Information Development World 2014 brought together an unlikely crew of product managers, support directors, technical writers, translation managers and product developers to discuss the role of content in unifying a brand message at the enterprise level. Many conversations took place around breaking down communication silos within an organization to deliver a cohesive buyer experience from beginning to end. While it’s easy to see how content suffers from a lack of consistency in large organizations, we often see similar challenges in smaller B2B companies as well.
1. Lack of Alignment
In large organizations, internal departments often battle for resources and have goals that don’t align with each other. Content is rarely looked at as the hero that will bring everything together and allow employees to help one another – along with their customers.
For example, the support department at a SAAS company tasked with meeting a quota of 10 tickets an hour is not typically inspired to set up a chat with the marketing team to make sure they are on message when answering a question. And the sales department doesn’t typically review the help library to see what questions are asked after people sign up for their service.
In fact, a Membership Manager that I met at the conference, responsible for growing and maintaining members for a national association, does not have any say in monthly newsletter topics because that’s the job of the marketing director. How can pre-sales and post-sale information have consistency when the people in charge of delivering it don’t work together?
This lack of alignment often takes place in small companies too. Earlier this year, we met with the business development manager for one of our IT clients who showed us the presentation he delivers when a prospect signs up for a Free Demo. After lunch, we met with their 3-person customer relations team to go over the marketing pieces they use to boost engagement from customers. The only similarity we saw in the messaging, data and tone was that they used the same logo (thank goodness for that). We suggested the two “departments” give their presentations to one another to see how customers likely have a disconnected experience from the time the sign on as a client until they are approached for a renewal several years later.
2. Not Seeing Content as a Business Asset
One of the attendees in the panel I was on with Robert Rose had a great “a-ha” moment. He said, “The word ‘content’ can unifying us. We’ve been calling it ‘product information’ in my department and they call it ‘marketing collateral’ in the marketing department, but it’s really all the same thing… it’s content that we’re all producing.” Yes!
From the demo you give a prospect, to the hold message you use, to the error message your clients receive when they find a broken link… it’s all content. User guides developed by technical writers are content. The library of information you keep for members or clients is content. The case studies your sales team sends out is content.
All of this content is developed using time and money from your company, and contains valuable information, which makes it an asset. No matter how large or small your business, content assets exist.
3. Forgetting to Focus on People
We can all relate to real-world experiences when your feelings about a brand changed from making a purchase, to opening a package, to trying to understand the instructions or user manual and then deciding if you really want the product at all.
Think about the last time you saw the perfect entertainment center on the floor at Ikea… and then how you felt about Ikea at 2 a.m. trying to match the image on the instruction manual to the 15 leftover screws in your hand. Sarah O'keefe’s presentation on the Challenge of Content Silos is a great personal case study of inconsistencies in messaging from buying a rack for her car online.
As Lee Lefever, author of the Art of Explanation said, “the single business problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
It’s easy to get wrapped up in tracking site visits, calculating leads, mailing manuals and publishing blogs and forget that the reason behind these efforts is to connect with people and build relationships. Content marketing is about informing, educating and enticing action from actual humans. Whether at the enterprise level or the SMB market, people are looking to companies to provide them with a full cycle, great experience.
Learn more about keeping a focus on people in our recent webinar: