A successful content strategy needs to be based on actual information about who your customers are and what they care about. Marketing data and customer surveys can supply some of that information, but every marketing team should treat learning from the customer-facing departments in your company as an important ongoing practice as well.
Why Collaborative Marketing Benefits Your Content Strategy
In over 15 years of helping businesses develop content marketing strategies, marketing consultant Erika Heald has seen the difference collaborating with sales and customer service can make.
1. The sales team understands the common objections to a sale.
The sales team hears what the customer likes about your product and what they don’t.
“When you talk to your sales team, you can understand some of the objections that they were able to overcome or weren’t during the sales process,” says Heald. “That way you can make sure that your content strategy reflects an understanding of the obstacles that your organization has to overcome to make the sale.”
For example, if your SaaS product is losing sales because prospects worry about compatibility issues with their other products, your team can create more content that emphasizes how well the product works with other common software solutions.
2. Customer service knows the common problems customers face.
A common piece of content marketing advice is to create content that answers your audience’s questions. Marketers aren’t on the front lines of hearing those questions—customer service reps are.
The questions your customer service team hear the most often can be turned into FAQ blogs. If customers of a clothing company commonly call in asking about how to figure out proper sizing, you could create a helpful guide or app on finding your size. That can both cut down on the amount of time customer service reps spend fielding the question, and create a popular piece of content that makes prospects more likely to buy.
3. They can help you identify gaps in your content.
A big challenge in content marketing is finding topics to cover that are both original and useful. The longer you do content marketing, the harder it becomes. Sales and customer service are potential gold mines for topic ideas.
“When you’re having regular check-ins with customer service, you might hear that a customer would love having a tutorial or template for doing something,” says Heald. That gives you a ready-made content idea you know your customers will use.
Heald has done this herself. When she learned customers struggled with tracking the success of their online marketing campaigns, she realized the UTM worksheet she used herself could become a valuable resource for them.
The opportunity to provide your audience with something truly useful that other brands haven’t already created is rare and valuable. Collaborating with sales and customer service is a way to tap into those opportunities.
Four Tips For Effectively Working with Other Departments on Your Content Strategy
We recently covered how sales and marketing teams can collaborate more closely, which is an important strategy for developing and refining content strategy. But for cross-department relationships to pay off in your ongoing strategy, you need a plan for more consistent collaboration. For that, Heald has a few suggestions.
1. Build trust.
If you don’t have a relationship with the sales and customer service departments, it may take work to win them over. In some companies, says Heald, “there’s a level of mistrust, which is unfortunate.”
“You can run into bad PR from having previous folks in the marketing organization or the content organization who haven’t built those relationships. So it can actually take a significant amount of time to overcome that mistrust.”
You may have to work to convince the other departments that you value their input, and that they can benefit from the collaboration as well. Heald recommends being persistent—don’t let an initial “no” or brush off stop you. If you keep pushing, they’ll eventually realize you’re sincere.
One way to start building that trust is with regular meetings. “Don’t just make that a one-and-done kind of a thing…it’s important to make sure that you check in on a regular basis,” she explains.
Her advice is to set up quarterly check-ins at a minimum, as well as any time you’re doing a big content initiative. “Schedule those meetings and have them be recurring in the calendar. Use that technology to hold you accountable.”
2. Consider the best tools for ongoing collaboration.
You’ll want a way to continue communicating in between meetings as well, and one that’s not too intrusive. Technological solutions like project management software or messaging platforms can help you keep the lines of communication open.
“Set up a Slack channel for marketing and sales to communicate about new pieces of content that are either in progress or have just been released. It’s an easy and helpful way to keep building those relationships and give sales a voice in the marketing organization,” Heald explains.
She also uses Slack to set up meetings with the other departments that are convenient for them to attend. “I actually have one regular stand-up meeting with a team where we never actually meet in person or even on the phone, but we have that reminder in Slack to have our stand-up meeting.” People can drop in on Slack and easily catch up with what’s been said so far and add their input.
Consider if you can put to use tools you already have, or if it’s worth investing in a new one to help you stay connected to the other teams on a daily basis.
3. Join the sales team on calls and at the kick-off.
Don’t just try to bring sales into your process, ask to become a part of theirs. She recommends shadowing sales people on prospect calls. “And also make sure you’re invited to the sales kick-off,” she adds.
By seeing them work, learning their process, and hearing the specific goals they’ve set as a team, you’ll have a better idea how to collaborate. And you’ll likely pick up some good content ideas along the way.
4. Find out what content they’re providing now.
Heald has found that when sales and customer service don’t get the content they need from you, they’ll sometimes create their own. “I’ve been horrified when I’ve seen some of the completely off-brand, scrappy, DIY things that folks have created.”
Find out what materials the teams are using now so you can identify what they need and provide an improved version.
“I found out pretty quickly that our sales team did not have slide content. So they would end up going into sales pitches or prospect meetings, and they would be making their own slides, sometimes with copyrighted material that we should not be putting into our sales deck. They would also have outdated branding, which causes confusion,” she adds.
The sales team didn’t know they could come to marketing for help with creating those materials, And she probably wouldn’t have learned they were creating their own inferior content with a typical content audit. Only by working directly with the sales team was she able to identify the problem and provide them with the content they needed to better represent the brand.
More Collaborative Marketing Serves Everyone
Good marketing depends on understanding your audience. Collaboration with sales and customer service teams is an invaluable tool in gaining insights you wouldn’t have learned on your own.
And if you use what you learn, your content can make their jobs easier too. Material that answers common customer objections can shorten the sales process. When customers can find answers to their questions in your content, it saves customer service time.
And most importantly, collaboration with sales and customer service means creating more useful content that creates a stronger customer experience, which drives more loyalty to your brand.