Is Sales Running the White Paper Project? 3 Cautions

Sales keeps the content plates spinning?

Some marketing teams let others in the organization run their own content projects. Here are three tips to keep them from getting out of hand.

If your organization is large enough to have a Web content manager or a content editor, you’re probably moving a lot of copy around. Maybe your content policy allows people outside of marketing – sales, finance, operations, technical support – to generate their own pieces and send them to an internal editor for review.

Good for you. Mostly.

I’m thinking in particular about Sales. A lot of ideas for content originate in Sales:

  • “We need a white paper to leave behind with prospects.”
  • “Trade show coming up. What kind of brochures and case studies are we handing out?”
  • “Are we going to blog about this technology? It gives us some visibility.”

They’re almost invariably good ideas, because salespeople are in front of the customer all the time, picking up on the themes of importance to them.

Let Sales run your content projects?

Don’t get me wrong: I like salespeople, and their naturally infectious enthusiasm. But good salespeople are chronically busy, they usually travel a lot, and that killer white paper idea they came up with is one of fifteen plates they’re spinning.

So, marketing managers, mind these three tips for managing Sales when they are the lead on content:

  1. Don’t take your eye off the ball entirely. Ensure there’s some review/oversight from marketing. The white paper or customer success story should have a marketing – not salesy – feel to it, and you’re the cop. Salespeople tend to value product features and benefits, which poison the paper; it’s your job to push back and emphasize the reader’s problem.
  2. Get all feedback in writing. Your marketing communications writer is the muscle in this project, and you should run interference for her. Since most salespeople are working conceptually rather than concretely, insist that they summarize their feedback in writing and not just orally; it will help the project move much more smoothly. They can supplement their written revisions with a phone call, but written feedback needs to be the primary channel.
  3. Establish guidelines for the review cycle. “We’re working on a white paper around a similar problem,” salespeople will tell prospects and customers. “Would you like to have a sneak peek?” That’s an excellent way to engage a serious prospect or reward a good customer, but don’t take on the burden – much less leave it up to the writer – to vet and reconcile everybody’s comments and changes. Your salespeople should take care of that, then forward a single markup to the writer.

You can argue that letting Sales run their own projects – to the extent that they’re willing to do so – results in content that’s closer to what they have in mind. Of course, your job is to ensure fidelity between that and the company message. Sales doesn’t need to be Marketing to put out good content; it just needs to observe a few simple marketing tips like these.

photo credit: lissalou66


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”