Staying in Control: Managing Sales and Marketing Documents

Sales and marketing professionals rely on documents like proposals and collateral to generate leads and close business. It is essential that these documents are appropriately reviewed by the right team members, and that the documents are easily accessible by colleagues across the go-to-market organization.

But reviewing and accessing these documents is not so simple. With thousands of statements of work, proposals, collateral pieces, ROI sheets, and more at their disposal, team members may not be able to sift through content to find the documents that matter. With so much material to review, how can teams ensure that their content has indeed been appropriately vetted?

Sales and marketing teams can regain control by implementing a document management strategy. Document management tools—in the public or private cloud—allow teams to access, store, and collaborate on documents. Below are some key best practices to implement when you're looking to start managing your sales and marketing documents.

Organize Documents Effectively

With so many documents, how do you organize your content? Shared folders are not an effective solution, as they don't allow you to manage multiple versions or find content quickly. In fact, some studies have revealed that by using shared folders, you may waste 50 percent of your time simply looking for a document.

At the same time, you need to take a flexible approach. Sales and marketing teams launch new campaigns, add new customers, expand into new geographies, etc. So you must be able to adapt how you organize your content. Simply placing files into a folder means you reduce your agility going forward.

A more efficient approach is to use metadata to structure your documents. Look at how you currently organize your business activities. Is it by geography (West, East), by offer (Product A, Service B), by function (sales, marketing), by client (Customer A, Partner B), by due date? Use this structure to start brainstorming your "taxonomy," or how you organize documents.

Armed with a rich taxonomy, you can mandate that newly added documents are tagged appropriately, making future retrieval a pain-free process.

Use Social Tools to Surface Content

Especially in sales and marketing, it can be difficult to know what you are looking for, especially when everyone is looking for something else. A salesperson may need a proven proposal. A services team member might need a contract template. A marketing person might need a piece of collateral. But if you don't know something exists, you'll never know to take advantage of it.

The trend toward social business is one that can help sales teams here. Look for an approach that allows you to measure which documents are being used and recommended. Much like on Facebook or LinkedIn, suggested content should surface for you, so you know what to look for based on the opinions of your colleagues.

Collaborate Efficiently

Developing sales and marketing materials is a collaborative process. Sales might add customer perspectives, marketing content, and legal licensing information. This can be a difficult process when huge numbers of documents are flying between teams. So how do you make sure that team members are able to work together effectively?

Social tools play an important role here. Try to use centralized work areas, where you can monitor changes to a document and aggregate comments from users. Don't rely on in-document commenting, unless you're working with a very small team. Doing so will lead to a tidal wave of comments and suggestions that can become impossible to manage.

Manage Approval Processes

A key aspect of producing great sales and marketing material is to ensure that the collaborating that you did yields an approved document. A great proposal is worthless if legal hasn't given its OK. Look to storyboard the approval process for a document. Understand who has to review and OK a document, and validate the process with your team.

Then, once you have an agreed workflow, make it accessible to others. That is, make the workflow a "template" that can be used over and over. The goal of best practices is to standardize best practices, after all.

Sharing Efficiently

You want to make sure that the great content that you've built is accessible to the right teams. An efficient way for sales and marketing teams to do this is to make the documents highly visible. That means using Web-access and desktop synchronization to keep documents at users' fingertips.

If you can do this in concert with the tools you use every day, like a CRM application, that's even better. For instance, you could create a proposal that is used for a particular client. Save it to your account in your CRM tool and synchronize it on the backend to your document management tool.

What does that do for you? It ensures that you have a document that has been appropriately vetted by colleagues, approved, and accessible to the right user.

By taking on these tactics for managing your sales and marketing documents, you can generate materials that are more effective and more controlled. That means better results for your go-to-market teams.

Peter Mollins is senior director of product marketing for KnowledgeTree. Previously, he ran marketing for Relativity Technologies, where he led product and corporate marketing. He has held a variety of marketing roles in Europe and the United States with Netscape, iMediation, and TogetherSoft. He holds a master's degree in international management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Follow Peter@petermollins.

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