If you were an accountant in the early 1980s (unless you were an early adopter of VisiCalc for the Apple II), you would have used paper spreadsheets and a pencil (with a really good eraser). In 1983 Lotus 1-2-3 was released for the IBM PC and sales skyrocketed. What was once a very tedious and manual process became easy overnight. It also allowed accountants to start doing “what if” analysis and elevated the role of accountant from keeper of credits and debits to Business Analyst. When Microsoft followed up with the release of Excel in 1985, they had no intention of using it as a platform for managing content marketing. They still don’t.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of today’s content marketers are like accountants in 1980. They are using inefficient tools that make their job significantly more difficult than it needs to be. Ultimately, using the wrong tool for the job is creating some very real risks for content marketers. We’re going to look at four of them.
Risk 1: Inefficiency
At Brandpoint, one of our services is producing content for our clients. We quickly learned that in order to make a profit producing quality content we had to have very efficient processes and systems; so we built our own internal workflow software. In late 2014 we decided to develop a content marketing platform based on our proven internal systems that we would sell on a software as a service basis. Before we started such a huge software development project we wanted to do our due diligence and survey our customer base. If the vast majority of our clients were already using some flavor of a Content Marketing Platform (CMP), it likely would not make sense to build our own customer-facing version. We were pleased when the data told us to proceed with building BrandpointHUB.
According to our survey, the vast majority of our clients (85.72% to be exact) use a combination of Word, Excel and Email to manage their content marketing. If you are a solo marketer, this probably works just fine. The problem is that most companies have 3-5 people (or more) involved in every piece of content that they produce. Five people trying to collaborate on a piece of content by emailing a Word document around with endless tracked changes makes as much sense today as using paper spreadsheets.
Here’s how our survey responses were distributed from the question:
“How many people within your organization typically collaborate on content development today?”
1-2 = 3%
3-5 = 51%
6-10 = 26%
>10 = 20%
For the firms with 10 or more people involved in every piece of content, I’d be really interested in seeing what that workflow looks like.
Prior to having our own workflow systems, it typically took 15-20 emails between a client and a writer to take a piece of content from concept to final approval. This doesn’t take into account emails on the client’s side for internal routing and approval. When you consider the need for more and more content, and the amount of people involved in most organizations, this inefficiency gets very expensive, very fast. In our own research, we saved an average of 74 minutes of staff time on every blog post we produced after we started using our CMP.
The inefficiency of using the wrong tool for the job comes with a very real price tag. According to a recent study from Gleanster Research, companies pay an extra $120,000 per year to produce the same volume of content as firms that invested in workflow software.
Risk 2: Buy in
Creating a shared vision and giving multiple stakeholders a day-to-day operational view of the strategy, progress and results of a campaign is a key benefit of using a CMP. If your content marketing efforts are not visible and measurable by key stakeholders, they will not be valued.
According to our survey data, the first and second most-desired features in a CMP are 1) a shared editorial calendar, and 2) workflow systems that allow multiple people to collaborate on content in the cloud. Both of these features greatly lend themselves to increased transparency and buy-in.
As an example of buy-in at Brandpoint, our sales directors have seats on our CMP. They can see the content that we’re authoring on behalf of Brandpoint, and get an idea of what our editorial calendar looks like in the future. Even though our sales directors are not writing a lot of content, their participation in the CMP is incredibly valuable. They are the most plugged into our customers’ goals, and they provide input into the strategy, subjects and timing of content on our calendar. They are also able to select content for use in our marketing automation campaigns and see what content is resonating best with our customers.
Risk 3: Governance, Legal and Compliance
According to our survey, 71.43% of our clients have some level of legal and or internal governance rules that they are required to adhere to on a regular basis. Clients with governance and legal compliance requirements have several challenges:
- In many cases these compliance protocols were developed without consideration as to how content marketing will increase publishing cadence. As a result, compliance coupled with inefficient tools has become a big bottleneck to production.
- Approval tracking. In our research we’ve spoke to many who work in regulated industries and their number one concern is keeping track of approvals from legal. If you’re using email folders to store legal approvals, you may be creating unnecessary risk.
- Does everyone follow the protocol? Not having a system in place that assures that all users are adhering to the desired compliance protocol almost ensures that it will not always be followed.
Risk 4: File Storage Practices
The file storage practices risk is perhaps the most insidious as it goes largely unnoticed until there is an issue. The two largest risks to your content operation in this category are disaster recovery and employee turnover.
- Servers Crash. The best case scenario when they do is you have some down time where you cannot access your files that are stored on the network. The worst case scenario is your IT team doesn’t maintain timely backups and you’ve lost everything you’ve been working on recently.
- The Local Hard Drive. The more common scenario is losing work that is stored on a writer’s local hard drive. As your IT team will tell you, the local hard drive is the most common hardware failure point — and despite their pleas, many employees still store files locally where they typically cannot be recovered in the event of hardware failure.
- Most content marketers are working on a variety of projects that are at various stages of completion at any given time. When you have turnover, you need a system in place to quickly see everything that employee is working on, and where they are at on each piece of content. You also need the ability to easily reassign projects to other writers. It is difficult, costly and time consuming to get everything that person was working on back on track.
- Another issue is the widespread use of personal storage or personal cloud accounts for storing business files. When a writer leaves, you will lose all access to the files that they stored on their personal storage cloud.
Full disclosure: If you hadn’t figured it out already, I’m completely biased. My company believes in the value of a CMP enough to invest in building our own. So we clearly have a dog in the fight. That said, I encourage you to explore for yourself and draw your own conclusions whether or not a CMP is right for your business. I understand that whenever we’re presented with anything new, there is always a comfort level in sticking with the familiar, “the way we’ve always done things.” But I believe that if content marketing is core to your marketing efforts, it’s simply the right tool for the job.
Scott Severson is the president of Brandpoint and a passionate advocate for content marketing tactics, measurement and optimization.