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Chapter 1

The Transformation of B2B Marketing and the Role of Content

Content is at the core of everything the marketing organization does. It’s always been that way.

Since the earliest days of advertising and marketing, businesses have used information assets—i.e. content—to communicate value between buyers and sellers.  But there were fewer communication channels before the Internet, which meant less content was produced and at a much slower pace.

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“Content is marketing’s most vital resource.”

—Accenture Digital, in “Content: The H2O of Marketing”

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B2B marketing was much simpler ten years ago—just a few teams using fewer tools to support a relatively small number of channels.

With the rise of digital over the past decade, marketing has become more complex. The B2B marketing landscape has shifted from what was formerly a single-channel, sales-focused approach to what is now multi-channel, content-driven marketing.

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With the rise of digital and the shift to content-driven marketing, marketing organizations have become more complex.

In the digital world, businesses are expected to interact with buyers in “real time” via a growing number of communication channels—and use relevant, engaging content. The result of this heightened demand for content?Marketing teams have expanded and adopted new technologies, new roles have emerged, and content production has exploded. With teams using varying tools to publish different content to multiple channels, even just managing the content takes more time and energy than the actual marketing work itself!

Early adopters of the digital era embraced “content marketing” as a top-of-funnel marketing activity with the primary purpose of attracting, engaging, and converting specified audiences into leads. As more businesses adopted content marketing and buyers became savvier, the competition for audience attention online intensified. As a result, even more tools, tactics, and content needs emerged across the entire marketing organization.

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Content is ubiquitous, flowing through every marketing function.

Today, content appears in nearly every interaction a business has with its employees, prospects, customers, or partners. Just as a content marketer uses digital information assets like blog posts, eBooks, or webinars to attract and engage an audience, a product marketer uses content to explain value to interested prospects and generate sales. Sales teams rely on content such as decks, product sheets, and case studies, while human resources teams use content for recruiting and hiring.

And who aligns, creates, distributes, and analyzes all that content? The marketing organization, which can quickly become overloaded.

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In order to cope, different teams retreat into their own silos to lessen the operational burden of managing their content.

Lacking a strategic plan for content development, individual marketers become overwhelmed by the complexity of digital and the logistics of producing content across all of marketing’s channels. The result is they retreat into more manageable program silos. For example, corporate communications forms a silo around branding and reputation. Demand generation teams silo around programs to drive and nurture leads; product marketing silos around product release and sales enablement. Without integrated planning across these program families, each operates on its own, creating fragmentation, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.

And as the volume of content grows, so does the complexity of managing it:

“An excessive amount of any resource, despite its necessity, has the potential to become too powerful to control. The same goes for digital contentmany companies haven’t yet developed effective strategies, or invested in the right resources to harness the true power of content. 

With assets flooding the ecosystem, more attention than ever is being paid to the operational burden associated with managing content. More than 50 percent of our respondents say they have more digital content than they can effectively manage, with 53 percent saying they spend more time on operational details of managing content.”
—Accenture Digital, in “Content: The H2O of Marketing”

Content chaos ensues.

Understanding Content Chaos

Content chaos is what happens when the marketing organization doesn’t have a process for content management. The ensuing chaos means individual teams can’t efficiently or effectively execute a single marketing strategy or provide accurate performance metrics and data to marketing leadership.

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Content chaos: leadership strategy can’t make its way through of the organizational complexity to the customer. Likewise, the voice of the customer can’t make its way back to leadership.

When cross-team communication isn’t efficient or effective, siloed departments create content that tells a disjointed story. This causes confusion for the buyer as they interact and engage across channels. Leadership strategy can’t make its way through all the organizational complexity to the customer—leaders simply can’t coordinate every last silo. Thus, it’s nearly impossible for leadership to effectively execute a strategy. Furthermore, given the chaos and silos, data is collected in a disorganized way. Without an integrated view of marketing’s performance across teams, tools, and tactics, it becomes very difficult for leadership to use data to inform future iterations of strategy.

With more resources than ever before, the marketing team is under a lot of pressure to deliver. Conventional wisdom suggests adding more and more tactics to fix a failed strategy: “We aren’t hitting our traffic numbers—we should launch a Pinterest channel with a dedicated team and tool.” Or, “Our traffic numbers are falling—we need to launch a new account-based marketing strategy.”

