I had the chance recently to join Act-On Software’s Director of Demand Gen, Janelle Johnson (@janelle_johnson), and CMO, Atri Chatterjee (@atrichatt) for a podcast conversation on the topic of Demand Generation. In Part 1 we talked about demand generation and how the buying process has changed, and we covered “personas” as the first of the three key factors of demand generation. This is Part 2, in which we cover the final two key points of demand generation: sales and marketing alignment and content marketing. They were kind enough to allow me to post the rest of the conversation below. I hope you find it beneficial…
SALES AND MARKETING ALIGNMENT
JANELLE: Atri, a question for you now, and this is one that you and I live and breathe every single day. We hear a lot about sales and marketing alignment. What does that actually mean? What does it look like in practice?
ATRI: Yes, we live this every day. We’ve talked about the buyer’s journey, the different approach, how people are doing a lot of research before they even get to a vendor or a service provider. To really effectively interact with a prospect or a buyer, it’s essential for sales and marketing to have a common parlance. Who do we, each team, think are our ideal customers? And both organizations, the marketing organization and the sales organization, need to come to agreement on that. Those decisions will drive all the future demand generation and lead generation programs, and the content that’s being created to bring the right types of prospects in. We need to agree on the value proposition and the sales process that will be applied toward those prospects. So having that common definition, that common view into how both the sales organization and the marketing organization agree on the right types of prospects is really important.
The second part of this is also to really understand the process that a buyer goes through, and clearly understand when marketing, and the marketing functions, and the marketing activities that we do, influence that buyer. Then we need to agree when the right time is for the sales team to jump in and engage with that more developed prospect, someone who is further along the buyer’s journey, closer to making a decision. The teams need to agree when the salespeople will get involved with interacting with the prospect, and when instead the marketing organization continues to work with that prospect to further develop them.
JAY: I’ll quote my brother Carlos, who for the longest time has said that lack of alignment between marketing and sales is not a problem. It is a symptom of a bigger problem. And that bigger problem is the lack of process. It’s a lack of sharing definitions, not understanding the buying process and what the buyer goes through, not having a common understanding of how leads flow through the organization, how they should be generated, etc.
My experience is that when you develop the proper process, somehow many of the alignment issues go away. And so in practice what it looks like is having marketing and sales work together to develop your demand generation program, to develop what the lead management process looks like, to collaborate on things like those definitions, the buying process, the lead routing process, how lead handoff goes back and forth between marketing and sales. Even having sales collaborate with marketing on things like content development.
You start doing these kinds of things at your organization, and it takes demand generation away from being a marketing-oriented program, and it starts to make demand generation more of a company program. You also give both groups, marketing and sales, a voice in the creation of this. It’s amazing how the alignment issues will start to go away.
ATRI: That’s true. Take Janelle as an example: She’s gotten our head of sales and our head of lead qualification involved, involved in the marketing process and qualification, so it’s a joint effort. As a result of that people take complete ownership of the combined problem; they don’t break it into pieces and say, oh that’s not my job. It’s collectively both the sales and marketing organization’s job to make sure that that process is successful.
JAY: Just last week I had the opportunity to sit with a director of sales and a director of marketing at an organization. Now, the director of marketing set the meeting up because he said, “We’re doing a lot of demand generation, leads are coming through, we’re starting to get a higher lead count, etc., I have to make sure my sales counterpart’s going to handle those correctly, what do we do?” I said, “Let’s whiteboard what the process looks like, and let’s see if we can get agreement. And it was amazing. In literally less than an hour, because I just had the right two individuals, we started whiteboarding the process for how leads should go.
And we didn’t dictate to the sales person what it should be. I asked, “What does it look like on your end, what happens with your team, how are they using the technology, what types of information would you like to see?” Physically he went from a defensive posture into more of an engaging posture. And when we left, we had an agreement, and the rest of the program now is going to be based on that 45-minute meeting that got alignment between the two of them.
JANELLE: We all want to improve our campaigns, our results, our marketing. The sales folks want to improve their close rates. Everybody wants to get better at what they’re doing. And if we come in and we’re attacking the problem as a team, without the finger-pointing and the blame, then we’re all opening up the ways to improvement. We need each other to get there. Marketing needs the sales team to be on board because we need them to further qualify and close the leads we’re providing. But at the same time sales needs the front end, the funnel marketing from the marketing team.
