Recommendations for Developing an Impactful Content Strategy
In part 1 of this article, we identified common pain points indicative of a content problem and introduced recommendations and associated benefits. Let’s take a closer look at our recommendations and principles designed to help you increase your marketing impact.
Architect your competitive advantage and business story
A good starting point is to articulate your strategic business priorities now and in the future. Start with identifying the themes or trends where your company is in a unique position to address the needs of your customers (e.g. Consumerization, Mobility, Cloud, Social, et cetera). These themes and priorities are brought to life most likely through your product suite and the capabilities that give your firm a competitive advantage. For instance, if you are a software business that is well-positioned to deliver server operating systems or a set of server products aimed specifically at helping corporate IT administrators manage a network of servers and client desktop systems, you are likely placing strategic emphasis and investment in Cloud computing (specifically, in this case, Private Cloud). Your product suite and associated enabling technologies help bring your Cloud or Virtualization theme to life. As another example, if you are an emerging business having developed proprietary software that enables consumers to transact business through a mobile device, you most definitely are prioritizing a mobile commerce, social, or connected device story that helps establish or solidify your brand. This combined with any other strategic priorities collectively makes up the conversations you have with customer decision-makers or business partners.
Practically speaking, the output of this exercise may be a framework or mapping that clearly depicts the handful of themes, enabling technologies, and product offerings that align with the company’s strategic priorities and messaging strategy.
Develop your plan for content development
Assess the nature of the content problem
For larger, more complex organizations, where marketing functions are performed regionally and corporately, it is paramount to obtain executive-level buy-in and participation to ensure effective sponsorship of your assessment. Determining the magnitude and nature of the content inefficiency requires an objective and thorough inspection of the current state: what assets are being developed, what campaigns are deployed, what messages are reaching your customers. One tactic worth pursuing is to inventory marketers throughout your organization to catalog all of the various marketing material created – customer presentations, sales guides, whitepapers, demos, videos, microsites, customer case studies, third-party collateral to validate marketing messages, etc. We have typically found that the inefficiency is a result of a volume problem (e.g. too much content created), a quality problem (e.g. content is ineffective), or both. The more adept you are in determining the extent to which overproduction exists, the better. For instance, did you discover that ten customer presentations are used for a single solution offering when there really should have been one presentation? This analysis becomes the business justification for rationalizing content production and is critical to unlocking content efficiencies.
Determine what content is most useful and impactful
To start improving the impact of content developed, consider surveying marketers throughout the organization and ask ‘What marketing material do you need to execute?’, ‘What assets are most critical, and what content is nice-to-have?’ This exercise requires a fair degree of critical thinking and perhaps challenging the claim, for instance, that a marketer needs a customer presentation, sales guide, and a positioning and messaging document. Is the content in those assets identical? Is there justification for creating all three? Additionally, if given the capability, consider examining what documents have been downloaded or otherwise consumed. Is there a healthy utilization of all assets developed? Or are you seeing that only a handful of assets are making up the majority of assets downloaded? In addition to asset usage, look at the data to evaluate whether or not your marketing campaigns actually drive business results. For underperforming campaigns, perhaps you discover that the message and tone behind a campaign didn’t resonate with your audience – not a volume problem, rather more an issue with the quality. The intended outcome of this step is a rationalized and vetted list of assets marketers absolutely need to execute marketing and campaigns. Described another way, this is your handshake agreement with the entire organization on what marketing content is to be developed and delivered.
Align content to your strategic message and themes
One of your guiding principles in determining what content should be created, and what messages reach your customers, should be that all content must align with the marketing and content planning framework you developed in Step 1 above. What this means practically is that any piece of content your organization develops can be mapped to your messaging strategy. Revisiting our Cloud example previously introduced, suppose your business model from prior years was to offer ‘on-premises’ software and solutions (e.g. installed and run on computers on your customer premises). While ‘on-premises’ may still remain a source of revenue for your firm, if it was not identified as a business priority that manifests itself in your company story, then very little (if any) content should be developed. Indeed, if you have identified your Cloud business as an area where you are in a unique position to meet customer needs and one you are willing to bet big on, why invest valuable marketing resources developing ‘on-premises’ presentations, demos, and whitepapers? The key takeaway here is that every piece of marketing material you develop and deliver internally or through customer-facing campaigns should accrue to your themes and priorities.
Once you have clarified your company messaging and customer-facing themes, rationalized what content is most impactful, and aligned content to your framework, the next step is to define the engagement model. In complex marketing ecosystems inclusive of multiple agencies, vendors, extended marketing teams, and product groups, it is critical to determine how content gets developed, reviewed, approved, and distributed. This is your opportunity to align on who builds what, how content gets communicated when assets will be available for use, and where marketers go to obtain them. In organizations of all sizes, it is critical to communicate the plan for content creation throughout the entire year so that marketers can budget and plan campaigns appropriately. The risk in under-communicating the content plan is obvious: for one, with a lack of insight into what content is coming, marketers are likely to build their own assets often times at odds with the corporate story in tone and message.
Thoughtfully engage with your audience
Marketing has become more complex due to globalization, customer segmentation, and an increased variety of media channels. Identify the right channels to disseminate content. Given how the recession has likely reduced budgets for conferences and other in-person events, B2B marketers should, for example, consider lower-cost marketing tactics (social, forums, and blogs) to communicate content and spark engagement amongst audiences. Admittedly, a shift to social and digital channels is not the answer for every company. The point is for you to carefully reconsider the right mix of marketing tactics you leverage to best reach your audience. For instance, is telemarketing still an appropriate tactic to reach decision-makers at prospects or your customers? How effective is your direct marketing engine? Are your digital demand generation tactics (e.g. digital events, banner ads, etc.) impacting your sales pipeline?
The road to efficient and impactful marketing begins with a thoughtful and coherent strategy on how your organization plans, develops and delivers marketing content and campaigns. Once you have uncovered the content inefficiency in your organization, it is your job to architect the solution. This includes a strategic assessment of your business priorities and how those translate into the conversations you have with your customers, rationalizing content down to what is most meaningful and impactful, and defining a framework that enables efficient content development.
We deliberately omitted discussion around the following two topics. We believe that these topics have a significant impact on your marketing effectiveness and efficiency. Although highly important, these subjects likely warrant an article of their own.
- Content Management & Distribution: The decision, or lack thereof, by management to invest in a holistic digital asset management tool for storage and distribution of marketing assets.
- ROI & Measurement: The methodology deployed by marketing leaders to clearly identify the return on marketing campaigns and tactics, and on your marketing entity all-up.
Tags: Content Strategy, Marketing