IT-Centric vs. Marketing-Centric Models for Managing the Content Challenge
The digital revolution has imposed both complexity and pressure on B2B marketing departments. With the chaos of specialized teams, tools, and channels in marketing, execution has become more challenging than ever. And at the center of this chaos is content—content that marketing must create to feed its teams, tools, and channels, which ultimately drives revenue.
Marketers are employing various models and corresponding tools to deal with the challenge of producing and distributing content for the digitally empowered buyer. Many marketers have looked to IT project management systems to optimize the content process (just as sales has found in Salesforce, engineering in Jira, HR in Workday, etc.), but they aren’t purpose-built for marketing nor do they confront the unique challenges that marketers face.
We need our own operating system, but before we select yet another new tool, we have to take the time to analyze the models that different tools are built to support: how does IT run? How does marketing run? And thus, what tools are required for the different models?
Carefully reviewing these models, while focusing on the true needs of the modern marketer, will demonstrate the software functionality best suited for the content operation.
Content Operation Models
The Help Desk Model
The help desk model is built on the IT help desk or support desk function where tickets or requests are submitted and then a support rep fulfills those requests. In the middle of these requests is some sort of traffic cop function, typically a set of project managers, taking the requests, prioritizing them, looking over the creator resources and their capacity, and trying to manage the inevitable variations of the plan.
In a content operation, those requesting content are typically content consumers: sales, product, or marketing’s own demand gen or field marketing. On the other side are content creators: corp comm, content marketing, creative services, etc.
Of the various models that marketing employs to solve the content challenge, the help desk model is the least effective, and, frankly, the most disastrous. Why? Because marketing must be strategic and disciplined in its messaging and all corresponding content.
The help desk model offers very little room for strategy or discipline. Every content asset is an independent one-off rather than a part of a coherent, strategic whole. Resources are generally allocated to whoever yells the loudest. While a process that allocates and schedules resources can be wrapped around this approach, the result remains managed chaos at best.
The Software Development Model
Another model borrowed from IT is the software development model (of which there are many flavors such as Agile, Lean, etc.). In most any organization, IT or engineering is a cost center, not a revenue center, where the objective is producing software on time and on budget.
Software engineering operates like any engineering discipline, breaking down problems into component pieces. At the highest level of this model is a release (all of the code that gets pushed to customers at a given interval). Releases are broken down into pieces known as epics, which tell a larger narrative of a use case. Epics are in turn broken down into stories, which are even smaller use cases, and are unique, standalone parts. Stories are interdependent. In order for an epic to properly function, each of the stories must exist and properly function.
The general trend in software development is to do a larger quantity of releases at a greater frequency.
In this model, resources are relatively interchangeable. Most developers can handle most stories. This enables software development agility because developers can take whatever story is at the top of the backlog, optimizing throughput.
Given the objectives and elements of the model, the software development model is about constantly optimizing the project plan to reduce time and budgetary risk. The great risk involved in software development is the interdependence of its outputs (stories): if one story fails, the entire release can be jeopardized. Thus project management must map dependencies, track progress, and move interchangeable resources towards at-risk stories to ensure the timely launch objective is met.
When marketing applies this software development model to its content efforts, the model solves for content production to be on time and on budget. Schedules are meticulously managed and resources are efficiently utilized. But while such objectives may have suited marketing well for its cost-center past, marketing now has new objectives around message and revenue that require a different model.
The Integrated Campaign Model
Historically B2B marketing departments have been cost-centers, just like IT, existing primarily to support the sales team, which is the revenue center. But the digital revolution has changed this model. Marketing now is a revenue center. Just as sales has a revenue quota, marketing, owning the top of the funnel, now has a lead or pipeline quota. The digital customer experience that marketing builds across the entire customer lifetime increasingly determines revenue performance.
Unlike the other models, which were built for IT, the integrated campaign model was built for marketing and its modern revenue-center objective: delivering the right content for the right buyer at the right time in order to achieve lead and pipeline quotas.
In the integrated campaign model, large assets such as eBooks or white papers—often called “pillars”—are produced first and then reused and repurposed to create a wide variety of smaller derivative assets such as blog posts, emails, webinars and so on to feed multiple channels. This process of reuse can be used to satisfy the many market dimensions that marketing must supply, including:
- Buying stages
This model provides the most efficient way for marketing to deliver its message consistently and effectively across the various dimensions of the customer experience, ensuring the right content reaches the right customer at the right time to maximize revenue growth.
Software Development vs. Integrated Campaign
At its core, the integrated campaign model operates at nearly a reverse approach of the software development model across four major areas.
