Marketing and selling content operations isn’t sexy. But it could be one of the most important focus areas for marketing leaders. See Is Content Operations Your Next Focus Area?
Almost every week I see fresh survey results that continue to reflect the long-standing challenges that B2B marketers face (Content Marketing Institute). More importantly, I speak with people in companies and hear the same issues.
The question is, “given all the internal and external expertise and creative resources available to organizations, why do these persistent and near universal content problems still exist?”
McKinsey On Digital Marketing Operations
This post was inspired by the McKinsey Insights article: How digital marketing operations can transform business.
Here’s McKinsey’s assessment of current state:
“Marketing operations are certainly not the sexiest part of marketing, but they are becoming the most important one. With businesses unable to keep pace with evolving consumer behavior and the marketing landscape, the pressure is on to put marketing operations—skilled people, efficient processes, and supportive technology—in a position to enable brands to not just connect with customers but also shape their interactions.
When done well, we’ve seen marketing operations provide a 15 to 25 percent improvement in marketing effectiveness, as measured by return on investment and customer-engagement metrics. Yet achieving that level of improvement is elusive for many.
While marketers are embarking on a wide array of “digital transformations” to reshape their operations and business models, many of these efforts are stymied by marketing’s difficulty in delivering on its aspirations. For example, one recent survey found an astonishing 84 percent of marketers do not have a formal content strategy or distribution process to feed their growing bevy of marketing channels, and they lack any kind of formally managed content supply chain. Despite this, content budgets continue to increase.”
What’s involved in making this happen?
“Digital marketing operations involve the application of capabilities, processes, structures, and technologies to cost-effectively exploit and scale the interactivity, targeting, personalization, and optimization of digital channels.
That capability directly enables the speed, agility, iterative development, experimentation, and responsiveness that successful companies need to react to and shape the marketplace.”
Five steps are suggested to “bring marketing operations into the digital era.” These also apply to content operations.
“1. Truly understand customers:
Most companies are only at the beginning of creating comprehensive customer-insights programs.”
In our experience, the content creation process provides an excellent filter on the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s go-to-customer strategy. We have regularly experienced poor inputs due to the lack of deep enough understanding of customers to provide the unique and useful insights worthy of content investment.
“2. Deliver a superior experience:
Meeting customer expectations calls for mapping out each of the steps that define the entire customer experience, highlighting not only the technologies and processes needed to enable a smooth journey but also the various functions across the organization that must coordinate to deliver it.
Marketing, sales, support, service, and operations play key roles in many customer journeys, of course. But there are other functions that are critical as well, such as order management and fulfillment. Those are not typically top of mind for marketers, but the experiences enabled by these back-end systems are instrumental to the way a customer perceives a brand’s ability to deliver on expectations.”
This is why we advocate a business level content strategy that goes beyond websites, content projects and marketing. Organizations require a strategy to support all customer engaging groups across the organizations, especially sales and the sales channel. See Content Strategy Beyond Marketing and Websites.
“3. Selecting the right marketing technology:
The “best” marketing technology isn’t necessarily what’s best for an organization. For example, an overriding consideration may be how well a particular solution integrates with legacy systems or how well it meets specific requirements.”
When we started documenting our content strategy frameworks years ago, (see 6 Competency Framework for Marketing and Sales Content Strategy) we didn’t distinguish the competency we now call the Use Case Requirements definition. See Define Your Enterprise Content Use Case Requirements.
In practice, this turns out to be one of the most important inputs to business level content strategy. It provides the context for all other strategy decisions. For example, without documented use case requirements, how can you effectively assess and map content inventory? Simple, buyer journey stages are too general. The end game of content strategy are decisions about what content to invest in, to support which specific use cases, and the value expected from them.
“4. Implementing processes and governance:
Technology enables the customer experience, but it requires people, processes, and governance to ensure technology does what it’s supposed to do. The failure to establish guidelines … could result in a patchwork of efforts across the enterprise that sow confusion and hamper attempts to scale.”
The article is worth reading for this section alone. Professional content operations involves decisions about policies, standards, process and procedures that collectively are referred to as “governance.”
“Rather than being restrictive, this level of governance can enhance creativity.”
“5. Using the best metrics to drive success:
Technology is now catching up to the holy grail of marketing: the ability to monitor, track, and manage the effectiveness of marketing investments. Measures of marketing effectiveness need to move beyond what has often been limited to a narrow set of metrics. As companies become more customer-centric, for example, metrics should focus on customer activity rather than simply product or regional activity, as is often the case. Metrics should also reinforce new behaviors and processes, such as how fast a product is launched or how quickly lessons from the field can successfully be integrated into the next marketing offer.
To be most effective, however, metrics need to deliver insights quickly—often in real time—so the business can actually act. They need to be delivered in a way that is easy for decision makers to understand, and they need to be forward looking to identify future opportunities rather than focus on reporting what has already happened.”
Predictive analytics benefit from data content helps to acquire. Analytics will inform what content to invest in and how it should be created.
The Three Core Causes That Aren’t Being Addressed
When we analyzed the biggest constraints companies face in meeting new, digital content requirements, we found three core causes that aren’t being addressed. They are operational in nature.
- Significant new requirements for customer content (relevant, educational, formats and scale, to name a few)
- Ineffective or no business level marketing and sales content strategy;
- Inability to execute content strategy because the traditional content production model can’t meet new requirements.
Like manufacturers in the ’90s, early in our 20 year custom content business we realized:
The traditional, siloed, project-oriented, creative craftsman approach to content production is outdated.
It will not meet new digital content requirements of empowered buyers, their digital channel and format preferences. It can’t efficiently support content requirements of ALL customer engaging functions across the enterprise.
It cannot scale without compromise.
Consider the observation of Robert Rose:
When I meet with organizations and ask how they have changed their content process to address new, digital era requirements, I tend to get blank stares. What would I hear from your organization?
For more background and context for this idea: Content is a Strategic Imperative for B2B Selling Organizations
For a deeper explanation about why this is important: B2B Customer Content Operations Manifesto
For an explantion of how this works in practice: How to Improve Content Performance and Operations Output