Crafting a Customer Content Plan

Crafting a customer content plan can be daunting. Have you just inherited a customer content management “program” that’s a mess? Or, maybe there’s never been a formal content management “program,” and you’re starting from scratch. If you need to put a plan together, and quickly, here is your roadmap.

#1 Identify Stakeholders’ Needs

It’s never a good idea to launch a content initiative in a vacuum. Sales may be the biggest consumer of customer content, such as case studies, customer reviews, customer videos, and ROI studies. However, don’t forget about other teams such as demand gen, digital, investor relations, and analyst relations. You must have a firm understanding of your company’s growth goals. These goals are your “north star” and will guide all of your content management efforts.

We are big proponents of broadly surveying larger teams such as Sales. You may get some push back about distracting sales reps from hitting quota. Still, the risk is that if you talk to only 5-6 salespeople and their opinions skew your action plans, what you produce won’t meet the majority of salespeople’s needs. That would be a horrible waste of time and resources.

For salespeople, the questions you want to ask about customer content include:

  • What types of opportunities lack sufficient quantities of customer content?
    – Ask for specifics so you have something concrete on which to act. Maybe it’s as simple as an industry, but it’s probably a combination of criteria.
  • Does the current customer content include what buyers need to move them through the sales cycle?
    – The feedback may demonstrate a need for different stories, different formats (e.g., video, 60 seconds or less), and or more stats ($, %).

For demand generation, social, PR, and other marketing and communications teams, the questions include:

  • What do you need from me to meet your commitments to company growth objectives?
    • What stories are most important (partner success, integrations, etc.)?
    • What segments are most urgent (industry, product, use case, etc.)?
    • What’s the preferred format (long/short, video/print/audio, language(s))?
#2 Understand Near and Long-Term Demand

Managing customer content is a constant balancing act between ensuring your content library supports demand today and a few months out while also preparing for planned shifts in direction. For Marketing’s needs, interviewing stakeholders is the best way to get to these answers. For Sales’ needs, you have the opportunity pipeline data to show current content demand. You’ll want to run various opportunity reports while slicing and dicing by industry, product, geo, and prospect size. If Sales is being asked to focus on new areas in the coming 6-12 months, that’s best confirmed by talking to Sales management and or Sales operations.

#3 Gap Analysis

Now that you’ve got a handle on content demand, you’ve got to assess what’s in the customer content library today. If the library hasn’t been tended to for three months or more, it’d be best to review publish dates and give extra scrutiny to the older content. Confirm that featured accounts are still clients, and that people interviewed and quoted in that content are still with the client company. What you find may lead to taking some content out of use/circulation (don’t forget what’s publicly accessible), targeting clients to update the content (e.g., interview with a current contact), and tagging content for a future review should you decide it’s okay to keep it in the “active” category.

Start prioritizing what gaps you need to fill first. Not all content gaps are of equal importance, and it’s pretty likely you don’t have the bandwidth to address every gap right out of the gates.

#4 Content Production Plan

To create a customer content production plan, you will marry the discoveries from steps #1, #2, and #3. For example, let’s say one segment with both high demand and high priority is buyers in financial services, interested in product A + B, with annual revenue of $1B+, and five or more office locations. Sales has indicated they need more short-form videos featuring VPs or CxOs talking more about industry expertise and how partnership translates to their day-to-day customer experience. That’s a straightforward project you can act on, knowing the reasons behind your decision and having confidence the investment will make a difference to your company’s growth.

#5 Build the Content

You have two considerations once you get down to actually creating customer content: 1) Do you personally have the expertise and bandwidth to be a producer, or do you need to recruit colleagues or perhaps outsource the effort to trusted partners?; and 2) Based on our own obligations, can you produce what’s required in a reasonable “time to market.” Maybe you could contribute to the production effort, but can you do it in a timely manner? It won’t help if by the time you have a finished deliverable it’s too late. Don’t make the “who is best positioned to create this content” decision lightly.

What happens next?

What should happen next is so extensive I could fill a whole other blog or two on the subject.  The first action is that once you have begun introducing new customer content into the library, you need to organize and tag it in a way in which your stakeholders can find it.  Next, you’ll need to promote the new content to boost awareness among the stakeholders. Finally, you must establish a review process so that the library doesn’t return to the state in which you found it. Not on your watch. Content needs aren’t static, and your library, a mere reflection of need, isn’t either. Plan to repeat the preceding steps on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.

Creating a true customer content program requires an investment in staff, systems, and potentially 3rd party resources. To realize the full potential of a customer content program, a “system” like the one described above is essential. Any executive sponsor should be able to get behind such responsible stewardship of finite company resources.

 

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