Nearly all B2B companies are using content marketing to attract and engage buyers. We’ve been doing this for quite some time. But getting it right is still a struggle for a majority of companies. This is because we haven’t formalized content marketing as a strategy or built sufficient process, workflow, and collaboration around its execution.
The 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America research recently released by Content Marketing World and MarketingProfs finds:
- Only 41% of respondents agreed they know what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like
- 37% have a documented content marketing strategy
- 28% of B2B marketers describe their organization’s content marketing maturity as sophisticated/mature
- 22% consider their approach to content marketing as extremely or very successful
There’s a long way to go, but, with 62% of B2B marketers agreeing that they’re seeing more success than they did last year, we’re getting better.
What can help us fast-track improvement is the concept of content operations. And it’s just what the 70% of B2B marketers who plan to create more content next year will need to pull that off without pulling out their hair.
A content operations function brings the clarity, consistency, control, and collaboration needed to manage content as a strategic asset. For it’s not about the quantity of consumption, but the quality of the engagement that content produces and how it impacts revenue that builds—and sustains—the business case.
The beauty of a content operations function is that it brings attributes both internally and externally to deliver on that mandate.
Let’s take a look…
Clarity is just as important to those interacting externally with your content as for your internal team productivity. From an internal perspective, clarity is about visibility at whatever level is required—whether big picture strategy or tightly focused tactical execution.
The growth in content for most B2B organizations has resulted in a messy, chaotic, and often uninformed, haphazard production and publishing efforts. Clarity can be established by designating an owner of content who heads up the content operations function. This person or board sets the mission, strategy, and rules of engagement for content and its creation and use cross-functionally.
As more functions within the organization are creating, publishing, and distributing content to shared audiences, a lack of clarity can result in fragmented experiences that do more harm than good. But when the rules of engagement are understood, and visibility to see what other teams are doing is established, the experiences produced for our audiences will develop a flow and rhythm that rings true. And that brings clarity to your external audiences.
Clarity leads to consistency. Internally, this means that everyone is on the same page with the stories being told and how to use your brand’s core messaging depending on functional needs.
Where the demand generation team may need a white paper to generate leads, the sales team may need parts of it to support crucial conversations at specific stages in the buying process. The social media team employs snips of the paper to drive engagement via additional channels, where the customer support team uses it to help a new customer resolve an issue that arises during implementation.
Repetition in the stories a B2B organization shares serves to imprint the value it brings across the audiences it attracts. Matched with consistent execution—regardless of the team involved—expectations set with those audiences can serve to strengthen new relationships by delivering every time.
But the consistency enabled by content operations is also established by creating a clear definition of when to say no to a content request because it doesn’t fit with the strategy, mission or rules of engagement. Consistency produces the guard rails you need to stay on track which leads to control.
Consistency produces the guard rails you need to stay on track which leads to control. This is where processes and workflows come in, as well as standards for metadata, tagging, and taxonomy that help with the management and findability of content.
One of the biggest problems with content marketing is content waste. Various research reports have found that a majority of the content produced has no impact because it’s never used—or not used enough to create any impact.
If B2B marketers are to deliver on the mission of content marketing, which is to create and nurture relationships that result in profitable interactions, then its use and ability to drive productive engagement are paramount.
Control is also where metrics come in. Not vanity metrics like clicks and page views, but measurements indicative of action, momentum, and intent. These include the ability to identify the context of the audience as related to the content they choose to view, what they do next, and content that’s not working as it should so that it can be fixed.
Clarity, consistency and control will be hard to establish without collaboration. The issue that is most prevalent today within B2B companies is a lack of communication due to silos of effort and separate agendas across teams. While each has a role to play, coordination is critical for a well-orchestrated content marketing strategy.
I’ve worked on projects where the demand gen team didn’t talk to the social team or the corporate communications team or the events team. When our nurture programs were under performing, a bit of exploration found that every other team was bombarding the shared audience with so much content that the audience was overwhelmed, confused, and disengaged. The stories the various teams were sharing didn’t line up. But, worse, the brand gave the perception that it had a personality disorder. And you don’t want that.
One of the issues that can be minimized with designating a content owner is that turf wars can be muted for the sake of the overall business goals and in favor of putting the customer first. Removing autonomy amongst the teams helps to bring everyone together in support of that common objective—if done well. And it can be. I’ve seen beautiful transformations that result in impact that elevates the marketing team within the company.
But, even better, collaboration can result in the sharing of ideas and knowledge that serves to evolve your content marketing strategy, as well as more reuse and repurposing of existing content. Getting more out of your investment in content is important given the amount of budget we’re spending. Getting more provable impact that can be tied back to content and storylines or pathways brings the opportunity for continuous improvement.
Content Marketing is a Journey
At Content Marketing World, this year, Joe Pulizzi, threw down the gauntlet challenging marketers to either go all in or get out of content marketing. Content marketing isn’t a campaign; it’s an ongoing and sustainable business function that, done well, drives business growth.
Companies who commit to content marketing will find the journey much simpler if they stand it up with a content operations function. One thing my father always told me was that if I was going to do anything, I should do it well or not bother. It’s advice I’ve tried to live by. A content operations function will ensure that your content marketing strategy not only performs, but exceeds expectations.