Content operations is still an immature function as a formal department within a B2B organization. Let’s be honest; content marketing has a lot of moving parts that can be difficult to orchestrate to a graceful and productive outcome.

Establishing a content operations function requires process design and development. This function is built on the foundation of a documented strategy—which research shows isn’t the norm for a majority of B2B organizations. Trying to re-engineer a marketing organization that has historically been operated as a collection of silos can often resemble trying to herd cats—the big ones.

Kapost has undertaken the admirable task of developing a Content Operations Maturity Model to help B2B companies wrap their arms around what an effective operations model is. It also serves to help you evaluate where you stand today and make strides toward improvement.

The content operations framework includes four capabilities:

  • Alignment – strategy and prioritization processes
  • Execution – tactics and collaborative content production processes
  • Distribution – findability and publishing processes (both internal and external)
  • Analysis – insights and performance evaluation processes

Within each capability, maturity stages have been defined from Novice to Practitioner, to Intermediate, to Expert levels of proficiency.

When reviewing the framework, I realized that it’s possible for an organization to fall into varying stages of maturity for each capability.

For example:

Alignment Execution Distribution Analysis
Practitioner

  • Identified roadblocks
  • Reactive content production
  • Frameworks for personas, buying stages and planning
Novice

  • Process managed in multiple tools, email threads, and spreadsheets
  • No defined workflow

 

Intermediate

  • Central repository for content
  • Teams still can’t find what they need
Practitioner

  • Collection of spreadsheets, dashboards and reports
  • No established review sessions

In this example, the organization has achieved some progressive moves, including the development of personas, definition of buying stages and a framework for planning. While they still lack some defined workflows in areas, they do have a central repository for content but haven’t yet made content easily findable.

Further, they’ve done the work to identify roadblocks and have created some processes for execution, but are not able to manage them in a way that easily enables collaboration and visibility.

I know many marketing organizations in similar situations.

The question is; what’s the next step to improvement?

The first thing you need to do—once you’ve evaluated where you stand with each component—is realized that these components don’t stand alone. A change in one component will drive impacts to the others.

When reviewing the example above, it may appear that increasing maturity in the Execution capability would be where to start, given that maturity lags behind the other capabilities. However, this may not be the choice that provides the most impact.

Instead, consider the impacts made possible with the advancement of Alignment. The next stage of maturity for Alignment is Intermediate and includes:

  • Establishing a Content Governance Board
  • Establishing vision and priorities
  • Improved communication among teams

Now, consider the potential impacts:

  • A Content Governance Board that approves initiatives sets vision and priorities and controls the backlog can be instrumental in removing the reactive factor. It can also make progress in applying the personas, buying stages, and planning toward better execution processes.
  • With a vision and priorities, workflows become a more natural extension to achieve them. Additionally, with vision and priorities established comes the clarity to begin to define metrics for analysis to measure performance consistently across initiatives.
  • Improved communications imply that collaboration will take a leap forward, so even if spreadsheets are still being used to manage a process, perhaps this means a transition to Google Docs or another tool that increases visibility that process management by email impedes.

One caveat to note – this is only one example of how to approach improvement in the above scenario. Given your marketing organization’s strengths and weaknesses, your route may look different. But the beauty of this model is in its flexibility. You may choose to tackle Distribution first because you have a strong publishing capability and have already laid the groundwork for tagging the content in your central repository. Choose what works best given your circumstances, as well as consideration of the impacts to other capabilities based on the improvement made to the one you select.

One of the best tenets that is established in the Content Operations Maturity Model—in my opinion—is the recognition that improvements cause a pause where adjustments are made to adopt them. Then forward momentum can resume and gain traction.

This is a key factor to recognize as many times marketers expect instant gratification from making a change, yet lack the patience or commitment to see them through. Establishing a Content Operations function is a big undertaking. It’s a new muscle that needs to learn to flex and build strength before it becomes capable of orchestrating a graceful and productive outcome. But it can be done. Just choose your path thoughtfully and commit to change one step at a time.

Ardath Albee

About Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s written two books, the latest is Digital Relevance: Developing Content and Strategies That Drive Results. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.

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