Most business enterprises engaged in B2B selling have adopted content marketing as “the only marketing there is.” (Seth Godin) B2B selling typically starts online, through email or a phone call/voice mail — through content.
They are doing so because the right information, packaged and delivered through the right content is the key enabler for tactics that execute a customer-centric go-to-market strategy, especially:
- Inbound marketing
- Automated demand management with lead nurturing
- Social marketing and selling
- Sales enablement
These tactics are primary drivers for 4 top strategic enterprise goals:
Revenue growth — especially organic growth through new customer acquisition and channel success
Cost reduction — especially high enterprise selling costs
Acquire data on buyers and customers — feed predictive analytics
Compelling customer experience — from initial engagement in the buying process, through the ongoing relationship to optimize value of purchased products or services, to a desire for more products/services — through renewals, cross or up-buying and referrals.
This is why we say information and content are a strategic imperative. But most executive teams, if they even realize this reality, haven’t operationalized a strategy for this.
If they’re not careful, enterprise CMOs may eventually be in a situation similar to the Pentagon general in the image quote. Content marketing has evolved as new tactics. Content marketers have “re-imagined” their content. Now CMOs need to re-imagine their approach to content strategy and operations. (See Who Should Perform Content Strategy section in Content Strategy Beyond Marketing and Websites.)
Ineffective Content Strategy
Despite the increasing practice of content marketing, most companies lack a documented content strategy.
Because there is no universal definition or model for B2B content strategy, who really knows for sure? What many people think are strategies are really content specific tactics and techniques.
Even worse, executive teams are rarely involved with content strategy. Why would they be?
Content strategy (see “small s strategy”) has traditionally been the responsibility of …
- … individuals, often technical people “called content strategists“
- … within tactics,
- … inside of functional groups (corporate, product, field or demand marketing; training, sales, the channel, and customer service, for example),
- … within product or solution groups,
- … within divisions,
- … within geographies,
- … within the enterprise.
This makes content an expense within functional budgets. Lower level managers own that accountability.
Traditionally, content explained product and company features, benefits and competitive differences. These typically changed annually, making content, by definition, a short-life expense.
Today, the “job of content” has changed significantly. With important changes in the ways buyers buy, due largely to internet-enabled access to information, content has taken on very new characteristics:
- Customer facing content is more about customer business problems, solution issues, used for support of an often prolonged and multi-person buying decision
- Designed to be useful, independent of company and product considerations
- Relevant based upon individual interest and buying context
- An explosion of content formats and delivery channels
- The scale of required content as a result of the above factors
- Subsequent impact on cost of content — time, effort and dollars
Operationalize Content Strategy
Companies are struggling to operationalize a content strategy that is typically undocumented, incomplete and ineffective.
What you are doing now IS your strategy. Your degree of effectiveness may also be constrained due to execution challenges.
This is exacerbated by an unappreciated reality: the traditional, project-oriented, creative craftsman, “point production” content process is outdated and cannot meet new digital era content requirements.
Many successful early adopters have embraced solution approaches that also add to new requirements. These include the need to:
- Optimize information and content reuse
- Design and create microcontent components
- Distribute production tasks to different resources, and over extended timeframes
- Maintain content to extend the useful life of content
- Adopt modular content creation, management and assembly practices.
Done properly, content can be long-life strategic assets, with useful life measured in years not months.
To make this happen, senior executive level involvement is essential.
Given the strategic role of content on revenue and expense related tactics, the size and growth of known content spending (shadow development costs probably well exceeds known costs), the breakdown of existing content production processes, and the need for new, more robust content operations — why would organizations delay making an enterprise-wide strategy for customer facing content a strategic imperative?
A documented, enterprise content strategy is essential for companies that are truly customer-centric.
Tamara Schenk CSO Insights – Why Content Has to Be a Strategic Impact
McKinsey on Digital Strategy for Enterprises (a series of articles with supporting video)
Spend 4 minutes with this excellent video, Customer Focus, Making it Happen