By Carla Johnson published December 26, 2012

The Role of Content in the Sales and Marketing Marriage

[Editor’s note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we’ve seen from our CMI Consultants. Today’s post originally appeared on the CMSWire blog on Oct. 25, 2012.]

content's role in sales and marketing marriageIf content marketing is supposed to support the sales cycle, why are so many businesses so bad at it?

Companies think the answer comes from the right marketing automation system or any other bit of technology that gets content in front of a customer or prospect. It’s not. It’s about sales and marketing not having walked the proverbial mile in each other’s shoes. Too many content efforts sink because neither side takes the time to truly understand the other. 

It’s not just about speaking the same language. Plenty of people in this world speak English and look how out of touch we are with each other. It’s about understanding each other’s perspective.

Why marketing needs to think like sales

One of the great pieces of career advice is that everyone should have a stint in sales, whether it’s a full-fledged sales role or simply as a Girl Scout or Boy Scout. The lessons you learn by having to sell something — including yourself — prove invaluable. I think this applies doubly to anyone in marketing.

The 2012 IDG Enterprise Customer Engagement survey shared some interesting insights. The purpose of the survey was to better understand content’s role in the decision to buy for major technology products and services.

Of those surveyed, 38 percent said that finding trusted information was extremely challenging/very challenging and another 43 percent cited it as somewhat challenging. That leaves just 14 percent who think marketing’s doing a good enough job. The biggest hurdles included vendor bias, sales pitches and trustworthiness of the information.

Sad. Especially in an environment when we marketers have to continually prove our worth and battle for budget.

Really great sales people know that it’s not about you. It’s about them.

But because most marketers have never sat in the hot seat across from a prospect or customer, they don’t know the feeling of a face-to-face fail when the content they generate misses the mark. It’s not the format. It’s not the volume. It’s the ability to recognize what content’s truly relevant for a sales team and then understand how to generate it. Consistently, and with high quality.

Why sales needs to think like marketing

Research conducted by the Custom Content Council points out that 61 percent of people feel better about a company that delivers custom content and are more likely to buy from that company. Makes sense.

Yet so many sales teams stand disconnected from the impact that content marketing can have. There’s no conversation with the group planning and generating content to know where it’s showing up, what it means to their customers and how to make it more relevant.

Content marketing isn’t solely marketing’s responsibility. And just like their marketing counterparts, sales teams need to take ownership of making sure they understand their audience, where they “live,” and how to reach them.

Unlike salmon swimming upstream, content won’t instinctively migrate to where it needs to go.

Riding into the sunset 

Clearly, communication needs to be a two-way street. Both sales and marketing need to realize that lively conversation can bring about better-quality and better-positioned content. This dialogue should serve as a forum to explore the needs of each other, not defending a long-held position just for the sake of a he-said-she-said argument.

In the end, when sales and marketing can’t see eye-to-eye it’s not just the content that suffers, it’s the customer.

Image via Bigstock

Author: Carla Johnson

Recognized as one of the top 50 influencers in content marketing, Carla's latest book, Experience: The 7th Era of Marketing, with CMI's Robert Rose, teaches marketers how to develop, manage, and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves as the Vice President of Thought Leadership for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA), and is an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute, the ANA, and Rutgers University. A frequent speaker, Carla also contributes to industrywide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of the B2B marketing profession, leading through innovation and storytelling. Learn more at Type A Communications and follow her on Twitter at @CarlaJohnson.

Other posts by Carla Johnson

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  • Kieran May

    I can’t believe I am still seeing errors with the apostrophe in Outlook. The title reads like this “Content’s Role in the Sales and Marketing Marriage”

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Kieran,
      We have been testing some solutions, so my apologies this is not resolved yet. We will figure it out!