In recent months, the question the Knotch Consulting team has heard most often is, “How do we scale our content investments?” The question is driven by the growth of budgets seen over the last few years. The Association of National Advertisers’ 2020 landscape study on content efforts reported budgets for content marketing had increased by 73% in the two years leading up to 2020, and were predicted to increase by a further 42% over the course of the following two years. This generosity in budgets was observed despite the continued top frustrations shared in the very same report:
- Proving ROI of content
- Tracking/measuring content across owned and paid channels
In response, Altimeter recently published a helpful report on 2021 State of Digital Content.
“The biggest challenge for today’s businesses is to consistently produce personalized content at a large scale, deliver it at breakneck speed, and credibly have an impact on revenue. The demand for high quality content that’s relevant for specific audiences is constant. It’s no surprise that the task of creating, managing, delivering, and measuring the effectiveness of digital content is becoming one of the most complex challenges a business can face today.”
The businesses that are successful in this endeavor have invested in an innovative set of capabilities that make up an ‘Agile Content System’. These capabilities are:
- The ability to create and deliver personalized content based on sophisticated data use.
- A framework for measuring the effectiveness of content, and setting ambitious goals beyond brand awareness.
- Effective processes for reviewing and approving content for quality and compliance.
- A widely accessible platform for managing and storing content with automated tagging capabilities.
- The right organizational setup that scales content production without compromising on strategy or quality.
It’s worthwhile taking time to honestly evaluate where your business stands against these five capabilities.
But remember, scaling content does not mean creating more content. Instead, it means scaling your business outcomes, whether it is enhancing your brand, improving ROI or building an audience. Melissa Romo, who leads global content for Sage, explains this perfectly, “Do you care about the size of your library or the size of your audience? Many companies make the mistake of focusing on the former. They want to know how many blog articles are published, how many guides are online, how many videos are on YouTube. If there’s a lot of content, there’s a perceived idea that you’re doing the right things and you’re everywhere you need to be. If you focus on the size of your audience, scaling success becomes much more feasible without having to hire and without having to increase a budget. And you will ultimately have the right kind of business impact.”
Here’s Knotch’s take on Altimeter’s five capabilities:
1. Create and Deliver Personalized Content
What we typically see is that about 5% of your content assets are driving 90% of engagement and action. So before you scale, you need to understand your 5% i.e. your top-performing content. In essence, however you may have defined your content strategy, the 5% rule will confirm the parts that actually work, and which content, topics, stages of the customer journey, customer segments or channels drive success.
With the understanding of your 5%, you can take a content enrichment path, and take high performing text-based content, and repurpose it to develop more visual content. In our experience, the more visual the content type, the more engagement and action you will receive from your audience. In fact, articles are on the lower end of the engagement spectrum.
The more strategic content teams will have covered all the important content themes and topics, likely in the same way that your competitors have. For you, the opportunity is to further the boundaries of the topic arena and to find emerging topics that are more niche. This can help you take a leadership position in your niche and you could be rewarded with higher search volume and greater brand distinctness, results that we believe are more important than awareness alone.
What your customers need is relevant content that meets their needs at their unique stage of the journey with you, delivered in a distinct and engaging way. Distinct means that your brand gets credit. Engaging means that the content gets consumed and acted on.
Take advantage of your CMS’s ability to deliver relevant content based on the users’ behavior. Human decision making on what is relevant to a segment or an individual user is minuscule compared to the capabilities of machine learning and natural language processes that can compute the right content sequence in real time. This can significantly increase your engagement and action rates.
2. Measuring the Effectiveness of Content
As one would expect, 84% of content teams at enterprise organizations use metrics or KPIs to measure performance. The most commonly employed KPIs include website traffic and engagement, email, social media analytics, and conversion.
If you judge the effectiveness of your content strategy by measuring ‘views and engagement’ alone, then you need to scale your measurement plan to better connect ‘views and engagement’ to business actions and measures such as purchase rates, order values, retention rate, and lifetime value. What may initially be perceived by some as over spending on measurement efforts (to get the answers you need) will ultimately be justified in the ROI you will gain from these pointed insights.
