nurturing content

When it comes time to publish and activate your content, we’ve found that digital lead generation campaigns are a strong first step in the nurturing process. With this approach, you can work in a content “sprint” that focuses on a specific customer segment, and then apply your learnings to appeal to other segments.

An important tool in the digital lead nurturing process is email, where you can offer the customer new content including blog posts, videos and webinars. Based on what they interact with, you can create a clearer picture of the lead and follow up on their interests until they are ready to interact with sales.

Tracking what the audience responds to will not only help you strengthen your sales approach, it will also help you improve the content you produce in the future. Even the biggest vendors can take a page out of the startup playbook by agreeing to take an agile approach to content marketing. By preparing to ''fail faster'' B2B brands can face the challenges of engaging the modern B2B customer over the long-term.

Ensure a clean sales handover and establish your loyalty loop

According to Harvard Business Review, when "digital native" buyers are ready to interact directly with your business, they will come to the table with strong opinions formed during their online research. Having tracked what information the prospective customer has received and responded to, you can devise a more targeted pitch and better prepare for any opposition.

When the lead does meet your sales and product teams, the messages must match what they have seen previously. Here, everyone needs to speak with one "brand voice", offering the customer a consistent experience at every touch point until they are convinced that you are a reliable partner.

Once the customer makes their initial buy, they enter your “loyalty loop” in which you continue to nurture them until their next purchase. Businesses with a solid marketing and sales alignment have a much higher customer retention rate. With this structure in place, you can continually improve your processes and facilitate further sales and marketing alignment.

Are you ready?

Cross-Border Communications offers the experience and processes to help you create and activate content that your entire organisation can stand behind. If you need to create content that aligns your sales and marketing teams, contact Ralph Krøyer at rk@cbc.dk or +45 35 25 01 75.

 

Topics: News