By Lisa Murton Beets published April 14, 2021 Est Read Time: 9 min

How Well Does Content and Marketing Help Sales Teams? [New Research]

We hear a lot these days about “sales enablement.” While there are various definitions, sales enablement boils down to helping your sales team be as successful as possible.

How do marketers develop sales content within their companies? Is the content useful to the salespeople for whom it is developed? Where is it stored and managed so salespeople can access it? How is it measured?

These are just some of the questions CMI set out to answer in our latest survey, Creating Content for Sales Enablement. All respondents indicated they are involved in some way with creating content for their company’s sales teams. We heard mostly from content marketing/content strategy leaders (39%), marketing leaders (28%), and content creators (24%).

The survey defined:

  • Sales enablement as the process of providing your sales team with the content, information, and tools they need in order to sell effectively.
  • Alignment as a collaborative working relationship that results in positive business results,

The report, sponsored by Vidyard, refers to aligned and nonaligned groups. The aligned respondents rated the alignment between marketing and sales in their companies as excellent, very good, or good. The nonaligned respondents rated their alignment as fair or poor.

The big picture

Most of this study’s findings suggest the need for:

  • Better communication and collaboration
  • Better analytics and success metrics
  • Better use of marketing technology

Here’s why:

  • 68% agree their content teams create content for specific stages of the buyer’s journey; however, only 39% agree their sales teams use the right content at the right stages in the buyer’s journey.
68% create #content for the buyer’s journey; only 39% say sales teams use it at the right stage, says @LisaBeets via @CMIContent @vidyard. #Research Click To Tweet
  • 60% agree their marketing and sales teams tell the same brand story; however, nearly one in four disagree.
  • 54% agree marketing and sales have shared access to data about customers and prospects; however, nearly one-third disagree.
  • While most (65%) agree salespeople can easily locate sales content in their companies, 42% indicate they lack the ability to produce personalized sales content quickly.

Alignment plays a role here. The aligned group fares better in these areas. But they aren’t that far ahead on shared access to data about customers and prospects, an area where most companies can improve. And both the aligned and nonaligned groups indicate they lack the ability to produce personalized sales content quickly.

More collaboration is needed

Respondents indicate their marketing and sales teams collaborate most on “content topics.” However, collaboration decreases on “content types” (38% say they rarely or never collaborate on this subject). Yet, without collaboration, dollars could be wasted creating the wrong content.

“Getting valid feedback on content types is an issue,” one respondent notes. “Often the request is to ‘make a one-pager’ on a product or service, but there is no goal for the piece – or they tell us what they think is the most valuable thing to put in such a short piece of content based on their customer interactions.”

Compounding the problem, 57% say marketing and sales teams rarely or never collaborate on how to assess content effectiveness. This points back to broader struggles with measuring content effectiveness and ROI, a problem we’ve found in other CMI research.

57% of surveyed say #marketing and #sales teams rarely or never collaborate on how to measure their #content’s effectiveness, says @LisaBeets via @CMIContent @vidyard #Research. Click To Tweet

Collaborating on how to assess content effectiveness was a sore spot for all respondents, regardless of overall alignment. Only 19% of the aligned always or frequently collaborates in this area, with 44% saying they rarely or never do. It was even worse for the nonaligned (74% report they rarely or never collaborate on content effectiveness assessment).

Using buyer personas to create content

Delving further into content creation, we found:

  • The majority of marketing and sales teams (51%) can access a shared set of buyer personas.
  • 67% indicate they interview customers and use other types of research to develop personas, and 59% indicate they interview salespeople as well.

Aligned teams are more likely than nonaligned teams to have personas (63% vs. 36%). The nonaligned are more likely to conduct interviews with their salespeople (65%) than with customers (54%), indicating the nonaligned are more likely to rely on what their salespeople tell them. Although we didn’t dig deeper on why this occurs, the open-ended comments mention factors such as lack of buy-in at higher levels in the company, lack of access to customers, and lack of bandwidth.

Most content created for sales is ‘promotional’

Nearly two-thirds of respondents say most content created for sales in their companies is promotional (61%), followed by educational (31%). This was true for all, suggesting it can be difficult to convince sales that other types of content are valuable.

“We explain that not everything has to be super promotional and that educational and thought leadership content also has value,” one respondent writes.

“It’s a challenge to convince them of the need for content that’s customer-focused rather than about us,” another respondent notes. “They want print collateral with bullets and feature dumps. We struggle with getting them to help us identify customer pain points.”

