Scaling an Enterprise Content Operation
Siemens, where I serve as head of demand generation, is a 170-year-old company. And it looks a little different than it did at its inception. What began as a ten-man business has grown into a global enterprise that serves an ever-lengthening list of businesses: power, transportation, retail, healthcare, education, water, industrial manufacturing—we run the gamut.
With so many customers and products, scaling our ability to deliver relatable and personalized customer experiences takes quite a bit of manpower and collaboration. But the realities of today’s market demand it.
Over the past few years, we’ve tackled this challenge head-on—with some pretty exciting results. Here’s how we scaled an enterprise content operation:
Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
The digital revolution caused a radical shift in the way all of us do business. One of the biggest new threats to a large, established brand like Siemens? New, smaller companies coming at us from all angles to disrupt our industry.
Sales feels the pain acutely. While they’ve traditionally sold to an existing customer base and know exactly who to call on to build expansion opportunities, they’re now heading into meetings with new customers who are much better educated than they used to be. This new generation (often literally, as older generations retire) of prospects is self-served in content and have done their research long before they knock on our door.
As demand generation, we knew we needed to start addressing these disruptors by taking the conversations once reserved for sales and digitizing them with content online to create better experiences for new and existing customers alike.
But as we soon learned, knowing you have a problem is one thing—solving it is quite another. As we tried to get demand gen programs out the door, we kept running into the same problem, which I like to refer to as “water water everywhere and not a drop to drink:” Content seemed to be everywhere—and nowhere.
We had a ton of great existing content, but the content that existed was designed for a different purpose, it wasn’t quite right for a given program we wanted to run. We’d spend hours searching for content, only to realize it wasn’t what we needed.
It quickly became clear that one of our big barriers was visibility. Content was in so many different repositories that no one could see what we already had, leading to incalculable time wasted rebuilding things that already existed.
And without a shared process, it was easy to slip into checklist marketing—“I need a presentation, I need a webpage, I need a brochure”—instead of strategic creation. Everything was put into SharePoint, and creators check things in and out like an assembly line.
The inevitable result? Customer experiences that weren’t tailored to what people wanted or needed.
Salesforce reports that 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience.
If we can’t deliver one, our reputation suffers. But to do so, we must home in on a specific experience rather than create content meant for everyone.
As committed as we were to building consistent, personalized demand gen programs, we were trying to do so with tools that weren’t designed for the job. (Think a lot of Excel spreadsheets and a lot of SharePoints.) We were perpetually stuck in status meetings, phone calls, and long email chains as people went in circles asking, “Hey, do you know you’re supposed to do this?”
And as a result, we fell behind as the disruptors charged ahead.
As tempting as it was, we knew we couldn’t solve everything at once. We had to pick a specific problem—one we had the authority to address—and solve that before we could scale.
The Time for an Enterprise Content Operations
What should we tackle first? We went straight to our businesses to find out. We could see that content was a big challenge for them, so we began exploring a central question: If we have so much content, why is none of it usable?
We discovered that, though it was great content when it came to supporting sales or having a discussion at a trade show, it didn’t serve our new need: replicating sales conversations digitally and engaging people who might not even know who we were.
The way we’d always operated simply didn’t work for this new kind of content. So we asked new questions: How can we see up-front what we need to create to serve the needs of the business? How can we see what we already have on hand?
What we realized was that we needed someone whose job it was to look at the entire content creation process, as well as do gap analyses to understand what we had vs. what we need to build. We needed someone who could answer the question, “What do I need to build right now in order for my business to reach its goals?”
We needed an enterprise content operation.
We started with our program manager, who was trying to work with the BUs to map out the buyer’s journey, doing persona research and identifying buyer needs, collaborating with SMEs to build content that wasn’t there. At the time, his job was often spent putting things into SharePoint and chasing people around to keep projects on track.
And it wasn’t getting any easier. Things are coming at all of us at 100 miles per hour, and it kept. Getting. Worse.
Because now on top of everything we were already doing, we needed to make sure we tailored everything for our customer experience. But this new focus on customer-centricity meant we were bringing a new level of complexity into the way we generated content.
These realizations made it clear which problem we needed to solve first: Demand generation.
When we turned our focus to demand generation, it was taking us two full years to get a program out the door—by which time the market had already changed. We knew we needed to shorten our delivery time and simplify our process.
We couldn’t keep operating the same way and expecting different results, so we went to the leadership team and told them we needed to implement content operations if we were going to be able to provide sales with the support they needed.
The Pilot Program
The first step was finding the right tech to support our vision for an enterprise content operation. Building strategic content at scale isn’t easy, so we landed on a platform designed to do just that—Kapost.
