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Sales Enablement vs. Content Marketing: Why You Need Both

Posted in: Sales and Marketing Management, Sales Enablement Strategy

In recent years, content marketing has established itself as a core part of every go-to-market team.

Dedicated to creating high-value content for every stage of the customer journey, a content marketer’s role is well-defined. But in organisations with sales enablement teams, confusion can sometimes arise from questions about which team owns content creation, delivers guidance to reps, and coaches teams to work together effectively.

With this guide, we’ll break down the key distinctions between the two functions and show you how to get the most out of both by addressing the following topics:

Content Marketing and Sales Enablement Defined

Content marketing refers to the process of creating and distributing assets such as eBooks, whitepapers, and blogs with the intent of generating leads for a business. Content marketing assets can be distributed via outbound efforts, like sales prospecting, or via inbound channels, like your company website.

With a dedicated content marketing strategy, businesses are able to empower both their outbound lead generation efforts with compelling assets that help move a buyer towards purchase. Unique assets are typically developed for various stages of the buyer’s journey; this ensures that no matter how a buyer engages with your company, you have valuable resources to provide to them.

Sales enablement, on the other hand, describes the process of ensuring that salespeople have the content, training, and guidance they need to close deals. Sales enablement practitioners achieve this by facilitating onboarding and training efforts, managing central sales content repositories, and creating just-in-time guidance reps can use to guide customer conversations.

More and more businesses are building sales enablement functions in order to efficiently manage these critical rep-empowerment efforts. Businesses with enablement functions in place often see higher win rates, better rep retention, and stronger growth. Read more about the impact of sales enablement in our Definitive Guide to Sales Enablement.

What Is the Difference Between Sales Enablement and Content Marketing?

Though both content marketing and sales enablement teams focus on content, these teams differ when it comes to their primary audience: Content marketing focuses on creating assets for buyer consumption while sales enablement focuses on how salespeople will engage with and distribute that content.

You can see how these roles further diverge in the table below: 

Content Marketing Sales Enablement
  • Ensures reps have the assets they need to effectively engage with customers
  • Creates content for buyer consumption, like eBooks or blog articles
  • May manage specific assets within a sales enablement platform
  • Typically reports to a chief marketing officer
  • Ensures reps have the guidance and training they need to effectively use assets to engage with customers
  • Manages marketing-created content for salespeople to share with buyers
  • Manages overall deployment and optimisation of sales enablement platform
  • Typically reports to a chief sales officer

Despite these differences, content marketing and sales enablement teams can and should work closely together, as we’ll explore next.

How Does Content Marketing Help Sales Enablement?

Content is the backbone of every great sales enablement effort – and in this instance, we’re not referring to internal-only content, such as sales training materials, but the external-facing content that reps send to buyers as they engage with them.

These assets are critical to ensuring that buyers are armed with the thought leadership they need to make informed decisions and ultimately purchase your product. However, it’s infrequent that sales enablement practitioners would ever spend much time creating these assets. Instead, enablement teams rely on content marketers to produce these materials.

In this way, content marketers and sales enablement practitioners are deeply intertwined. Without content, a sales enablement team would have nothing to offer their reps; without a sales enablement team, it would be difficult for content marketers to ensure that their assets are being used effectively in the field. Think of it like the passing of a baton: assets that content marketers create are carried across the finish line by sales enablement practitioners.

It’s a symbiotic relationship – and one that leading businesses are embracing in order to empower their reps and grow their business.

The Three Types of Sales Enablement Content

There are three stages most buyers will move through before a deal closes: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase. Each of these stages require distinct content to move the deal forward. Because content marketers are focused so heavily on the early- to middle-of-funnel efforts, their content will be built for the Awareness and Consideration stages.

Awareness Stage: Thought Leadership Content

These assets are built for top-of-funnel buyers who are looking for general market trends and industry insights. Typically, these assets are vendor-neutral, focusing instead on informing viewers. They can be:

  • Whitepapers
  • eBooks
  • Blogs/articles
  • Newsletters
  • Social media posts

Consideration Stage: Solution Content

These assets are typically built for later-stage deals, where buyers are looking for more detailed information on the product and its capabilities. Often, these assets feature competitive differentiation and customer testimonials. They include:

  • Case studies
  • Datasheets
  • Brochures 

As buyers move into the third and final “Purchase” stage, content marketing assets drop off in favour of more sales-oriented materials. These assets are still managed by sales enablement teams, but typically in close collaboration with sales operations instead of content marketing.

Purchase Stage: ROI Content

These assets should provide an in-depth exploration of your product and its ability to deliver a return on investment for a specific company. This content group includes:

  • ROI Calculators
  • Business Cases
  • RFPs

How to Build a Winning Sales Enablement Content Strategy

Now that you know why these two teams should work together, let’s take a look at the tactical steps you can take to build a winning, collaborative content strategy.

Align on Revenue Goals

Content marketers and sales enablement practitioners should always align on revenue goals. This step is essential for both teams as it allows marketers to make informed decisions on how to prioritise content creation; for enablement practitioners, it ensures they will be able to arm reps with the deal-winning assets they need.

Both teams should offer as much transparency as possible into upcoming initiatives, team performance, and areas for improvement. This can take the form of a weekly sync or a team newsletter. No matter how you approach it, the goal is to ensure your teams are as tightly aligned as possible.

Collaborate on Content

Once both teams have clarity on goals and performance, it’s helpful to collaborate on content. This doesn’t necessarily mean enablement teams should start writing eBooks. Rather, once content marketing has begun work on an asset, they should share it with enablement teams for feedback.

This can be helpful as sales enablement is often much closer to the day-to-day conversations that salespeople are having with buyers. Their insight can inform whether or not assets will resonate with customers — and, thus, if sellers will use it.

Seeking out this feedback early protects content from getting rewritten and ensures that final assets are exactly what salespeople need to close deals.

Learn the Tools of the Trade

Sales enablement platforms are essential tools for housing marketing-created content. Thus, it’s only natural that enablement teams train their marketing counterparts on how to use their enablement platform.

A crash-course with quarterly re-training should be more than enough to ensure that marketers are up to speed. Once trained, let content marketers handle the in-platform management of assets they create. This allows content marketers to draft guidance around each asset; as SMEs, they will be closest to the asset they have created and better positioned than sales enablement to advise salespeople on its proper use.

Engage Reps Effectively

Core to every content strategy is your salespeople. To ensure they are prepared to use content effectively in the field, marketing and enablement should work together to launch new assets, train reps on how to use it, and ensure its long-term success.

One easy way to do this is to have marketers join enablement-hosted trainings. A live launch session lets marketing provide additional context on the thinking behind a specific asset. Additionally, it’s a helpful forum for asking questions and getting feedback for future iterations.

Routinely Review Data

Finally, content marketing and sales enablement should always try to review content performance data together. For both teams, this is important to understanding how reps and buyers are consuming and engaging with content in the field.

How many times an asset has been pitched by sales, whether buyers viewed it, and how long buyers spent engaging with it are all important insights to use to determine whether assets are resonating with buyers. Further, data can inform how assets can be improved to up engagement. Examining the numbers together gives enablement and content marketing teams a shared perspective as they iterate on and improve their content strategy.

Uplevel Your Sales Enablement Content

Though they serve different purposes, content marketing and sales enablement teams have many opportunities to collaborate and ensure that marketing-created sales content is better than ever.

Want to take a deeper look at your content strategy? Start with our guide to measuring and mapping content across the buyer’s journey.