As a company goes through the stage of becoming aware that they have a problem or business need that requires a solution, and they begin to investigate the options they have available to them, they start to become familiar with the companies they are going to choose from as a supplier through their marketing content. As they narrow down their options and begin to have direct contact with the sales team they will become exposed to the content that is designed to empower them to make a purchasing decision. Through the naturally tight alignment of the marketing and sales departments, this content may frequently be drafted in tandem, ensuring that the messaging is uniform. This helps to present a consistent face for the company.
Once you have gone through the entire process of attracting prospects with your marketing content, converting the prospects to leads and making sale, the last thing you want to occur is for a discrepancy or inconsistency with your customer support content to damage your relationship with your new customer. Given all of the time and effort that has been committed to securing the new business, and developing a sense of trust and respect with the customer, lapses in messaging consistency can lead to a lower overall satisfaction level for your customer.
Implications of Misalignment
From a customer perspective, when they experience lapses in continuity from the pre-sales to post-sales treatment they receive from a company, it can lead to feelings or uneasiness and apprehension. Is this company that they are relying upon for what could be a mission critical function in their organization as reliable and professional a partner as they had initially assumed? Should they continue to invest time, money and other resources in using their product or service, or is it prudent to cut and run at this point?
When a breakdown in messaging alignment such as this occurs it can represent significant costs, both tangible and intangible to the company. There can be the immediate staffing and discounting costs required in order to rectify any discrepancies or misunderstanding that have occurred. Unbudgeted support or training may be required, and these cost will have to be suffered in order to maintain the relationship. There are also the less measurable costs, such as loss of brand image and forsaken referral custom which the buyer may now be hesitant to provide.
To successfully foster alignment of content across your different departments you need to develop a cohesive content strategy. This involves planning your content across the entire buyer cycle from awareness and interest, through the purchasing phase and onto support and referral. An effective method of achieving this is to create themes for your content, which could refer to product lines or customer problems. Content should then be planned across each of the buyer cycle stages, with open collaboration and consultation with the different departments involved. This means getting your marketing, sales, support and customer success teams all engaging with one another, sharing insight from their interactions with customers and identifying where gaps or inconsistencies in content occur.
You can achieve this level of content alignment by planning your content using collaborative editorial calendar software that allows you to create content based on themes that are related to different stages of the buyer cycle. You can then have all of your users from different departments collaborate on creating the required content within a single framework, where they have exposure to the content that is being created by each of the departments. This cross-departmental efforts helps to reduce the silo effect, and opens up lines of communication between groups who may not typically get to interact with one another.