Content Strategy: Marketing and Sales Alignment With Pam Didner

Pam Didner is a marketing consultant, author, and speaker. Her second book, Effective Sales Enablement, provides unconventional insights into how marketing and sales can better work together through strategy alignment, team organization, account-based marketing and data-driven marketing campaigns.

She emphasizes that marketing should leverage sales as another marketing channel and sales should use marketing as a hidden sales force. Her forte is creating and implementing marketing strategies by connecting sales and marketing to engage global audiences. Her international book, Global Content Marketing, is the first to offer an accessible, comprehensive process to scale content across regions. Didner was selected as one of BtoB’s Top Digital Marketers in 2011 and 2012. Global Content Marketing was named one of The Top 10 Marketing Books of 2014 by Inc.

Sales and marketing, in practice, can seem like they’re at odds with different goals and priorities. Pam Didner points out that marketing is the hidden sales force and sales is another marketing channel. She can help you find commonalities in misalignment, drive joint initiatives through account-based marketing (ABM), craft a messaging framework, and map content between the sales process and customer journeys as part of sales enablement. When marketing is done right, sales and marketing can become more than the sum of their parts.

Pam will be speaking at the upcoming Content Marketing World conference. She took some time to talk with us about sales alignment, her new book, and about what she will be talking about at the conference.

How did you get started in Marketing and content marketing strategy in particular?

When I started my corporate career, I was in finance and accounting at Intel. At the time when I joined, management encouraged people to move around to different divisions to get a well-rounded skill set. So, after a few years I took advantage of that and joined to supply chain management and operations. But somehow, with a twist of fate, I ended up in marketing operations, specifically event marketing. From there I moved to marketing strategies, especially global B2B strategies.

One of my focuses working with different teams was to market and promote Intel Xeon processors, which are used in servers and data centers. We targeted IT decision makers. If you think about it, it’s easy to sell a processor to an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), like Dell or HP, because the value proposition is clear. A processor is the ‘brain’ of a computer. A better processor makes your computer perform better. But that value proposition was not enough to sell a sever-based processor. There are many layers of hardware and software involved in a datacenter, so we had to explain benefits of our server-based processors to a Datacenter’s TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). That’s how I started using content to talk about more complex products.

What made you write a book on Marketing and Sales Alignment?

My first book was written purely from my own personal experiences and knowledge working in a global company and focused on how to scale content across regions. How did we prioritize in terms of our marketing budget? How did we localize and translate some of the content at the local level? What was our collaboration process?

After I the first book, I was thinking about writing a follow-up, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another content marketing book. So I thought about topics drawn from my experience, knowledge and learning that could benefit other marketers. I loved working with our sales team and learned a great deal from that. What about a book on how to support the sales team as a marketer? That idea led to the creation of ‘Effective Sales Enablement’, plus, it was an natural extension of content marketing. This is especially true for technology sales: how to use content to educate your customers about complicated technology and your products.

What was the hardest part of writing your book, because in your own words you are a marketer at heart?

The biggest challenge was really to try to understand how salespeople think and work. I can write a book from the marketer’s perspective, but I need to include the sales perspective to make the book complete.


What has been your biggest professional challenge when it comes to marketing and sales alignment?

There are so many, but if I need to name one, I think it’s to agree on metrics and goals as a team. You also have to agree which sources you should use to get that data.

For example, if you are quantifying the number of leads, sales may get that information directly from the CRM tool, but marketing may get tracking from their marketing automation tools or website analytics tools. There are discrepancies when you pull the data from different sources. It’s important for both teams to agree on what to measure and where that information will be sourced.

What KPIs do you consider to be important when creating an SLA (service level agreement) between marketing and sales departments?

Ultimately, the purpose of marketing is to generate sales. When I say sales, it means revenue. If marketing can’t show the contribution to revenue somehow, it doesn’t count. It’s impossible to track every single marketing dollar we spend, especially the marketing budget that focuses on the top of the purchase funnel. However, it’s important to evaluate the marketing dollar focused on the bottom of the funnel and aggregate marketing dollar in relationship to sales growth.  

Also, as a marketer, it’s important to understand sales metrics and see if you can quantify marketing contributions.  The more you can tie your efforts to sales, the better off you are to show your value add.

Many businesses use Account Based Marketing (ABM) to grow their business and achieve sales targets. How do you align content marketing strategy with ABM and sales using all the marketing mix?

So, let’s give a quick definition of ABM. There are three types:

  • One-to-one

  • One-to-few

  • One-to-many

An example of one-to-one is when marketing and sales/accounting implement a HIGHLY customized program for key accounts.

One-to-few is when a marketer works with a sales team to work on just a few accounts to implement semi-scalable marketing outreach.

One-to-many can have two different definitions. The first is when a marketer targets many different prospects of similar clusters or it can be prospects in specific verticals or industry segments that share common needs and challenges.

What’s really important, regardless of the marketing mix, is the collaboration and synchronization between the sales and marketing teams. That’s really the essence or the core of Account-Based Marketing. It’s really using ABM as a forcing function to drive the collaboration between sales and marketing.

Aligning content strategy with ABM and sales is more of a shift in perspective than a change in the marketing mix. We still use the same marketing channels to reach out to prospects. We just use the channels a little differently by working with the sales team. I don’t promote or advocate organizing the whole marketing organization around ABM. Some marketing functions are focused at the top of the funnel or in promoting awareness and thought leadership. But when leads get lower in the funnel, a certain part of the marketing organization really needs to look into ABM and work with the sales team closely. This is especially important for complicated industries like technology.

As CONCURED uses AI in its platform, I have to ask, do you see AI improving or perhaps impeding sales and marketing alignment?

I know that artificial intelligence is a hot topic right now and there’s a lot of worry that the world will be taken over by AI. In the long term, if artificial intelligences continue to get smarter and smarter, it could happen.

But looking at the next five to ten years, if it’s used strategically and effectively, AI can improve the sophistication of sales and marketing efforts.  AI can come in the form of a virtual sales agent and do things like inside sales and lead qualification. It can act as a marketing assistant like CONCURED does with content marketing. Finally, AI can act as a chatbot to help with a series of Q&A before handing the leads off to a real person.

The key to start implementing AI is clean data and clear workflows. If the data is not clean, you will put garbage in and get garbage out. So you have to ensure the data is correct before you start to trust the systems.

You will be speaking at Content Marketing World 2018, and you will be covering two topics, one of them being “5 Creative Ways Marketers Can Enable Their Sales Teams” can you provide a sneak preview?

I actually have two sessions. One is a workshop and the other one a presentation. The workshop is how to scale content across regions effectively and how to create a global content marketing strategy. It’s for content marketers working in a big enterprise or a company growing their business in other countries. I will share the best way to work with your internal team to scale content.

The other session is a 45 min presentation. I share ideas on how you can better support your sales team as a content marketer. Most salespeople likely only care about leads and demand gen, but there is so much more that content marketers can do to help the sales team. I will help attendees evaluate their inbound and outbound marketing communications holistically and identify ways to support their sales teams. And, I will make it fun!!

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