In a recent Content4Demand webinar, Cashing In on Content Audits: Uncovering the Hidden Potential & Pitfalls in Your Content Library, strategic growth and revenue leader Christine Elliott talked about using content audit results as a blueprint for her content strategy. The discussion dug into the business drivers that have led her to spearhead content audits in the past and why she thinks they’re so vital for marketers.
For context, Christine began the conversation discussing four strategies for driving growth. Her graphic depicts the four levers you can pull to drive revenue and growth within an organization.
Four Strategies for Driving Growth
Think product marketing, size of the marketing opportunity, what exactly your offering is, who’s the audience you’re targeting and what’s your value proposition. All of this is critical upfront data to pull together before you develop a marketing plan or execute tactics.
Content & Storytelling
You have to translate all that information into storytelling for your buyers and everyone influencing the buying decision.
Digital Strategies & Campaigns
You have to find where those audiences are digitally so you can meet them there with information.
Prepare your sales team with all the information they’ll need to follow that story all the way through.
What Is a Content Audit?
Brenda Caine, VP of Content Strategy: At its most basic, an audit is nothing more than an analysis of the assets in your content library. That could be a segment or an entire library. It could be buying stage, persona, freshness of your content or custom criteria. Your goals will determine your criteria.
What are some of the business drivers that have led you to spearhead content audits?
Christine Elliott, Strategic Growth and Revenue Leader: One business driver for doing an audit is if you’ve never done an audit. Getting your arms around what content you really have as well as some appended criteria can be absolutely critical.
You’ll get your arms around what you have and a jumping-off point for content strategy.
So for example, if you’re thinking about a new campaign and you have a certain theme that your campaign is going to highlight, a content audit can show you very quickly what content you already have, which makes it more efficient to identify where your gaps are and know where to focus your content development efforts.
Another great reason is a website redesign. If you’re redesigning your website, that’s a great time to clean up content that may no longer be timely or may have some other quality issues. You can update your tagging, and it allows you to be sure only the freshest and best content is on your website.
Brenda: Also, your budget. If you look at what you have and the nature of what you have, you could find that a lot of your content is still usable either as-is or with a really light refresh.
Does a content audit help you drive revenue and growth? How can the results be visualized to really drive business value?
Christine: We’re only as good as the compelling stories that we tell. It’s very subjective. People get attached to the content they’re most passionate about. There aren’t a lot of ways to evaluate the quality and the storytelling nature of your content. If you can’t get this part right, it’s difficult to deliver growth and revenue to your organization and you might not realize the risks you have in your content.
When we collaborated with you on a few audits, we focused on some custom criteria aligned to a campaign. How did that work?
Christine: At JLL, our demand-gen strategy was founded in proprietary research we did around a future of work thought leadership model. The target buyers are well versed in financially and operationally running their functions. But JLL recognized that things were changing in the workplace.
Things like human experience, digital drive and innovation were factors impacting corporate real estate moving forward. We knew we had lots of content around financial and operational things. What we didn’t know was, how much did we have that we could leverage to tell some of those other critically important stories?
One of the key things we did in planning for our content audits was to identify what we had in those areas and then what were the sub-themes under each one. Human experience, for example, could be everything from employee engagement, employee preferences—all those types of things.
So by doing the audit, we were able to very quickly visualize what content we had to start telling some of those new stories. Then we leveraged those results as a way to drive our content ideation, content strategy and development process.
You’ve worked on audits with clients that have crossed multiple business units. Tell us about that.
Brenda: We have some clients where they have many different units within the organization and were basically doing campaigns in isolation. We recently looked at how one client’s content actually touched all those different areas in the organization.
Christine said one word I think is very important: Visualization. When you do the audit, it makes things crystal clear. So maybe they had some things that they could use, but they really weren’t aware.
A content audit is a valuable exercise to help them uncover all the places where their content intersects. So now when they have a campaign, they can actually use assets that they’d created for all the different areas for different purposes and extend the life and the value of all that content.
Why use an outside agency? Audits are a heavy lift, but what are the other advantages?
Christine: I’m very passionate on this topic. There are three reasons to seriously consider doing it with an outside agency. First is your own resources. It is a heavy lift. There’s an individual who reads every piece of content. Most of the audits I’ve done have been upwards of 2,000 pieces of content. It’s untenable to consider that internal resources can do that. And do you really want to take them away from other important go-to-market activities?
Second is the objectivity that comes from working for an organization like Content4Demand. You can make sure that you’re getting consistent results, that the criteria you set is known and understood on a consistent basis.
And finally, the objectivity. People get very connected to their content. When you present the results and start talking about some of the content you’d like to retire, it removes it from being a question of, Do I like the content? Do I think it’s of high quality? You’re leaning on the credibility of an objective third party who’s making those decisions.
Brenda: Sometimes we actually verify what our clients think their assets are in terms of asset type or buying stage, and sometimes we find that it’s very different than what they thought. When we start the audit, we make sure that the criteria are well defined so that when we do the audit, everyone is auditing the same way so that the results are very consistent.
We might find some assets that look like they’re middle stage assets that are middle of the funnel. And when we go through them, we find that it’s all about product and solution and it’s really bottom of the funnel. So that objectivity Christine talked about is very important to an audit. That’s why it can be so important for an outside party to do that audit for you.
How do you make sure an audit is consistent? Do you have to audit your entire content library?
Christine: In terms of consistency, just like anything else, your project is only as good as the data you have.
It’s quite a process to make sure the criteria is understood and what it means. With stages of the buy cycle, for example, people at different organizations think about those things differently. So whenever I’ve done an audit, I’ve actually provided the definition of what we mean when we say early stage, mid stage, late stage. All those considerations are critically important to consistency.
Brenda: When we get to asset type or format, there can be a lot of different names for the same type of asset. We standardize everything and have definitions so we know when we look at something whether it’s an article or a blog. How good is your data? It has to be clean going in; otherwise the results you’re going to get won’t be accurate.
Particularly for regulated industries or consulting firms, bad content can be a reputational risk with serious consequences.
Christine: It’s sometimes very difficult to have an objective way to assess content quality. I look at it as: It needs to be clear, concise and accurate.
In regulated industries like healthcare and financial services— and where a lot of my experience comes from, professional services—those are regulated areas. That means a couple of things: There’s likely to be more content that’s very timely, which means it has a shorter shelf life.
When you think of reputational risk—when someone comes to your website and is looking for a potential provider, if the first piece of content they see is something from about a regulatory issue from five years before, it’s possible they’ll think poorly of your organization and that you’re not on top of what the latest and greatest is. In other cases, I know of organizations that have actually been sued for claims that they made in their marketing material.
Most of these reputational risks that happen—of course if you get sued, you’re going to know that—but you could be turning off a lot of potential buyers from your entire organization if they run across content that looks like you’re not up to speed with what’s going on.
There was much more to the discussion than I’ve recapped here. Watch the on-demand webinar for more of the conversation with Christine, Brenda and Lisa—including discussions about what to do with content audit results, why they’re so valuable, determining which stakeholders to involve and how to get the most value from an audit.
If you’d like to learn more about launching a content audit in your organization, click “Get Started” on the right side of this screen to set up a complimentary consultation for answers to all your questions.
Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian.