Sales and Marketing Software

Breaking Through Content Silos

Breaking Through Content Silos

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst

How many times do you hear someone in sales or marketing within your organization say about a piece of content: “I didn’t know we had that”? This is because today content is often created in silos, which means sometimes it stays hidden from view.

Silos have a practical and historical basis because traditionally content came out of product management or development and was created with a technical or specific features/functions in mind.  While these content creators do try to innovate they are often uninformed about value drivers and the buyer preferences that make people purchase. This means the content they create often has formats, types and a value emphasis out of line with buyer needs.

Gauge this for yourself. Ask a few people who are involved in creating assets from different parts of your organization:

  1. What would you say the most favored formats are among buyers for the content we create?
  2. What value propositions are most important to the primary focus of different buying team members such as technical, financial and business impact?
  3. What content types are most desired by buyers?

It is likely that the answers to even these basic questions will vary and be off target relative to buyer research. But you know that failure to align by format, type and value wastes time and money. Change is necessary but where do you start? Be realistic. You’re not going to break down the silos immediately but you can break through them to ensure they better align with buyer needs. So see how complex the issue of silo management is for you to harness with a few questions:

  • Who is ultimately responsible for the creation of content in terms of the overall mix?
  • How many different parts of the organization create content assets?
  • How many different parts of the organization create social media assets?

Summing up the combination of factors will give you an indication of how fragmented the efforts are and the scope of your task to improve content alignment and expand its use.

Content creators are most often proud, protective and sometimes inadvertently defensive about the content they create. It’s one of the reasons why content retirement is looked upon with widespread distaste despite the fact that assets lose their efficacy after 14 months according to IDG Connect Voice of the Buyer research. Many creators also still view asset value by size; the bigger, the more impressive it is.

So with these product management tendencies and individual self-interests, we still see twenty page technical documents with ‘Level Three’ complexity (very technical) which speak to only a small portion of a target audience and offer little leverage.  But rather than fight human nature as you question the silos and suggest centralized creation, break through them to offer prescriptive content creation guidance. Here are the steps to begin the process:

1. Understand how content created by product management or development takes place

2. Identify the shortcomings in how created assets address buyer preferences and messages (think relevance and alignment)

Then, communicate with content creators and provide them a reference framework that provides insight to both improve their focus on elements that are supportive of go-to-market results and effectively make their creation tasks easier:

  1. What content types do buyers prefer?
  2. What topics are most important to buyers?
  3. What value propositions resonate best overall and by decision role and buyer focus?
  4. Where is existing content relative to alignment and what gaps need to be closed?
  5. What is the right value mix and emphasis for each audience?
  6. What is the optimal length for specific content types?
  7. What is the current alignment of offered content with buyer preferences?

Put this into a simple post up chart or graphical table that people refer to which you update each quarter. Monitor the improvement in overall portfolio and asset alignment over time in the types created, formats used and messages sent. Acknowledge those that hit the key notes and fill in gaps. Discuss with managers how to build in incentives/rewards to improve the alignment over time. But make sure once you start you stay visible over time to reinforce that this need will not go away.

Content, especially technical in nature, will still, for practical purposes often be created in silos. But your responsibility is that it not be created in a vacuum. Be prescriptive in offering suggestions and guidance, offer focused insight on the buyer’s journey, show creators the impact what they create can have. If you do all this it will bring greater relevance, alignment and content use, so content created in a silo is less likely to stay there and has greater leverage to use for different purposes. Longer term it will become more effectively integrated with your demand generation efforts especially in the area of lead nurturing.


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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