Joe Pulizzi
Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi's team found that organizations value content as an asset but don't treat it as such. PHOTO: TopRank Marketing

Ronco's "set it and forget it" line worked so well for its Showtime Rotisserie ovens.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy for content marketers, who need to set content and remember it. They also need to reuse it, analyze it, form a strategy around it, create governance programs for it and tie it back to business goals and revenue.

Those were the main findings from the Content Marketing Institute's (CMI) Content Management & Strategy Survey. CMI officials found marketers are leaving opportunities on the table by not managing content as a business asset. CMI polled 411 marketers earlier this year to learn how they manage content within their organizations. 

Content Lifecycle Management

The central finding in the data released today: 92 percent of content marketers say their organization views content as a business asset, yet fewer than half (46 percent) have a documented strategy for managing content as a business asset.

Michele Linn, vice president of content for the Content Marketing Institute, told CMSWire understanding the value of content marketing and managing the content you create as an asset are two different things. 

Michele Linn
Michele Linn
"Most marketers," she said, "are spending the majority of time creating and publishing content, but they aren’t managing that content throughout its lifecycle. Managing content throughout its lifecycle includes the creation and distribution of content, but it also includes things such as having up-front processes to make content as re-usable as possible and considering what happens to all of the content that exists long after it has been published and shared."

With content, Linn advised marketers to ask themselves: What should you keep? Update? Remove? How can you continue to create the best experience for your users by getting rid of ROT — redundant, outdated and trivial content?

"The issue is that many marketers have to meet tight publication schedules or they have so many conflicting projects and priorities that it is tough to make time to think more about the upfront planning," Linn said, "and thus, create a documented strategy outlining how content will be managed throughout its lifecycle."

Common Content Structures

It's not as if content marketers lack any sort of formal content management structures in place. According to the CMI survey, most of the them have style and brand guidelines (70 percent).

Respondents also said their organizations include:

  • Content teams (60 percent)
  • Formal workflow process for planning, creating and delivering content (53 percent)
  • Customer personas (51 percent)
  • Content performance analytics (50 percent)
  • Customer journey maps (33 percent)
  • Structured content (32 percent)
  • Message architecture/messaging framework (29 percent)

content marketing institute
And they have tools to help publish and analyze content performance. About three-quarters of respondents use email marketing technology and another 57 percent leverage their content marketing programs through content management systems.

They also use content collaboration/workflow software (44 percent), marketing automation software (42 percent), digital asset management/file storage (26 percent) and content optimization software (18 percent). Only 2 percent mentioned artificial intelligence.

Scalability Troubles

So with all these tools and structures in place, why is it so hard to scale content? Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they have scalability systems in place but they involve a lot of manual work. Another 22 percent said they do things ad-hoc.

Only 9 percent said they have developed a completely systematic approach to producing, managing and distributing content.

Technologies exist for helping marketers get more out of their existing content: i.e, to re-use and re-format content more easily by eliminating the need for excessive manual adjustments and for making it faster and easier to deliver it across multiple channels without as much human intervention, according to Lisa Murton Beets, CMI’s research director.

However, she said, none of those technologies matter if the team hasn’t put in the time up front on strategy and ensuring certain essential structures are in place. 

"Those structures include brand and style guidelines, a content team, a workflow process, customer personas, performance analytics, buyer’s journey maps, a process for content governance, and others," Murton Beets told CMSWire. "Once those are fleshed out, then the team can start thinking about how to use automation to speed-up the processes for customizing and distributing their content in a way that lets them cast a wider net, making sure the content they deliver is specifically targeted to a certain audience at a certain time."

Right Tools, Wrong Strategy

Almost half of CMI's respondents felt their organizations have the right tools but don't use them properly, and another 37 percent say they don't have the right tools at all. 

Why are these common struggles for content marketers?

Strategy, people, process, technology: Marketers need to approach things in that order, Linn said. 

"But," she added, "what often happens is that they jump to technology without having the right strategy, people or processes in place first. Technology is powerful if you know what you want to accomplish and how it fits in with what you are doing, but it can’t fix a weak strategy or issues with people or processes."

Marketing tools can be useful, Linn said, provided they are used across the team in a consistent way. 

"But, this often requires changing how people work, which can be a challenge," she said. "Don’t underestimate the time this will take, and have a dedicated person on your team who can help with the transition."

Before adoption comes selection. And the overwhelming number of tools available can stop even the most seasoned marketer in their tracks: the marketing technology landscape includes more than 5,000 solutions. 

"The content marketing technology space is massive," Linn said. "Where in the world does a marketer get started?"