In a perfect world, the content attracts valuable leads, the marketing collects those leads and passes them to the sales team, and the sales team makes the sale to the customer. But sometimes our sales team and our content marketing don’t work together the way we want them to. It’s a problem that comes up from time to time, the disconnect between who the content team is trying to attract, and who the sales team is trying to sell to. When that happens, potential customers fall through the cracks.

The answer is to get the two teams to collaborate, to unite them in pursuit of a common goal. The term that’s often used in business is “aligning,” and we have some unique advice about how to do that.

Aligning Sales and Marketing

Let’s talk nerdy for a second.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is like a choose your own adventure, with critical outcomes determined by a role of the dice. It’s a game where players create alter egos (called characters), and take those characters on epic quests. When creating a character for D&D, you have to pick an “alignment”: a designation that indicates morals (good vs. evil) and ethics (law vs. chaos). Alignments are chosen from the alignment grid and indicate disposition; how likely are you to rescue the princess? Steal the king’s gold? Raise an army of the dead, and burn the countryside?

Characters with similar alignments are likely to make similar calls on hard decisions. They have similar end goals in mind. And those with extreme alignments (the four corners) are unlikely to endure for long the presence of someone diametrically opposed to them. If you want your sales and content marketing to function as a team (like the adventuring parties of a D&D campaign), you need them to have similar “alignments,” i.e., similar dispositions, directions, and goals.

Sales & Marketing Alignmnet

A Quest of Epic Proportions

The first step to aligning sales and content give them a common goal. The problem is the goal needs to be both specific and agreed upon. Vaguely intending to catch the interest of any person willing to pay for the product/service you provide is not going to cut it. That’s a little like Gandalf telling the Fellowship “We must destroy the Ring!”, and then marching off in a random direction, hoping they can get it done.

So our “quest” has to be something more concrete; not just “getting customer X to pay for product/service Y,” but what kind of customer, specifically, is the best and most likely candidate for the sale. Often, we hamstring ourselves because we’re unwilling to set parameters, and we cast a formless and generic net rather than use a unique kind of bait.

In other words, when the sales team doesn’t identify their ideal sales lead, marketing can’t aim their content at reeling him in.

What this means is that there needs to be some coordination in the efforts to reach customers. Sales teams need to be open about what kind of leads lead to a sale (and clear about the reasons why others don’t), and content marketing needs to be active about learning what the customers really want and aiming towards it.

Here is a truism any writer will tell you: if you’re not connecting warmly with a narrow audience, you’re connecting coldly to a wide one. In other words, if you’re wanting to find people willing to move from “vague interest,” to “let’s see how much this thing costs,” you need to narrow your scope. If we can determine criteria for an “ideal customer,” then content can be targeted, and the quality of sales leads will improve.

And, when content is more specific it tends to be more engaging, and engaging content makes a positive impression, even on those who aren’t ideal customers. This means less-promising leads will come around eventually, or will tell their friends about the product when the topic comes up.

Trinkets and Baubles

Now that we’ve slain the dragon, let’s raid his hoard for some random treasures of wisdom, shall we?

When looking for quality leads:

  • Define criteria, and target content accordingly
  • Use marketing automation, specifically progressive profiling to increase lead scores
  • Recycle or “incubate” less promising leads—it’s usually easier to cultivate a lead you have than to find a new one

When creating content:

  • Marketing—involve sales in the brainstorming process; they can tell you what the customers have been wanting to know, and what they’ve been looking for
  • Sales—if you find yourself writing copy, run it past marketing before you send it out; you’ll want a second pair of eyes to let you know if your inner used car salesman is showing

When you’re out “questing” together:

  • Marketing should make an effort to attend sales meetings, it gets them more connected to their audience
  • Keep each other informed; if marketing is running a promotion or a “sale,” then the sales team needs to know about it, so they can tell the customer, otherwise the effort is wasted

Getting to Know Eachother

And the number one rule…
Get to know one another, especially the managers of respective departments. You’re questing together; you need to be cozy with your fellow adventurers if you’re going to make this work. Attend functions, throw parties, hold get-togethers, be chummy. If you assume opposing alignments, you’ll never find the treasure hoard.

Stephen Porritt