Customer journeys are defined by the content experience. Agreed?
Scaling interactions between your organization and the customer—whether that be an actual customer or a customer-to-be in the form of a lead or prospect—require content at all times. It might be the sales deck to support an ABM reach out, eBook, white paper, benchmark, etc.—or something that a few successful companies have started to implement: a website.
With content defining the customer experience and customer experience defining revenue (see the slide below), the strategy and operation behind your content are imperative to delivering phenomenal CX.
Check out this slide from the keynote session of the Content Operations Summit 2018:
If you don’t believe me, take it from an overwhelming majority of marketing leaders: Customer experience directly impacts your revenue. And about one in five organizations have figured out a way to truly excel in delivering a positive customer experience.
Enter, a content operation.
A Strategy Expansion—Not Elimination
At a fundamental level, content operations is an expansion of what most organizations are currently doing for content marketing. It’s not abandoning successful efforts—it’s implementing better tools, processes, and people.
Check out an excerpt from a previous blog we published, “Content Marketing vs. Content Operations,” that describes why B2B organizations particularly benefit from content operations:
“The B2B sales cycle is as complex as it’s ever been. Prospective buyers expect relevant, personalized content at every stage of their buyer’s journeys. They expect to have a solid idea of who you are and what you offer before ever picking up the phone to talk to a salesperson. They take long, winding paths from initial interest to final decision.
“The marketer’s job? Keep up, or risk losing out big to competitors who adapt faster than you do.
“Some companies are surprised by the increasingly complex demands of effective content strategy—early content marketing adopters who have watched their success taper off or new players who can’t understand why their intern’s weekly blog isn’t shooting MQL numbers through the roof.
“That’s because, as our CEO recently pointed out, it’s impossible to create awesome, customer-centric content that converts if you execute the way you always have.
What I’m really saying (and what we’ve come to realize) is: you can’t do content marketing today without a content operation.”
The full article does a phenomenal job of addressing the strategic thought supporting content operations. The next step? Making a task list to actually implement a content operation. Or, maybe just reading a blog post that starts you off with five.
5 Tactical Steps to Implement a More Mature Content Operation
1. Don’t Limit Yourself to TOFU
Historically, content marketing has been boxed in to the top of the funnel, then cut off sharply at demand generation.
A content operation isn’t a part of the funnel. In fact, it extends past the funnel. Content touches everyone from prospects to leads to contacts to customers. As such, a content operation supports each and every touch point, ensuring a consistent, delightful customer journey.
Think about the help articles or decks to increase retention or even up-sell current customers. If those are inconsistent with the content experience prior to actually becoming a customer, your brand loses the credibility that the marketing team works so hard to cultivate.
It costs five times more to obtain a new customer than to keep an existing one. Arguably, content further down the funnel and even content targeted towards current customers has more potential impact—take advantage of that opportunity, and target content where it will have the most impact.
2. Tag Strategic Context
SiriusDecisions estimates that 65% of content in B2B marketing gets unused, and of the main usage problems, 25% are attributable to findability issues.
Fortunately, in our B2B Content Strategy and Operations Benchmark, we found that 85% of marketers were tagging at least some strategic contexts. See the results below:
Now, if the majority of content teams are already doing this, maybe we’re already good to go?
Not so fast. Part of understanding the breadth of content operations is recognizing a crucial team that’s also responsible for the funnel: Sales.
In the Marketing-Sales Alignment Benchmark, we found over 50% of marketers don’t know which assets sales use most. Even in creation, there’s not only a lack of knowledge but also a lack of agreement about knowing what content sales needs from marketing.
Now, back to the taxonomy. This lack of alignment between sales and marketing—excepting customer retention, the biggest contributors to revenue—could be corrected simply with an agreed-upon taxonomy. Though the majority of marketers have a taxonomy, how involved is sales in creating and maintaining an updated list of strategic contexts and priorities? I’d wager not very, or these issues wouldn’t arise.
So, your action item: get your sales and marketing leaders together. Identify your current taxonomy’s strengths and weaknesses, and get everyone within the content operation on the same page.
3. Plan Content Based on Existing (Tagged) Assets
If you glazed over step two, now’s the time to scroll up. Without a knowledge of the strategic context of past assets, you lack crucial information to plan.
One of the main benefits of having a taxonomy is being able to see at a glance gaps or even areas of over-coverage. And, since your marketing and sales team have already aligned in step two, you’ll have insight into which areas need more coverage, as they require more education, personalization, or simply are more influenced by content.
Set up a matrix of your content based on a strategic context, such as buying stage and persona:
From there, plan content based on gaps. If content for Persona B at the Awareness Stage is sparse but is one of the most influential decision-makers, you know where you need to target.
Furthermore, this tagging allows you to repurpose successful content for a slightly different context. If Persona C loved an asset, tweak it to apply to Persona D at the same buying stage. Or, if the asset flopped, reevaluate if it was the wrong time in the customer journey and actually belonged in a later (or earlier) buying stage.
4. Get Honest about Barriers
The fact of the matter is: implementing a content operation is an entire team job. If there’s no conversation or tactical workshop to align everyone on the strategic implications of shifting from content marketing to a content operation, that implementation will be half-baked at best.
A content operation is not just a tech stack—it’s the people and process behind every content effort.
There are a ton of activities we’ve outlined in our Workshop Facilitation Cards, but here’s one that specifically tackles mapping out current process to identify blockers, areas of improvement, and ways your team is already succeeding to continue doing:
Holding some kind of workshop oriented around identifying barriers to success is crucial to getting the people and process side of your content operation running at full speed. Just setting a meeting on everyone’s calendar to get the ball rolling is a great start, and bringing the cards I mentioned above will certainly get the necessary conversations started.
5. Benchmark Your Progress
Measuring progress is key to implementing any new strategy or process—a content operation is no different. Take the Content Operations Self-Assessment to not only identify where you currently stand but also get in-depth analysis of next steps and reading materials based on your maturity.
And, don’t forget to send the assessment on to other key stakeholders within your content operation. This can be particularly helpful to identify silos and areas that need more visibility and alignment.
Implementing a Cohesive Content Operation
If you only take one nugget away from this blog, let it be this: Your content operation is made up of the people, processes, and tools behind your content. All require strategic direction that must be aligned to business priorities—likely, growing revenue with a more cohesive customer experience.
Perhaps you’ve already completed some of these steps. That’s amazing! Steps four and five are truly important no matter your content operations maturity, which is why we’ve built the two tools I mentioned—the cards and the assessment—to help content operations of all stages push forward to the next strategic level. Check them out, and share with your team to get the necessary buy-in across the board.