This might sound familiar: Your B2B content initiatives for lead generation are mature, precise and personalized. You have an intricate knowledge of where visitors on your site are interacting with your content, how often each piece is being shared, and which pieces of content are most likely to resonate with each of your target personas. And you’re measuring all of this with data, allowing for iterations and improvements based on numbers, not hunches.
But then there’s the other side of the funnel.
When the lead had already been generated, for some reason all that maturity, precision, and personalization falls off the map. When it comes to content used by sales teams to move the buyer close to a deal, gone is the intricacy. Data-backed insights for future improvements? Forget about it.
A recent survey Seismic conducted with over 200 B2B content marketers in conjunction with MarketingProfs confirms this: 72% percent of respondents said that they are personalizing marketing content on a persona-based or industry-specific level, but only 18% are equipping their sales team with that content in an effectively organized manner and are ensuring that such content remains updated and on-brand.
Instead, 23% of respondents are feeding content to sales teams through various disconnected siloes and 16% wait for one-off requests for content from sales. Meanwhile, a whopping 13% have no process in place for enabling sales with content and an additional 11% didn’t even know if they had a process in place or not.
This is a dangerous position to be in for B2B content creators, for two reasons. First, by not equipping sales teams with the best content and information needed to close deals, sales cycles are not as quick as they could be. Second, marketers not focused on sales content are limiting their own influence within their organization. The clicks, shares, and impressions you are currently measuring in terms of lead generation content efforts are valuable, but imagine being able show which pieces of content you created are the ones that led to a closed deal.
The survey also confirmed this desire among B2B content marketers, as 64% said they considered their team’s influence on the bottom line as being important or very important.
The great news is being able to tie your efforts to the progression of a lead to a sale is possible today. Here are four steps B2B content marketers can take to start better aligning their marketing and sales content initiatives.
1. Map out content across the entire customer journey
Content is king, and it should be used in every stage of the customer journey, from first touch to close. However, that content becomes much less effective if there is no aligned, concerted effort to map exactly which pieces of content a lead consumes and when.
For example, your team might have created an excellent eBook which perfectly conveys your product’s value proposition and how current customers are succeeding with it. But, if you ask a someone to open it three different times at three different touch points, you’re not going to look like you understand that person’s problems and how your company solves them—you’re going to look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
2. Create a content audit process and stick to it
One of the major content issues affecting B2B sales teams is that there’s simply too much of it. There could be dozens of versions of the same piece of content floating around a host of different storage platforms—DropBox, Box, SharePoint, local drives, etc. Instead of spending time wading through a swamp of content, sales reps may be tempted to instead just use the ones that are most convenient, regardless if it’s up to date or even relevant for a particular lead. In fact, SiriusDecisions found that poor content usability and findability costs enterprise organizations $2.3 million a year on average.
The first step in any effective sales enablement process is to audit all of the content circling around your sales team. Each piece of content should be gathered and then vetted based on factors including its quality, value, applicability, and effectiveness, retiring pieces that don’t hold up. Your team should be performing such audits on a regular cadence, say every six months.
Content audits can be a time-consuming process initially, but they will save you and your sales teams a lot of time and headaches in the long run.
3. Serve up content in the environments that sales people already use
Sales reps spend an average of 30 hours per month searching for and creating content on their own. That’s 65 days per year in which they’re performing tasks that are not part of their core responsibilities, using tools and platforms they’re probably not trained in. That’s also time that they’re not spending developing relationships with leads or closing sales.
In most situations, sales teams’ most valuable tools are their CRM and email platform. As a content marketer, it is your job to ensure that there is a process in place where they can easily access all the content they need in those environments, helping them stay in the tools that are most effective for them. Making content available in platforms such as Salesforce and Microsoft Outlook should be a top priority for any sales-focused B2B marketing team.
4. Measure, measure, measure
Content used to close sales deserves to be backed by data and metrics just as much as the content you are using at the top of the funnel. Not only does this help you improve future versions of the content, as you will be able to truly see what is and isn’t working, you will also be able to point to specific numbers when it comes to showing how your team’s content directly leads to sales in your next meeting with the CMO.
Example of measurements you should be analyzing include how often and when your sales reps are using pieces of content; which pieces are actually being consumed on the other end by the buyer; and which are being disregarded by both parties.
If you don’t have the analytics technology in place for this, you can start by setting up regular meetings with sales to discuss content effectiveness and which pieces they find that they are using most often.
Content personalization is a huge topic among B2B marketers right now. Another recent survey found that 66% of B2B executives plan to increase the use of personalization in content over the next 12 months. While such personalization can be applied across the customer journey, the organizations that find ways to apply it to sales content in an efficient and an effective manner will be ahead of the competition when it comes to closing deals.