I often compare the sales enablement component of Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) client campaigns to the last mile that has historically bewitched cable, television, telecommunications and Internet providers.
For telcos, it is this valuable final stretch of network that is the speed bottleneck for the customer and (ironically) the most expensive to upgrade.
For corporate and field marketers, it’s the alignment of content with sales metrics (i.e. lead generation, prospect nurturing, deal capture and sales intelligence) that provides the most measurable return, yet proves the most daunting.
There are a couple of entrenched obstacles a marketer must circumvent to deliver on the sales ROI of content marketing:
1. Foster an open and collaborative relationship at all levels of the sales organization. Sales leadership must be convinced to champion the program and promote its importance to enterprise and inside reps.
Then, reps must be educated about how they can actively participate in the program by providing guidance on editorial/content strategy, serving as a content distribution channel and, most important, taking an action based on intelligence generated from analytics.
LinkedIn recently published an excellent blog post with suggestions about how to train old-school sales pros in the art of social selling.
2. Capture analytics and translate it into actionable sales intelligence. Reporting on quantity and quality of readership and audience engagement is an indication of brand awareness, credibility and thought leadership. Yet, these are the all-too familiar benchmarks marketers fall back on, even though they lack true ROI.
The modern marketer recognizes how critical it is to make recommendations about a tactical sales activity to be taken based on analytics. This demands the marketer have intimate knowledge of sales messaging, the status of opportunities in the sales pipeline, product developments and enhancements, and competitive threats.
I provide more insight into the changing role of today’s marketer in this four minute video produced by the Pulse Network.
3. Set realistic expectations and then measure program ROI. What if we bring opportunities to the sales team, make actionable recommendations and things don’t pan out?
This is a real and legitimate concern among marketers because of how tenuous the relationship often is with sales. Waste a rep’s time chasing a prospect, and you’ll lose respect and support.
Plus, in a corporate environment, no one likes to be associated with failure when they have personally championed a new approach. It’s not good for job stability.
Set expectations upfront when it comes to the opportunities identified from an integrated content marketing and sales enablement program. Not every lead or nurtured contact will produce immediate return. That’s true of any type of sales or marketing program.
The appropriate success benchmark is programmatic, and needs to be evaluated at quarterly or semi-annual intervals.
How much opportunity in the sales pipeline did this program touch during the past three months? And what percentage of those deals turned into revenue?
Those are the questions executive leadership, sales management and modern marketers need to ask (and answer).