- August 14, 2017
- Posted by: Robert Rose
- Categories: Content Marketing, Content Strategy
Content Marketing Management, and content-driven experiences are becoming increasingly important in propelling our businesses forward. But, ironically, we find that the strategy for creating these experiences is rarely driven from the top down. Rather, the earliest glimmer of the strategic process usually has roots deep within the business where a manager is achieving “pockets of success” with a series of ad hoc projects.
Eventually, something happens that surfaces that project to full visibility in the organization. In short –that secret little thing off in the corner eventually gets somebody’s attention. Then, the inevitable question comes: “is this the way it should be done?”
Carla Johnson and I introduced the concept of a Content Marketing Management Process in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. Over the next four weeks, using excerpts from our book, we’ll detail out each of the four major steps of our process here.
So, up first, is the CREATE step. This includes three beginning phases which are Inspiring The Revolution, Recruiting your Team, and Planning Your Evolution.
Content Marketing Management: Inspiring The Revolution
Changing long-held beliefs within an enterprise is, obviously, more difficult in some organizations than others. In some engineering-driven B2B companies, for example, simply getting buy-in to try something that isn’t sales-enablement-focused can be a huge task. Yet, fundamentally changing these long-held beliefs is the essential first step. Content practitioners within enterprise organizations must take that early step so that content-driven experiences gain broad acceptance as a viable, successful approach.
In almost every case, content marketing management and the idea of creating delightful experiences for customers starts from a pocket within the business. In a B2B setting, it might be a demand-generation marketer looking to create more value or more leads. Or, it may be a social media person in a consumer packaged goods company looking to feed the social media machine with more valuable, engaging, conversational content that will be shared. Or it may be a brand marketer looking to turn the corner on a troubled brand by using a newly constructed story to deliver a new brand approach.
Whatever the case, the idea for an organizational approach to content marketing management rarely starts from the top down. It usually starts with a hunch of inspiration that a practitioner has about improving the world within the business. And from there the idea must either spread up the ladder into corporate branding, sideways into other business units, downward to customer loyalty or other parts of the organization—or all of the above.
And whether this initial idea is one that is fully realized and then used as a prototype to expand the effort, or whether it starts as a more integrated idea that will be spread, it’s often done so without seeking permission first.
A great example of this is what SAP, the global software corporation, experienced when launching their new customer-experience thought leadership portal The Customer Edge. As Gurdeep Dhillon, the then global vice president of marketing at SAP said:
“It is very often the case that you need to act first and seek forgiveness, rather than try and build a business case that spends its life in analysis paralysis. We decided that we had two of the three pieces in place needed to execute on a content strategy; the team, and a modest budget. So, we set to work addressing the third piece, which for us was a platform upon which we could deliver and measure a customer experience. And once we made that decision, the path to launching the Customer Edge became very clear.”
This initial inspiration is often a disruptive and innovative new approach to content marketing management. It is commonly a highly experimental project that is created to test a hypothesis. Approved or not, an experimental project can be a great way to get started with building an organization-wide approach to developing content-driven experiences.
One of the best ways to determine where to build this experiment, or receive the hunch, is to look at the existing funnel and simply ask, “Where does it hurt the most?”
If the business has an awareness challenge, maybe that’s a place to start.
If the business has no problem drawing leads into the funnel, but fails at nurturing them, maybe that’s the place.
If the business has a challenge in keeping customers loyal, then perhaps that’s the inspiration.
If one particular product group, or office, is ready, willing, and able to experiment, start there.
In whateverv way necessary, this innovative inspiration is built to be a seed that can spur the business’s need to completely revolutionize what it is doing from a content marketing management perspective.
Then it comes time to recruit your co-conspirators.
Content Marketing Management: Recruiting A Team
There is a huge business challenge: Content and the idea of creating it as a portfolio of customer experiences (as a practice) is both everyone’s and no one’s job. In many cases, the initial experiment will ultimately fail because longer-term consistency can’t be maintained. The gap between the creation of the initial platform and the formation of a team to be responsible for it is truly one of the biggest reasons that content marketing fails in most organizations.
For example, let’s say an initial blog experiment is launched. The expectation is that “volunteers” from other parts of the business will maintain it. The call goes out via a broadcast email saying that “bloggers” or “subject matter experts” are needed. These people will be expected to contribute content and, in many cases, do so in the short term. Then, over the longer haul, life just gets in the way. Content production is not part of their official job description, so these subject matter experts fall short. In most cases, in spite of their best intentions, they just can’t justify the time cost of creating content because they have their “day job” to do.
This is one reason that outsourced freelancers are so commonly used by those trying to launch a content marketing or experiential initiative. It’s just easier to pay freelancers than it is to cajole internal producers to create the same content.
This is why it is vital to understand and to map out your entire framework—and then to develop a “long game strategy”—prior to (or at least during) conducting your experiment. In other words, you need to have a plan developed for what happens if this hunch actually works. For example, here is a content marketing management team structure that we’ve helped deploy in other organizations:
Developing an integrated network (or team) that may become a CCM team can be a key to making a longer-term hunch pay off. This might initially be a loose affiliation of siloed departmental leaders, an official “content center of excellence,” (CCoE) or a fully functioning content department. But, what really matters from the outset is to identify the content function so the business will recognize it.
