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Sales and marketing often have a contentious relationship. But by using search data to better understand what the customer is actually looking for, they are able to not only better serve their user base, but also create a cohesive tone of brand mentioning. Erin Robbins of Ginzametrics talks with SEJ Executive Editor Kelsey Jones about why sales and marketing should actually work together, and how the personal relationship building of sales is something that could serve digital marketing departments better.
I’ve seen a lot of benefits from the marketing and sales departments knowing what each other’s talking about. Is cross-training something you’ve found useful, especially when it comes to discussing data?
Erin: It’s important to understand what everybody’s talking about. It helps the customer or potential prospects have a more seamless experience across mediums. Marketing should also be getting ideas on what topics and content to create and things to cover based on feedback that sales is getting.
It really should be cyclical. Once everybody’s having these discussions, what you’re able to do is set up your data capturing and analysis programs to better figure out how to do that in the future, make smarter decisions, and give the customer a better experience. It shouldn’t feel like somebody’s passing the baton, or that there are these kinds of breaks in experience between when somebody’s initially getting product awareness and when they start speaking to sales, and then again when they become a customer and have an account manager or onboarding process.
Some of the metrics and the way data is measured varies between sales and search or marketing. How can different types of data help each of these departments?
Erin: There’s a lot of metrics and things people pass around, like X number of leads, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads. I like to steer away from thinking about things in those terms, and think more about things in what I’ll call “content groups” and “keyword groups”.
If you’re setting up things with marketing, sales, and customer success and support in mind, the idea is you should have all these kinds of groups for your content around things like features, solutions, common questions or problems, issues, and topics.
The reason I’m big on these ideas of groups is because it allows you to easily see and understand how someone consumes content and interacts with various aspects of your organization. Content and keywords can belong to multiple groups. I like to say, “Hey, sales. We can help you craft email conversations that will help you close better if you give us access to some of this info. We can look at keywords and themes that are going on in your emails and how this actually matches or doesn’t work with how people were searching for solutions to begin with.”
Same thing with customer support and success. “Hey, people are writing in, having these problems or questions,” or, “Hey, people are looking at certain types of FAQs. How can we get ahead of that a little bit more?” When you group your content like this, you can also see differences in locations. You can say, “Hey, in certain locations or among certain types of users, these are common themes. Among other locations or other user types, these are different themes.” Then you can actually give this data to your sales team and they’re likely to close business a lot more.
Kelsey: You’re saying to think of it from a behavioral or problem-solution approach. Instead of thinking of them as just a lead to make money off of, think of them as, “Well, what are they really looking for and what do they really actually want from us?”
Erin: It’s not a linear process as much as the funnel makes it seem linear. It’s more than just mining customer support tickets for blog posts. It’s really about saying, “Hey, you know what? We’re getting a lot of questions about this specific feature. This means people don’t understand this or that it’s not explained well in initial messaging, or that sales is talking about something in a way that customers don’t end up actually grasping.”
When you think about it that way, the idea is you need to know what is going on with people. Search data’s great because not only are you capturing people who are telling you they’re looking for something because they’re actually searching for it, they’re telling you how they’re searching for it. And because search terminology has continued to increase, we’re now getting why they’re searching for it.
How can search data help with managing expectations not only for the sales staff but also for clients?
Erin: I feel like the best possible solution is to say, “Look, what can I actually do with this information and the fact that they keep doing this?” In my mind, sales people are promising somebody something because the person is asking for it, right?
If they’re promising somebody something because people continue to ask for it, you have to start looking for thematic or recurring asks. If somebody keeps asking for a specific genre of requests and you’re starting to see sales people continue to promise this, they’re getting that information from somewhere. So I would take the terms and things the sales team is actually promising these people and put them into my keyword searches and say, “I need to track this” because what you’re probably going to find is that competitors are actually offering that, or it’s something they’ve heard somewhere.
Kelsey: Yes, I love that. Instead of getting defensive, focus on the reason behind why they’re asking for it and look more into using data. That’s a really good way to put it.
Erin: I’ll give you an example. I noticed that when people were having calls with us about the platform, one of the recurring conversations that would keep coming up was contract length. What I did was I started tracking keywords and terms around SEO platform, content marketing platform contracts. What I found was that a lot of people didn’t like being forced into these one- and two-year long contracts. That’s how we came back to offering a month-to-month solution or shorter term contracts with different options.
Kelsey: Yes, that’s awesome. Instead of bucking requests and saying, “Oh, we don’t do that,” think of it as, “Well, can we offer this in a different way that is against our competition that would actually help alleviate some of our potential customers’ pain points?”
Erin: And if you don’t have the opportunity to change the way your product is working or you can’t create the thing that sales has promised, what you can do as a marketer is get ahead in terms of messaging. You can adjust messaging strategies if you’re noticing thematic conversations that sales is having and things they continue to promise over and over again. Hopefully, if sales continues to promise something, the product team and whoever’s in charge of that will get on top of it. But in terms of what you can do as a marketer, you can get ahead of it, you can send out emails around it, you can figure out how you can try to make it work within the existing structure of your product, and then try to create content that will lead people to something you do currently provide.
Kelsey: You can use the data to do the best you can within the freedom you have in the organization. Even if you don’t have power to actually transform the product, you could create more content that’s answering these customers’ pain points or their inquiries.
Do you think having sales training as a marketer is helpful? Does that help interpret data?
Erin: I think it does. I think that when we’re talking about doing sales training, Steve Farnsworth made a good suggestion to me. He’s a big advocate of marketing folks going along and doing ride-alongs essentially, or sitting in on sales meetings.
You don’t have to explain who you are or what you’re doing there, it’s more just so that you understand. Especially if you’re talking about going with good sales people, because people who close a lot of business are obviously closing a lot of business for a reason. You want to understand what it is they’re saying and how they’re saying it that people tend to gravitate toward. Why wouldn’t you want to know that? It’s only going to help you create and craft better marketing messaging if you know what’s working when someone’s in the room.
I think it will also help break down barriers between sales and marketing departments that have actually continued to cause bigger problems for most organizations. Conversely, sales could learn a lot by looking at marketing’s copy. I think that if everybody had that opportunity it would probably be a lot better.
The other thing I would add is besides doing the ride-alongs or joining some sales conversations, listen in and hear how people are describing things. You want everybody to be on message or at least talking about things in a similar way. It goes back to that seamless experience because if you have a marketing department that’s going at things and branding things one way, and then you’ve got a sales department that comes at it from a completely different voice, even if you’re saying the same thing, there’s a big difference in tonal shifts.
Kelsey: That brings up a good point that I hear over and over by some of the speakers in our industry. It all comes down to human behavior and actual interaction. I think as digital marketers, sometimes we get too focused on being online and not actually interfacing with people or looking at how people search and interact with companies. Because the sales team are more front-facing, they have actual phone conversations or they’re just more interactive, and they do have a better idea of what the customer is asking and what they’re expecting as well.
Erin: They know the customer’s voice. They know the tone, they have a more back and forth rapport than we as marketers would normally have. A lot of times that’s where you’re going to get information about what is the real tone, how formal or casual is it, how professional or advanced or novice these conversations are. Those are things where you can mine a lot of data about your user without having to do typical marketing things like asking questions directly. You could find a lot of that information by just talking to your sales team.
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