The power of Smarketing to convert your blog into a lead-generating machine

/ March 14, 2019 / No Comments / In Content Strategy / By

Marketers spend a great deal of time trying to produce content that resonates with their audience to generate qualified traffic and leads.

But this is what we often hear: We have more than enough ideas for our blog but it just isn’t converting.

And this is what we never hear: We have too many blog articles that are converting! We don’t need more.

With literally millions of posts being published a month (and just on WordPress), chances are that the number of low-converting posts far outweigh high-converting posts. It’s not surprising then that most people don’t view blogs as a good source of leads and traffic generation.

But the truth is that when a blog post demonstrates a profound knowledge of the audience’s problems and seeks to resolve them, it’s more than capable of generating qualified leads and traffic.

The main pain point here is that B2B content tends to revolve around specific problems in very specialised industries. And it is not a walk in the park writing for an audience of professional experts in niche industries when the marketers producing the content often aren’t.

But it is possible. With access to a close and reliable source of expert knowledge, there’s nothing stopping content writers from creating content that is relevant and converts.

This is where subject matter experts come into the picture.

Most marketers often struggle to locate and contact these experts. But what they don’t realise is that there’s actually an entire team right under their noses — the sales team.

Think about it. These are the guys who spend every working day getting to know their clients better by attending to their requests, answering their questions, listening to their problems and resolving their any doubts.

Who better than to explain the problem and offer a solution at the same time?

In this article, we’ll dig into how content marketers can work hand-in-hand with the sales team and reap the benefits of smarketing to produce relevant and expert content that’s aligned with their audience’s and business needs.

From an online relationship to an offline relationship

Getting involved in the offline relationship between customers and a company can be an eye-opening experience for a marketer who has, until then, only experienced the digital relationship.

One of the best ways to do this is to seat the content team (or the entire marketing team) next to the sales team.

A few years ago, I had just started working in a start-up that was going through a fierce period of expansion. With barely enough seats for the newcomers, I was assigned to share a table with the sales team.

I initially found it unfair as I thought it would hinder my learning and progress on the marketing team. But I later came to realise that this experience actually laid the foundations for a new way of understanding content marketing.

Each day, I had a front-row seat to relationship building. I listened in on how the sales team connected with clients how they handled complaints, how they sold, and how they dealt with the issues clients were most worried about.

Above all, it was their willingness to help that surprised and impressed me the most.

Bit by bit, I began to realise how useful and valuable this was to understand the pain points. I also started to see endless exciting opportunities that can be produced from the sales and marketing teams working together.

Such collaboration may sometimes appear to be infeasible due to space constraints, or because it involves remote workers, or because content production is outsourced to a content marketing agency.

But with the plethora of video conferencing tools available these days, these are trivialities that can be easily resolved.

Clearly lay out mutual benefits

If there’s something we’ve learned from producing B2B content, regardless of the industry, it’s that behind every great B2B marketing team is a great B2B sales team. And vice versa.

The smarketing relationship is like that of clownfish and sea anemone — an intricate and mutually beneficial relationship that allows each other to flourish. Many times, we assume the benefits are so obvious that they don’t need to be fleshed out.

Big mistake.

Simply believing that a collaboration can produce benefits isn’t enough. The question is: are the results of this collaboration included in the priorities of both teams?

If you want sales to be involved in content marketing, the objectives of both teams must be aligned and clearly communicated.

According to Ivo Campos, B2B marketing and lead generation consultant and expert, the biggest challenge of smarketing is often the lack of proper communication between the two teams and them having different objectives.

“The objective of the sales team is clear: sell and increase revenue. While marketing has the same objective (or at least they should), it has a wider objective: creating a brand and being at the top of the users’ minds.

That’s why it’s fundamental for sales to understand marketing’s objectives and understand how they will impact sales results.”

— Ivo Campos

Ironically, this is when we see a reversal of roles.

Most sales personnel are reluctant to lend their voice. To get them involved, marketing will need to sell them the benefits of collaborating so that they agree to market themselves.

