B2B selling organizations face a serious challenge creating and managing content that impacts the success of new customer acquisition and profitable revenue growth, as well as tactical marketing and selling initiatives.
The Internet and changes to buyer behavior has made content a strategic imperative and key driver of strategic business objectives, however;
- The traditional approach to customer content development, funding, and content production processes will not meet new, digital era sales and marketing use case requirements.
- Companies require a business level marketing and sales information and content strategy that spans functions and tactics, and goes beyond project oriented campaigns, websites and other content projects.
But senior executives seem unable to connect the warning signals from multiple departments and disparate systems pointing to a broken, mission critical process.
Current responsibilities and budgets for content are spread across functions. This constrains the optimum use and value of content, and limits the ability to scale content operations to meet modern, digital content requirements, especially achieving buyer relevance.
To achieve enterprise goals, organizations look for opportunities to improve integration, alignment and synergies to realize efficiency that come from economies of scale. This has been famously missing when it comes to information and content that enables marketing and sales to optimize individual and functional performance.
Internet capabilities have shifted buying behavior, especially for B2B buyers of complex, solution oriented offers.
This new reality has shifted content creation from relatively simple, periodic and low volume content focused on vendor/product features and benefits; to customer-centric,relevant, useful and educational information and content. To support viewer preferences and delivery channels, content must also be created in multiple lengths and formats.
This results in two new and significant content challenges that must be managed: complexity and scale. (For a deeper explanation of this important point, view this 2 minute streaming video.)
These challenges extend beyond the tactical perspective of departmental managers, agencies or internal content production roles. They see the demand for more content as a growth opportunity or an increase in job security. They don’t have an incentive to change their project oriented approach to address the new reality.
A business level marketing and sales information and content strategy differs considerably from a content strategy for the web, a specific project, or even for a functional tactic.
Companies must move beyond siloed, marketing campaign oriented project approaches to content, to a holistic, enterprise, customer-centric approach to information and content requirements.
To support this strategic objective, businesses require a unified marketing and sales information and content strategy. This means decisions, budgets and even execution responsibility must be elevated above tactics within siloed functions (see Information and Content Strategy Beyond Marketing and Websites) and become an business level initiative (see Content Is a Strategic Imperative).
Information and content strategy must be developed as a strategic deliverable, concurrent with, and in support of, business and go-to-market strategy development.
But content strategy has emerged from website and content project activities. And information strategy is seldom considered or documented. There has been no standard, definition or framework for marketing and sales information and content strategy development.
6 Competency Framework for Marketing and Sales Information and Content Strategy
Based on our 20 years creating customer facing content for B2B sales and marketing organizations, we have developed a framework of the six key competencies that enable a marketing and sales information and content strategy.
Working to develop these competencies within the context of the go-to-market strategies defines a comprehensive and effective business level information and content strategy. This strategy should align with and support enterprise as well as marketing, sales, sales channel, customer service and training strategies. The competencies also provide a lens through which to assess an organization’s readiness to operationalize that strategy.
Both strategy and competency elements must be documented and validated. This is the difference between a professional approach to content operations and an ad hoc or amateur approach.
1 Understand Audiences (Buyers)
An enterprise information and content strategy must define and document a universal understanding of target market segments, primary content audiences, an ideal customer profile, and buyer roles or personas. For a deeper explanation please see Understand Audiences (Buyers).
2 Conversation Support
This competency focuses everyone on the conversations buyers are willing and interested in having, to make effective business decisions. Better than “messaging,” conversations address the many questions buyers have, their beliefs, and their decision making process.
Not all conversations take place live or in person. Most conversations are conducted through content. This work addresses three major areas:
1) what to say
2) how to say it
3) in who’s voice should it be said (the voice of the sales rep, company, or of an expert or customer?)
Your inventory of conversation points is a good indicator of the quality and depth of your understanding of your buyers. This will also help sales and marketing personnel, and provide essential inputs to the creation of quality, buyer relevant content. For a deeper explanation please see Conversation Support Competency
3 Use Case Requirements
Every content constituency, in sales, marketing, customer service, training, the sales channel, etc., should assess, define and document their primary information and content use case requirements.
These are Input to enterprise-level investment decisions. This is similar to the way product requirements are documented and decided upon. This blog post discusses how to define use case requirements in greater detail.
4 People Support
Content creation used to be the purview of content professionals. Today, companies are experiencing what we refer to as the “new producers.” This introduces significant support requirements.
The explosion of content requirements also increases the number of professional content creators. They too require input and guidance executing against a content strategy, but with less operational support.
Gaps or low proficiency in any segment of the content supply chain: from subject expert insights, to content creators, to those who organize and deploy content, to users who select and deliver content, will impact content quality, delivery timing, cost, and limit content re-use.
5 Content Operations
Organizations are moving more content creation, operations management and accountability in-house. This is a significant new role for marketers who tend not to have formal content operations management experience or operating models.
We believe businesses need to re-engineer content operations. This will involve moving more content creation to a central content operation that is professionally managed to gain efficiency and meet new requirements. But it also requires process and methodology changes. (See Is Content Operations Your Next Focus Area?)
6 Infrastructure and Tools
Digital content, web delivery channels, and enhanced content management, delivery and tracking has increased the importance of supporting content marketing and selling initiatives with the right tools and infrastructure. (See checklist we use for evaluation)
Marketing and Sales Content Investments
If you believe as we do, that information and content are strategic imperatives for your business, and drivers of profitable revenue growth and optimum customer experience, and key enabler of ALL customer engaging functions, then a shift in thinking, strategy and operations is called for.
- Content investments must align to strategic business priorities and the most compelling use case requirements.
- Investments should shift from short life expense projects, to long-life content assets. (Yes, this is possible.)
- Preference will go to opportunities to create content for multiple purposes and uses cases, and as highly reusable content elements.
- Invest in, set up and manage a continuous content operation much the way modern manufacturing processes operate.
At this point you undoubtedly have many questions. We often brief on the details of these competencies, as well as facilitate cross functional conversations about the implications of transformations under way in the sales and marketing profession.
McKinsey Insights article, Mastering Digital Marketing This is a must read article that provides context for enterprise content strategy and associated competencies.
- Few business functions have been as profoundly disrupted by digitization as marketing.
- Requires a different marketing model
- Data as a source of advantage – data driven decisions
- Complexity, from point campaigns to continuous process, coverage and scale
- Avitage Point: Content is what gets you data
Deloite Digital, MITSloan Review – Strategy Not Technology Drives Digital Transformation
Avitage Blog – B2B Customer Content Operations Manifesto