You’ve probably heard Marcus Sheridan’s story. He is the guy whose blog, sometimes referred to as “the Wikipedia of fiberglass swimming pools,” saved his pool company during the economic crash of 2008.
Today, Marcus is The Sales Lion and spends a lot of time behind a microphone, urging companies to do what it takes to deliver content that lives up to its potential as a sales tool.
What does it take? It takes creating a culture of content. According to Marcus, that means getting rid of the “massive silo effect” between departments – especially between sales and marketing – and getting the whole company involved in content marketing.
In this article, I summarize Marcus’s advice delivered in his Content Marketing World talk How to Tear Down Sales and Marketing Silos: The Secret to Developing a Culture of Content Across the Entire Organization.
In the old days, companies got away with the great divide: marketers handling marketing and salespeople handling sales. Things have changed, Marcus says. Companies need to market and sell in a new way because people buy in a new way. He refers to the 2015 Forrester report that shows more than 70% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
“How many salespeople in your organization understand that they no longer control 70% of the sale?” Marcus asks. Buyers have changed. You have to change with them.Buyers have changed and you have to change with them, says @TheSalesLion. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
How to create a culture of content
Marcus suggests several ways to create a culture of content:
- Recognize that salespeople are part of the content process.
- Integrate your content into your sales process.
- Gather employees regularly to discuss content marketing.
- Commit to being the best teacher in the world in your niche.
Recognize that salespeople are part of the content process
Content marketing fails, Marcus says, because people outside marketing don’t think they have time to participate.
It isn’t about time. We magically find the time to do what we value. When was the last time someone in your organization, maybe in your accounting department, said, ‘You know what, y’all, if we get a chance to do a payroll today, let’s get that done, and if not, Monday afternoon is fine’? Culture is about going all in.
If you want to create a culture of content, the enterprise must have a common philosophy about prospects and customers. All must understand that content is critical. Marketers alone can’t create a culture of content. People in sales, for example, often have the mindset, “I sell; you market.” The same silo mentality goes for other in-house subject-matter experts.
This mentality “crushes businesses,” Marcus says.
Getting SMEs on board is easier said than done. Still, it must be done. Marcus recommends, for starters, that salespeople attend marketing meetings and conferences, and that marketing people attend sales meetings and conferences. In some of the most effective organizations Marcus has worked with, the sales and the marketing team essentially merge.
This makes sense; the sales team hears most of the questions, concerns, worries, fears, and issues of prospects and customers. As Marcus says:
I’m not saying that everybody has to write for your company blog. It is not our job to turn everyone into Victor Hugo. What I am saying is that everybody must participate. We never own a thing until we help create the thing.
If the term “content marketing” turns off your nonmarketing teams, avoid the term when talking with them. Speak in a language everyone understands. “If you want content marketing to work, get everybody on your teams involved,” Marcus says.Want #contentmarketing to work? Involve everybody on your teams, says @TheSalesLion. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Integrate your content into your sales process
Marcus urges you to do something that most companies don’t do – integrate content into your selling process. When you do that, your salespeople waste less time and close more sales.
At River Pools, Marcus developed a technique he calls assignment selling. Here’s what it looked like in the pool business. When a prospect expressed interest in meeting with a salesperson, Marcus gave the prospect homework and waited for that person to read the assigned content before he set up a meeting. Typically, his homework looked like this:
- A list of over 600 customers
- A 50-page e-book about swimming pools
- Three to five significant articles from the company blog
If this seems like a lot to ask, Marcus says, that’s as it should be.
“If someone is serious about a pool and knows they are getting ready to spend 30-70K, then they likely don’t want to make a mistake on their purchase – hence the call for great content and information …
“… And what if they say they don’t have time to read the info or seem uninterested? Then I don’t go out to the home. Pure and simple.”
The idea came to Marcus early in 2013. He was looking at two groups of visitors to the River Pools website. People in both groups had filled out a form. One group didn’t buy; the other did. The difference? People who had read 30-plus pages of the website bought 80% of the time. The rest bought only 25% of the time.
The buyers educated themselves – a lot. They invested time in learning from River Pools content. As they did so, they developed trust in the company.
Helpful content proved to be “the greatest sales tool in the world,” Marcus says.
When he switched to assignment selling – giving his prospects homework before meeting with them – he no longer had to explain the same things over and over, and his closing rates shot up.
Most sales teams don’t practice assignment selling. They don’t integrate content into their process. They’re missing an opportunity. Marcus says:
Helpful content is the greatest sales tool in the world, says @TheSalesLion. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
If you’re not yet implementing this strategy in your sales system, please start today. Come up with homework for your interested clients, and watch the dominoes fall as they may. Take this leap of faith, and you’ll spend more time selling and less teaching.
Gather employees regularly to discuss content marketing
Email can’t create an interdepartmental culture of content, Marcus says. Get employees together regularly, physically or virtually. Have workshops a couple of times a year. Make sure that everyone understands what you’re doing with content marketing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. Marcus explains:
This is the difference between a culture and a program. A program is a set of rules. A culture is what we learn to do naturally, like breathing. It becomes who we are. We want to share it with our friends.
To say you have a culture of content is to say that everyone who works for your company understands the value of the information you provide and participates in making that information useful.
When anyone in the world has a question related to your area of expertise, your company (with its culture of content) commits to having the answer. When people worry or wonder about something in your niche, you – and all your colleagues – want them to think of your company as the place to turn to find that answer.
Commit to being the best teacher in the world in your niche
To create a culture of content, your company must be committed to being the best teacher in the world in some area. Marcus cites Home Depot for the DIY home improvement niche: “I love their posts. This company talks to me in a way that I understand. They teach me how to be better at all things home and depot-y.”
Marcus created a culture of content at River Pools. “(We) tell a better story than others can about swimming pools and success,” he says.
This advice isn’t news to any content marketer, but it’s worth repeating: Be the best resource for something. A culture of content means that you are willing to do what it takes to be the Home Depot or the River Pools of your market.Be the best content resource for something, says @TheSalesLion. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Does your company have a culture of content? The answer to that question lies in your answer to these questions:
- Are salespeople and other SMEs integrated into your content processes?
- Is your content integrated into your sales process?
- Do employees from various departments get together regularly to talk about content marketing?
- Is your company committed to being the best teacher in the world in your niche?
To learn more about knocking down silos to create a culture of content, attend Marcus Sheridan’s session at Content Marketing World Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today using code BLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute