An effective content strategy is a challenge most B2B organizations face today. The maturing use of content, along with competitive market factors, means the bar is constantly rising.
Effective knowledge, information, and content are key business drivers. They impact top business objectives, especially:
- Organic revenue growth through new customer acquisition
- Sales, marketing and channel productivity, lower selling costs
- Acquiring data about customers and buyers to feed data-driven decisions
- Delivering a consistent, exceptional customer experience.
Most organizations claim a content strategy. The question is, “how effective is it?”
This article introduces a novel and relatively simple approach. Small moves that, smartly made, quickly and dramatically improve the content strategy process, quality and thoroughness of outcomes. Sales and channel leaders, who want to improve the quality and completeness of their content, will find this approach especially interesting.
Beyond Content Marketing
The state of the market has moved beyond content marketing. Long under-served sales, and sales channel content requirements add new challenges to traditional marketing content.
The rapid rise of the business-development role (BDR), along with customer experience, customer success, and reference programs, further add to content requirements.
Content users and audiences demand that content be effective, useful, and relevant. High-performing content is essential for value creation, differentiation from all other content producers, marketing, sales and channel performance, and thus, an adequate return on typically high content investments.
Indeed, high-performing situation-specific information and content has become a strategic business imperative because it directly impacts most top level business goals and executive metrics.
These and other factors produce the inevitable need for organizations to scale content operations and output. The problem is, how to scale without compromising quality (relevance, forms, formats, etc.), costs, and delivery times. This requirement has moved beyond rhetoric to a very real, but not well met challenge. An effective content strategy is essential to scaling content operations and outputs.
More than a decade ago the industry cry was “develop content strategy.” Over the last seven plus years the cry has been “document content strategy.” Some progress has been made on both fronts, although not to a degree commensurate with content investments and the business impact that is at stake.
Now it’s time to face the strategic imperative to make content strategy effective and cross-functional — starting with customer, sales, and channel enabling information and content.
This isn’t marketing or content marketing strategy, as most people think. It’s a holistic, unified approach to the organization’s knowledge, information and content strategy.
I hope you have a content strategy and I hope it’s documented. But the important questions really are: “how comprehensive, and how effective, is it?” Asked another way, “how do you know you have an effective content strategy?”
Shouldn’t content strategy effectiveness be validated BEFORE you invest in, create, deploy, use, (hopefully) track and measure the results?
Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 Content Management and Strategy Survey provides some reasons organizations aren’t very strategic in their approach to content. Some of these may apply in your situation. Undoubtedly there are others that might be more prominent in your case.
For over 15 years we supported the sales, marketing, training and channel content requirements of B2B organizations. Most companies were trying to execute a complex, solution, and now value selling model. Through this work we codified and refined a content strategy competency framework (referenced below).
Based on this experience, we believe the “reasons” in the graphic above, while a good list, miss the core causes we see impeding progress:
- Lack of an effective strategic methodology and frameworks
- Resources, expertise, time
Content strategy issues are inherently complex. Add multiple functional groups, as well as decisions required to support content operations execution, and the work can be overwhelming.
Few organizations follow a good strategic methodology. “What to do ” is almost universally understood and accepted. “How to execute” is where breakdowns occur. A good methodology and comprehensive frameworks support effective execution. Most strategic templates are overly simplistic and incomplete.
Like most things, if you want them done well, involve experienced resources with available, focused time to conduct this work. This leadership is critical to support functional participants who aren’t proficient with this work.
Small moves, smartly made improve content strategy
The two moves introduced below must be “smartly made,” that is, done thoroughly. They will identify the most important content that will have the greatest impact on marketing, sales, and channel performance, as well as customer decision-making and experience.
In a sentence the recommendation is this:
Assess the conversations at key buyer engagement points,
in the context of:
Move One — For each stage of the B2B buyer’s decision process (consumers “journey” B2B buying teams follow a decision process) define and document the:
- Micro-decision being made at that stage
- Information required for that micro-decision
- Questions buyers ask to acquire that information
- Conversations buyers conduct at that stage
Move Two — Design Conversation Frameworks for key conversations.
Think of every buyer engagement AS a conversation. Conversations ARE content. And knowledge, conversation support, and situation-specific content SUPPORT conversations.
This is the access point to understanding priorities for work to be done. It will also address a primary sales problem B2B value selling organizations have — how to universally and consistently conduct effective, customer-relevant, value conversations. (An example of under-served sales content needs.)
This will “fall out” of the work in Move Two. Calling this out as a move provides more explicit direction for what you want to capture and define.
Once you complete these moves you are in a position to make priority, investment and timing decisions. But the clarity provided by these small moves will greatly simplify this task and deliver breakthrough results for your current strategy.
The Strategic Source
Small moves, but not easy. I want to share the strategic insights I’m leveraging. They come from John Hagel (Deloitte’s Center for the Edge.) This will help you understand the “why” of this approach, and the imperative of doing this “small” but hard work well. (They might also help you in your functional strategy.)
Use the highlighted points as a litmus test on how you approach and conduct content strategy today.
Key excerpts from source article:
John Hagel — Small moves smartly made can set big things in motion
Small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. It’s been a key theme of my work for decades.
Many people glide over the phrase “smartly made” in the sub-title, but that’s what enables small moves to set big things in motion, rather than just consuming time and effort with minimum results.
“Smartly made” isn’t easy, it’s really, really hard. It’s all about understanding context and dynamics and being relentlessly focused on how to achieve the most impact with the least investment of time and resources.
Understanding context has always been challenging, but it’s becoming more challenging on two fronts. It used to be that we could narrowly define context and focus on a small slice of the world around us – whether it’s a specific industry, geographic market or customer segment. In a world shaped by the Big Shift, everything is becoming more and more connected, so those small slices are being deeply shaped by broader forces.
A key part of “smartly made” is investing the time and effort required to look ahead and understand the dynamics of the broader contexts evolving around us.
So, smartly made is focusing on the context and dynamics that matter. Again, that’s not easy, but a key approach is to focus on identifying “influence points” – those locations that exist in all complex adaptive systems that have a disproportionate impact on the evolution of the broader system.
Another dimension of “smartly made” is making explicit choices based on this assessment of influence points and evolving context.
The key is to invest the time and effort required to proactively choose the small moves that have the greatest potential for high impact. Don’t just react. Focus and anticipate, and be relentless in finding the most promising ways to achieve great impact with few resources.
Yet another aspect of “smartly made” is to move as quickly as possible to action so that one can begin to learn from the impact achieved.
Finally, and perhaps most challenging, another dimension of “smartly made” is a commitment to rapidly scale impact.
The goal is not just linear impact and improvement, but exponential impact driven by accelerating performance impact.
In the Big Shift world we’re entering it’s possible to create much more value than would have been imaginable a few decades earlier, and to do it with far less resources and much faster than would have been possible a few decades earlier.
If these ideas resonate and you want to assess your situation before budgeting and a new year of content production get too far along, I invite you to Schedule a Conversation With Me