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Winning Strategies

How to Use Content Marketing to Boost Sales in 2017

To realize maximum returns on your content marketing efforts, it pays to get as much mileage possible out of your content. Studies show that the median lifespan of a web article is just 2.6 days. By shifting your mindset to think about your content marketing as living assets, you can realize long-term success from your content creation.

If you improve your sales team's utilization of your marketing content, you can increase the impact of your assets while simultaneously improving your prospect education efforts.

How to Use Content Marketing to Boost Sales

Creating better alignment between marketing and sales can increase your company's revenue by 20% or more, according to Aberdeen Group research. Working to optimize your content assets for your sales team can improve prospect and customer education while making your sales people more efficient. Research by the CMO Council indicates that 40% of a sales person's time is spent on content creation or searching for marketing assets. Even more importantly, 60% of a company's potentially useful content assets go unused by sales teams

If your goals for the year to come include achieving better efficiency and closing more customers, getting more mileage out of your marketing content probably makes sense. In this blog, you'll learn a few critical techniques for improving sales team awareness of content, and cataloging your assets.

1. Perform a Content Audit

If your sales and marketing team don't understand your assets, they won't be put to use. If you're relatively new to content marketing, an audit might be simple. If you've been blogging and publishing a heavy volume of articles for months or years, it can be a bit more time-intensive.

Are content audits critical? Are they as boring as they sound? The answers are yes and (unfortunately), yes. In fact, Content Marketing Institute and other experts recommend performing content audits on an annual basis.

How to Perform a Content Audit (50,000 Foot Overview)

  1. Export Content Info. Using a tool like Google Analytics, export every URL and page title from your website.
  2. Attach Basic Page Information. To be able to analyze your page performance after exporting content information into Excel, be sure to include KPIs, including the number of page visits, conversions, and more. This can be performed with Google Analytics, or in some content management system add-ons.
  3. Analyze the Results. You're now staring at a massive spreadsheet of information. Here's where the real fun starts. Use the power of Excel to sort your content by page views to understand your content MVPs. Identify content that needs to be updated or edited for accuracy.

A basic content audit isn't the most fun aspect of a marketer's job. However, it's an important first step towards preparing your content to boost your sales.

2. Map Your Content to Your Buyer's Journey

HubSpot's research of the buyer's journey has designated three main stages, which apply to any company or industry. 

These stages are:

  • Awareness
  • Comparison
  • Decision

Depending on the role of the sales team at your organization, you may also need to consider "post-sale" as an important stage for content marketing. If your sales reps are actively involved in educating your new clients on how to use your products, you are probably already creating content for the "post-sale" stage of your buyer's journey.

Each stage of the buyer's journey has unique needs. Customers in the awareness stage need to understand how to solve their problems. Customers preparing to purchase need data to make a decision between vendors. By mapping your content to each stage of the buyer's journey, you can organize assets for sales utilization.

Mapping content to the buyer's journey also allows you to identify gaps in your content coverage. After performing this process, you may discover that your total assets for the "decision" stage are sorely lacking. Regardless of outcomes, this exercise is important to both sales and marketing.

Pro Tip: If you need some help getting started with a content audit or mapping your content to the buyer's journey, HubSpot offers a totally free, super helpful Excel spreadsheet to organize your efforts.

3. Associate Content with Customer FAQ

If your marketing team doesn't have access to your sales and customer service teams' list of customer FAQ, you need it. This list should be the cornerstone of any customer-focused content marketing program. Work with sales and customer service to compile a list of the questions that your customers and prospects ask on a regular basis, loosely ranked according to frequency.

Important: For the top 10-20 questions your prospects and new customers ask, you should have at least one associated asset, like a blog or eBook.

Execute follow-up after you've analyzed your assets against your customer FAQ. Add questions without a content "match" to your editorial calendar to publish as soon as possible.

4. Make Your Content Assets Accessible

Your content assets need to be quickly accessible for your sales team. Not every company has the budget to develop an internal wiki with sophisticated search functions, but that's okay. The resulting solution from this exercise doesn't need to be fancy; it just needs to be really easy to use.

Ultimately, Your sales team needs to be able to search your content assets based on at least the following criteria:

  • Keywords or phrases
  • Buyer's journey stage
  • Content format (video, article, eBook)
  • Frequently asked question topic

Maintaining a shared spreadsheet of content titles, links, and notes is perhaps the simplest and cheapest way to make your content assets accessible and searchable for sales. Using a Google document of FAQ and associated assets can significantly streamline your sales team's content finding efforts.

5. Communicate Regularly with Sales

Continually educate and re-educate your sales team on your efforts to make assets accessible. In the early days of this exercise, take feedback from your sales team, and improve your system accordingly. Ideally, you want to reach a point where your sales team doesn't have to ask for guidance on your asset library. However, as you implement a new system and onboard new sales staff, they should feel comfortable asking marketing for help finding the right blogs, eBooks, or other assets.

By working with sales to develop the right asset cataloging, you should be able to achieve a team of content experts.

6. Involve Sales in Content Marketing

At most companies, sales are the front-line for customer and prospect interaction. As you work to use your content to boost sales, initiate a long-lasting conversation with sales about how marketing is doing at meeting your prospect and customer's needs. Use your sales team's expertise to refine your knowledge of your buyer personas, buyer's journey, and other important strategy elements of your content marketing program.

The best content marketers continually ask for feedback. Ask for information on what your customers think of your content, and if they have any feedback on the formats, topics, and style you're using for prospect education. If you hear that your customers love your videos, add more videos to your editorial calendar. If your blogs are a wild success, create more blogs. Ultimately, your sales team can offer important feedback on your content marketing strategy.

Marketing Content for Sales

If your sales team isn't using your content marketing, it's not necessarily a great sign. They may feel that your content marketing efforts don't meet your prospects needs. More likely, they could have trouble quickly finding the right assets, or simply not know about the blogs, eBooks, and other resources marketing has previously created.

Regardless of where you're starting, reaching a point where marketing and sales are in constant communication about content is important. By making content access easy for your sales representatives, you can boost your revenue and prospect education in the year to come.

Preparing Sales for Inbound Marketing

Written by Jasmine Gordon / August 10, 2017

Jasmine W. Gordon is a copywriter at Lean Labs. She's written for digital audiences for over 5 years, and her background includes agencies, tech startups, health care, big data analytics, energy, and more. Jasmine loves new marketing statistics, optimization studies, and live music.

Articles by Jasmine Gordon