JANELLE: Jay, “content marketing” came up when you and Atri talked about personas; it came up again in the sales and marketing alignment conversation. It’s something that we hear about every day from our customers and from prospects that we’re talking to. What is content marketing? And what is the role that it plays in demand generation?
JAY: I must admit, I do chuckle once in a while at the idea that content marketing is so brand new. Don’t get me wrong, when done well it significantly enhances and it is – I believe it’s one of the three main pillars for building demand generation. But it’s not new. Companies like ADP, LL Bean, John Deere, they’ve been using this strategy for decades. And what these companies have figured out is that basically content marketing is providing relevant, key word there, relevant and timely, second key word there, information to your buyers based on what they are asking for. And in doing so it creates favor from the buyer to your organization, and encourages them to further engage with you in more conversation, whether it be online or offline types of conversation. And content within the demand gen process can be used at every stage, and should be used at every stage of the process.
For those that are truly not in any type of buying mode, who are in status quo, you can use content to demonstrate thought leadership, to give them the idea that maybe something might be wrong, to introduce issues and problems, to help educate them and help them be better at what they do. For early-stage buyers, you can use content to provide information that satisfies those early research needs that they have. For late stage buyers, you use content to provide information that helps to support them making a decision in favor of your company, and also provide content that the sales team can use as they get involved in the selling process. And then of course for customers, we should be using things like educational information, and industry info, how-to information, that kind of stuff, to help keep them as a customer.
In order for the information to be relevant, you need to consider the persona piece – who they are. In order for it to be timely, it needs to relate to a place in the buying process. If you get those right, then they’ll keep coming back to you because, as an organization, you’ve proven yourself to be a reliable source of information. Studies have shown that buyers actually move faster through the buying cycle when this is done well.
ATRI: Jay, you hit something on the head there. If you look at a marketer’s job, it’s not just about bringing in a new prospect and helping make them into a customer. It’s about really interacting with people right through the entire customer life cycle. And content plays a key role there. The buyer’s journey has changed, so you want to have more relevant dialogue with people who are doing a lot of their own research. You want to provide them value.
But even beyond that, beyond the acquisition of a customer, once someone becomes a customer you want to continue that dialogue. And that’s where content plays a very important role. Because the relationship goes from being between a prospect and a company, to being two partners in a journey. And during that process also content marketing plays an important role as your customers become better customers. It helps improve loyalty, it helps make them more successful with the product or service that you provide them.
And more often than not, many of us in various companies resort to some sort of a training organization or something that will bring the customer up to speed on how to use a product. But it’s a lot more than that. It’s not just how to train them how to use a product, but it’s also really how to make them successful, helping them find interesting ways to use the product, then potentially getting them in front of other prospects and customers. All that can be rolled into content marketing. The results of all this is that not only do customers become loyal customers, but they probably become a lot more valuable customers because they end up committing more and more to your company, and your product, and your services.
JAY: I love what you said about keeping the customer not only informed, but educated and using your solution in different ways. As you were saying that, I was thinking about a tool for social media called Buffer App that I use regularly. If you’re listening to this and you’re not using it, you should check it out. They do a tremendous job on the post-purchase customer content piece. They are constantly providing all kinds of information for me as a user in a variety of different ways. Certainly giving me tips and tricks on social media, how to be better and more efficient at social media, things like getting more followers.
But they also provide this because they’ve gotten to know me as a buyer, so they’re constantly providing me insight into my marketplace. I get a ton of demand generation, marketing automation, all that kind of information because of my engagement with Buffer App. So they’ve gone beyond just the basics. I’ve started to rely on them as a trusted resource to help make me better as one of their customers.
What are the chances that I’m going to some other platform if I think that I’m going to lose all of that insight and information? They’ve created an exit barrier with me and they’ve done a pretty good job of it.
JANELLE: Thank you, Jay. And thank you, Atri.
This article originally appeared on Act-On Blog and has been republished with permission.