You already know that content marketing can grow your business. Not a believer yet? Learn how content marketing has helped Access TCA grow. Content marketing can produce better qualified leads for your sales team. But what if your leadership team doesn’t agree with you? You could give up. Or you could persuade them to give you a chance.
A common misperception is that marketing is mostly guesswork–written smoke and mirrors that resists having its value quantified or measured. Internet marketing in particular often gets a bad rap. To get executive buy-in, you need to show them that your marketing is measurable and demonstrate how your sales and marketing teams are working in tandem to drive revenue for your business.
Let’s take a moment to look at things from an executive point of view. Hubspot’s State of Inbound Marketing 2017 listed the top 3 sales concerns of surveyed companies as:
- Getting a response from prospects
- Closing the sale
- Finding good leads
These problems are probably on your marketing director’s mind, as well. Saying, “Content marketing is big, and we need to do it,” won’t convince your boss to invest into it. But maybe something like, “Our blog posts brought in X inquiries last month, and Y of those inquiries converted to a sale,” will get their attention.
However, you need the sales team on board to close the loop on what’s working marketing-wise and what’s not. That’s where the Service Level Agreement (SLA) comes in. Elizabeth Clor for the Content Marketing Institute writes, “If you aren’t having regular conversations with key stakeholders, that’s your first step. Uncover the pain points in each area of your organization, and figure out the ways in which content marketing can help.”
What Is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
An SLA is an agreement drawn up between the marketing and sales departments detailing their joint objectives and the role each department plays in achieving them. It outlines specific processes that both sales and marketing will follow to keep them working as efficiently as possible towards common goals.
An SLA will:
Define what a marketing qualified lead (MQL) looks like at your company so that both marketing and sales teams are on the same page. For example, are they your target persona (e.g. B2B SaaS company with $50 MIL annual revenue)? What actions do they need to take for you to consider them an MQL (e.g. downloaded a middle of the funnel eBook and attended one webinar)? With a little “nurturing,” MQLs can move further down the sales funnel.
Define what makes a sales qualified lead (SQL)–the people your sales team should reach out to and nurture until they become customers. Perhaps these are people who are not only your target persona but have also reached out to request a free consultation or demo of your product.
Determine action steps for both the marketing and sales teams. How will the sales team respond to a lead? Will they call or email? What information will they provide? How many times will they follow up?
How an SLA Helps You Get Executive Buy-in
An SLA helps you work backwards to help your executive, sales, and marketing teams to figure–and spell–out:
- Revenue target that sales and marketing team needs to hit to meet your business’s objectives
- Number of sales or customers needed to close in order to meet that revenue target
- Number of sales qualified leads the sales team needs to nurture (e.g. call, email, consult, etc.) in order to turn them into customers
- Number of marketing qualified leads the marketing team needs to produce to pass along to sales team to assess whether they are SQLs and follow up with
- Number of initial touch points required to produce marketing qualified leads. You can measure this as website visits and/or phone calls. Depending on your type of business, there can be a number of different first steps buyers can take to interact with your company.
These are all numbers your executive team cares about. If you don’t have a ton of historic data on file to determine conversion rates at each step of the funnel outlined above, you may need to make some educated guesses, and that’s ok. The point of an SLA is to create accountability: both sales and marketing teams need to work together to make good things happen for your company. A byproduct of your SLA: your executive team can easily see how hard both teams are working.
Wondering what an SLA might look like in real life? Here’s an example:
- Let’s pretend we have a company with $1,000,000 annual revenue target.
- That would require closing 1,000 customers who each make an average purchase of $1,000 each.
- With a 50% conversion rate of SQLs to customers, the sales team would need 2,000 SQLs to close them into customers.
- With a 50% conversion rate of MQLs to SQLS, the marketing team would need to produce 4,000 MQLs.
- We’ll assume the vast majority of this fictitious company’s business is done online. With a 50% conversion rate of site visitors to MQLs, the marketing team would need to generate 8,000 site visits annually.
With an SLA in place, you’re no longer selling your executives on the idea of content marketing. Instead, you’re showing them what place content marketing has in the overall sales and marketing plan. It changes how they perceive your marketing efforts. Instead of trying to convince the executives of the value of your marketing strategy, you can show them, with data from the sales team, exactly how your efforts have impacted revenue.
The inbound marketing landscape is in constant flux and change. Stay on top of this year’s sales and marketing trends by downloading this year’s free copy of State of Inbound.