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As marketers face the challenges of digital, the conventional wisdom is to add yet another digital tactic.

But piling on more tactics only adds to the confusion, further enabling an ad hoc, chaotic content culture. In fact, according to Aberdeen, a critical differentiation of best-in-class marketers is their mastery of the content creation process:

There are four critical areas where the Best-in-Class demonstrate superiority over All Others as it relates to their content marketing approach and all four are found along the continuum. The first is mastering the creation process. While 47% of All Others report they approach content creation in an ad hoc fashion, only 7% of the Best-in-Class do. The Best-in-Class are clearly not creating content on a whim.”
—Aberdeen Group, in “The Future of Content Marketing”

So why are many marketing organizations still struggling to master the content creation process? The answer lies in the complexity of operational details—and the problem is only getting worse. According to Accenture Digital’s report, only one in five marketers feel that their organization manages content well. Meanwhile, 80% of marketers predict that in two years they’ll be spending more time on operational details than strategy.

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“Most are not quite clear on a path to automating the operations so they can shift focus back to core marketing and branding activities. Eighty percent predict that two years from now they will spend more time on operational details than they do today, rather than aligning their daily tactics to a bigger picture.”
—Accenture Digital, in “Content: The H20 of Marketing”

In order to use new tactics, tools, and channels to efficiently execute a marketing strategy, a system to manage the content lifecycle and coordinate across teams is essential. Without it, there is no foundation for success.

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No system can take on more and more change and complexity and still expect to operate effectively—marketing can no longer pile on tactics and hope to succeed.

Marketing organizations can no longer ignore the operational foundation required to manage the complexity of using content in the digital era. They must develop and document a process for managing and coordinating content across tools, channels, and teams in order to succeed. Research shows that consistency across content is the key to an effective customer experience—and that inefficient internal processes is the number one barrier to delivering consistency.

Clearly there’s a content problem, but why should we solve it?

The Value of Solving Content Chaos

According to SiriusDecisions, 50% of marketing budgets are spent on content, whether on agency spend or the indirect expense of marketers’ time. That’s nearly $50 million a year, according to a survey done by Accenture Digital.

SiriusDecisions also found that 65% of the content that marketing teams produce is wasted—primarily due to operational issues. One third can’t be found; it’s on someone’s hard drive or lost on a shared drive. One third is strategically off target due to confusion the marketing strategy.

“The reality that B2B marketers live in every day is that content creation is spread across experts that live across the organization, each in a silo. On top of that, the expertise required for content creation lives with some of our most expensive resources (product marketers, product managers). It costs us a lot of money to create and although many organizations think about it as being disposable, it shouldn’t be.”

—Erin Provey, Service Director, SiriusDecisions

Organizations can stop wasting content by putting operational processes in place to manage it. By using a new model for managing the marketing organization—one that reigns in ad hoc tactics and facilitates integrated marketing practices—B2B businesses can potentially save millions of dollars each year.

But even more powerful than the cost savings is the growth impact.

A 2015 study by the Aberdeen Group, called “The Future of Content Marketing,” looked at best-in-class marketing departments that followed best practices when managing their content operations. They found that these best-in-class marketing departments enjoyed five times more revenue contribution from marketing than their peers. So, what do these marketers do differently? According to Aberdeen:

“The Best-in-Class focus on the customer by implementing systems and processes that continuously inform and help them refine their efforts. In fact, they are three times more likely to be able to track a piece of content to revenue than All Others. This allows them to know exactly which content drives conversions.

They prioritize building an environment where every piece of content can be evaluated not on the creative, but on its revenue contribution to the organization. The results? Time and money saved with an increased impact on the business, thanks to a more targeted, measured approach while All Others squander resources by creating content at volume with little to no visibility into the results.”
—Aberdeen Group, in “The Future of Content Marketing”

Best-in-class marketers use an an ecosystem of standardized processes as the foundation of the entire marketing organization’s efforts. This method of managing content, people, and technology automates the clerical, time-consuming tasks required to execute strategy in the digital era. Marketers can better focus on strategy and innovation knowing that the foundation for managing the content process has been optimized to continually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization’s efforts.

So, how does an organization begin to lay the foundation for content management?

A content operation can only be effective once teams have fully committed to removing their silos and replacing ad hoc approaches with a new, integrated way of marketing.

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The New Way: Integrated Marketing