This summer, I started playing tennis again after a 12-year hiatus. After many hours on the courts and a few refresher lessons, my game is coming back. (Finally!) Perhaps the biggest challenge has been to regain consistency. It’s one thing to keep the ball in play and zing a winner during a point. It’s a whole other thing to do it over and over again for two or three sets….
In the same way, doing content well once—such as for a campaign, a redesign, or a new media product—is one accomplishment. It’s quite another feat to do content well all of the time across a large organization or enterprise. To accomplish that, you need to scale.
At first, the idea of content scaling might bring a “content factory” to mind. Churn out more quality content across the organization regularly and cost effectively. But, I find expanding content creation isn’t necessarily part of scaling. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.
As we’ve worked with different organizations on maturing and operationalizing their content efforts, I’ve found three common elements are vital, regardless of whether you’re expanding content creation. If you’re planning to scale a content approach, consider these 3 Es.
Engineering content is all about making content and technology work well together. You need content and technology to play nicely for two big reasons:
- To make the right content (whether it’s newly created or repurposed / reused) go to the right place (touchpoint, device, print, etc.) at the right time (right phase in the customer relationship, right time of day, right season, right expression of customer intent, etc.).
- To make your workflow (process of creating / curating, reviewing, and publishing) behind the scenes as efficient as possible through automation.
For a large organization that is marketing, selling, and supporting customers through content, this effort usually means thinking beyond a single system. In the CCO article Are You Ready for Content Engineering?, Philip Wisniewski of the content engineering firm Kanban asserts that “a content management system alone usually cannot handle a complex content strategy.”
Neither can a marketing automation system alone or a customer relationship management system alone. In Clout, I noted the importance of interoperability, where different systems that need similar content can “talk” to each other. Content engineering is a discipline that takes the concept of interoperability many steps further. For a quick case study from Nikon, check out that same CCO article.
The second E in scaling, evaluation, is an emerging essential as executives view content as capital and become more accountable for results from content. Do you know whether your content works and why? It’s an obvious question. And, as every aspect of business, from marketing to sales to support, goes digital, answering that question shouldn’t be optional. But, the answers are hard to obtain because content evaluation is fraught with problems, as I explained in this recent post. Some organizations even find getting answers so difficult and resource-intensive they give up.
If a company can’t answer that question on an ongoing basis, what are the risks? A few include
- Wasting time and money on ineffective content efforts because the decision to do them was based on little data or feedback.
- Difficulty getting buy-in and budget because content isn’t connected to results—or it’s connected to the wrong results.
- Losing competitive advantage or missing opportunities because content decisions are slow or misguided.
To help avoid those kinds of risks and more, we’re demystifying content evaluation with our SaaS solution, ContentWRX. The solution excites me for many reasons, but here are two of the biggest. First, I want to take the drudgery out of collecting content data and feedback so people can focus on interpreting and acting on that feedback. Second, I’m enthusiastic about continuing our research into the impact of content and sharing key insights and trends with you.
You might decide to take a different approach to evaluating content, and that’s great. My point is to make evaluation part of your plan to scale.
So, engineering and evaluation will take you far with scaling, but there’s still another element to consider.
It isn’t possible to have one person or even one office review all content that goes out the door of an enterprise. Complete centralized control is not practical. Instead, similar marketing, sales, and customer service or support teams need to use similar approaches (with adaptations such as for global markets, if needed). Engineering helps in ways such as making your workflow consistent across similar teams. Evaluation helps by enabling your content teams to understand whether their content is effective and why.
But, you also need the people on those teams to
- Think and communicate in similar terms about content for your organization.
- Make effective decisions (both independently and as a team) using evaluation data and best practices.
- Reach out and collaborate when a content issue or project (such as launching a new product) affects more than one team.
In other words, you need to empower people across the enterprise. That’s what our recent training program with Dell was all about. Ongoing training and professional development, whether you develop it internally or seek outside help, enables your teams to make solid content decisions faster.
So, as you move from having an occasional content success toward scaling your content approach, plan for the 3 Es. Progress will take time, but it will happen. Your successful content efforts will become less the exception and more the rule.