1. The evolution of content quality criteria

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      For too many organizations I meet, content quality is assumed. Or, it’s delegated to those creating the content. Defined and documented content quality criteria typically don’t exist. They aren’t part of a service agreement with content creation teams. When content quality criteria are discussed, it’s typically using the lowest level of quality maturity. Of course, this makes no sense. It’s part of the legacy of where and how content has traditionally been sourced. Agencies and production teams were hired to not only deliver quality content, but to figure out what that actually meant. With greater content production and accountability moving internally, this gap in thinking and practice is an important reason for low content performance. It also impacts content operations productivity. Content time-to-market is delayed, and costs rise, due to re-work of content products following initial and often multiple reviews. Here’s how I describe the evolution in content quality...
  2. Why your approach to content alignment hurts your results

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      The long-prevailing wisdom is to align content to the customer’s buying stage and/or the sales process stage. This approach reflects an outdated content alignment and management mindset. It’s the folder mindset that says, “we need to group content within hierarchical folder categories.” Buying and selling stages are a rather obtuse concept. Few content users and their audiences really know or think about what stage of the decision / selling process they’re in. This simplistic thinking also causes you to miss content requirements that a more rigorous approach will identify. Perhaps asking, “how will my content users go about looking for content?” would be a better approach. We arrived at this model years ago when we were working on enhancements to improve content relevance, usefulness and performance. The principle is Context. By defining context at a more granular level we were able to develop an architecture that clarified specific content performance requirements. We found it...
  3. The Content Design Point is Different for Marketing and Sales Content

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        In Marketing and Sales Content — Differences That Matter I identified the problem that few people explicitly understand the difference between sales and marketing content. Does this really matter? During 20 years creating sales, marketing and training content for B2B organizations we discovered it really does. I believe this misunderstanding is a primary cause of poor or missing situation-ready sales content. This matters because the quality of sales information impacts B2B sales and marketing performance, as well as revenue growth. For companies pursuing account-based marketing tactics (ABM) I suggest success depends on information that is more like sales content than marketing content. The question addressed here is, “what can be done to improve sales content?” I will offer a prescription for what to do, based on adopting a different content design point, and how to do that. Consider for a moment the infamous marketing and sales disconnect and...
  4. How to Level Up Your Content Operations

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      At some point B2B executives realize that adding resources and technology to the traditional content operations process produces only marginal improvements. Digital era content requirements are rising exponentially. They will not be addressed with the current process. This will become even more evident when marketing begins to adequately support B2B sales content requirements, as well as those of the sales channel. That will probably require you to level up content operations.   Background on B2B Content Operations All content is outsourced, or should be. By this I mean sales and marketing people, and their audiences, use and consume content. They don’t create it. They rely on internal or external content development teams. I also mean subject experts who possess the knowledge that informs content should not create it (mostly). They have a “day job.” Their domain expertise may not include the skills required to design and create effective content. Subject...
  5. Objectives-Based Content Strategy Framework

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      With guidance from SiriusDecisions and other analysts firms, many B2B organizations have evolved their go-to-market, messaging and content strategy. They have shifted from a product-based to a persona-based content framework. This is often in support of a solutions selling model. “As b-to-b organizations place greater focus on both inbound marketing, and optimizing content for the sales force, the skills and behaviors required for content ideation, writing and delivery are rapidly changing. To survive and thrive, product and solution marketers must evolve their competencies.”  The premise of the brief is: “The shift toward inbound marketing is forcing marketers to support continuous buyer conversations via the Web and virally through social media channels and influencer marketing. These conversations require topic-driven content focusing on industry and business issues that concern key buyers personas.” SiriusDecisions, Building a Persona-Based Content Framework. (Client portal access required) This guidance has convinced organizations to shift their emphasis from...
  6. Microcontent — the most important content type you don’t manage

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        Microcontent isn’t widely understood or consciously used. When it is, it’s usually by marketing for social media content. But micro-content may be the most important content type you have, and you probably don’t manage it. Microcontent is simply what the words imply. The term is credited to user experience expert Jakob Nielsen: “microcontent is a small group of words which can be skimmed by the reader to understand the wider message of the article.” Examples include a sentence, a paragraph, an image, a 20 second video, a checklist, a quotation, an answer to a question, research results or facts. It can be stand alone, as Nielsen and most others consider it. It can also be source for any new content. Either way, microcontent is an under-used content type. And it’s not limited to marketing. Significant impact on job performance and business outcomes across your entire organization can be realized by applying...
  7. Modular Content Creation vs. Traditional and Structured Content Approaches

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      As content marketing practices mature, organizations look for new ways to gain advantages and improve content performance. One of the most elusive tactics is to optimize content for audience and situation relevance. Numerous studies have shown business outcomes improve significantly when content delivers highly targeted, useful and relevant insights to audiences. Yet marketers currently struggle to produce content tailored even to relatively simple relevance factors, such as specific industry verticals or personas. Demand campaigns and nurture tracks seldom are targeted to those factors. Lack of data, list segmentation and relevant content are three primary reasons we usually hear. As marketers move beyond content for marketing tactics, and step up to support sales and the sales channel’s content requirements, the ability to deliver highly targeted, situation-relevant content will be an essential capability. Sales engagement is essentially a one-to-one activity. When B2B buying teams are made up of 5 to 6...
  8. What is a Leveraged Content Supply Chain?

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        In What is a Content Supply Chain? I identified the shortcomings of the traditional and still prevalent process by which B2B organizations create content. I concluded by saying the question is, How do you design a content supply chain process that will optimize 10 essential content criteria, especially the need to scale without scaling investment, or compromises to important criteria? In our 20 year content creation business we discovered the answer in a different approach, process and set of techniques we refer to as a leveraged content supply chain process. If you Google content supply chain you will discover the content workflow management software category that some claim IS the content supply chain. This isn’t what we’re talking about here. This is like saying ERP software IS the manufacturing supply chain. Manufacturers learned they first had to change their supply chain process to realize the big value ERP software investments...
  9. What is a Content Supply Chain?

