The Goldilocks Conundrum: How Process Can Kill Content Marketing

Content Marketing Process
Content Marketing Process

What you’ll learn:

  • What is the problem of process balance in content development?
  • What are three scenarios where process is actually detrimental to content efficacy?
  • A solution to the conumdrum

Forgive me for waxing on about “experience,” but I’ve had a lot of it in content marketing.  Especially when it comes to trying to figure out the best balance between agility and thoroughness in developing content assets.

The lesson to be had from all that experience is that process is critically important to the development and publication of superior (or even just “good enough”) B2B content.  The challenge, though, is this: Deciding how much process, and what kind of process, is just right for your particular porridge?

The correct process is one of the many components of successful B2B content marketing that make up a successful program.

How, though, can the wrong degree or type of process put a damper on your content marketing efforts?  Let’s examine three scenarios where the presence (or lack of it) of a content marketing development process can have adverse effects.

Scenario #1: Process? What process?

Most marketing teams will say there’s a process of some kind involved in content development and publication. In a lot of cases, however, that process is so seat-of-the-pants that in practical terms it constitutes no process whatsoever.

I once had a client say their content development system was a “pretty organic process.”  The reality of it was that there was no strategic or planning component, no alignment with objectives, and no quality control.  “Content publishing” consisted of somebody having an idea for a blog post or white paper, often based on what an individual SDR or lead needed for their particular prospecting need.

The asset – and I use the term reservedly – would be rushed into writing and publication without any consideration of content, SEO, or whether it actually delivered value over the short or long term.  The result was a post or paper that ignored best practices and read like a brochure, not an informative content asset.

Without a process that involves strategy, oversight, analytics, and a set of rules and best practices that drive quality content? You may do your business more harm than good, as your blog bounces visitors almost instantaneously and you gain a reputation for pallid, self-serving, and (let’s face it) mostly masturbatory “content” that only offers value to the corporate ego.

Scenario #2: Process, but too little of it

A second flawed process scenario is one where there’s a system in place, but it’s an insufficient one.  There are vital components that compromise the quality of the published content.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your company has a perfect ordered process for developing and publishing content.  Each task starts with a brief, moves through a creation and review phase, and reaches the eyes or ears of your target audience as a pretty polished and seemingly substantial piece of work.

In this particular example, there’s still no strategic oversight of the content marketing team (if there is one) and of the assets that are being published.  Again, I’ve seen this happen time and time again: A fairly established and successful B2B firm doesn’t have a strong, coordinating hand on all of the content being conceived and launched.

The result is a lot of redundancy in content assets or (still!) some assets being spun up at the whim of an individual or group.  They’re not part of an orchestrated content marketing program where all assets are integrated into an overall vision.

This is another instance where the potential value of content marketing isn’t being fully realized, especially over the long haul.

How much process, and what kind of process, is just right for your particular porridge?

Scenario #3: Process, but too much process

I recently worked with another B2B client who had all the proper process dominoes in place: Strategy, review, execution, analytics, the entire Magilla.  But there was a particular hurdle: They had a tough time being genuinely agile under their process.

And, despite their best efforts, content became very inward-facing: less about the consumer’s pain points than about how great the provider was at delivering great products.

The latter is good to eventually communicate, of course, but it’s deadly to make it the primary focus of a content marketing asset.  That’s because the prospect wants, first and foremost, to show you understand his/her problem and pain.

These two issues were owed to too much process, with too many stakeholders involved.  One example of how agility in content production was compromised?  The need to have 4-5 stakeholders sign off on any given item.

Even within the production process, there were hurdles: The internal content manager would have 3-4 people do grammar reviews of a content element when one professional proofreader familiar with the organization’s “house style” would have been sufficient.

That surfeit of stakeholders meant that every phrase would be under revision, often arbitrarily (“I don’t like slang; this sounds like slang, can we change it?”).  Stakeholders usually don’t know content writing best practices or SEO, and therefore don’t understand many of the requisites that the writer has embedded in the draft.  Educating them becomes a new hurdle all by itself.

Also, stakeholders often don’t understand that it’s best to not crow about your own products or brand story in most content. Thus, they force content assets to be refocused on selling rather than thought leadership.

It’s about getting the balance just right

As this chart from a SEMrush study shows, companies are all-in on content marketing.  To enable effective content marketing, especially in the B2B universe, it’s important to balance a comprehensive content marketing development and publishing process against other considerations: the need to retain agility, originality, and (for lack of a better term) engaging energy within your content.

The secret to achieving that “just right” process?  It’s about working out what’s valuable to you from a B2B content marketing program.  That means taking context and all business considerations into account: What your content ROI goals are, what the long-term impact should be of your content marketing, what reputational effects you want to generate, what your competitive landscape looks like, and so on.

Then you shape a content development and publishing process that reflects those larger goals and serves them well, not the other way around.  Because – and this is experience talking, once again! – the wrong process will, like a poor-fitting suit, end up projecting an image to the world that doesn’t serve you well.

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