Content Marketing and Sales Enablement Must Get Married


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The raging waters of the sales and marketing alignment debate continues to make its’ way through the halls of corporate America. This is despite recent entrance of social technology enabled systems and processes all professing to be the cure that remedies this debate. This is definitely becoming like the $60m question we all hope to win with an answer no one has come up with yet. Having spent the last decade or more in the arena of buyer persona development and researching buyer behaviors within business cultures, I’ve come to a conclusion that there are no silver bullets and no specific technology that is going to be the one thing that magically gives us the Rodney King moment – “can’t we all get along?” What is apparent from a qualitative standpoint is that this is more of a business cultural issue.

What did this previous paragraph have to do with the title I’m sure some of you are asking right now? From a business culture perspective, we are seeing a recently introduced new domain of content marketing born out of changes in technology and buyer behaviors as well as the area of sales enablement attempting to make selling performance more efficient. Marketing becoming the home for content strategy and sales enablement finding its’ home in sales. Sometimes I wonder though if the two areas ever talk to each other. We all can admit that what the misalignment amounts to can be cultural differences related to how groups operate and what their specific agenda is for an organization. Although content marketing and sales enablement are relatively new concepts from a long-term view, I believe the long-term cultural differences are still in play.

Culturally, content marketing and sales enablement must go through a courting period and eventually get married. If we focus on two words, publish and tools, it helps to define a dynamic that is happening right now in corporate hallways. Devising content strategy and content marketing tactics is becoming predominantly about publishing content that meet buyer demand for knowledge in the early stages of the buying cycle. Sales enablement, particularly in a sales-driven culture, tends to focus on producing tools that enable sales to be more effective. Tools related to processes and having information available at their fingertips when prospecting and calling on buyers.

A recent meeting with a B2B organization illustrated this dynamic for me. I observed a sales group listen attentively at first to a team from marketing describe and present the content they had produced. They were told how this content was going to be made available in their existing sales enablement system. I could see the attention wander once they actually began to see the content. Afterwards, I began to do some wandering myself to have chats with some of the sales team members. What’s going on? Basically, if I could sum up the conversations, they believed that the content was good and can help buyers become interested however they saw that there was no means for them to personally use this content as well as to personally produce content specific for their engagements with buyers.

What I believe I am observing here in some organizations is that just like any new buzz word that comes along, it becomes a label for existing methods and little change can take place culturally. In this illustration, marketing labeled their production “content marketing” but from a cultural standpoint produced it much like it had before – without much input from sales. While sales may be getting better tools from a sales enablement standpoint – making them more efficient – they may still be left ill-equipped from a content perspective when they need to provide essential knowledge and insight to buyers. The reality, in this case, was marketing believed it was providing “content” for generating buyer interest however sales didn’t think it had much purpose afterwards. In other words, the content produced didn’t synch up well with the tools made available nor did the sales people believe it was customizable to use further downstream of the buying cycle. The corporate niceties followed true to form – everyone saying how great everything was and off they went back to their respective camps.

To be sure, the introduction of content marketing and sales enablement are moving sales and marketing closer in alignment than in past decades. It does seem though that in order to successfully achieve ideal alignment, organizations must commit to cultural change. Otherwise, new business concepts such as content marketing and sales enablement become new masks to wear at the sales and marketing masquerade ball held annually where everyone agrees to get along. A place to start is to look at how to marry content marketing and sales enablement into a new force that brings the two sides together under a common purpose. This common purpose centered around a common understanding and view of the organization’s buyer personas. What to call this new force and how to integrate it structurally is the $60m question.

One approach is to organize around a dedicated buyer understanding. During the past year, I’ve sugeested a focus on buyer experience as well as buyer enablement. It seems to me at least, that having strategy and organizational structure built around the buyer – both in proactice as well as structurally as eBay has done – offers the best hope to serve as a catalyst to foster sales and marketing alignment.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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