By now, any B2B marketer will tell you content is important. According to recent research from the Content Marketing Institute, a whopping 91% of marketers report that their companies use content in their marketing strategies.

But just how effective is said content? With CMI rating a mere 9% of the organizations it surveyed as sophisticated in their content strategy, the unfortunate answer is often, “not very.”

In a rush to keep up with competitors, it can be tempting to dive straight into the content marketing hype, tasking the marketing team to produce as much content as humanly possible, tossing blogs and whitepapers out into the internet, and sitting back to hope for the best. But the most successful B2B marketers know that the only way to maximize the value of content (and time spent working on it) is with a content operation.

What am I talking about?

A content operation is the set of processes, people, and technologies for strategically planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content. When properly implemented, it unifies the customer experience across all departments and channels and allows marketers to focus on authentic, resonant messaging that drives revenue and growth.

Kind of a mouthful, sure. But a content operation is the answer to a complex issue: how to use a content strategy to build a better marketing strategy.

The 4 Essential Components of a Content Operation

To see how a content operation fuels your marketing strategy, let’s break it down a bit more. There are four key areas your strategy will be impacted: alignment, collaboration, accessibility, and insight.

1. Alignment with Business Priorities

All too often, marketers are guilty of creating content without thinking critically about how it fits into the bigger picture—namely the growth and revenue goals of our organizations. We know we can produce interesting material, sure, but we’re less confident that it will be in sync with the efforts of our colleagues. Not only does this leave us unable to guarantee we’ll see any meaningful ROI, but it also puts us at risk of throwing potential customers off track with a bumpy buyer’s journey.

That’s why the content-for-the-sake-of-content model is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Instead, a content operation identifies marketing as an integral part of a company’s growth and revenue-generation efforts, prioritizing the production of purpose-built content that reinforces and advances organization-wide goals.

2. Cross-Departmental Collaboration

In order to do our best work, marketers need buy-in from tangential teams like sales, product, and customer success. If we don’t talk, there’s a good chance we’ll fail to produce the content our customers, potential customers, and internal teams actually need.

Help your colleagues see the value content brings to their efforts—remind them that over half of the buying process is completed digitally—and explain the way interdepartmental coordination will help minimize disjointed and inconsistent messaging that can frustrate your audience. If a potential customer reads one thing on your blog but hears another from a sales rep, you risk confusing a could-be buyer and pushing him or her toward a competitor. When teams work together and share resources, customers get a reliable, relevant message at every stage of the buying cycle.

We also need to stay on the same page as our fellow marketers.

What are other teams producing? Who was supposed to edit that case study? When is the draft of my blog post due? These kinds of questions are the fastest way to throw a wrench in the gears of your marketing efforts. And with just 44% of marketers in Kapost’s latest benchmark reporting that they have complete visibility into other departments’ campaigns and content, these are questions being asked far too often.

No initiative should begin without a clearly defined plan. Break up the production of each asset into a series of tasks, each of which is assigned to a specific contributor and due on an agreed-upon date. Once documented, this information should be visible to everyone and updated in real time so that stakeholders can always track progress and see whose task is next in line.

3. Accessibility and Visibility for Your Entire Organization

A well-run content operation makes use of tagging and taxonomy to maintain a high-level understanding of content coverage and make assets easy to find. You may discover, for instance, that you have lots of great content aimed at executives at the beginning of the sales cycle, but very little for that same group when they reach the decision-making phase. The ability to identify gaps ensures you’re always able to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

Having a firm understanding of your existing assets also cuts down on waste: wasted time, wasted content, and wasted work. With as much as 70% of B2B content going unused, avoiding producing content that already exists—or isn’t needed in the first place—saves your team from redundant work and frees up time to focus on the projects that matter.

4. Insight into Impact of Content

It’s easy to get caught up in a “what’s next?” mindset and forget to take the time to look back at what we’ve already done. But the only way we can move forward with strategic confidence is to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Guesswork will always be part of the marketing game, but meaningful metrics are the key to transitioning from gut assumptions to data-driven insights. Content scoring allows marketers to identify how and where assets affected a buyer’s journey. It’s time to move past vanity metrics like page views in favor of revenue-based insights into how our content influences user behavior.

Here are some of the questions a data-driven content operation will answer:

  • Which blog posts encourage people to subscribe to our newsletter or move elsewhere on the site?
  • Which assets do the sales team find most useful when speaking with potential clients?
  • Which eBooks saw high numbers of downloads from qualified leads?
  • Perhaps most importantly—which assets performed worse than expected?

To get a 360-degree evaluation, meet with key players following content launches. Ask questions like:

  • How long did it take to produce various pieces of content?
  • Were our deadlines reasonable?
  • Where did blockers occur and how can we avoid them in the future?

Taking the time to reflect means we no longer need to reinvent the wheel with each new initiative launch. Instead, processes that work should be replicated and scaled across projects and teams. The tasks and timelines you establish once can often be applied to other initiatives with little to no adjustment.

Herein lies the true beauty of a content operation: once you’ve found what works, it’s full speed ahead.

Takeaways

Years ago, it may have been possible to be an industry leader without a well-organized content operation. Those days have passed.

A content operation transforms a disjointed, ad hoc content creation approach into a strategic, organized workflow that yields measurable results. When you connect teams and produce content your customers actually need, you make less matter more.

The Final Step: Implementing Your Content Operation

While there are four essential components of a content operation, there are no “five easy steps to implementing a content operation.” A content operation requires a great deal of documentation, coordination, and transformation of the marketing organization as a whole. You need to know what content you have, what content you need, who is working on what, the status of in-progress campaigns, the results of completed work, and how all that content ties to strategic priorities. 40-message-long email chains, color-coded spreadsheets that only make sense to their creators, and a few vanity metrics pulled from Google Analytics aren’t going to cut it.

That’s where a content operations platform (i.e. Kapost) comes in.

My team skips the headache and passes the grunt work onto the Kapost platform. Because our entire content inventory is tagged across every strategic context imaginable, it’s organized, searchable, and analyzed by what really matters. It’s our one-stop shop for sharing ideas, tracking workflows, creating, editing, and distributing content. Instead of spreading our planning across a swath of shared spreadsheets and sticky notes, we rely on a centralized source of truth that connects us to our content, with one another, and with our business’s priorities.

And most importantly, Kapost lets us save the sticky notes for more important things.

Office dog Maya shows off Kapost sticky notes while her humans talk about a content operation.

Learn more about how Kapost can enable your content operation.

If you’re having difficulty getting your executive on board, be sure to check out our eBook, The Definitive Guide to Building a Content Operation.

 

Paralee Walls

About Paralee Walls

An educator at heart, Paralee is dedicated to building a marketing operation that matters. That means designing digital experiences for every customer that engage, delight, and inform with the right content at right time. She is a guest lecturer for the Digital Creative Institute and General Assembly and contributor to Forbes, CMI, and Kapost's own Marketeer.