When your sales team is constantly making requests for new content, it’s easy to lose sight of your long-term marketing plan. Worse still, it can lead to you shelving best practice in favor of producing something they can use quickly.

Strong content isn’t always the content that sales – or anyone else in the business – thinks they need. In Dr. Clemens Koob’s extensive literature review into content effectiveness, he concluded that marketers should “systematically evaluate and optimize customer-perceived content value, which means putting the audience and its needs and wants first while at the same time keeping an eye on the organization’s communications objectives without becoming self-centered.”

In short, you should always focus on what matters to your customers, then think about how to align content to your own goals.

“If sales are happy, I’m happy” is a good way to live a peaceful life as a marketer. However, it can end up removing your reader from their rightful place at the center of the conversation. Making sure your sales team is happy with the content you’re creating is important. But, it shouldn’t be the ultimate goal of content strategy.

Sellers don’t always use the content you create

The trouble is, when you do create new content, odds are it won’t get used. In a study by LinkedIn and the Content Marketing Institute, the businesses surveyed estimated that a staggering 80% of the content produced for sales teams went unused. For many businesses, that’s a huge repository of content that won’t even have a chance to deliver their message.

According to HubSpot’s 2021 State of Marketing report, sales is the most commonly used metric to measure the success of content marketing. With so many one-pagers and product primers to sift through, it’s almost impossible to track which documents help create sales. Some just take up space. When every salesperson is using a different mix of old and new content, it’s difficult to work out what best-practice sales conversations look like.

Your prospects want carefully considered content

Your readers can tell the difference between insightful, story-led content and content quickly created for use as sales collateral.

Dr. Koob says that, to produce worthwhile content, “organizations should not compromise on the journalistic quality of their content.” Instead, Dr. Koob advised striving to “create content pieces that stand out regarding journalistic aspects.” These can include originality, narrative perspective, diversity of viewpoints, accuracy, or compliance with ethical standards.

Prospective customers value well-written, well-evidenced, objective, original articles. All of these things are difficult to maintain if you’re quickly producing content in response to requests from the sales team.

But all this doesn’t mean ignoring your sales team. Far from it.

Sales and marketing aren’t opposing forces

In a study by LinkedIn and CMI, only half of the companies surveyed felt their sales and marketing teams were ‘highly aligned’. As Sean Callahan, Senior Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, puts it: “Sales and marketing may sometimes feel like opposing squads. However, when both are working toward the same goal, they become far more effective by operating in unison.”

Most salespeople aren’t marketers. They won’t necessarily know the ins and outs of how to build the most effective content. But they do know every nook and cranny of the best way to talk to your audience. They know the real questions your prospects ask and the right way to answer them. Partnership is the way forward.

LinkedIn and CMI reported that organizations with high alignment between their sales and marketing teams were more likely to have a shared content repository and frequent meetings with both teams strategizing together. (Interestingly, they were also more likely to have successful ABM campaigns, which rely on close collaboration.)

Today’s exercise: ask some (potentially uncomfortable) questions

Sales aren’t the only people you need to keep happy with your content. However, they are an invaluable resource for making sure everything you produce is useful, detailed, and relevant to your customers.

Create a survey for your sales or account team to scope how they feel about your content. Ask the questions you are scared to know the answer to.

Try asking questions like:

  • Is the content we provide useful to you?
  • Do your prospects find this content useful?
  • Which pieces of content are you actually using?
  • Do you use the same content mix as your colleagues?
  • Do you find yourself creating your own content to fill gaps?

If your marketing team doesn’t often work closely with the sales team, this is the ideal first step to creating a more tightly aligned plan for your content.

Three myths busted. Two to go.

We’re at the halfway point in our myth-debunking series (you can catch up with myth #1 and myth #2 on our blog) – and next time we’ll be digging into the concept of content democratization.

While you’re waiting for the next installment, sign up to our Noggin Notes newsletter using the form below, and get a curated collection of marketing tips and news stories delivered directly to your inbox.

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