Content serves as our brand’s turn in the digital brand-buyer conversation—and each of our turns in that conversation must deliver some value to the buyer. To deliver that value at every interaction, you must have a deep understanding of your customers, what they’re trying to accomplish and where they sit in their buyer’s journey.
You must also have a library of content developed for your various personas across that journey. This way, when you identify them interacting with your brand, you can immediately provide them with the most contextual and useful piece(s) of content.
This post outlines how to audit your existing content and provides tips for filling the gaps in your content library with agile production.
Let’s crack on!
Begin by Auditing What You Have
Many companies already have a lot of content that they’re not using to its full potential. The first step of content development efforts should therefore be to audit your existing content. The most effective way to do this is to determine a set of categories you need content for and then assess which stages of the buyer’s journey you have content for in those categories.
For example, at Harte Hanks, we audited our content by:
- Practice area (e.g. agency services, marketing technology, direct mail, etc.)
- Industry vertical (e.g. retail, consumer, financial services, B2B, etc.)
- What we call the 5 Pillars of Best-in-Class Marketing (market segmentation, personas, buyer’s journey, content, and data and martech ecosystem; these pillars are crucial to understanding our approach to human marketing, so we wanted to make sure we had sufficient content for each pillar)
This audit can be done simply in a spreadsheet, but for those brands with a lot of existing content, it will take time. It helps to have a content management platform (e.g. Kapost) to complete this audit. Our initial content audit started with a spreadsheet approach in which we documented every existing piece of content and “tagged” it by those categories we deemed most important. A portion of the output looked like this:
Now, that’s an eye chart!
But once we had the data, we were able to create some pivot tables to add up the totals for each category and give us an idea where our gaps were (this is where a content platform could save a lot of time and excel manipulation). For example, it was easy to quickly see that, while we had a lot of content across stages for agency services and martech, we were lacking content for our traditional services like contact center, mail and fulfillment.
Note: We were only evaluating the first three stages of the buyer’s journey at this time. Most of our purchase and post-purchase evaluation stage content comes in the form of sales presentations and interactions with both business development and account teams.
Similarly, it was clear that we were missing content in the healthcare segment compared to other industry segments—and we needed to increase problem recognition stage content compared to other stages.
Use agile content development to fill gaps
Once you know where your gaps are, you need to fill them—fast. This is where agile content development comes in. Make use of the smart people throughout your company to develop content for the categories and buyer’s journey stages you’re lacking. Consider all forms of content that make sense for your audience—from blog posts and white papers to infographics, videos and Instagram posts. Some content types may make more sense for different stages of the journey. If you need outside assistance with production, find an agency partner that can work in an agile fashion.
Some of our top rules for producing agile content and creative include the following:
Make sure you have the insight you need to deliver something stellar. Get to know your audience beyond their demographics, and be sure you’re solving your audience’s problem the first time around. Don’t forget to focus on the jobs they are trying to complete.
In the agile world, there are no more teams. Everyone—and that means everyone—has to work together. Clients and/or internal SMEs need to be involved from the very start. It helps them buy into the concept and ensures a smoother review process and sign off. And it’s not just the content team or the creative team that can come up with ideas, so make sure that everyone—regardless of their role—has input.
Break large or ambitious projects into mini sprints so they can be developed more quickly. In fact, this blog post was originally part of a larger project that we broke off into a more digestible chunk. You also want to have clearly defined workflows for content development, approvals and publication. A content management platform like Kapost can help in this area. With clear workflows and a platform to manage them, it’s less likely for content to get hung up mid-process or lost in someone’s inbox.
Be ready to create content—in any form—at a moment’s notice. Not everything you make has to be ready for prime-time TV. For example, I just got an email from the CMO a few minutes ago asking me to create a response to a recently-released industry report. I’ve already connected our subject matter expert (SME) with one of my go-to writers, and they’re having a call this afternoon to hammer out our point of view for publication. And once your content is published, you also need to react to your visitors’ engagement with it. If they’re loving it, share it more widely and create more like it. If it’s falling flat, consider how to revise and republish.
Track forward progress
As you create content, don’t forget that it should provide value by helping readers/viewers to solve for the jobs they’re trying to complete at each stage of the buyer’s journey. You also can’t forget to tag this new content according to your categories and note it in your progress. We have implemented Kapost to help us keep track of our ongoing content production, and we now have a real-time view of where we stand. Now, as we create each new piece of content, we simply fill out custom fields that align with each of the categories we are tagging:
In the chart below, which is updated in real time, you can see that since our initial audit, we have worked to create content to support the early buyer’s journey stages of our traditional services offerings. We have also begun to measure our marketing content that supports the purchase stage.
Bringing it all together into a more human approach
You understand who your customers are, including their roles and situations, and where they sit in the buyer’s journey. You have the content to support the various journeys your customers may take. You are now poised to provide value and return on attention to your customers as they interact with your brand. This is an iterative process: listening to your visitors’ digital breadcrumbs, creating content tailored to the needs and jobs of these visitors, and providing that content in the moments they need it.
It’s a rewarding process as, step-by-step, you learn about your customers and engage them in meaningful conversations. Let us share with you what we’ve learned about this process.
Put us on your content team. Get in touch.
About the Author
Nicole Bump, Director of Content Marketing is responsible for developing the Harte Hanks content strategy, bringing this strategy to life through the editorial board, generating much of the company's content and managing the Harte Hanks social presence. A writer at heart, Nicole also enjoys evaluating ways in which new technologies can enable better content production, distribution and measurement.More Content by Nicole Bump