Integrated campaigns (or initiatives) take the place of software’s “releases.” In marketing, the number of campaigns actually should decrease as opposed to an ever increasing quantity of releases. Experts like SiriusDecisions are advocating that B2B marketers move away from more frequent campaigns based on product launches, and instead focus on fewer, longer integrated campaigns focused on buyer needs.
While the software model produces smaller component pieces (stories) first and then builds those together to form larger epics and releases, the integrated campaign first builds the pillar and the creates smaller derivative assets. In the software development model, stories are unique. In the integrated campaign model, assets aren’t totally unique because they are all derived from the same source and can be appropriately adjusted by channel, segment, or geography.
Unlike story-dependent releases, integrated campaign assets are much less interdependent because not all of the assets have to be launched simultaneously in order for the entire campaign to be effective. In fact, experts like SiriusDecisions recommend that publishing be spread out in order to maintain a cadence of new content for your audience.
While software developers are relatively interchangeable, marketers are not. A corporate communications marketer who repurposes an eBook into a blog post can’t do the work of the product marketer who can repurpose it for sales enablement purposes. A field marketer who can localize for China can’t necessarily localize for Brazil. And so forth.
While the objective of the software model is to release code on time and on budget, the integrated campaign model must provide compelling content to the right buyer at the right time, which requires appropriate content for all customer contexts: persona, buying stage, channel, etc.
The integrated campaign model solves for these challenges through content repurposing and message consistency. Having the right content for each context is not achieved through some naive hope to produce tremendous quantities of original content by optimally managing resources (i.e. content creators), but rather through smart reuse and repurposing a content pillar into related assets.
This approach then simultaneously solves the message consistency objective. Instead of all of the silos creating content on their own, they are deriving their assets from the core material, ensuring the buyer is receiving a consistent message across touch points.
After assessing the software development and integrated campaign models across four dimensions, different priorities arise for the software systems needed to support the differing models.
The priority for software development is on time, on budget releases. Thus, systems must solve for this priority with robust project management functionality that ensures release timeliness.
These systems must track the target milestones of the various stories versus actual, assess risk, chart dependencies, track resource load, and adjust resources as necessary to ensure timeliness. This must be done because the components of the software model—code stories—are highly interdependent, and software cannot release with a missing piece.
Project management within the integrated campaign model still matters: progress needs to be made according to a schedule. But not only is rigorous project management not necessary in the integrated campaign model, it can be harmful to overall performance.
Because content resources are not as interchangeable as software resources, they can’t easily be rearranged or reprioritized to achieve highly rigorous schedules. In addition, because content assets are not dependent on each other like software stories, such regimentation has a scant benefit, e.g., if corporate communication publishes blog post X three weeks later than was planned, product’s webinar Y is unaffected. Rigid task and resource plans thus serve more to limit performance than enhance it.
Instead, systems supporting the integrated campaign model need to prioritize visibility, empowerment, and revenue insight.
In this model that leverages reuse and repurposing in order to cover all market dimensions, visibility ensures that all of the dimensions are covered and all stakeholders have a clear common understanding of that coverage. For example, in a given campaign, all stakeholders must be able to see how will this campaign produce content that will cover all the necessary:
- Segments / personas
- Buying stages
The lines of reuse must be clear. It must be clear who is responsible for creating the certain asset (from the pillar) for their certain dimension. Everyone must be on the same page for this complex choreography of reuse.
Stakeholders must be able to determine which content they want to repurpose in order to execute accordingly. They must see what their colleagues are producing to stay on message and be sure not be duplicative. They must be able to effectively distribute the content to the right buyer at the right time, whether that is delivering it to the right internal stakeholder or whether that is publishing it through the right digital channel.
Lastly, marketing needs to insight to strengthen its message and drive more conversion and revenue. Amid the complexity of the digital age, content is being delivered through a dizzying variety of channels, formats, segments, and buying stages. A flood of data is being generated on how all of this content is consumed. But beyond this data, marketing needs insight around what content patterns are succeeding in moving buyers down the funnel and what content is failing. Only this insight can guide how marketing can continue to adjust its content going forward and deliver improved revenue results.
Models and Tools Purpose-Built for the Marketing Content Challenge
As marketers have explored the tools built for IT, IT project management vendors have added additional branding and messaging to their tools that speak directly to the marketer. But marketing needs more than branding placed on a tool built for another department; marketing needs an operating system built to address its unique priorities and manage the integrated campaign model.
Thought leaders have built new models for how marketing should work. Specifically, SiriusDecisions has mapped out its Campaign framework to showcase the Integrated Campaign model. Fortunately for marketers, Kapost is the purpose-built solution that provides the content management, visibility, empowerment, and insights needed to execute the integrated campaign model and deliver their message to drive revenue.