Even as content marketing has become an integral part of the marketing strategy for more and more companies, and as they devote more time, energy and budget to robust content creation, many organizations still struggle with the concept of creating compelling content. Producing one-off e-books or whitepapers does not equate to compelling content-driven experiences. Instead, marketing organizations that get content marketing right are those that shift their mindset from a campaign approach to an always-on mentality, meticulously planning and mapping out a content road map that is harmonized with the organization’s existing business goals and sees input from multiple stakeholders from conception to execution to distribution.

This is the foundation of a content supply chain, and it is what will ultimately drive success from content marketing.

More than ever before, content plays a vital role in marketing, especially in B2B. Think about the typical buyer – they are as much as 75% (depending on what study you read) in the buying process before they even engage with the brand. All the while, they have self-nurtured through digital.

It’s not the sales team they are engaging with. Nor are they consuming the traditional types of sales collateral. It’s more often than not, educational, and informative content that addresses a common challenge that they are discovering – and often it’s the first exposure they have to your brand.

Ultimately, the entire marketing team plays a crucial role in developing the messaging. So how do you establish a content supply chain to operationalize storytelling?

For starters, content can no longer live in silos; it must be a function of marketing as a whole. By establishing a content supply chain, organizations can be more tactical when planning and producing content and maximizing the overall effectiveness of that piece of content. Sure, on the surface the purpose of content seems obvious – to create conversational messaging that helps drive awareness. But businesses cannot discard the importance of creating direct, revenue-producing activities; that’s why content must be an all-hands on deck program managed through the same lens of other ROI-focused initiatives. (You can read 3 Tips for Mastering ROI, here.) The modern content marketing ecosystem is a revenue engine that needs to be constantly churning out messages to buyers across all stages of the sales cycle while meeting the needs of unique buyer personas. Content no longer plays a supporting role in marketing. It now enables everything marketing does.

So what does the ideal content supply chain look like? It may differ based on the size of your organization, but the basic architecture should operate similar to the way we’ve worked to establish it here at Dun & Bradstreet.

The Players

As we said above, the content supply chain brings together cross-functional groups of marketers from different disciplines. Since all of marketing is responsible for the external-facing brand in some shape or form, it only makes sense the entire team is aligned around the creation of content, from the brand managers and product team to the customer analytics team and the digital team.

The Inputs

These groups are the main drivers of the content and ultimately set the supply chain in motion. Based on their organizational goals and objectives – whether they are product-based, persona-based or account-based – they identify opportunities to effectively advance relationships with key constituents (customers, prospects, partners, etc.). The marketing organization must come together to seize these opportunities through effective content development and deployment.
The chief inputs to think about include:

  1. Identifying what your accounts’ greatest area of need is
  2. Understanding how this aligns to your go-to-marketing strategy and messaging
  3. Recognizing the digital feedback you get and leveraging that accordingly

The Creative Process

Only when inputs have been prioritized for impact against our key accounts and aligned to the go-to-market strategy does the content team step in. The key to success here is two-fold. First, the inputs should be as format-agnostic as possible. It shouldn’t come to the content team as “I need a whitepaper” or “Let’s do a video.” It should come to the content team as a concept or topic that lets the content experts marry form with function.

And that speaks to the second part of success here: creativity itself. The content team must be freed to think creatively about the best way to tell the story that accomplishes the objective, and they must creatively consider how best to get that story told. What talent should they tap into, and what form should the story take? You want them to have heaping amounts of journalistic instincts on what will be valuable for the audience and how to create that experience.

The Publishing Process

Even the most beautifully crafted pieces of content are effective only if people actually discover and engage with them. That’s why the publishing process is such a critical piece of the supply chain, and the content creators should not own it themselves. (This can be seen as the difference between content marketing and content advertising.)

This effort encompasses two vital steps:

  1. Identifying where the content asset will have the most impact – on the right digital property, in the hands of the right salespeople, at the right event, at the right time
  2. Getting the word out that the asset is there through organic and paid promotion and distribution

Typically the digital team, often working in conjunction with marketing ops and technology, will customize content experiences based on what we know about the targeted audience. This calls for enhanced SEO, SEM and paid campaign management to drive traffic and engagement. Our marketing operations arm of the digital team also plays a role, using the content to drive the nurture campaigns they develop. From a paid perspective, delivering the content – whether it is through native advertising or promoted tweets – is a function of channel enablement and has no real link to the writing of the content. So the next time you hear someone confuse content marketing with native advertising, let him or her know the difference.

Additionally, within our solutions team, the publishing process involves the sales enablement unit, which works closely with sales leaders to drive awareness and use of campaigns, materials, and messages.

Finally, the brand and communications team plays a role here as well, generating earned media and influencer opportunities, and attention for the subject matter experts featured in the content.

Success here depends on consistency – creating a steady drumbeat of content and assets that fill buckets across the buyer’s journey, for multiple personas and accounts, with a consistent point of view.

Analytics

You need to track your content performance throughout the whole funnel to understand where the strengths and weaknesses lie. Whether it’s a click, conversion, or even looking at time spent, these insights then circulate back to the beginning of the supply – the input stage – so you may lather, rinse and repeat on tactics that work.

A team dedicated to understanding metrics and performance must be employed to constantly question if what you are creating is going to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself and your organization. (To start, take a look at this introduction to content intelligence as well as these suggested content metrics.)

Avoiding Breaks in the Chain

You can see how the entire marketing team within Dun & Bradstreet is involved in the supply chain. We have been rapidly optimizing our teams and organizational structure to deliver on this. Its success depends most heavily on the quality of the handoffs between the teams, from input to creation to publishing to analytics. We use a content management platform as the plumbing for the supply chain, automating workflows and collaboration to make us as nimble as possible. But technology is only part of it.

At the end of the day, it’s about collaboration, communication, and creation. The organization must be unified against objectives – ours focus on brand modernization, persona-based go-to-market and pipeline growth – and work together to make sure content is meeting those objectives.

That is the content supply chain and the path to seeing true success from your content marketing initiatives.

The Author

Rishi Dave is the chief marketing officer for Dun & Bradstreet. In this role, he oversees marketing globally, including brand, demand generation, digital, communications, operations, channel, events, sales enablement, corporate social responsibility, analytics, research, and product marketing. Dave joined Dun & Bradstreet in February 2014 from Dell where he was the executive director of digital marketing. In this role, he had global responsibility for implementing marketing, lead generation, media and content strategies for Dell.com, social media, communities and mobile. He also managed the digital support of Dell’s events. Prior to that, he led Dell’s global web analytics and worked on Dell’s CEO-level strategy as part of Dell’s Corporate Strategy group.

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