B2B marketers are really digging in and working to establish plans and goals for their content marketing programs. This is terrific and I applaud you all. However, I'm seeing a trend happening when marketing and salespeople aren't collaborating to define these efforts together.
The issue that can arise is that—based on who marketers get direction and input from—they can be designing content marketing programs based on where the company hopes to be, rather than where they are right now.
Here's an example of what I mean:
A company decides they want to reach more decision makers at the CXO level. So they design a content marketing program for lead generation and nurturing to attract and engage those specific people.
The marketing team does their homework, creating personas and profiles that help them define pain points, areas of interest, motivating factors and content consumption preferences.
They create an editorial calendar and develop great content.
They generate leads, nurture them and pass them to sales when appropriate.
None of these potential deals seem to go anywhere.
The sales team isn't prepared to have executive conversations upon account entry. They're used to going in at the line-of-business level and creating a champion who clears the path and guides them through executive conversations.
Sales is now frustrated and irritated with marketing and says - you guessed it - the leads they're getting aren't acceptable.
Marketing—by not collaborating with sales—has actually set them up to fail.
You may be sitting there thinking this isn't the case in your company, but I suggest you go take a look. Through probing, I often discover that marketing has identified decision makers based on who signs the contract, not on the people actually involved in the buying process.
Or it could be that there's an executive mandate to gain the attention of a specific target that they think will help the comapny circumvent longer sales processes by getting to the ultimate decision maker from the start. Sometimes this makes sense, and sometimes it doesn't.
If salespeople aren't prepared for the kinds of conversations marketing is getting them, then you have a problem.
Just as marketing uses personas to guide them about the kind of content a specific target market will likely be interested in, salespeople need to have the skills, insights and knowledge to develop those dialogues into conversations with traction toward purchase.
If your company wants to evolve those conversations, you need a plan for both marketing and sales to be successful. One without the other is wishful thinking based on where your company may want to be in the future, but can't yet manage in the present.
This is yet another reason marketers must involve sales in the definition of target markets, personas and better transitions at the handoff.
There's no reason your company can't evolve to capitalize on new markets or growth opportunities, just that you need to take it a step at a time by planning from how you define "now" to how you'll achieve that future state, together.