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 experts don’t know the specific context and purpose for which that content is required. They don’t know how to create content to meet digital era requirements.
When it comes to B2B customer-facing content, there’s too much assuming going on.
Marketing assumes they know how to create content. Sales assumes marketing or product teams know how to create sales content. No one assumes anything about the sales channel. Channel organizations are usually under-served when it comes to content. Yet they are a critical part of many organization’s expansion, customer acquisition, and revenue growth plans.
Assumptions about how to create content are based on the traditional content operations model, which is outdated and insufficient for digital era needs.
If all content is or should be outsourced, and the traditional process can’t meet new requirements, especially to scale without unacceptable tradeoffs and costs, this article will consider what it means to level up content operations.
Missing Foundation to Content Operations
Why do so few organizations have a well-considered, documented content strategy?
Please consider these important questions:
- How is your content strategy developed cross-functionally, at the business level, not just within siloed functions?
- How are content priorities and investment decisions made?
- What foundational preparation and planning work is conducted, that informs and supports ALL marketing and sales content development?
Typical answers to this question include: it’s too complicated, there are too many stakeholders, there’s no clear overall ownership or accountability, too many factors must be considered, not enough time.
I would add, companies lack an effective content strategy framework, and discipline to a process that simplifies this activity. It is inherently complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
An ineffective content strategy is a major constraint to content operations.
Without the right foundational planning and preparation, this work falls to each content initiative and creation activity. This is inefficient. The best resources for this task aren’t applied to the job. There isn’t enough time to do this well.
Leveling up content operations starts with more robust and thorough business level content strategy.
To Level Up Content Operations Change Your Approach
Each functional group can use this approach and the steps below to define their content requirements and priorities. Better inputs for function-specific content are an important way to level up content operations.
Define knowledge requirements using the buyer’s decision process as the design point. This produces the clearest results and priorities in an efficient and effective way.
Knowledge must be delivered to cause action. This is a communication and conversation requirement.
Design key conversations that deliver this knowledge. This means think through and produce detailed outlines or frameworks for each important conversation. This thinking identifies where both communicators and audiences will need “support”.
Communicators need support to prepare, deliver, and provide post-delivery content. Examples include: background information, checklists, questions to ask, answers to anticipated questions, and visual support.
Audiences need visual support to understand and re-deliver complex or nuanced ideas. They also need topic and situation-specific content to read for deeper understanding and proof.
Each use case will require many, and different kinds of assets. Primary examples include:
- Versions for different topics, audience types, industries and roles, as well as decision stages
- Micro, short and long-form text and documents;
- Graphic, audio and video formats
These inputs to content strategy result in better decisions about what content to invest in and how they should be created.
Content development teams that produce content require detailed specifications for each asset. When it comes to content creation, details matter. Quality content briefs will improve the content development process, as well as outputs and business outcomes.
Content development proceeds faster and easier when supported with well-designed frameworks and templates. Here is a simplified example of the kinds of detailed specifications your content developers require.
Develop Foundational Support for ALL Customer-Facing Content Initiatives
To level up content operations requires developing and documenting universal inputs to content initiatives.
Under-appreciated constraints to the content development process are inadequate and inefficient inputs for new content. Too much information must be acquired for each content project under tight timeframes with limited resources. This applies to approval decisions as well. These can be mitigated with documented preparation.
Clarify and document your primary customer issues and interests that you will speak to and support with content. Do the same for your key points, messages and insights.
Develop an Information Architecture of those Topics and sub-topics, associated Concepts, and your primary Themes and Message points. This work will naturally reveal the quality and sufficiency of the current state of these essential inputs. It will illuminate gaps and work to be done.
Develop a purpose-built taxonomy based on your information architecture. Taxonomies are “the DNA of content.” Publish this to all content stakeholders. They provide a common language for thinking and talking about content.
Taxonomy simplifies tagging, finding and retrieving content. Taxonomies are a living, evolving entity. Don’t worry about getting them right, to start. Get the primary pillars right. Your taxonomy will evolve organically, if you executed with disciplined procedures.
Adopt continuous content acquisition and curation practices. Acquiring inputs for content projects is typically a major time and effort task. Research is conducted. Subject experts are identified and interviewed. Perform this work continuously, when its most convenient, independent of specific content projects.
Curate internal as well as third party content that can provide inputs to your new content. Assets to curate include: articles, research, webinars, quotations, graphics, etc. Do this based on your Topic, Concept and Message taxonomies.
Create microcontent assets by extracting re-usable elements from curated assets. Stand-alone microcontent are very effective assets. They can also supplement primary assets when linked-to. This gives audiences the ability to go broader or deeper in specific areas of interest, without adding length to primary content. View any of the links above as examples.
Maintain a Content Source repository.
Content source is a repository of source elements acquired and curated. Inputs acquired from subject experts and other sources that are not used for a specific content project should be maintain for possible future use.
Re-use optimization is a major objective and result of this practice. It significantly reduces the time and effort to source new assets.
It’s key to making content assets richer and more interesting, by providing relevant research, quotations, graphics, stories, video and other elements that simply aren’t discovered in the time allotted for projects.
If you only adopt one practice from these recommendations implement this approach. Beware, they all work together synergistically to deliver an exponential impact!
Adopt a Leveraged Content Supply Chain Process
To level up content operations requires execution through a more leveraged content supply chain process than the traditional process. For more on this please see What is a Leveraged Content Supply Chain?