Let’s see how these ideas play out in an actual company, still progressing through their transformation. A large, global financial services firm was struggling to connect better with customers in the increasingly competitive market for investment perspectives with rich and timely content. Investment experts come up with ideas that would eventually get communicated to institutional and retail buyers. But there was no structure for getting it done; content was largely ad hoc and single purposed, and did not necessarily reflect the broader view of the firm. The expert would draft a white paper, and eventually Marketing would become aware of the paper and try to adapt for dissemination to various customer groups, many of whom would find it irrelevant.
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In our discussions with the firm, it became clear that they would benefit from a more holistic approach, linking critical members of the firm’s content supply chain. Instead of reacting to individual whitepapers, Marketing would be much more effective by establishing durable editorial pillars and coordinating tools and resources. By elevating single purposed content to broad, multi-channel campaigns, buyer experiences would be improved and resources could scale. See Figure 3 for content operating model illustration.
Let’s say customers are increasingly interested in saving efficiently for college. A team could work with the investment experts on a series of pieces on 529 plans and how these relate to traditional savings plans, and how to choose among the firm’s various options. The campaign would represent a big upfront investment with thoughtful planning, but the payoff wouldn’t just be more content to work with. It would involve the foundation for ensuring a steady stream of content, with minimal duplication, executing the messaging that Marketing has designed from listening to customers. Marketing in turn would develop its own internal authorities, standards, processes, etc. for repurposing the content according to the needs, preferences and abilities of the different customer segments.
Having done this work, Marketing is now starting to talk to the investment experts on the operating side of the business. Early indications are that these content creators are showing interest and some willingness to step up their writing, with some coordination with Marketing. They’ll never agree to write on demand, of course. But with Marketing moving from a reactive to active mode, and working to give their writings much greater impact in the marketplace, these experts are likely to do more. All the upfront investment in the operating model will pay off with much more effective content marketing.
Marketing is now assembling the resources, internal and outsourced, to carry out these activities for all types of content: long tail campaigns, timely response to market events and changes in governmental regulations, and others. Multi-dimensional editorial calendars, thoughtful briefs and well-placed authority keep the content flowing to customers.
With the model now set, here’s where marketing technology is assessed and redeployed to enable the more holistic view of how content is created across the firm and delivered to buyers. And while the large, complex global firm will remain decentralized in many ways, optimum placement of team members who participate in content creation are being reorganized to sit closer to where their action is, rather than under three layers of shared services. No matter where a team member sits around the world, he or she has the contextual operating model to know how content comes to life, and can work and within the framework of the larger firm.
Most companies in competitive markets are coming around to embracing the digital revolution. Marketing budgets are expanding and new technology is flowing in. But that’s only half the battle, and not the opening salvo. Making those technologies work effectively requires changes in authority over customer interactions that will meet direct and indirect resistance throughout the organization. Marketing executives may control the brand, but only the CEO can lead the full digital transformation.
As with any other transformation, marketing leaders will need skills in change management. The only way to realize the full potential of the digital age, both for customer value and for marketing’s elevation, is to rethink and restructure much of what marketing currently does. What’s needed most is not a bigger technology budget, but the leadership’s will to transform.