For many B2B organisations, the creation and distribution of sales and marketing content now accounts for the single biggest chunk of the annual marketing budget. In 2016, content creation accounted for 16% of all marketing spend, according to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA).
Incredibly, other research from SiriusDecisions shows that around 70% of that content goes unused by sales teams. In other words, the majority of your biggest marketing investment is effectively laid to waste – destined never to contribute so much as a single sale for your business.
In this blog post, we’ll identify how content wastage has become such a prominent issue for today’s B2B businesses – and look at how you can ensure better management of your content through tools and strategies that focus on ROI.
Alignment of content and sales teams
Fundamentally, there can only be two reasons for content not being used by your sales team. Either your sales people can’t find it, or it’s just not very useful to them. Both are major holes in your content strategy, and suggest a lack of cohesion between the content marketing team and the salesforce.
The access issue is a relatively simple one to fix. Sales and marketing technology that stores and indexes all your marketing content in one centralised repository, can give sales teams easy access to all materials, at all times. If it can be accessed and then deployed quickly using templates that can be personalised, it also helps sales people with another common issue – productivity.
Increasing the relevance and usefulness of your content, however, represents a greater challenge.
Conventional wisdom suggests that educational content is critical and marketing teams should focus less on their company’s product and/or service collateral. As a result, many marketers focus too much on educational and awareness or ‘top of the funnel’ content – in an attempt to drive traffic and generate leads.
While this is understandable, it’s a pitfall that should be avoided. Ultimately, content must be produced with clear company objectives and ROI goals in mind, while creating value for those consuming it. To achieve this, marketing teams should spend more time with sales personnel to understand their needs. Unsurprisingly, it’s the information that sells and differentiates the company, a.k.a. ‘bottom of the funnel’ content, that sales people need marketing to focus more on.
In the spirit of supporting the sales force, it’s important to ensure relevance in every piece of content you create. All too often, marketing content is focused on a hot industry issue that has very little to do with the company’s proposition – it’s vital to make sure your materials always tie in to what the sales team is actually trying to sell.
Marketing also needs to get closer to the customer. It’s too easy to produce a content strategy in a vacuum, separated from the real world and second-guessing what the target audience is really concerned about. It’s often the absence of this insight that is the root cause of content wastage. Marketers need to develop relationships with customers directly to understand them better, and it’s very much in the interest of the sales team to help ensure that happens.
Supporting every stage
A good content strategy should be in balance and support every stage of the sales process. But time, budget and resources should be allocated to the stages that will provide the greatest returns. Maybe lead generation is less important than closing a number of key opportunities? If that’s the case, it’s likely the content the sales team has to work with is limited. So switching focus to optimise this stage may result in a significant pay off.
If there’s not sufficient content tailored to the bottom of the funnel, sales teams will inevitably take a DIY approach to their engagements – creating their own ‘off-brand’ materials that may look unprofessional and do more harm than good.
Another way to maximise the use of your marketing and sales content is to diversify your materials – making use of engaging media formats such as video, animation and webinars. Modern sales enablement tools will help here too, allowing you to produce sales presentations that incorporate all these elements to hold the attention of the customer in face-to-face scenarios.
Again, using sales meeting analytics, as well as knowing your customers, will help to identify your buyer preferences in terms of the best channels and content types.
A B2B sales process will almost always involve multiple influencers and decision-makers. It’s rare for the sales team to be actively engaged with all parties, so content marketing deployed effectively can help you reach everyone that’s likely to be involved – ensuring they are all familiar with your company and it’s offerings. However, you’ll need to ensure your content appeals to different stakeholders, as they will all be interested in different information.
Often, salespeople will have no choice but to support an internal sell too – where it’s up to their key contact within the buyer organisation to convince decision-makers to move forward. There is no direct access to key people in this scenario, so the only way to support such a process is to equip the internal ‘champion’ with the right content to stimulate action.
Evaluating your content
As we’ve already touched on, another advantage of today’s sales enablement platforms is the built-in analytics engine that shows you how your content is being used out in the field.
With just a few clicks, you’re able to see which pieces of content are being used most effectively in sales meetings and which pieces are redundant – and you can use this insight (in tandem with the sales success rate) to refine your content strategy.
Use the data as a basis for discussion with your sales force. For example, why is certain content so popular? Why do they feel more comfortable talking through one particular sales presentation over another? Why doesn’t this infographic see the light of day in sales meetings?
Through constant evaluation and feedback, you’ll move towards a far more effective position that ultimately eliminates content waste.
While it’s encouraging to see businesses recognising the importance of investment in content creation, high levels of wastage suggest sales and marketing teams need to work more closely together with shared goals focused on growing the business. Arguably, the two functions are so closely intertwined today, they should really just be one ‘growth’ team.
For content owners, they need to ensure that all content created truly supports and accelerates the sales process – accommodating every stage of the sales funnel, not just the top, with a diversified portfolio of content assets that lead a buyer down the path to purchase.
With the rapid developments in sales enablement technology, marketing and sales are much better equipped to collaborate. Marketing can leverage analytics to see what’s working in the field and take those insights to inform content creation – then ensuring it’s easily accessible for sales. In turn, sales people can stop wasting time reinventing content, instead simply personalising professionally branded materials, designed to support them at every stage in the buying process.