If your marketing programs aren’t helping accelerate sales, you almost certainly have a content problem. Typically, the malady has at least one of six symptoms—and can usually be resolved quickly.

As always, recognizing the problem is the first step toward recovery. How many content problem symptoms does your company have?

Symptom #1: Too little content. Let’s start with the easiest symptom to address. Here, not enough good content is available to support the sales cycle.

Solution: Obvious and easy: create compelling content for target audiences that follows the time-tested formula of starting with a challenge, then describing your solution, and concluding with specific business benefits. Problem solved. But it’s surprising how many organizations find this approach difficult to implement.

Symptom #2: Too much content. This symptom arises when so much content is available that salespeople can’t find—or don’t know about—relevant content for specific sales efforts.

Solution: Start with a content audit. Compare what you have with what the competition is issuing. Dust off your Google tools and see what your prospects like to read. Be sure to poll top salespeople and managers about content they find most effective and actually use. Don’t be surprised if you discover they’ve developed their own sales tools and prefer them. Once the audit is complete, you can weed out the ineffective content and build a searchable repository of the sales material that is effective.

Symptom #3: The too-little/too-much content hybrid. Imagine a ship foundering because poorly placed ballast causes the vessel to list precariously to one side. You may not sink with a lopsided mix of content that favors one particular business unit, but you’re going to expend a lot more energy sailing your course, and you may even run aground.

Solution: Start with solutions for the too-little and too-much symptoms. Then make sure content is aligned with another tried-and-true formula for marketing success: goals drive strategy, strategy drives messaging, and messaging drives content. Once again, this is a simple formula where poor execution can set you adrift.

Symptom #4: Sales/marketing disconnect. A lead sales executive complains marketing isn’t generating enough high-quality leads—which compels the sales force to spend too much time on prospects that aren’t ready to buy. The crisis builds as marketing leadership retorts that, hey, the sales organization created the definition of a qualified lead in the first place—and the leads being produced follow those specs.

Solution: Who’s right? Who cares! Both parties are missing the point, and as they argue, the field sales staff is probably taking matters into their own hands—and creating or searching for content that can help close a deal.

Frequently, a qualified lead doesn’t convert into a customer because the prospect simply doesn’t understand the offering well enough to purchase it. Make sure the offering is clear to decision makers. Show you understand and can address their pain points. Create deliverables your target buyers will find insightful, educational, even helpful.

Symptom #5: Automated content dependency. Many companies turn to software to organize, serve up, rate, and deliver marketing content to improve sales efficiency. We recently talked with one of the vendors of these “marketing automation” systems. This vendor was concerned about losing renewals because its software delivers value only if the marketing content being managed actually helps sales. But in many cases, company reps confided, it does not. Pouring bad or inappropriate content into a good system simply makes the system break down.

Solution: See the solutions for symptoms #2, #3, and #4.

Symptom #6: Pre-sales buyer’s remorse. The content problem is particularly pronounced in highly competitive, technology-intensive markets where customers will sign purchase agreements only after they’ve become extremely comfortable with their decisions.

Solution: Recognize and accept that purchasing requires comfort, and comfort requires understanding. Fostering that understanding demands effective content. This real comfort is impossible to achieve without imparting a fundamental grasp of the benefits of a product or service, and showing how they are achieved. Effective B2B content doesn’t seem like “marketing” at all. To the audience, it’s valuable or useful information. It gets the target customer to think, “Wow, I had no idea that was possible,” or “Holy smokes—I need to get my boss to read this,” or “I’ll bet if that worked for them, it’ll work for us too.”

Learn to recognize and address these symptoms of the content problem, and you’ll be well on your way to accelerating sales. Consistently ignore them, and you risk watching your competitors speed right past you in the marketplace.

Do you have a content problem not addressed in our list of symptoms? Drop me a line. We’ve probably run across it—and may have the solution.