How a 12 Minute Survey Can Revolutionize Content Performance
“When it comes to content, the quality bar is constantly rising.” These prophetic words from my business partner 20 years ago have informed my thinking and work ever since.
Digital era expectations from audiences and content users have changed requirements for high-performing, situation-ready content. B2B marketing and selling organizations continue to be slow to adapt.
This adversely impacts performance and top level business results, in ways that aren’t always understood or appreciated. Organizations are constantly looking for practical steps to build out content that really works.
Formal, documented content strategy work is an under-applied remedy. This is due in part to perceptions of massive effort and investment required, and risk. We ask, “what if there were a simple way to see, explain and decide what specific content strategy elements to focus on that would have the biggest impact on identified content shortcomings?“
The Content Problem We’re Addressing
B2B organizations selling complex offers through a value selling model have more stringent requirements for high-performing content than those selling simpler offers.
High-performing, situation ready content is:
- The first “product” prospective customers experience.
- Required to maintain employee knowledge levels and proficiency against exponentially growing requirements.
- A key driver of demand generation and ABM initiatives
- Essential support for critical sales conversations and digital communications.
- Required to educate and inform buyers through a complex series of buying decisions.
- Expected by audiences and stakeholders.
Poor or missing content adversely impacts marketing and sales performance. This is a core cause of:
- Poor lead generation results
- Ineffective sales prospecting
- Inefficient selling efforts and longer sales cycles
- Under-performing sales channel partners
- Low return-on-content investments — direct content costs, indirect and hidden costs of “unsanctioned content” created to fill perceived voids, as well as opportunity costs in lower performing functions.
An under-appreciated cause of weak or missing content is poor content strategy.
An effective content strategy will resolve these challenges. But it can be complex work. There are many inter-dependent elements to consider. Unfortunately, ineffective content strategy is the norm for most B2B organizations.
Content Marketing Institute research indicates most companies lack a documented content strategy. Of course, if strategy isn’t documented, it really doesn’t exist.
Even for organizations that do have a documented content strategy, some important questions are, how do you know:
- How effective your content strategy is?
- Which elements are weak?
- Where you have significant gaps?
- Where to focus improvement efforts?
- Before you even create and deploy content, it has a high probability of meeting performance expectations?
Content Strategy Feels Like a Massive Undertaking
Years ago I was blessed with a successful kidney transplant. As I headed into this process everything was overwhelming, daunting even. My fear and perception of risk was driven heavily by lack of understanding. What was I getting myself into?
These are similar to the feelings I get from marketing leaders when I talk about content strategy. “Who’s got time for a massive initiative like content strategy?”
“It’s good and smart to develop a content strategy. But who has the time, resources and investment required to: think through all the considerations, build out the strategy, test and measure the results, and then maintain it over time, across all the different groups within organization who are affected, but I don’t control?“
My hospital and transplant team had performed significant numbers of transplants every week for decades. They had a methodology supported by proven processes, procedures and experienced teams. For them each operation was a big deal, but not daunting. Once they took us (transplant impacts a family) through their process we became more relaxed, even confident.
Without mature and effective content strategy frameworks and standards, there is little to guide the content strategy process, let alone assess results objectively.
Our work over 15 years, with many companies in different industries, resulted in the codification of a Six Competency Framework for a Business Level Content Strategy.
This gives us near instant visibility to weaknesses and gaps in both an organization’s content strategy as well as it’s go-to-market strategy and plans. It provides robust criteria for content audits. Areas for improvement are clearly identified.
But Something Important Was Missing
What we found missing was an ability to correlate specific content strategy factors with desired content criteria and outcomes.
Without this insight, decisions for how to prioritize improvement work were difficult, personal opinion and random. This is why it often feels like a whack-a-mole exercise.
What if you could conduct a 12 minute survey of your key content stakeholders — in different marketing, sales, content creation, and executive functions — and instantly see two things:
- Evaluations by your stakeholders of both your content and content strategy elements — in aggregate and by each group,
- Causal relationships between specific content outcomes, such as quality, relevance, availability, etc., and specific strategy initiatives you could prioritize and address immediately?
