The Growing Content Marketing Problem

There is a growing content marketing problem; sales teams do not seem to value the results. As the discipline of marketing continues to mature in the digital mobile age marketers are focused on metrics, and in many cases doing a good job of increasing key performance indicators such as the marketing qualified lead (MQl) to sales qualified lead (SQL) conversion ratio. The result of an improved MQL to SQL is a higher quantity of higher quality leads. Unfortunately, the most trusted report in the industry, Hubspot’s annual State of Inbound shows that despite the increase in lead quality and quantity sales is turning to these leads only 22% of the time.content-marketing-problem

This content marketing problem is not going away; a fact that it is potentially terrible news for the entire discipline of marketing.

The picture is more troubling when we consider that even if a marketing organization has a service level agreements (SLA) in place with sales (a formal agreement on what defines acceptable SQls) the sales team turns to these leads as a source of pipeline only 28% of the time. Indicating that SLAs are more procedural than functional. The bottom line is that an overwhelming majority of sales professionals is relying on their prospecting and referral network to fill up the pipeline.

Put another way, even in this golden age of inbound and content marketing; sales continues to spend time marketing. The profession of marketing risks becoming stuck in a cycle of micro-focused efforts to pump up lead quantity while incrementally improving quality blinded to the reality of their sales peers that continue to prioritize their prospecting ahead of valid SQLs.

Meanwhile, the marketing technology stack grows larger and more complex, the demand for produced content expands, and media options ceaselessly multiply. The danger is that content marketing is creating a bubble of sorts that may be lulling the entire profession into a complacency. Happy to choose to nibble around the edges of lead quality over empowering the sales force to improve their prospecting and speed deal cycles.

For marketing to close the gap with sales, it will be necessary to rethink the manner that marketing decides to create content. Historically content has been developed to fill up the marketing funnel, and for a good reason, the math works. Get more into the top of the marketing funnel, apply qualifying actions and content to that larger number, and at the bottom of the funnel, there will be a higher quantity of leads to hand over to the sales team. The good news here is that the refinement of that process will continue to reap dividends long into the future, but the marketing’s focus cannot remain exclusively focused on jacking up marketing KPIs.

So what are the appropriate actions that marketing must take to serve sales better, and help drive the top line? Reorder content efforts to begin from a place of sales enablement.

There should be a single question marketing professionals ask before they create any piece of content. Will this piece help the sales team either get more of their prospects into the sales cycle or move deals already in the sales pipeline swiftly to the next stage? If the answer is not an easy yes then the content should not be developed.

Not at all to suggest that all marketing efforts should be focused exclusively on sales enablement, but that we should work backward from the sales process to the marketing funnel. This is a skill that good marketers are already practicing when they repurpose a piece of content many times over by varying the theme or delivering it over a different medium. Armed with the ability to repurpose the marketing team must create sales enablement first and then use that same content for the express purpose of generating early stage demand.

Sales, until the end of time, will always prospect on their own and tap into their hard earned referral network. Marketing must work in that context to make those efforts more fruitful. Done correctly sales pipeline increase and lead quality naturally, improves.

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