But we knew technology itself doesn’t solve problems: people do. We couldn’t just give teams a new software and expect them to run with it. So we worked diligently to make sure it was something so simple and valuable that people would beg us to use it.
So we approached every business and made sure we understood their key pain points. If we could solve one at a time, we could earn their trust.
We had three key mandates for our work:
- Keep CX at the core. Everything we create should address customers’ and prospects’ key challenges.
- Address sales’ needs. Content must be available digitally for customers.
- Decrease delivery time. We challenged ourselves to cut our time to market from two years to just 45 days.
We got to work in Kapost, making sure we had workflows built up for each content type. All of our stakeholder groups—program managers, project managers, content operations people, content creators, SMEs, reviewers, marketing automation—were all onboarded so they could see what was happening.
Content ops built the workflows and set up clear tasks and responsibilities. There would be no Excel files, no Ishare loading documents, no back and forth emails—the platform was our centralized collaboration point that allowed us to track projects and always know who was going to do what.
Changing Siemens was like a freight liner trying to turn a ship. But we stayed focused on our narrow yet ambitious goal. And the results have been pretty incredible:
Better Alignment. Stakeholders and businesses can see what each other are doing. They can see what programs are being designed and delivered, and what the handoff process looks like.
Faster Delivery. We hit our goal: We got our first program out in just 45 days—a 6x improvement.
More Programs. That year, we ran 250 programs. We’d never been close to that number before.
Improved Content Effectiveness. Our newfound alignment made for better conversion rates, faster execution, and more leads businesses could pass to sales. If one business makes something in, say, automotive, another business looking to market to that segment can reuse and repurpose it rather than starting from scratch.
Quality CX. It’s easier for businesses to align across one voice of Siemens—not a separate one from every business. Our customers get a consistent message no matter who they engage with.
Happier Employees. This one shouldn’t be overlooked. We’ve gotten real-world feedback from employees who tell us how much easier it is now to do their jobs. Creators and salespeople alike have the visibility to find what they need and see how different teams’ efforts work together to drive outcomes. And the efficiency allows them to pivot faster when they need to.
The Key: One Thing at a Time
There were a lot of problems out there to solve, but we knew we didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle all of them. We knew from the outset that we needed to start with one and learn to scale.
Once we got demand gen solved, we started to apply what we learned to the next challenges we were facing.
Our businesses can take the frameworks we built into Kapost so our businesses and replicate them. They have a starting point—a better idea of what has worked in the past that will inform their own approach.
Now, we’ve scaled into more complicated programs, like product launches and trade shows. And of course, none of these things happens in a black hole. For example, since a lot of demand gen is associated with trade shows, teams are now able to have their trade show plan and the demand gen program associated with it in one place.
Three Questions to Determine Alignment
We ask ourselves three key questions to make sure we’re strategically aligned:
- Are we executing our strategy? Now we have visibility into whether the strategy is being executed because we can see what different businesses are working on.
- Are we showing process efficiencies? We’re able to track how quickly our processes are moving and identify the hiccups we need to fix.
- Does our message convert? We can measure assets that are aligned around a common message and see how well they’re converting, then discover whether there are any breaks in our connected spaces.
The Future of Enterprise Content Operations
Better CX is a win for everyone. Sales is supported, marketing can get to market faster, and most importantly, the customers are able to find the information that they need. But we aren’t done yet.
1. Centralize Our Tech Ecosystem.
With so many emerging tools—many solving different problems and some overlapping—it’s becoming critical to have a single central platform that connects them to everything else. As such, we’ve used Kapost as our central hub, connecting it to project management, marketing automation, social media, CRM, and more.
2. Freedom Under a Strong Brand.
We want to give the individual businesses within Siemens an entrepreneurial spirit under a strong Siemens brand so that they can sharpen their focus on their respective markets. They need to operate with speed at scale to pivot to the needs of the customer experience as they face disruptors. They need to self-serve, then pivot and share their work with other businesses. Having a digital platform where they can collaborate without getting on phone calls and find things without searching multiple content environments is an essential prerequisite.
3. Customers First.
Making our work all about the customer and ensuring we can speak to their needs in one voice across every part of the customer journey will only get more important. As we continue to scale, we’ll bring more teams into alignment, working more closely and working from a common playbook.
Transforming a huge company like Siemens into a fast-paced, united front doesn’t happen overnight. We still have work to do, but by focusing on one success at a time and bringing teams together around smarter processes in a centralized platform, we’ve positioned ourselves to continue winning for another 170 years.