Sales and Marketing Software

A Call for Digital Content Standards

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst

Content Automation Demands Better Asset Identification


IT buyer frustration with finding the right marketing content to make informed purchase decisions is of great concern. Irrelevant content is a reality to a degree, but when buyers have to unnecessarily consume it because its title or description is unclear, general, or positioning fluff, it adds length to their decision timelines. For vendors, our voice of the buyer research continues to show that such low relevance is a big barrier to inclusion among a shortlist of finalists. Content creators must clarify the potential relevance of any given asset up front by giving each one some profile information for quick consideration by buyers and/or systems.

Without the ability to pre-judge a piece of content, buyers will be forced to waste more and more time wading through assets that don’t help, which adds over 20% to the time it takes to make decisions.   Want evidence? Only five years ago, buyers found relevant content about fifty percent of the time. New IDG Connect research of enterprise buyers within the US reveals the relevance hovers just over forty percent and it adds about 3.5 weeks to the buying cycle. Add on that buyers want to self-search and are busy and impatient and one thing is clear: vendors, agencies and media organizations must take more responsibility to speed the process of how one confirms the degree of relevance of a piece of content without requiring its consumption to do so. That process of force feeding is simply unfair.

IDG Connect proposes standards around how digital content is cataloged and profile information is shared with buyers and automated systems to speed getting relevant content to those who need it most. A content identification method can be simple and powerful to help increase the value of offered content.

The need is all about unintelligent assets. Beyond a clever title, they carry little that identifies them by audience, buying stage or the recently minted term persona.  Here is how we can do this.

Document-based assets should have a given location that lists its profile attributes. Rich media should do the same through abstract or description information that are attached to audio, video, tools or games. Your identification tag does not have to be like those of every other vendor. In fact, you choose attributes from among many to label the asset. You do this based on how you segment your audience and look for those attributes that will be most helpful. The ultimate number offered will be driven by the product or service, its complexity, the audience and asset scope. Here are some examples where I’ve defined the attribute for example purposes:

Target Audience IT
Industry All
Buying Stage General Education
Buying Role Recommender
Complexity Level Moderate
Content Type White Paper
Content Format Document
Length 6 pages
Source Vendor
Introduction/Refresh Date 10/01/08

These asset attributes will facilitate searching for content based on buyer profile and needs. They will enable assets to carry this profile tag that can ultimately enable them to find like assets, to group together themselves, to help content management systems deliver, not based upon past usage, but upon relevance.

Some content creators will chaff at giving up real estate for such an identification tag. Ugly they’ll call it. There is an increased likelihood that those content creators still place a too-high value on the impact of using pretty pictures. You’re not selling a vacation.  Others will protest, saying our assets cover multiple buying stages. Ah, ha, you can reply, “you’re making my point.”

Want proof of the value of profile tags? We presented enterprise buyers with an asset cover that had a title, source and date (as many do) against one that had a profile tag. Over 75 percent preferred the version that had the profile information, and those very people told us its use increased the likelihood of opening and/or reading it by over 20%. So, give up some prime picture real-estate for the sake of buyers and STOP the cover the waterfront mentality with assets that are long on looks but short-change buyers. Those very buyers who dream of saving time as they gain an informed understanding for better decisions will reward you with revenue.


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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