It’s a challenge to convince #sales of the need for customer-focused content rather than brand-focused content, says marketer in new @CMIContent @vidyard #Research. Click To Tweet

Too much cookie-cutter content

Only 12% of respondents say their sales content is extremely or very different from their competitors’ content. Even the aligned are challenged here, with only 13% of that group reporting their content is extremely or very different.

When we asked how it differs, responses included:

  • “We produce more thought leadership and have a more robust email marketing program.”
  • “Our content focuses on thought leadership, theirs on products.”
  • “It’s more creative, visual, interactive, and educational.”
  • “We create content from our subject matter experts that positions our thought leadership. Our top priority is to be viewed as thought leaders, which helps us in the sales pipeline.”

Respondents confirm they’re creating a wide variety of content types. They say presentations/pitches and case studies are most valuable to their salespeople. Visual storytelling – through presentations, webinars, videos, and infographics – is expected to grow in importance with the broader shift toward virtual selling.

Marketers are challenged to get sales to use more and different types of content. As one respondent says: “We try to educate sales on using more top- or mid-funnel content and not just heavily branded or product-based BOFU (bottom of the funnel) content.” In the field, this could look like a salesperson sharing things like blog posts, videos, infographics – anything that proves valuable to the prospect as the relationship progresses.

Most agree content is easy to access

As mentioned, 64% agree salespeople can easily locate sales content in their company. The majority (60%) say content is housed on a corporate intranet, wiki, or microsite. Respondents from large companies (1,000-plus employees) were more likely than the total pool of respondents to report using digital asset management (DAM) systems (36%) and sales enablement platforms (30%).

Respondents were less certain how often their sales content is audited (39% say they were unsure), even among the aligned. This led us to wonder who, if anyone, is responsible for auditing content in most companies? Is there a process? (See this CMI blog post for guidance.)

Value placed on CRM technology

We also asked respondents which technologies are most important to supporting their company’s sales enablement efforts. The top-tier answers were CRM systems (67%), analytics (64%), and email marketing software (54%). Respondents from large companies (1,000-plus employees) were more likely than all respondents to indicate they use sales enablement platforms (39% vs. 28%) and DAM systems (33% vs. 25%).

Marketing automation systems (MAS) and account-based management (ABM) appear to be more important to the aligned group than the nonaligned:

  • 40% of the aligned indicate MAS is important vs. 25% of the nonaligned.
  • 32% of the aligned indicate ABM is important vs. 21% of the nonaligned.

A need for shared metrics

Sixty-three percent say their company’s marketing and sales teams have shared goals and objectives. Only 28% say they have shared key performance indicators (KPIs).

The aligned were more likely than the nonaligned to have shared goals and objectives (76% vs. 46%) and shared KPIs (33% vs. 21%).

As mentioned, 57% say marketing and sales rarely or never collaborate on how to assess content effectiveness. It makes sense, then, that subjective input from salespeople was the top metric they use to assess content’s performance for sales. In other words, a lot of times, marketing takes sales’ word for it.

Though this was also true for the aligned group (65%), the aligned differed from the nonaligned in two notable ways:

  • Use of audience engagement as a metric (63% vs. 33%)
  • Use of revenue growth as a metric (50% vs. 40%)

Sales enablement as a business function is growing

We see room for improvement as well as hope for better collaboration or connection between marketing and sales.

Along with reviewing these results, we examined Sales Enablement PRO’s State of Sales Enablement Report (2020). In that survey, 62% had a sales enablement person, program, or function. That’s a seven-point increase from the previous year. That’s positive because sales enablement puts content increasingly in the spotlight, even more so in a world of virtual selling.

But that’s not enough. “True alignment requires more than understanding each other’s strategy,” says Robert Rose, CMI’s chief strategy advisor. “True alignment requires integrating into one, cohesive customer journey – facilitated by extraordinary digital content – distributed and delivered in a helpful way by insightful sales teams. True collaboration among the teams is critical.”

True alignment between #sales and #marketing requires more than understanding each other’s strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent @vidyard. #Research Click To Tweet

To see the report, click on the Slideshare below:

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Author: Lisa Murton Beets

Lisa Murton Beets is Content Marketing Institute's research director. She oversees all aspects of our annual content marketing survey, as well as the reports we publish based on the findings. Lisa also works with CMI’s consulting/advisory and sales teams to develop and report on custom research surveys. Follow her @LisaBeets.

Other posts by Lisa Murton Beets

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