Sales and Marketing OverlappingSales, meet your new BFF, marketing. I know you’ve sometimes been separated, and occasionally you’re at odds, but I think from now on, you’re going to find that you are inseparable, forever-linked besties, two-of-a-kind pals.

What makes us so sure? The Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends (North America) report is out, and the data says marketing and sales are closer than ever.

Over the past few years, content marketing has emerged as an excellent way to foster B2B brand awareness and reach, while educating customers and pulling them into specific lead generation strategies. As the art of content marketing on merges more and more closely with the science of lead tracking, we’re seeing some really interesting trends that are changing the way the sales department operates.

How content marketing works for you

In this year’s survey, The Content Marketing Institute asked B2B organizations what they’re using content marketing for.

Brand awareness topped the list with 84%, followed by lead generation at 83%, engagement at 81%, sales at 75%, lead nurturing at 74%, and customer retention and loyalty trailing just behind. Content marketing is all about sales, and B2B organizations are beginning to re-frame the way they look at content to help them drive more sales.

While content strategies are on fire, it’s becoming easier to measure the success of these strategies, allowing organizations to quantify important metrics like ROI. A few years ago, we were all throwing spaghetti at the wall, wondering if a Facebook post would bring in a few more sales — now there are both easy and sophisticated ways to measure and quantify success.

If you used to sneer at marketing’s efforts on your behalf, take a look at some of the metrics they’re using to show value, including sales lead quality used by 49% of marketers, sales by 43%, and sales lead quantity at 40%.


It’s not surprising that, as B2B companies see more success from their content marketing efforts, they’re making plans to create more and more content. In fact, 27% of the Content Marketing Institute respondents said they planned to create significantly more content, and 43% said they intend to create more content.

You had better get in on that conversation!

Marketing and sales – forging a new friendship

As content marketing emerges as the key to building brand awareness and driving and delivering leads, insecure salespeople will start to worry about their role in the organization. After all, in this new paradigm, the customer is well into the decision process before he or she ever contacts a salesperson signalling the End of Solution Sales, according to the Harvard Business Review. “A recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that [sic] customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision – researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, and benchmarking pricing – before even having a conversation with a supplier,” the HBR article says.  

Where insecure salespeople worry about their jobs, smart salespeople see the opportunity. Now is the time to partner with marketing to make sure the messages they send out are designed to drive more leads for sales to close, and that the results you’re pulling in are working for sales.

Plan, Measure, Optimize

The biggest finding cited by the Content Marketing Institute – the major theme they identified – was planning. “Marketers who take the time to document their content marketing strategy are more effective than those who don’t.”

As your marketing department develops content marketing strategies, work with them to align your goals with theirs. Here’s a secret: It’s not easy to create all that content. Coming up with ideas can be difficult for marketing departments, and sometimes when left on their own, marketers will develop stories that don’t necessarily support your sales mission. Become marketing’s newest bestest friend by helping them:

  •        Line up customer stories and case studies
  •        Gain access to insights that your customers are providing about products and services
  •        Gather testimonials, videos and social media support.

By helping marketing gather material, you’re also helping to drive the message.

As you work more closely with marketing, develop a scoring system for the leads they bring in. Work with them to develop very clear standards for the types of leads that you’ll qualify – this will help marketing make everything from big messages to little landing pages more specific, and help them deliver what you’re looking for. Also develop ways to find out where leads came from and score the value of, say, a Facebook lead versus a direct mail lead. Now you’re getting marketing to measure the value of what they’re doing, and you can look at the numbers and see what’s working and what’s not. Need more help with scoring leads? Check out this article from Forbes on How to Score Content Marketing Leads and Supercharge Sales Growth.

With hard data in hand, you can now work with marketing to optimize what works best for you. Sometimes the results might surprise you and you’ll find that the best ROI this year came from an old-fashioned mailer. If it worked – optimize it and do it again!

Your newfound friendship will certainly pay off in the end, and if you start working together now, you’ll be able to present a solidified front and beat out your competition as they start to figure out how well content marketing can impact sales’ bottom line. 

Download our newest marketing report, 2015 State of Marketing, to learn how to transform your marketing today.