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      The genesis for this is an article by Jake Sorofman at Gartner, “The Content Supply Chain is the Rate Limiter to Digital Marketing Maturity.” “Targeting and personalizing experiences requires content—lots of it, in many different forms, for many different audiences, engaging across many different channels. Managing this madness becomes an exercise in combinatorial complexity that requires a more rigorous approach to your content strategy.” Content supply chain requires an architectural way of thinking, which begins with a clear understanding of the demand side—in this case, all of the consuming applications and experiences enabled by your segmentation, targeting and personalization strategy.” “If your goal is to deliver an experience something better than one size fits all—or worse, all sizes fit none—you need to treat your content strategy as more than a hand wave. You need an architectural approach to your content supply chain.” McKinsey have written about the importance of a content supply...
  10. Complexity Simplified — The B2B Selling Dilemma

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      Complexity is a natural condition of our modern digital era. Complexity, coupled with exponential change, can paralyze effective execution. Without mechanisms to make the complex simple, people experience the feeling as “complicated”. This is the condition B2B sales and marketing leaders experience when it comes to defining and executing sales, marketing, content and data strategies. The impact and costs are high — to individual productivity, functional results and to strategic business goals. They’re also accelerating with the exponential rate of change. As Mckinsey says in the two minute video in this article: “The future waits for no one. The biggest risk, is being left behind.” For B2B sales and marketing leaders the problem isn’t knowing what to do. What to do is universally understood and generally accepted. Prescriptions include: Segment audiences and buyers to focus investment and resources Deeply understand customer business issues, functions, roles (personas), and how they make (buying) decisions Develop...
  11. Situation-ready information, on-purpose, by design

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      I’m done talking about “content.” The word is too conceptual to have any useful meaning. In my world, words matter. To work, words must convey common meaning. I believe the word “content” and how it’s used actually causes problems. This is undoubtedly a contributor to quality problems experienced with marketing and especially selling content. Sales tells marketing, “we need better content.” Marketing replies, “what kind of content do you need?” Sales: ” we need customer stories, presentation support, videos, etc.” Sound familiar? And I could go on about content for certain stages, personas and industry verticals, among other important relevance categories. Having managed a business that created content for B2B sales, marketing and training organizations for 20 years, we regularly dealt with requests expressed this way. Knowing desired content formats, audience types and selling stages is simply insufficient input to inform quality content. We would ask, “What exactly do...
  12. Create relevant content based on personality profiles

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      We know relevance resonates. Content that addresses each audience interest, persona and situation performs better than generic content. So why not create content based on personality profiles? My first “real job” (working since age 9) was for ADP. One year later I moved into sales. I had a good intuitive sense for my buyers. I could read their personality and peculiarities. But I had no idea how to use that information to help me sell. My manager introduced me to DISC. DISC is one of many personality assessment models. The initial DISC model comes from Dr. William Marston, a physiological psychologist, in a book entitled Emotions of Normal People, published in 1928. DISC Personality Model This model uses four dimensions to characterize people: I use DISC to quickly assess the person I’m meeting based on behaviors, speech patterns, and even their setting if I’m meeting in their office. It works, even...
  13. Change your content process to leverage accelerate and scale

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      When it comes to customer facing content, much is written about creative techniques, tools and infrastructure. But there is little thinking or discussion about content process change. By changing your content process for strategy and operations you can leverage resources and assets, accelerate production time to real-time, and scale outputs without compromise. My thinking is influenced by the re-engineering experience in the 1990’s. The refrain we hear today about return-on-investment for content marketing is very similar to complaints in the 90’s about lack of evidentiary ROI on investments in personal computing technologies — hardware and software. I was influenced by the writing of British cybernetician Stafford Beer who wrote: “The question that asks, ‘given my my business, how should I use the microprocessor?’ is fundamentally the wrong question. A better question would be, ‘given the microprocessor, how should I design my business?'” Companies re-engineered their accounting, manufacturing and product...
  14. Content Source the secret sauce to quality content

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      My cousin arrived from California the other day. As we sat enjoying a bottle of his excellent homemade Cabernet, he told me about his decades long wine-making hobby. Turns out there are many ways to screw up wine in the production process (technical term). But if you don’t begin with the right, quality grapes, there’s little you can do to improve it. It occurred to me this applies to content creation, doesn’t it? If you don’t have the right inputs, there’s little even a great writer can do to produce great content. Content Source is the secret sauce to quality content because it’s the way you acquire and prepare inputs to your content process. Our practice of using Content Source began over a decade ago. We quickly worked to make it a disciplined, robust content practice. When we consider our world without Content Source, we realize we would lose our: Leverage, efficiency...
  15. 7 reasons you’re not getting the most out of customer facing content

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      Missing or under-performing customer facing content has a significant impact on strategic business objectives: new customer acquisition and organic revenue growth, sales and marketing productivity and efficiency for lower selling costs, data acquisition and customer experience. B2B lead generation and conversion rates are universally below expectations. Late stage content in sales cycles hasn’t evolved to support buyer-centered selling practices. A realistic assessment of the underlying cause of the problem helps you apply the right solution, because it allows you to see the real cause of the problem. In our view, there are seven primary reasons you are not getting the most out of your customer facing content. 1. Customer facing content is not created on purpose. Content has a specific “job” to do for both marketing and sales tactics. How you define the purpose of your content depends on the specific information required for each “touch,” the user experience...

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