Benefits for the content teamBenefits for the sales team
Better understand the audience and their pain pointsDevelop a personal brand
Inspire and generate new content ideasBuild confidence and trust
Access to subject matter expertsBetter position themselves as leaders
Gain new guest authors for the blogDevelop better relationships with clients
Get support from sales to distribute content in their social media accountsClose deals quicker and easier

Placing brand building and the construction of a long term relationship with the client above a transaction is key. Or as Gary Vaynerchuck would say:

“If you actually build a strong brand, you outsell any salesman any day of the week.”

Expert pro tip: Ivo experimented with tactics to improve the collaboration between marketing and sales. One of his tactics was for Augure (formerly Launchmetrics), which included marketing automation. The result: up to 50% of new business generated from marketing sources.

Here are five tips from him:

  1. Get the sales team involved in marketing’s projects right from the beginning. For example, if marketing wants to conduct a survey, get feedback from sales prior to doing so. Or if they want to implement a lead qualification system, do it hand-in-hand with the sales team.
  2. Establish common objectives (number of MQLs per month and their impact on business) and create a common dashboard to track them.
  3. Get constructive feedback from sales regarding leads acquired by marketing.
  4. Have well-established communication channels, with CRM as the main channel.
  5. Facilitate the sales process by automating repetitive tasks (especially databases).

Involving the sales team in a B2B blog content strategy

Generating qualified traffic and leads with content is much easier when the content strategy begins with the support of the sales team and then complemented by data obtained by the marketing team (such as keyword analysis from a content benchmark or online research).

Here’s an example. The following data belong to a B2B startup that receives a substantial amount of leads from its blog.

google analytics image showing top 10 articles ranking as a result of marketing and sales collaboration

The top 10 lead-generating articles are a collaboration between the sales team and its marketing team or content marketing agency (in this case, us).

Not one single article in this top 10 list is the sole product of the marketing team. In fact, the first marketing-only effort is ranked 12th.

Nor were these content written with the objective of optimising a high search volume keyword. In some cases, there weren’t even enough volume data for the main keyword!

What does this show?

After publishing hundreds of articles for a complex industry, marketers can purport to understand clients’ day-to-day problems. But this is just theoretical knowledge. The know-how alone does not make content marketers true experts who are capable of offering a proper solution.

With a little humility and closer collaboration with the sales team, content marketers can generate ideas and create very specific content that showcases their expertise.

How we collaborate with sales teams to generate ideas

Before even launching into the content strategy, we first present the sales teams with a list of questions like:

  • What are the main problems clients face and what problem(s) does the product or service aim to resolve? If there are various groups of clients, this will need to be answered segment by segment.
  • What other day-to-day problems do clients face, regardless of whether they’re directly related to the product or service?
  • How do clients value their jobs? What do they expect from their jobs? What does it take for them to be a good professional?
  • Have there been any new developments in the sector in recent months that may have a direct impact on their work? (New regulations, emerging technologies, etc.)
  • What kind of articles would you like to be able to send to your clients that would make both your job and their lives easier?

In a codependent relationship, there needs to be bidirectional support for mutual benefits.

As soon as the relationship is established, we’re there to listen and provide support as and when the sales team needs us to write about a particular issue or an opinion or advice on a subject.

To facilitate these efforts, we also create a document in which all the sales representatives can jot down their blog ideas. We then prioritise them and incorporate them into the editorial calendar.

How we create content while collaborating with the sales teams

Content marketers either know enough about the subject to create an article on their own or they will need help putting it together.

The latter is often more common.

That said, they can either consult Google —and run the risk of producing the same content that has been churned out multiple times over— or consult the inner journalist in them and approach quality and trustworthy information sources.

In other words, the sales team.

In spite of how good a writer is, the difference in results between the two options cannot be compared. With a sales team as a source of information, a content writer can:

  • Create original and useful content. Depending on the sales rep’s experience or point of view, they can craft unique and one-of-a-kind pieces. Instead of reworking content gathered from different online sources, they are creating something new with the support and knowledge of an expert source. This is what makes a good piece of content rank and stand out over others.
  • Obtain more complete and in-depth information. Other articles that have been written about this online are likely based on the same source(s). By collaborating, they can dig deeper into each point.
  • Produce content with insider expressions and knowledge that the audience can better relate to. It’s the nature of sales reps to provide great examples and analogies, which always add a more personal and perhaps even humorous touch.

