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Many organizations seem to stall when trying to leverage intelligent content because of the challenges with customer journey mapping and personas, governance and organizational design and brand/agency relationships. Noz Urbina of Urbina Consulting, founder of the OmnichannelX conference, shared those thoughts with CMSWire in a recent interview.

In the past year, we discussed the principles of intelligent content and the strategies marketers can leverage to put it to work effectively. But there are some common blockers to making intelligent content effective, according to Urbina.

What is Intelligent Content?

Before we discuss some challenges around intelligent content, here’s a definition of what we’re talking about: Intelligent content is an approach to the management of content as a business asset that includes content that is modular, structured, reusable, format-free and semantically rich. This, in turn, makes the content discoverable, reconfigurable and adaptable for its creators, such as marketers, according to Ann Rockley, founder of The Rockley Group, who shared that definition from her book, “Intelligent Content: A Primer."

It hasn't been easy on brands making the most of their content. In the Content Marketing Institute’s research reported earlier this year, 68% of tech content marketers named creating content that appeals to multiple roles as their top challenge.

Related Article: What Is Intelligent Content and How Can It Help Marketers?

Make Content About the Customer, Not About Publishing

Too often, brands design intelligent content where the intelligence is all about publishing, and not about the customer and their real needs, according to Urbina. They do this, he said, because they — and often their agencies — don’t have a formal or shared picture of customer experience. “They talk about 'the customer journey' — singular — as if all their personas went on the same journey to giving them money,” Urbina said. “Frankly, it's naive and the polar opposite of the customer-centric approach that we like to pride ourselves on.”

Customer journeys should be mapped out in much greater detail and planned thoroughly; which little bits of content appear where. “This is extremely valuable pre-work,” Urbina said, “to making sure that your intelligent content initiative is future-proof. Because it's about customers and their content needs and not just about the channels or campaigns that happen to be in play at the time of your solution design. Your models can be used and reused over time.” Content designed this way can deliver top-line ROI lift, not just cost reduction and efficiencies, because you're delivering a superior experience, rather than trying to just deliver the same experience more cheaply, according to Urbina.

Not Using Journey Mapping Properly

Major enterprise brands have realized several hundred percent increases in engagement when they're using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and intelligent content to drive exactly the right "next bit of content" to users across channels, Urbina said. Why do other brands struggle then? They don't use the journey map properly or integrate the journey mapping process into the intelligent content editorial planning. “You need to plan out your content Lego bits starting from the journey,” Urbina said.

Related Article: Putting Intelligent Content to Work

Creating Fragmented Brand Identities

Web, mobile and social are all ways that messages can flow back and forth between brand and audience, but addressing and building strategies for them in isolation creates a breeding ground for a fragmented brand identity, mixed messaging and even straight-up contradictions, according to Urbina. “Organizations today are incentivized and funded departmentally and so there's a square-peg/round-hole problem even when someone legitimately wants to help the customer across all touchpoints,” Urbina added. 

Lack of Governance on Content, Data

Who "owns" omnichannel content? Who gets to arbitrate disagreements to standards? Who has to stump up the funding and effort for managing all the metadata and data that's going to drive personalization of the content once you've got all these intelligent, flexible, reusable assets? “These are all governance questions — people, roles and responsibilities questions — not content or systems questions,” Urbina said.

The data that organizations need to drive effective personalization never lives in just one department nor can any single department or role address the omnichannel user experience. Multiple roles need to come together around customers to design solutions that address whole customer journeys, Urbina said.

Relying on Agencies to do the Dirty Work

Relying on agencies only to get multiple teams to come together around the customer and their journey could be a mistake, Urbina said. “If you're going to get the most out of intelligent content, then you need to be owning your own content, and bringing more expertise in-house,” Urbina said. 

Marketers, he added, are used to “throwing money over the wall and getting assets and attention back.” To drive strategic change and multi- or omnichannel value-adds for their clients, they need to retain more — and more sophisticated — in-house talent. The in-house talent will take on more responsibility for briefing agencies to deliver not only the assets in a finished form, but deliver the raw intelligent content. This includes empowering and educating the agency so that it can deliver content and tag it up with the appropriate metadata — according to the brand's metadata strategy — and then plug into the brand's many content pipelines and processes.

Related Article: Understanding the Intelligent Content Journey

Unused Content Remains a Problem

Karthik Subramanian, a content marketer Paperflite, noted the Marketing Insider Group study that found 70% of content created by B2B organizations goes unused. Brands need to do better at determining the ROI of content. It's crucial to unearth which pieces are doing well and which are not, according to Subramanian. “Every content piece needs to be measured for its efficacy,” he said. “To yield useful insights for impactful decisions about content, content intelligence must collect multiple sources of data and execute analyses and interpretation focused on questions about content.” 

Creating Content Based on ‘Projects’

Many marketers are unable to implement intelligent content strategies. Almost half (48%) of respondents in a Content Marketing Institute/Vennli survey (registration required) reported their typical approach to content is “project-focused,” meaning they create content in response to internal requests, instead of in alignment with a planned strategy. Only 22% of marketers build content around buyer personas and less than 15% align content to the customer journey.

Conclusion: Scalable Omnichannel Personalization the Goal

“I think the three words that have come up most often in the last year are scalable omnichannel personalization,” Urbina said. “That's what everyone wants. They know if they can do that, they can build strong and lasting relationships with their audience. Intelligent content is really helpful to do that and makes content able to be adaptive. But there are major challenges to actual implementation and reaping the rewards.”