Good morning, readers! Though we’ve moved to an occasional schedule, we’ll aim to provide just as much value as usual. Today, we’ll talk why it’s so important that your sales and marketing teams collaborate across the customer journey, will determine if marketers pushed for too much AI too soon, will discover what many marketers say is the most difficult part of their job and will explore one thing that 90% of top content marketers have in common.

Collaborate through the whole journey

If you need another reminder why keeping your data in silos is NOT a good idea, Robin Kurzer’s MarTech Today article, which gives an overview of LinkedIn’s 2018 State of Sales Report, will drive that message home. The LinkedIn study, which surveyed 500 B2B sales professionals and 500 business decision makers study, found that only 20% of sales pros see significant overlap in the data marketing and sales teams use to target prospects, yet 89% percent of decision makers insist that it’s consistency in marketing and sales language is important or very important. And almost half of the decision makers indicate that they get different messages from a company’s marketing and sales teams often or always. Ouch.

Clearly, there is room for improvement when it comes to aligning our marketing and sales teams! If your business is like many, you may be attempting to smooth out the transition, when marketing hands off leads to sales. Instead, you should focus on collaborating through the entire customer journey, from lead generation through sales close, to create a seamless, cohesive experience. Check out additional insights from the study.

Has the AI pendulum swung too far?

These days, you can’t go to a marketing conference or read an article with hearing about AI—it’s literally everywhere—and businesses have been clamoring to get their piece of this hot new technology. But according to Joe Mandese covering a new ON24 and Harvard Business Review study for Mediapost, many marketers believe that in our push to create automated, seamless transactions for customers, we may actually have turned off those customers in the process. In fact, marketers ranked the ROI of AI below content management and social, giving chatbots the lowest ROI among the technologies queried.

“As more marketing gets automated and impersonal, marketers need to ensure that customers don’t just feel like a number,” said ON24 CMO Joe Hyland. And he’s absolutely right. Your customers and clients need to feel a human, emotional connection with your business and your brand. Don’t make the mistake of letting your technology usurp your obligation to create a real relationship. Check out some of the other study findings.

The trickiest part of a marketer’s job

Think for a moment—as a marketer wearing a number of different hats, what’s the most difficult part of your job? Ross Benes, covering an Ascend2 study of 190 marketers in eMarketer, says that for most folks, it’s data-driven personalization. More than search engine optimization, content marketing or even martech use, a full 63% of marketers surveyed indicated that personalization is the area most likely to cause them trouble. Ross points out that this trend has been reflected in other studies, with 46% of marketers in a recent Evergage study giving themselves a C rating for their personalization efforts.

But don’t be too hard on yourself; personalization is tricky, and riding the fine line between being engaging and being creepy is difficult for even the savviest of marketers and brands. When it comes to personalization, your main focus should be on creating relevance, not attempting to create hundreds of options for images, subject lines and other variants. It’s worth your time to read the whole article—it includes to great insights from top marketing leaders.

Want to be a content marketing leader?

Are you ready to take your content marketing to the next level? Then you should follow the leaders, literally, suggests Lisa Murton Beets on the ContentMarketingInstitute blog, by putting the informational needs of your audience before the promotional needs of your business.

According to research that CMI performed along with MarketingProfs, 90% of top content marketing leaders are putting their customers’ needs first, and are reaping the rewards. A full 96% of those leaders said that by taking a customer-first focus, they’ve built a relationship with customers to the point that they are seen as a trusted and credible resource—practically the holy grail of customer/brand interactions. Check out more of the highlights of the study as well as actionable advice on what the data should mean for your content marketing efforts.