The custom content business is a difficult business.
It’s a difficult business due to the economics of the underlying content operations model, as well as poor inputs from inefficient clients.
If you’re a B2B CMO pursuing content dependent strategies such as content marketing, automated lead generation and nurturing, sales and channel enablement (among others), you are now in that business.
Agencies and production companies that produce good work products, and are profitable, do so by exploiting poor inputs and inefficient clients. And clients pay dearly for this.
The primary mechanisms they use to do this are to charge for:
- Retainers (agency of record or annual contracts)
- Change orders
These mechanisms are not available to you with your internal content operations.
Which means you’re left with all the negatives.
This is why you (and most content marketers) struggle to:
- produce a constant stream of audience (buyer) relevant content …
- in the many forms and formats required for audience preferences and delivery channel requirements …
- at the scale required to cover all key use case requirements of your content dependent, customer engaging functions.
(A long sentence, but a succinct description of a huge problem.)
The many new content requirements of digital era audiences and business strategies further exacerbates this reality.
At the root of this problem are two critical new realities most organizations haven’t understood or addressed:
1. The need for a unified, business level marketing and sales content strategy.
2. The traditional, project-oriented, creative craftsman, content production model is outdated. It will not meet the new requirements of empowered buyers, their digital channel and format preferences, and the many content dependent constituents across the enterprise. It cannot scale without compromises.
Marketing and Sales Content Strategy
Organizations need a holistic, unified content strategy that goes beyond websites, content projects and marketing. It must address and support all customer engaging, content-dependent business functions.
Audience and customer experience demands it. Competitive conditions will ultimately require it. And content performance and operations efficiency needs it.
This is so new, generally accepted formal frameworks for enterprise content strategy do not yet exist.
By what standard would you evaluate your content strategy to determine its effectiveness, completeness, and areas for improvement?
Despite low levels of maturity, surveys indicate 60% of B2B marketers that do have a documented content marketing strategy say they are effective vs. 32% of those with a verbal strategy.(CMI)
If content strategy isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist. And this is not to say it will be an effective strategy. For that you might want a third party with a comprehensive framework conduct an assessment (shameless plug).
Doesn’t this indicate a significant opportunity for performance improvement, if not competitive advantage?
For more on this please see Executive Summary: 6 Competency Framework for Marketing and Sales Content Strategy. This will give you a good start. We developed this framework during 20 years in the custom content business, creating B2B marketing and selling content.
Content Operations Model
Here is corroboration for the inadequacy of the traditional content operations model:
Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute
From the CMI report: Content Marketing 2014, The State of the Enterprise
In 1999, Philip Kotler, the world-renowned marketing professor, published Kotler on Marketing. as he indicated in the book’s introduction, the late ‘90s were a time of tumultuous change. He concluded the book with a section called Transformational Marketing, in which he discussed how the field would change with the “new age of electronic marketing.”
“In the coming decade,” Kotler said, “marketing will be re-engineered from a to Z. Marketers will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”
The challenge is that marketing operations in enterprise companies have largely remained just as they were when Kotler wrote his book — i.e., they are still working from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.
But the reality is this: … content was not — and is not — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, content marketing was historically treated as a project, not a process.
The processes around content marketing often need a great deal of work in large enterprises. In many cases, the processes are both ad hoc and improvised while experiments are executed across various platforms. This is exacerbated by the degree of outsourcing of various job functions, parts of the process, or even the complete approach of content marketing itself.
From CMI Content Marketing 2015, The State of the Enterprise, the summary theme and finding was “Stronger, with a challenging twist of scale.”
“The challenge now is fixed solidly on how to execute and scale this content change. The question is no longer how we change content to suit marketing’s purpose, but rather how we change marketing to suit content’s purpose.
We see the need for scaling content marketing across the entirety of the funnel.”
“Marketers need to build a content marketing supply chain and determine how to create, curate and cultivate content.”
Top Emerging Trends in Digital Marketing
McKinsey & Company
“Much as product supply chain discipline stemmed from the explosion in manufacturing variety demanded by diverse consumer tastes, content supply chain excellence will become a priority for marketing leaders. “Content” is no longer just the advertising that can be outsourced to agencies. It is a vital end-to-end range of processes that executives need to focus staff and budgets on to bring under control.”
McKinsey, The War for Digital Talent is Already Here
McKinsey & Company advocates that if organizations adopted a “disciplined content supply chain” it would cut costs by 30%, halve the rate of content volume growth, and double the rate of customer engagement.
“Supporting the consumer’s decision journey requires a vast and growing range of content—well beyond advertisements. As companies chase digital opportunities, most have slowly but steadily begun publishing everything from static content, such as product descriptions, to games and other multimedia.
Most companies have now essentially become publishers, with a more complex set of cost and quality concerns, yet continue to behave like simple advertisers.
Most marketers, failing to adopt the discipline of a multimedia publisher, don’t realize that deep within their operations, they are facing rapidly escalating production costs, unnecessary duplication, inconsistent quality of content, and second-rate interactions with customers.”
McKinsey – Four Ways to Get More Value from Digital Marketing
Agencies and production companies have little incentive to fix the inherent inefficiencies of the traditional production model. They’ve built a business model to exploit it.
They accept the traditional premise as a given for the business, “you can have it good, fast or cheap, pick any two.” They have little understanding or expertise with the process changes needed to scale.
Internal tactical marketing personnel also lack the strategic perspective, operations design expertise, and experience to address these issues. Most marketers are struggling to improve their marketing strategy acumen and digital skillsets.
As a highly respected international marketer once told me, “process change huh, yeah, marketers don’t do process very well.”
Organizations must de-silo content decisions, investment and operations from within the many individual functions that engage customers. High level changes that must be made include:
- Executive level ownership and accountability
- Robust and continuous marketing and sales content strategy work.
- Deeper understanding and assessment of audiences and buyers, and their buying decision processes.
- Universal preparation and planning, documented as content use case requirements as input to …
- Executive level responsibility for content investment and decisions
- Center of Content Excellence: centralized shared expertise and production support services, governance, people support, infrastructure and tools decisions, experimentation, and change management support
- Redesign Content Operations model, based on a content supply chain process
As with content marketing, “what to do” is becoming better known and accepted. Disciplined execution, operations design and management are the risk points. Each contain learning curves and details that curtail time to proficiency, let alone mastery.
Find and work with a comprehensive content strategy framework. Look for content operations models that are designed to scale without compromise and one-to-one cost structures. Use appropriate third party resources to support key elements of this change.
This is not just about designing and implementing a scalable program for long-term results. Short term benefits can accrue immediately:
- Best way to meet new requirements, and optimize new content criteria
- Introduce better operations practices for efficiency and scale
- Create long-life content assets, optimize asset re-use
- Lower marginal cost of production, flatten content cost curves,
- Acquire data to feed proprietary business analysis and predictive analytics to inform what content to invest in, why, how to create it (in addition to marketing, sales and product decisions)
By appreciating the direction and upcoming requirements, organizations gain context and urgency for these changes which will prepare you for:
- Real-time content creation, automated and front line assembly of highly tailored and personalized finished products
- Structured content creation — modular and configurable content assets
- Advanced predictive analytics
- Capitalize on Intent Signals (using advanced analytics)
- Content as a Service
- Marketing and The Internet of Things
For a deeper dive into these ideas please read Strategic Imperative of Customer Content Whitepaper.
CMI Report Content Marketing 2014, The State of the Enterprise (with link to full report on Slideshare)