Let’s repeat that: It is buy-in and/or alignment with a team that the FUNCTION of content, as a strategic marketing asset worth managing that is important—not the initial structure of the team itself.
In her seminal report, “Organizing for Content: Models to Incorporate Content Strategy and Content Marketing in the Enterprise,” Rebecca Lieb sums up the importance of organizing the function:
“Organizing for content is both a strategic and tactical undertaking. Businesses that fail to seriously evaluate how and where content fits strategically and operationally within their organizations will suffer in the short term as they strive to continue to create content without cohesion. They will be at a greater disadvantage in the months and years ahead as content demands accelerate in terms of owned content and converged content hybrids in social media and advertising. Orchestrating and fine-tuning content organizationally is the next, most critical step facing marketing.”
The key is to examine the situation and assemble a group that can act formally or informally as the “keepers of content” from a marketing and communications perspective. This may mean a cross-functional group pulled from public relations, brand, customer service, product marketing, digital, etc., or some subset of those that builds upon the experiment. And, very quickly, that loose collaboration must be formally recognized.
FIRST, comes the recognized function by the business leadership;
THEN, the team (by whatever name) forms that will become the organization that tells the story, packages the content, acts as actuary, re-uses the content, and aligns content with other marketing functions. In short, it becomes a value-development group to create the valuable product.
Now That we have our content marketing management team, we can plan our Evolution.
Content Marketing Management: Plan The Evolution
Once a team has been identified and/or assembled, the true benefit of the CCM approach comes in seeing how a unified content-driven experience strategy helps drive awareness, increase conversion rates into loyalty programs, and provide for greater customer engagement throughout the lifecycle. It should also create operational efficiencies in terms of the amount of content produced in any given area by different groups.
It’s not yet time to formalize this group and to plan for the evolution of a content marketing management process, which can be managed and integrated into the existing marketing function. Rather, we are now starting to assemble a business case for this team to be formally recognized by the organization. The team will ultimately need real power, real investment, and real responsibility.
Just for example, some of the benefits (for the business case) of this formalization to review and which can be refined and improved over time, include:
Reduction in numbers of content-related meetings; a focused team process around content should result in fewer meetings related to content and what to produce.
Improved velocity of content and integrated ideas, providing for better SEO, richer customer experiences, and more effective use of content across all channels.
Alignment in measurement across different parts of the buyer’s engagement journey. We should know now what content tends to produce more loyal customers and more engaged visitors.
Saved costs in terms of content creation that can be fed into more and better content and experience creation.
Many activities must be performed as the plan to formalize the CCM team comes together. These activities will naturally begin to merge into the next phase – which is the design of the CCM. But, resist the initial urge to start designing “formal responsibilities” for the CCM team, and rather just start “doing” – allowing for talents, capabilities and desires to emerge. This can be the best way to ensure “buy-in” from a cross-functional team.
However, in order to provide some organization to these activities, you can look at the following implementation teams as models for what will ultimately be required to evolve the process.
A Steering Team – which involves and engages senior management into agreeing and blessing the CCM process as an “official” function. This activity is designed to ultimately get a “business case” approved for this process to exist. It may be a senior manager (or managers) or someone who will need to evangelize this process to the C-Suite.
An Editorial Team – people who will make decisions about which new platforms to launch, who will manage their creation and management, and the budgets and priorities of these platforms. This will be the core team that will ultimately manage the portfolio of experiences.
A Contributor Team – representatives from various areas who manage and execute the programs developed by the CCM Team.
Here’s an example timeline that we developed for an actual client:
As a wonderful example of this, we need look no further than San Francisco and their destination marketing organization San Francisco Travel. This organization must create compelling experiences for a very diverse set of audiences. That includes travelers to San Francisco, news media in other markets, meeting planners at corporations who may plan conferences and events in the city, partners in large corporations within the city and, finally, influential community stakeholders. So, like many companies, they have teams that manage the communications to each of these audiences. As the organization looked to create a much more centralized approach to content-driven experiences, they assembled cross-functional teams to accomplish this.
As Tyler Gosnell, the manager of marketing planning and program development for San Francisco Travel explained:
“…We evolved what we were already doing – holding regular editorial meetings in smaller groups – by creating broader and more defined structures and a process that holds members accountable for content delivery and quality assurance. Initially, it was important for us to position our Content Center of Excellence and our new team as merely an extension of processes we already had in place – making it easier to get buy-in and not overwhelming stakeholders. In these early stages, our team has already begun to move immediate needs to get content out the door and towards strategically identifying our content gaps and new opportunities. We feel much more focused and less harried about what needs to be accomplished.”
Planning The Plan
With our first major step designed, we can move on to our next – which is designing the function of our new strategy. This is truly beginning to build the plan for the function of content in the enterprise. And that’s what we’ll tackle next week.