If you’re familiar with my marketing philosophy, you know I like to make it all about the fish. The way I see it, marketers are a lot like fishermen: the good ones focus on their target audiences—whether they be a school of trout or a pipeline full of prospects—rather than on themselves.
It’s the philosophy that’s enabled me to develop true, revenue-producing digital marketing programs, win a few awards, and be a featured speaker. But really, I just love content and the revolutionary impact it can have on businesses and their revenue.
Now I’m back with another animal metaphor to help us break down the complexities to today’s modern marketers: horses. You can lead them to water, but that sure doesn’t mean you’ll get them to drink.
Horses are stubborn creatures. Kind of like your colleagues. Having a great idea won’t be enough to get them on board.
That’s what I realized when I accepted the role of digital marketing VP at an international, multi-billion dollar corporation and set out to turn its marketing team into a content-driven revenue engine. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I’ll let you in on the punchline: You’ve got to find the salt.
The Mandate: Drive Revenue from Content
When I arrived at Randstad USA, my mandate was to align marketing and sales to drive revenue. I was no stranger to this assignment—I’d done the very same thing in my last position at a software company.
Being a veteran meant I had a few tricks up my sleeve, but the task was not a simple one. Fortunately, I happen to like a good challenge. And let me tell you: attempting to evolve the way ten business units, each supported by four thousand salespeople, think about the value of marketing content is exactly that. A challenge.
Content is something I’m passionate about. Its potential to drive revenue is vastly undertapped by most marketing organizations. But when it’s done right, it can revolutionize your marketing operation and align marketing and sales. I knew that putting the content that emerged from aligned, strategic teams into the sales funnel would be a huge win for the organization as a whole.
The Challenge: Restructure the Way 40 Thousand People Think
In such a sales-heavy organization, the 40-person marketing team had been reduced to a print shop. Tangled in a web of unconnected MarTech and trying to keep up with sales requests content in no way aligned to a central strategy, the team was rowing in 40 different directions. And I? I was standing at the center of the boat, trying to figure out why we were going in circles.
I knew we needed to rethink our tech, and build alignment—not just between marketing and sales, but also with leadership, operations, and even within the marketing team. Each group needed to understand how they could contribute to a holistic content strategy.
How to begin? I couldn’t just shut down an entire content production and rebuild it out of the rubble. I’d need to align everyone at once, without grinding our work to a standstill.
I’d need to find people’s salt.
The Solution: Focus on the People (and Their Salt)
Transforming a marketing team from a print shop to an impactful content operation wasn’t going to happen through new tools alone.
To address the heart of the problem, I needed to get people to accept a perspective contrary to all conventional wisdom; I needed to undo a belief system imprinted upon my colleagues’ very souls.
How hard could it be?
To do so, we’d need to tackle this problem much the way we would an external messaging shift: by building personas and constructing narratives that spoke to what exactly made them tick.
Let’s get back to our good pal, the horse.
When you lead a horse to water, what’s the secret to getting it to drink? Well, instead of standing there in front of the bubbling stream, willing the horse to change its mind, a savvy rider will instead produce a salt lick—an incentive to drink the water.
It was up to us to do the same with our internal stakeholders. In other words, we had to find something that motivated them to seek out the solution. That meant we had to figure out what their pain points were, and how to explain content operations in a way that addressed them—and proved value in the terms they cared about.
Take sales. These folks understand one thing really well: revenue. I needed to prove to them that randomly asking marketing to drop everything to create a PDF a rep requested for a cold call wasn’t the best strategy. Instead, they needed to understand an aligned content strategy would make them better at their own jobs.
But I couldn’t just tell them I could drive revenue—I had to show them.
So I started slowly, one team at a time, to build use cases that proved to sales that we could drive real revenue—not just vanity metrics—with content. Now, I’ve rolled out these strategies to all our marketers, and have my sights set on going global.
It’s been quite the year, but there are only bigger things to come.
So now it’s time I asked you: Who are your internal stakeholders, and what is their salt? The answer could change the game.