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Marketing Automation: Time to Look at Content Creator MBOs

By Bob Johnson

For many organizations the investment in marketing automation shows mixed results. Too often we see them make a purchase, implement it and expect the effort will immediately enable more relevant content and conversation. Wrong! It is not that the technology is suspect; it is more robust than ever before, but you must also rework how content is created, structured and organized. Otherwise, forget significant improvement in how the content you fuel these systems with helps buyers and sales engage, nurture and enable.

Fact. Even with these automation solutions we still largely fail to target individuals with content relevant to their buying role and focus. The process is still quite generic and we use a costly “when in doubt, sick sales on ‘em” mentality. So take a look at how you create content. Chances are it has not changed significantly since the dawn of Internet time.

But forget about changing the process if you don’t change the goals. The processes were fine in a mass media or direct mail oriented, technology driven, one-size-can-fit-many world. But that leaves us in a place where content creation is guided by historical tendencies or familiarity. It is time to peel away those tendencies and review how content leadership sets goals and requirements around content creation.

IDG Connect research shows that offering irrelevant content can decrease shortlist likelihood by over 30%, but offering relevant content can increase it by over 25%. If you have an idea of the percentage of shortlisted proposals you close you can make a direct estimate to correlate relevance to revenue. But today, content creation is often driven by brand awareness, launch or campaign requirements.  While those triggers will continue to exist, that immediacy requirement must be balanced against longer-term content portfolio viability. Here are six new content MBO areas to consider.

Closing Portfolio Gaps: Compare the mix of your portfolio versus buyer preferences for formats and types. Require individuals to create content that closes those gaps rather than see them provide more content similar to past assets. But if you guess at what buyers want and don’t assess what you have, don’t waste your time doing it with what amounts to a guestimate/estimate exercise.

Alignment with Target Audience Needs: Focus on and understanding the value proposition and topical coverage buyers crave. Match that against how well you currently address them. If you can’t tell the degree to which individual assets and a segment of your portfolio provides value and topical emphasis you can never expect to be able to path buyers on that basis. And stop shoving every single value proposition into every asset as it waters down the assets and frustrates the buyer. Instead, incent your team to stress the key value propositions you are light on or those that provide maximum buyer motivation.

Degree of Linkage:  Eliminate creators who build new content in a vacuum. Force them to first consider asset needs against the portfolio. Require that they identify the preamble asset and the subsequent one to offer. Otherwise, later efforts to provide relevant linkage are a luck-based scenario. We want to take luck out of the content consumption equation. Reward individuals for connecting the content dots that can enable the buyer journey.

Latter Stage Coverage: IDG Connect's review of thousands of content assets over the past five years shows that over 90% target the first two buying stages, which some label Awareness and Consideration.  Spending all that money on early-stage asset is in favor, as creators see them on banners, in outbound offers and most likely thump their chests in satisfaction. But buyers are moving themselves deeper into the sales process than ever before and in later stages the purchase champion must influence a broader and broader internal audience. You’re not going to enable that with an advertisement, or industry trends piece. They need assets that help them evaluate, consider implementation issues, see things from a process impact standpoint, assess what goes into creating a shortlist of finalists, or, ultimately make a final decision. Place higher value on asset created for later stage consumption that can be used to facilitate internal selling and by sales to add value to conversations.

Pass-along Value: If your asset is simply paragraph after paragraph of wandering information with sprinkled insight no one is inclined to share it if other might see such action as a waste of time. Increase pass-along potential and require it of your creators to think of it even before they begin the creation process. Teach them to include lists, priorities, peer-based data, steps or framework elements in assets and watch as those assets become more viral.

Modularity for Reuse: Your focus should no longer be on the whole asset. Sure that is a conceptual starting place, but quickly hone in on the pieces that make up an asset. Greater leverage comes from being able to chapterize, segment and reuse asset components such as call-outs, tables and graphics. How are you ever going to achieve the ultimate goal of real-time rendering of web-pages based upon persona and actions if you don’t? So set design standards to require a minimum number of modular elements in any asset.

It is time that content creation catch up with the frenetic reality buyers face. Look at the requirements, goals and incentives you use for content creation. Change it to reflect today rather than support what was commonplace yesterday. Change can be challenging, but content improvement efforts will fail if you simply asking creators for higher-impact assets without adjusting their MBOs. It is too expensive to see your organization continue the ways of the past.

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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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