IBM has not always been known as an effective content marketing organization. Way back in 1993, Steve Jobs declared, with great accuracy:
“People get confused; companies get confused. When they start getting bigger, they want to replicate their initial success. And a lot of them think, ‘Well, somehow, there’s some magic in the process of how that success was created.’ So they start to institutionalize process across the company. And before very long, people start to get confused that the process is the content. And that’s ultimately the downfall of IBM. IBM has the best process people in the world. They just forgot about the content.”
IBM is now remembering the content.
For the past year, my team has been helping IBM transform into a content marketing powerhouse. We have built a new inbound marketing model elevating the importance of content. We have coupled that with our business processes, enabling us to capitalize on scale and process efficiencies while effectively telling our story via content marketing. As part of this transformation, we’ve developed brand newsrooms, content hubs, user generated content platforms and content-based trigger nurturing strategies. (Sounds like some topics for a future post!) The transformation process has been exciting and we’ve learned some things along the way.
The ONE Tool
In our quest to merge content with scalable business processes, we found that we lacked the infrastructure and tools necessary to execute our vision. Enter “the Content Marketing Platform”. “What is a content marketing platform”, you ask? It’s nothing short of a bundle of happiness wrapped in a delectably joyful exterior. A content marketing platform is a MUST HAVE for any organization serious about scaling their content operations.
Sure, there are other tools we need – social listening and metrics, content management systems, marketing automation, etc. But, if you’re on a budget, start with this one tool and build from there.
We selected Kapost as our vendor of choice. Kapost is an absolutely incredible content marketing platform. It’s so awesome to use, I log in to play around at the end of a hard day just to relax and wind down (no kidding – I really do that.) Here’s what I like about Kapost, and content marketing platforms in general. (Note: I am not an employee of Kapost nor am I an official representative of spokesperson for IBM. My opinions in this regard are my own, based on my experiences using their product.)
Content marketing is useless if you don’t start with a strategy. The folks at Kapost have some great materials about content strategy. At a minimum, your strategy should define who you will target and their stages in the content or sales journey. That’s the minimum. At IBM, we have a bit more complexity than that, taking into account buying agendas (market topics), brands and other aspects of the segmentation process.
We have a written content strategy that guides decisions about content investment. That’s a great start. But, Kapost helps you take that further by codifying that strategy in their tool. When a piece of content goes in, you are able associated a content’s meta data with specific strategy parameters. In other words, I can assign my shiny new infographic to the CIO persona who is in the awareness stage of a data management buying agenda. Once assigned, I can do all kinds of fun things with that, which I’ll describe later.
Prior to Kapost, we would conduct content audits. A content audit could take up to 3 months. The first challenge was identifying all the content in market. Next, we had to associate the content to the aspects of our strategy, since we don’t have great systems for tracking that. Three or four months later, we complete our audit and realize we’re already behind. In Kapost, I can conduct an ad-hoc audit at any time to see how many pieces of content I have against any meta parameter. Content audits are a snap. Now, we can make real time investments in new content that addresses under server parts of our strategy.
A content marketing platform such as Kapost will keep your content operations humming along. We’ve been able to produce 2-3 times the number of content assets with the same size team as a result of Kapost. Within the platform, we specify the default process for each piece of content. The process includes the stages of production and who gets assigned to each stage. One of the best process features in Kapost is the ability to change the stages and assignments for a specific asset. At times, we have to change the process or approval flow for a particular type of asset because we need to get other players involved.
Kapost has introduced the concept of “Campaigns” as part of their platform. We use campaigns to align content activities with our go-to-market activities. I can now see production flows at an individual asset level, or at a campaign level. I’ve never had a real time view into our content production cycles until we deployed Kapost.
I love the ability to crowdsource content ideas. A content marketing platform with this feature makes it super simple. With Kapost, my team has created generic and campaign-specific crowdsource forms. These forms show up in the platform as ideas. If our team likes the idea or thinks it will fill a content gap, it’s approved and the production workflow automatically kicks in. Otherwise, we can reject the idea but always revisit in the future.
Prior to Kapost, we had multiple different processes for different content requests. If someone wanted a video, we had a unique business process to make that request, which was different than a request for a white paper. Today, we use Kapost as the hub for our business processes. Everything flows through Kapost initially and is routed to the right person assigned to the task.
If you’re like a lot of marketing organizations, you’re probably still using a spreadsheet to maintain an editorial calendar. Well, you can shed Excel from your lineup with a content marketing platform. The planning capability is one of the most important, powerful features in a tool like Kapost.
The editorial calendar can show you any stage of any piece of content, including future stages. You can filter on campaigns or any other meta-tags to drill down on all aspects of your content engine. Editorial calendars can be shared as PDF or other files to stakeholders not using the tool.
The editorial calendar is one of the first views I go into when I want to know what’s happening with my content for an upcoming launch or program. It’s also the view that my executive team and our stakeholders want to see more than anything else besides content analytics.
Here’s where a content marketing platform knocks it out of the park. Creating content efficiently is all well and good. But, as marketers, my team’s mission is also to amplify that content. To do this, we have to deliver our content to all of our channels, including social media, web, content hubs, syndicated blogs, Slideshare, YouTube, etc. A content marketing platform pushes content out to all of your external channels.
By itself, external omni-channel distribution would be a killer feature. But, for an organization like IBM, we have to go far beyond that. As part of our social media strategy, we use an internal force of subject matter experts (see my other blog post – “Are the Mormons better than you at content marketing?”) to amplify content into their channels. To do this, Kapost has an auto content hub feature that enables us to share and distribute our content internally (or externally with partners). Users can see any of the latest content and grab it to share across their networks and channels.
As a data driven marketing team, I live and die by analytics. We collect data on everything, analyze that data every month and then determine how to adjust and improve our programs. You can imagine our reaction when we first saw Kapost’s integrated content analytics features. WOW!
Content analytics enable us to see how effective our content is in meeting our objectives. Remember how we talked about mapping content to your strategy? Well, now fold content analytics into that. I can see – for any persona, in any stage, for any buying agenda – how our content is performing at an aggregate or individual level. I can slice and dice based on any meta data associated with our content. I can determine how effective an overall campaign is performing and then drive down to see which pieces of content are not working.
We use content analytics to define our content mix in future programs. We use them to test new content types or distribution channels. And the best part – I get these in real time. No running reports or waiting for a business analyst to get me my data. Content analytics ROCK!
We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg for what a content marketing platform can do. At IBM, it has revolutionized our content operations and enabled us to expand our content reach. Content quality is better, production capacity is higher and we now have a solid platform upon which we can grow.
Here are some other great resources about this topic:
- Kapost’s blog site with great info about content marketing
- Kapost highlighted in the CMI’s Slideshare – “8 Content Production Tools to Help Marketers Transform into Publishing Machines”
- The Definition of Editorial Calendars for Brand Publishers