What if the results helped you see, explain and feel more confident about what tangible actions to take, what strategic elements to focus on, that would improve specific content outcomes you select?
Of course, a deer understanding of this idea requires a conversation and some examples. But here’s a simple expample.
Simple Content Strategy Analytics Example
The analytics dashboard allows selective analysis. To provide an example, we isolated on two content criteria: Quality and in Context (Relevance).
Like any good survey it produces indications of strong (green) and weak (red) results from the assessment.
Unlike a simple survey, the Content Strategy Analytics assessment is based on a two-dimensional approach.
Horizontally it captures evaluation of the current state of key content criteria and content strategy factors. (The two red columns, based on our 6 competency framework.)
Vertically, within each strategy element, the assessment captures evaluation of key implementation initiatives used to execute each strategy.
This approach reveals specific factors that should be prioritized.
For example, the In Context content criteria is impacted by all competencies. The Understand Audiences, Conversation Support and Use Case Requirements show green, indicating the strongest impact. But Use Case Requirements strategy execution initiatives are all red, indicating poor or missing elements. This also indicates areas for improvement.
Taking this one step deeper.
Path Opportunity Index
Correlating and comparing implementation initiatives that impact important business outcomes — content criteria — is where the power and value of the analytics excel.
Result scores are combined into a Path Opportunity Index for easy interpretation, to help prioritize strategy initiatives with the largest opportunity for improvement.
The Path Opportunity Index allows an organization to view and examine content strategy in terms of multiple, correlated scores: content criteria, strategy impact, content strategy, and initiative impact.
The largest opportunity for improvement in this example is the top path, “ Initiatives > Use Case Requirements > In Context.” This opportunity index score is 276. In other words, improving the content initiatives associated with Conversation Support is the top most significant opportunity for improvement.
This is followed by > Use Case Reqs > Quality (170), and > Understand Audiences > Quality (161).
Four additional views further inform and justify action, investment, and prioritization of work on specific strategy initiatives.
Content Strategy Analytics Summary Points
Organizations need a cross-functional, holistic approach to content strategy. A well-considered process to decide what content to invest in and create, to understand why, how much, and how to create it, will produce better outcomes at every level.
This is what content strategy should do. Unfortunately, content strategy is often neglected, or is conducted at a tactical level for a different purpose.
Among many gaps this creates is not deciding content investments in the context of strategic business objectives. (See Content Strategy Beyond Marketing and Websites.)
- A primary route to higher-performing, situation-ready content is through improved business level content strategy.
- Content strategy is inherently complex. There are many inter-related factors that can be addressed.
- An inability to correlate specific content strategy factors with desired content criteria and outcomes makes prioritization and focus a difficult and unscientific decision.
- The two-dimensional Content Strategy Analytics assessment lets each organization:
- Conduct a 12 minute assessment survey with selected content constituents and stakeholders
- Select desired content criteria (outputs) for analysis
- See at a high level the relative impact, strengths and weaknesses of strategy elements and content criteria
- See prioritized “Opportunity Paths” of strategy elements and their primary, associated initiatives relative to selected content criteria
- Drill down iteratively to determine the best initiatives to prioritize. This shows focused actions that will have the biggest impact on the most leveraged strategy elements. In turn, this work will make the biggest impact on content outcomes (criteria).
- Iterate analysis using other filter criteria such as assessment responses by selected functions or roles (content stakeholders) and other factors.
- Conduct periodic assessments to show improvement areas, as well as to re-prioritize focus areas.
The best way to determine the possible fit of this program for your organization is through conversation. Please contact Jim Burns or schedule a convenient time right into his calendar.
Content Strategy Beyond Marketing and Websites
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Elevate B2B Content Strategy
Avitage Blog — Executive Summary to Business Level Content Strategy
Word Definition — What is Content Strategy — 10 Definitions
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