The theory of postponement is well understood in the supply chain and manufacturing world. With solutions that have several variants, or that require customization, the process is designed to postpone adding variant features or customizations until the last possible moment. Common sub-assemblies may be built to stock, but variants are built to order, and are assembled just before they ship. Think of the genius in the Dell custom PC supply chain.
Content creation in this era, where buyer relevance is a core principle, should leverage that same postponement philosophy. The “new producers” on the front line of business – marketing campaign developers, bloggers, inside sales, presales, direct sales and channel partners should be able to custom assemble content just as it is needed. They should be able to do this every day without consuming their day. To do this requires content that is pre-produced in a modular fashion that anticipates their customers’ need for information. Modules must be managed for easy access, selection and final assembly. Determination of final content formats – short or long form text, graphic presentations, even video – should be possible without technical acumen or special tools.
Just as postponement is designed into a manufacturing production process, it must be designed into a content production process. Key to this is having a well thought out content strategy including a documented understanding of buyer personas, how they buy, their problems, and key messages that map to situation variants. This guiding document, which we call Content Frameworks, defines what content modules are required and how they support buyers’ information needs.
Designing postponement into content production is relatively straightforward. Unlike the traditional content production process, where one team is responsible for end-to-end point productions, the publishing operations process separates each task, distributing the work to different resources, to create content sub-assemblies or content modules. In this way, final assembly of the pre-produced content modules, and the determination of the delivery media and method, can be left to front line new producers.
Step-by-step Publishing Process
Let’s take you through the steps, procedures and techniques that highlight this new publishing process to pre-produce modular, ready-to-assemble content for multiple formats.
- Plan on how you are going to fulfill the content requirements of the content framework. Know what marketing plans and events will drive specific needs but also plan on a continuous demand for content that can be customized by front line people.
- Acquire knowledge and insights from subject experts, customers, or analysts by recording interviews. Knowledge can also be curated from research, presentations, demonstrations or speeches. Every opportunity to capture knowledge should be exploited. Since acquisition is not associated with a specific point production deliverable, any acquisition opportunity should try and touch on as many elements of the content framework as possible.
- Edit the captured knowledge after the audio is transcribed into a text document. We refer to this document as “Content Source.” Transcripts enable easy editing for key ideas and concepts. Then, the text transcripts should be tagged with key words and other labels that map to elements in the Content Framework. Graphics, images, or video clips should be included. Since Content Source makes expert insights accessible and searchable by content creators, non-domain experts can play a bigger role in content creation. Many of these content creators will be front line marketers who extend a key idea in real time to enhance its relevance.
- Create content in a modular fashion to maximize flexibility in assembling different versions of final content later. Modules will combine graphics, scripts, audio recordings, or video components. Variants of modules that are tailored for specific roles, languages, regional differences or industry verticals can usually be quickly developed off of core modules. Designing modular content so it can be assembled into cohesive stories takes a practiced discipline. But once you do it a few times, you’ll start to become more proficient.
- Database capabilities allow you to organize modules by themes, versions or story components, and make them easily accessible to general users. Ideally you can find a technology that makes it easy for users to instantly assemble custom finished work products. Links back to original acquired Content Source documents provide users additional or deeper background. Modular content in a database also makes content updating easier, which extends the life of valuable content assets.
- Assemble and Deliver activities are driven by the situational demand of front line users. Content may be assembled for lead generation, lead nurturing, training, technical briefings, specialty microsites, sales communications with customers, or other purposes within the scope of the content strategy.
Postponement of assembly and delivery until the situational requirements are well understood enables content to fit the real-time situation. Conversations, in person with visual support or through content, can take a giant leap forward in relevance and impact. Just as in complex supply chains and manufacturing environments the theory of postponement drives down costs, increases quality, and improves customer satisfaction.
- Track, Measure and Improve is a requirement of any production process that operates in a dynamic environment. Deploying this postponement production approach will require new metrics for many marketing and sales organizations. Modular content as reusable assets are not the same as expensed point productions. Measuring modular content asset utilization and extension of content source ideas by new producers will provide insight into the value of content assets and the quality of customer conversations.