Aligning Content to Strategy
A few years back, I heard some stats about content that hit way too close to home: According to SiriusDecisions, 65% of the time teams spend on content is wasted, and according to Accenture Digital, only one in five of us is clear on objectives.
I saw my team at SCIEX in this data, and I imagine you might see your team, too. Who among us isn’t guilty of getting a piece of content in our inbox and immediately going through the motions of reviewing, editing, and sending it on without taking the time to stop and consider where—or whether—it fits with our strategy?
That reactive impulse has big consequences: 80% of our time was spent on operational detail.
This might sound familiar. How much time do you spend on strategizing messaging and creating content as opposed to tracking it with status updates?
It was clear we needed to find a way to work smarter, not harder. Here’s what we did—and you can do—to get your content in line with your strategy and pave the way to better, more effective content operations.
Take a Hard Look at the Status Quo
Before you do anything, you’ll need to take stock of where you are today. What tools are you using to create, track, publish, and optimize content? Can you find your content and filter it to understand gaps? Do you measure the success of your content?
If we’re honest, this will probably look very ugly.
At SCIEX, we started with our most immediate pain: We needed something to help create and optimize our content.
Our edits—sometimes double-digit rounds for a single webpage—were sucking up way too much time and energy. We knew we needed a central repository and a better way of managing change. But beyond that, we knew we needed to align as a team. We had to find a way to speak the same language. We knew we were all going towards the same goals, but how could we get there together?
This realization may have been the aha moment, but the fix certainly didn’t happen overnight.
We recognized that we had no repository for content and that this was causing a cycle of cumbersome questions: Where was the document? What was its status? The answer was somewhere—in an email, an Excel file, in a SharePoint site on someone’s computer. We investigated platforms and found one that we could agree on and that we wanted to work towards. With that decision made, we could come together as a team and focus on optimizing what we did, consolidating our workflows, and deciding on our content creation.
Here’s where we went next:
Step One: Start with Content
If you’re in this position too, don’t let the details overwhelm you—just get started. Start aligning on the content you already create, because you can’t optimize until you see where you are.
Here are some key questions to ask:
- What do your customers want to see?
- What do they see today?
- How do they see it?
- How can you optimize your processes?
- How can you give them more of what they want?
Step Two: Optimize Content Processes
At SCIEX, what we wanted to do above all was get out of reactive content production and move into strategic campaign planning. We wanted to allocate resources to our content and align on those campaigns. And we wanted to develop a customer-centric process that incorporated storytelling.
Tagging is key to evolving away from a reactive mindset and on to optimized processes. Once you have reviewed and tagged your existing content, you know that you can go back and look at what you already have and start looking at your campaigns and who’s working on them.
We started to work smarter and continue to optimize our content and our process (something we’re still doing). Optimizing isn’t something you can do one and be done with it—it’s an ongoing process.
Step Three: Work Toward the Same Goal
The next step was to decide how we wanted to align our projects, campaigns, and global initiatives to our content creation.
At that time, we were doing campaigns and projects, but they weren’t always part of a larger strategy. So we spent some time reviewing our priorities and looking at the work we were doing. From there, we were able to define global initiatives that span an entire year or more, under which we lined up our marketing campaigns and projects.
This structure gave us a way to strategize, to visualize, and to plan. We now have big team meetings where we can check in on what’s happening with content, how things are going, how campaigns are running. Aligning initiatives with the day-to-day content work we’re doing on campaigns and projects is critical. Now we have a common nomenclature, and everyone understands each other, making it possible to work smarter, not harder.
Step Four: Align Marketing and Sales
Building visibility between marketing and sales was probably my favorite step. With all our content now in Salesforce.com and tagged to help reps find what they were looking for, the sales team could finally see the content we worked on every day.
Now our content stays up to date with automatic updates, and salespeople know that we’ll always have content to support them when they walk into an account.
This was a game-changer for us, not only because it gave sales visibility, but because it gives us in marketing insight into what sales are using, what content that they think is important, and what we can iterate on, reproduce, and keep creating.
The key takeaway here? Allow your sales team to tell the same story you are.
Step Five: Combine Content Creation with Strategy
Once we had the content organized by initiative and campaign and defined the buying stages and personas, we could start optimizing the content we already had and identify gaps.
As a scientific company, we focus a lot on marketing to the senior scientist. Now, we can look at our system and know that we have 726 pieces of content to aimed at the senior scientist in the consideration phase, with only 50 pieces of content to a C-level persona in the awareness stage. Having this information lets us evaluate and fill our gaps: Do we need to start optimizing our content to C-level or lab directors or lab technicians? Do we have enough repurposed content for the next two months to get to the senior scientist while we focus on creating other content?
Having this view allows you a strong view of where you need to go next. Once you have a clear view of what you already have, you can create the content you need and fill in your gaps.
Step Six: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
In contrast to where we started, we can now imagine a day when 100% of all of our time spent on content is effective and only 20% of our time is spent on operational detail.
It will never be perfect. What is critical is that we have created an iterative flow that will get better and better—and you can too.