Depending on the subject being written about, there are two ways we use to obtain the information needed.

With a straightforward topic, we first create a rough draft of the article. Following which, we craft a few questions for the salesperson. The idea here is to simply clarify lingering doubts and include a personal touch in the article such as an expert quote.

If we’re dealing with a more complex topic, we would then first read up as much as we can about the topic, obtain different points of view and with this information in hand, come up with a list of questions for the sales rep.

These questions should not have answers that can be easily found online. Instead, they should tackle more in-depth and specific issues. We then use the answers provided to craft the piece.

With these two approaches, a content marketer can produce all kinds of content — from blog and social media posts to guides, ebooks, FAQs and even content for the media.

Within the blog itself, these are the formats that have proven to work best from the smarketing collaboration.

  • Guests posts by sales reps
  • Interviews about current events
  • Tactical guides and how-to articles
  • Videos with quick tips
  • Tutorials on how to use a product
  • Opinion pieces
  • Predictions about the future
  • Trend analysis
  • Round-up posts

Regardless of the format, it’s important to run it by the sales rep after the piece is drafted.

This is especially so if it includes a quote from him/her, so as to make sure the information is accurate and not taken out of context. Plus, depending on the industry, the information may be so sensitive that a slight rephrase may change the meaning completely.

Practical case: guest posts written by sales representatives

When a salesperson begins talking about a topic he is passionate about, there’s a chance he gets so excited and from wanting to touch on every single idea he has in his head, that he ends up getting his messages mixed up.

It’s much like when a bunch of kids come back from a field trip and begin talking excitedly about what they saw — all at the same time. Each point is important and should be fleshed out and given its priority.

The content marketer’s job here is to make sure there’s an order in the piece, and edit it so that it’s clear, its messages are effective, and it’s keyword-optimised.

Most sales reps simply don’t have enough time or motivation to craft an entire article — which is what the content marketing team is there for.

Once the piece is finalised, we recommend creating an author profile for the sales rep. This is mainly because he or she is, in fact, the real author and source of information behind the piece.

Having the article attributed to the salesperson is a recognition of his/her efforts and gives him/her the credit deserved, which, in the long run, can be a motivation for more contributions.

Plus, having a well-written article published is one of the best ways to help to build his/her personal brand as it can be shared with clients and on social media.

Pro tip: To measure the direct impact this type of article can have on their pipeline, add their Linkedin profile and email address to the author widget.

How an article established a sales rep among the experts in his sector and continues to generate leads years after publication

A (long) while ago, we worked with a sales rep to publish an article that dealt with a rising problem in the industry the company was starting to receive numerous calls about.

It was related to a new scam in the international trade industry about which there was little to no information online.

This was a golden opportunity for three reasons:

  • It was an urgent problem with potentially serious consequences.
  • It was a problem that affected the clients to which the company could provide a solution.
  • No one else had written about the problem.

The end product was a beautifully redacted piece that not only discussed the problem at hand but also included advice on how to work around it. It was the result of a combination of a salesperson’s knowledge of the industry and problem and a content marketer’s craftsmanship.

And despite having a niche audience and an objective to educate instead of generating traffic, the results were immediate and far exceeded our expectations.

example of results of blog post created by collaboration of sales and marketing teams

Not only was there a constant flow of registrations on the web after reading the article, in the months that followed, prospects were also reaching out to the sales rep via email and Linkedin.

It got to a point where we had to remove his email to gain better control over the real impact of the post. Even then, it was a true and priceless demonstration of the benefits that can be generated from a collaboration between the sales and marketing teams.

example of difference between conversions measured as first or last interaction
Difference between conversions measured as first or last interaction.

Besides generating leads, the article worked well to show the true potential of the impact of a great top of the funnel content.

Over a 90-day period, a good number of users who read the post completed their registrations and transactions — which is evidence of our very first point: irrefutable proof that a blog post is more than capable of generating qualified traffic and convert.


→ Need help with getting your B2B blog to convert? Let us know how we can help! 🙂

About The Author Lin Lin's an ex-journalist who's found her new love in content marketing. In her spare time, she's on a secret conquest to find a solution to never having to cut her nails again.
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