Despite talk about multichannel and omnichannel marketing, the reality is that content creation and dissemination are often still siloed within organizations. That can lead not only to conflicting messages, but potentially negative brand impacts. Ideally, every consumer experience with an organization-regardless of how large it is-should be aligned and seamless. Messaging should be consistent in terms of content and quality. Clearly, that's not an easy outcome to achieve, particularly between seemingly disparate parts of an organization (for instance, billing and HR). But what about between marketing and sales-two parts of most organizations that are outward-facing? Wouldn't it seem logical to assume that their messaging would be aligned and consistent?
Perhaps. The reality, though, at least in the B2B space, says otherwise. A report from Seismic and MarketingProfs, "Content Can Close"-based on a survey of more than 200 B2B content marketers-indicates that while 72% are personalizing content based on a persona or an industry-specific level, only 18% are effectively arming their sales teams with that content to ensure their prospects and client interactions are on-brand.
It's a disconnect, says Daniel Rodriguez, VP of marketing with Seismic, that represents a divide he likens to the difference between 1995 and 2016. Marketers, who are operating at the top of the funnel, says Rodriquez, are using "marketing automation software to create highly personalized mass communication at a one-to-one level with the ability to utilize things like targeting buyer personas at different stages of engagement." After that, the highly nurtured lead that develops is handed off to sales to close the deal and then, says Rodriguez, "there is no longer any personalization happening; the sales rep is kind of pulling things together ad hoc, and marketing has lost the ability to even understand whether or not the things they've created are being utilized-and utilized correctly."
What's lacking? A sales enablement process. "The idea is that you have people whose sole responsibility is ensuring that sales has access to the correct assets and that they are being properly on-boarded to that role," says Rodriguez. Those in the sales enablement role, he says, are more senior level and experienced than they have been in the past. They're more adept with using-and thoroughly understanding-analytics.
But technology must enable the process, and it must work in such a way that salespeople have easy access to the information they need, when they need it, in a seamless manner. "Don't make them have to go to places they don't already live in," says Rodriguez. "They need to be able to understand what it's like to be a salesperson and to work closely with them to get their feedback, so that they can be most efficient with their time and effective with what they sell."
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are an important part of this process, he says, but companies need to "make sure that the technology that provides them with the right selling materials is tightly integrated with that CRM and is available to them from within the CRM-not only from a tab, but within an opportunity record, because that's where they live."
Without a seamless process, marketing winds up in the position of having to create content in response to one-off requests from sales (per 16% of the respondents in this survey) or hosting content in various disconnected silos (23%). Salespeople, of course, may also be creating whatever they think they need on their own.
Aside from the boost that technology can bring to the process, there are other issues afoot, says Danica Jones, marketing manager for ConsumerAffairs for Brands, a firm that offers analytics for business that can be exported and used to identify key consumer trends, issues, and behaviors. Chief among them is fatigue. "Tool fatigue and different learning needs mean salespeople are often not fully absorbing updates and goals being shared by marketing," says Jones. Sales teams, she notes, have a wide range of daily responsibilities that draw their attention. "Yes, it's part of the job to know the product and know how to communicate the value of the product, and marketing needs to share this information so sales can translate it into a sales conversation successfully. But with many sales teams swimming in SaaS products and requiring a variety of learning methods (kinesthetic, audio, visual), I assure you not everyone is getting the whole message when marketing shares new campaign strategies and messaging."
Jones shares that her organization is currently involved in the development of training programs and ongoing team education. As it develops this programming, she says, it's asking the following questions:
- Are we not educating enough on which prospects are a solid fit?
- What kinds of resources do our sales reps need, so they are supported enough to allow a career trajectory?
- Are we creating a marketing message simple enough to connect with sales reps who need to use this messaging?
- If the message is not clear enough, how will our prospects understand it?
- Are we identifying sales reps with different learning styles and offering additional resources?
Technology can help to address the disconnect. The right technology can make the process as seamless as possible, providing salespeople with fast and easy access to the information they-and their prospects-need, when they need it. But, as with countless other situations, technology is only an enabler. People drive the process. In reality, the disconnect between marketing and sales may be endemic.
Kaitlyn Wightman, an SEO content strategist with Mercury 13 in Detroit, says, "After years of experience in content marketing, my biggest complaint is the disconnect between content marketing and sales. But it's not because the two teams don't want to communicate. In fact, it's usually the complete opposite. Sales teams want more quality content and content marketers want the customer access that sales teams have daily." Sales and marketing, she says, rarely sit next to each other in an organization. They seldom meet to discuss customer interactions. She adds, "Marketing leadership thinks they know what the customer wants and assigns the topic to the content marketing team without having a conversation with sales reps first."
Conversations drive understanding. Understanding can lead to effective process development. Technology can pull it all together to help ensure that marketing is creating the right materials that sales staff need at every step of the buying process-and beyond. The bottom line is that a sales enablement system isn't just about technology-it's also about people.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)