By Katrina Olson
According to research by the Aberdeen Group, businesses that have closely aligned sales and marketing departments generate an average 32 percent year-over-year growth. Companies with less aligned departments saw an average 7 percent decrease in revenue.
So if you’ve been thinking, “I wish sales and marketing worked more closely together,” here’s your incentive to make it happen.
Marketing folks need to know what kind of marketing materials to produce, what marketing channels to use, and what type of content to generate. And who better to ask than sales people?
You may be surprised to learn that buyers are already a third of the way through their journey before they actually contact a salesperson or call a vendor. That means those prospects must be nurtured months or even years before they become leads. Sure, it’s a long-term view. But ask any salesperson how long it takes to develop a prospect into a customer and you’ll get a similar answer.
Marketing, and specifically content marketing, can help nurture those prospects long before a salesperson even finds them.
Research by Forrester revealed that a B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece generated by marketing. So you need to be producing high-quality content in addition to strong marketing materials. That means being on social media and YouTube, writing white papers, and creating infographics (for example), in addition to your traditional marketing.
Through a process outlined below called “journey mapping,” marketing and sales teams can work together to determine what information the customer needs at each stage of the buying process—including the time before they become your customer.
Mapping the Journey
The old model of “Awareness–Consideration–Preference–Purchase” still applies, but to develop the most relevant marketing materials and content, you need to break it down even further with a journey map. A journey is the process a specific type of customer or “buyer persona” goes through before buying your product. A journey map outlines that journey and determines where and how you can address their needs at each stage. It starts with knowing who your customers are.
Step 1 – Develop your key personas
A persona is more than a segment or target market, it’s a detailed, fictional representation of one type of customer, ideally based on market research and real data about your existing customers. A persona includes customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, media habits, and goals. There’s even an app for that (personapp.io). You may have three, five, or even 10 personas for your business.
Here’s an example of a fictional persona for a Starbuck’s Coffee customer.
Other personas might be college students, stay-at-home moms, retired people or high school students. What do your personas look like? Start by developing one persona for each of your target markets. Having a tangible buyer persona will make it easier to develop strategies, come up with content ideas and even write copy.
Step 2 – Choose customer goals and tasks that might require information.
Create a spreadsheet that looks like this. What does the persona want to accomplish? And what information do they need to help them accomplish that goal?
Maybe your general contractor persona is building a new strip mall and looking for information about the design-build process and the role of electrical contractors. Or, perhaps they’ve just landed a big office building job and they’re interested in lighting design, security lighting and control systems—and they’re wondering if they need to hire a professional lighting design firm or if a distributor can fill this role.
Step 3 – Identify appropriate channels.
What media or communication channels is the persona already using—email, Facebook, trade publications, or trade shows? Tap into the sources they’re already using; don’t expect them to come to your channels. That’s asking too much of someone who is not even a customer (yet). Meet them where they are. Here’s a short list:
If you’re already using some of these channels, that’s great. But what channels are you not using that your prospects and customers are?
Step 4 – Brainstorm ideas for each goal or task.
Based on what you know about the persona, their communication channels, and their information needs, what materials can you produce and distribute that will get there attention? Following are just a few ideas:
- How-to articles
- Research studies
- Calculators (energy-saving calculator)
- Product comparison charts
- Sample kits
- Sales sheets
- White Papers
You may already have many of these tools in your arsenal. Consider repurposing existing content and adapting it to a new channel or format.
Start Building the Bridge
When sales and marketing work together, everyone benefits. Customers get what they need to make a buying decision. Marketing gets information, support and buy-in from sales. The sales department feels more invested in the marketing process and becomes a powerful part of the team. And the company benefits with increased sales. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
The first step is developing those buyer personas. Make it fun. Go off-site and host a session at a hotel, cabin or park. Or, if that’s unrealistic, order in lunch for the sales and marketing teams and start working on your personas. If you’re not sure how to get started, hire a consultant who can serve as an objective, independent facilitator to shepherd the process.
Who knows? This could be the start of a beautiful, new relationship between sales and marketing.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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