Now let’s take a look at the top goals that were achieved through content marketing efforts—creating brand awareness, building (brand) credibility, and educating the audience.
One cannot help but wonder how content leaders concluded that these goals were achieved when none of the aforementioned KPIs provide data that is reflective of these goals. This showcases a striking misalignment between goals and KPIs.
In order to successfully measure the impact of your content, every goal needs to be tied to a KPI. Without this association, a goal is reduced to a mere aspiration.
Content leaders must ensure that each goal is converted into an objective that can be measured through a clearly defined KPI. A goal without an associated KPI can severely impede the growth of your business and could lead to poor decision making that is driven by inaccurate results. At Knotch, we prioritize helping our clients create a ‘business outcomes’ framework, which directly connects content to business outcomes. This in turn is indicative of the real ROI of your content.
3. Reviewing and Approving Content
In the early stages of development of content teams, when complexity and quantity are on the lower side, manual processes and goodwill don’t get in the way of finding success. But as teams and outputs grow, it’s important to formalize workflows, and to adopt tools that can handle routines, around comments and approvals, editorial calendars, and distribution. If you’re creating hundreds of content pieces a year, and each piece has multiple rounds of review, this can paralyze an organization’s best intentions. Effective briefs should be in place for all content deliverables in order to effectively address audience needs, business needs, and understand what’s needed from content to meet these needs. Rounds of reviews should be tightly controlled (ideally there should be one major and one minor review of content). More regulated industries will need more rounds to cover the leads of legal and compliance. The journey for ever improving workflow should become a part of the work culture.
4. Managing and Storing Content
In siloed organizations, where content is created across different products, channels, and regions, content is often housed in disparate platforms, and that in turn leads to duplication of effort. For increased productivity, content should be housed in a centralized platform, where it’s widely accessible. Investment in such advanced storage platforms will pay for itself due to the reduction in duplication of effort, which will lead to significant quality improvements. Content should be created once and then adapted for the needs of various audiences, journey stages, or channels. In order to adopt a consistent approach to content tagging, your content taxonomy should be established to allow content to be filtered to maximize results. Tagging can cover a wide range of possibilities from audience focus, journey stage, product, campaign, topic and type, or creation date. The tagging structure should be set up and reviewed as priorities continue to shift, and ideally tagging should be automated to handle large amounts of content.
5. Organizational Setup to Scale Content Production
The dominant trend of organizational set up is the hub and spoke model, where some form of centralization of the content team is implemented to nurture expertise and economies of scale in the hub, and other areas remain in the spoke to be closer to the needs of the customer on the front line. What is right for one company is often not right for another, because the culture of collaboration at your organization will determine the best suited approach for you. The nuances for this model can vary as the hub can take a variety of approaches, from setting down policies and processes, to being responsible for innovation and content development. It recognizes that the role of the hub can change over time, as confidence and competency build up and brands see the benefits of working with a central team. And this flexibility makes it more successful than most other models.
Understand the Total Cost of Your Content
As you move forward to scale your content efforts, at some point you will need to create budgets for your go-forward plan. Before you build a business case for increased budgets to scale your efforts, you need to know your current spending.
Buyers beware that current spending levels are much higher than your approved budget (because there is visible spending as well as the more critical invisible spending). Your visible spending is the labor cost you pay for your in-house content team, as well as out-of-pocket expenses on agency support, freelancers, data, production, and technology.
Your invisible spending is your cost to the business that you may not be charged for. This may cover real estate, IT support, time spent by other parts of the business in brand management, legal, and finance. Some complex content programs in regulated industries have the ability to paralyze an organization because of the volume of content and the number of rounds of review that ensue. This is not a financial issue, but an issue of the appetite of the organization to commit to content efforts. Your business case needs to consider both the visible and invisible costs, with an efficient plan that accounts for both.
If you combine your understanding of your total cost of content and the 5% of content that drives the majority of your engagement and action, it’s possible to scale your outcomes on a lower budget. Does that not sound like the ideal solution!
Want to learn more about scaling your content success? Join us on July 13 for a hands-on workshop where content leaders from different industries share their approaches to content success. You’ll also have the opportunity to get your questions answered directly by these experts! Register now.