Altimeter Study: How to Know When You Have a Mature Content Operation

At this point, most marketers know they should be investing in high-quality content. Now, they’re leveling up and trying to figure out how to run a mature content operation.

The question is: What does content maturation actually look like?

According to Altimeter’s new report, “The 2016 State of Digital Content,” there are several key factors that go into creating a well-oiled content machine. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important components.

A unified content strategy

This might seem intuitive, but it’s crucial to have a clear and documented content strategy—especially if you want to get other departments on board with content marketing.

As the Content Marketing Institute found in its annual study, those who document their strategy are more effective in nearly all facets of their content marketing operation. And yet, Altimeter reported that less than half of marketers can confidently point to a unified strategy within their company.

Your content plan should outline your objectives, target audiences, market research, and key resources needed to carry out your operation. With these points clearly documented, each department can understand how content feeds the company’s big-picture goals, and how different employees can contribute.

Support from leadership

In order to get backing from the C-suite, content marketers have to prove how their strategies will impact the bottom line. As Sam Slaughter, Contently’s VP of content, wrote of the clash between creative and business teams: “The larger challenge isn’t just marketing against content marketing, it’s how marketing and content support the front-line teams in general.”

However, only 39 percent of content marketers reported having full support from executive leaders. Unsurprisingly, 35 percent said that their biggest content challenge is winning that support.

If marketers can gain executives’ trust, they will have opportunities to propose budget increases, bring other departments into the mix, make new hires, and take risks on ambitious projects in order to reach their goals.

Integration with multiple departments

When you’re running a mature content operation, the creative process is about more than just one person or even one team. Other departments, such as product and sales, should be able to contribute their own valuable perspectives through blog posts, webinars, etc. This way, customers will see your brand as more open, honest, and transparent.

Perhaps that’s why the top priority for marketers in 2017 is developing a content strategy that unifies departments across an enterprise.

Meanwhile, those who already have a content-enabled enterprise broke down the impact of each department. Internally, data/analytics, executive/C-suite, and content teams top the list of teams that lead content development. Corporate communications, market research, and social teams were the most common teams that participated in strategy development.

Data-driven insights

While almost all companies (99 percent) use data to inform their content strategies, many are still figuring out how to take insights from different sources and deliver a unified customer experience.

It’s no wonder, then, that 67 percent of marketers say data analysis is the most important skill for content strategists to have in 2017—even above content editing and writing skills.

Additionally, only 35 percent of companies claim they can deliver personalized content. As the report states, this is surprising given that the technology needed to serve personalized content exists. It seems marketers either don’t realize they need to distribute personalized content or can’t afford the resources that will help them do it.

Measurable ROI

Here’s a sad stat: Only 39 percent of marketers can link their content to incoming revenue, and 55 percent struggle to prove the content’s impact on their business. Capturing this data is crucial, not just because it can show value to executives, but also because it will help the company as a whole understand the importance of content.

People are still using vanity metrics (or as Altimeter calls them, “marketing-focused metrics”) to gauge the success of their content. For instance, they’re probably racking up spreadsheets of pageviews, likes, shares, and impressions. Those metrics aren’t useless, but they only scratch the surface. In order to truly understand content performance, you need to dig in and calculate metrics like conversions, direct sales, and cost per lead.

This chart illustrates why it’s important to look at how metrics influence each other. For instance, you can’t get executive support without a solid content strategy, and you can’t measure true ROI without integrated data sources.

Perhaps that’s why marketers like to use the analogy of a well-oiled machine. If you’re running a mature content operation, all the parts work together to serve a cohesive unit. It may take some time to reach that point, but eventually, if you put the work in and take the necessary steps, your content operation should start running smoothly and delivering results for your brand.

Image by Costantino Costa / Getty

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