Using Content To Align Your Prospect Buying, Marketing & Sales Processes

Posted by on November 8, 2012

It is very easy to get caught up in our own internal company processes, language, and thinking; we live in this world every business day and are naturally influenced by colleagues and how our companies operate. As a result, we run the risk of muffling the most important voice – our customers and prospects.

This has been bubbling up more and more in the many engagements we have with tech marketers around demand gen, lead nurturing and content marketing.  A big mistake that impacts driving marketing and sales pipeline is many marketers focus so much on their marketing and sales process INSTEAD of their prospects’ buying process.  We have discovered a few simple techniques to help marketers from falling into this trap:

  • Lay out your prospects’ buying process and your marketing & sales process side by side.  Match them up and create common definitions (the funnel is one illustration), and align them.  Every company has slightly different language – that’s ok.  The most important thing is to define and align.
  • Next, start to line up content into each of these phases of the process. The content type should align with your prospects’ information needs as they will likely require research on solutions to solve their business challenge or advance their business opportunity.  Content serves as an excellent way to fuse the buying process with the marketing & sales process.  The average professional downloads nine unique pieces of content prior to a purchase, according to IDC .  While this figure is an average and not exact, it provides a good guideline of where to slot your content in the process.

Content Aligns Buying & Marketing/Sales Process

  • If you are not sure how to map the prospect buying process, there are many models available.  (Here is a model we use based on research we did across IT professionals). Start simple, iterate and get more precise as you go and learn.   The fastest way to discover and test the buying process model is to talk to customers and prospects to understand their process.  Engage with them at industry events, drop them a personal email or set up a brief phone chat.
  • While you likely already have your marketing process, step back and test your assumptions once you have your prospect buying process model updated.  Sitting down with your sales partner(s) to understand their sales approach and process will help you strengthen the alignment.  Not only do you gain insights, you will build trust.

I shared this approach this past week at a Marketing Insights session SupplySide West for marketers in the Ingredients world (food/beverage/health/nutrition).  This market is flush with content, but content marketing, marketing automation, lead nurturing, etc. is just ramping up. Preparing and leading this session was a good reminder of nailing the fundamentals, the importance of getting these right even for those of us who have models in place.  Starting with your prospect and customer is always a smart idea.