In the past weeks, I’ve been writing about where marketing has been, and where it is today. This post is focused on where marketing needs to go from here.

Before I start in, you might want to skim my previous posts on the state of marketing today: Visualizing How Marketers Got Here, Where Marketers Are Today and Internal vs. External Marketing.

The thrust of this post is that marketers will be more and more focused on knowledge management in the future. We already know that companies are tightening their belts, and that marketers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI. I propose that the shift to knowledge management is an excellent means of addressing these pressures.

I’m gonna cite some research from SiriusDecisions below that will help support my argument.

Why Knowledge Management?

70% of companies that participated in the recent research study said that their sales growth strategy for this year will be focused on optimizing the sales process. How are they going to do that? One way is to increase efficiency by allowing sales people to focus on having conversations, rather than digging up the materials they need to support the new relationships they are building. This is the area in which marketing, and knowledge management, can help.


Just for the record, sales is really hard. You’ve got to have a deep understanding of your products and services, keep track of many relationships, understand market trends, and withstand a significant amount of pressure to close deals. Plus, many departments are constantly trying to interface directly with salespeople, which can lead to an overwhelming number of mixed messages. In response to this, salespeople often insulate themselves by selling the products that they are most comfortable with, which is not necessarily good for the company or consistent with the larger business strategy. I sincerely feel for sales people, and I see a significant part of marketing as empathizing with sales people (they are customers of marketing), and trying to provide them with products and services that meet their needs and make their lives better.

Let’s return to efficiency for a moment, and I want to include a link to my previous post about customer relationship management tools (CRM) , where I compare several CRM vendors, because they can be a big help here. The good news is that CRM tools are getting better, easier to use, and can have a huge impact on productivity. I want to specifically talk about the knowledge management functions of the CRM, the best one I’ve found is SalesForce Content, but such tools are also available with different feature mixes from SAVO, SugarCRM, NetSuite, and the other’s mentioned in my CRM post. With these tools it is possible to manage all your assets (case studies, testimonials, collateral, pricing, press coverage, etc) where the salesperson maintains a record of his/her client communications.  SalesForce Content, goes even further by making it possible to tag those assets, rank them, and view the history of revisions.

As some background, 82% of executives in the study stated that the sales reps they spoke with were not prepared enough for their meetings. Knowledge management is one way to make the necessary preparations quicker because your sales team can have all the relevant assets in one place. This should start to address the data showing that 50% – 80% of marketing content is not used by sales people. But, it’s not just about making the content accessible, it’s about putting it in context, and improving it’s quality. On the context front,  CRM systems can already capture all e-mail communications with potential clients so salesperson will know if the prospect ever contacted the company before, if they’ve read the company newsletter, and even and what they clicked on. People in the CRM biz call this a 360º view, and it makes taking over accounts, or transitioning them, much easier as well.


So it’s clear that this can improve efficiency through accessibility and context, but it’s also possible to improve the quality of the information through the ranking and revisioning functions. This functionality allows the marketing manager to work as a moderator, take responsibility for tracking the latest updates to the archive, and add value. This is a second means of addressing the low rate of content use. Knowledge management is less about creating content and more about taking to collective knowledge of the organization and preparing it as a resource for the organization. Following this, the research shows a shift away from content creation and towards content management. I suspect that this data also accounts for greater attention being given to online communications and digital collateral, which is more quickly revised and distributed. Here’s are the high level takeaways:

  • More moderation (less content creation)
  • More attention directed at identification of gaps and opportunities
  • Greater distribution of knowledge
  • More, and distributed, knowledge inputs
  • Improved harvesting of best practices & insights
  • knowledge is more accessible

What The Cost and ROI?

Knowledge management isn’t just about solving a content problem, it’s solving a conversation problem. So how do we know if it’s working? One way is by tracking the use of content that’s in the system. With SalesForce Content, it should be possible to correlate conversion to the assets used in the sales process. With the 360º view of clients, it is also possible to qualify clients more efficiently though improved sales process reporting (i.e. average sales cycle, deal size, etc). Finally, the CRM makes it possible to understand the engagement level of salespeople to measure their performance and the value of the system itself.


Simply put, knowledge management allows salespeople to be smarter. Plus, it distributes work that was once done by marketing staff to the people who interact with the customers most and understand their immediate needs. This helps offset the resources that marketers will invest in knowledge management practice. Finally, knowledge management allows for a more agile approach to the development of marketing resources, because it allows salespeople, and others, to participate in the process.

What kinds of knowledge are we talking about?

Here’s a sample of the kinds of things that you might find in a knowledge management system.

  • Competitive Intelligence
    • updated market trends reports
    • updated selling point documentation (unique value propositions)
    • a competitive landscape matrix
    • the most common impediments to conversion and interventions
  • By Sales Stage
    • Prospecting
      • sales scripts
      • contact templates
    • Qualification
      • conversion trends based on CRM data
      • touchpoint data (newsletters, e-mail, etc)
    • Discovery
      • discovery quide
      • capabilities documentation
      • assessment letter
      • methods & practices library
      • anecdote library
    • Proposal
      • presentation templates
      • case studies
      • testamonials
      • press
      • PR
      • biographical information
    • Close
      • legal assets
      • statement of work documentation
      • pricing guidelines

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to any thoughts, comments, or feedback!

The first time you leave a comment, it will be placed in a moderation queue. Once we know you are not a bot, you will be free to comment at will from then on.

3 Comments to The Future of Marketing & Knowledge Management

  1. […] adopted more readily when positioned as knowledge resources. I talk more about the importance of marketing as knowledge management here. One key to success is to create resources that are as light weight as possible, which supports […]

  2. […] development teams and often help facilitate the research they conduct. Plus, marketing should run knowledge management through organizational CRM tools, so marketers are set up to transform research into a resource for […]

  3. […] the record, I’ve written about Salesforce before, and conduced research on the customer relationship management tool landscape (CRM). While […]

Leave a Reply