Doug Winter

For asset management firms, content repositories are like office refrigerators. Fridges store the food that staffers need to be productive. Similarly, content repositories store the marketing materials that distribution teams need to be effective.

When office fridges are tidy, they're a great convenience. The trouble is, people forget things, and over time you get an office fridge stuffed with spoiled food.

The same holds true for content repositories. When they are not actively managed, they get clogged with content. As a repository like Microsoft SharePoint grows, the firm's best content gets dumped in with all the rest - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

TOO MUCH STUFF

With large amounts of material squirrelled away in confusing folder structures that only make sense to a single audience, it's often difficult for wholesalers, relationship managers and others to find what they need. As a result, they get frustrated and bail out of the repository, reverting to old materials they have stored locally or producing rogue content.

This situation sets up several problems for asset management firms, including lower distribution team effectiveness, wasted marketing dollars, and potential regulatory problems from the use of non-compliant materials.

Overloaded content repositories and content effectiveness issues aren't problems unique to financial services. According to research and advisory firm Sirius Decisions, about two-thirds of all content produced by B2B marketing organizations never gets used by their sales teams due to the content being disorganized, out of date, or irrelevant.

TAMING THE BEAST

To clean up the content mess they have today and prevent similar messes in the future, asset managers should conduct regular content audits.

The first step is to identify and assign a team that will own the audit. Content marketing, content strategy, or equivalent roles with significant editorial responsibilities would be an ideal place to start. The content audit teams should also include staff members from other departments that use or have some other stake in the firm's content, such as distribution and compliance teams.

Content audits start with answering the question of, "What do we have?" Getting that answer requires taking a complete inventory of the assets in a firm's content repository, typically resulting in a spreadsheet or database that lists all items along with detailed information about each piece, including its title, creation date, and communication purpose.

The audit should then figure out each item's strengths and weaknesses. To determine these and take action based on the results, firms should their establish own evaluation system and have a cohesive and sensible way to make decisions about each piece in the repository storehouse. Ideally, this is done via a combination of quantitative usage data and qualitative value assessments given by content consumers.

Below are brief descriptions of four basic characteristics that are often used in content audits.

* Quality: Evaluate each content item through the lens of the firm's branding guide or other communication standards. Is the writing at the requisite quality level? Is it laid out using the correct design template and corporate colors?

* Value: Assess how valuable each piece is from a market and competitive perspective. Does the piece offer fresh insights that are not available elsewhere? Does it provide original thinking from the firm's thought leaders?

* Applicability: Determine whether each piece adds the right value at the point which it is intended to be used. Does the piece provide information that's relevant and compelling given where the prospect or customer stands? Does it help to keep the process moving?

* Effectiveness: Project how successful each piece is likely to be in achieving its specific objective. Is it compelling enough to convince the reader to take the desired action?

Once all content assets have been evaluated, firms will know which pieces are good as is, which need to be updated, and which need to be retired.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Because content production is an ongoing activity, content auditing and repository "clean-outs" need to be recurring activities. Content teams should establish schedules for when audits will occur, and they should perform one at least every six months. To limit surprises, they should also notify affected departments about changes in content availability.

New technologies are available that can provide marketing and distribution teams with more accurate and granular views of their content's usage and effectiveness. Content automation solutions, for example, can provide marketers with instant insight into how much each piece is actually being used. These solutions also enable distribution teams to understand how prospects and clients are consuming content, such as how long they viewed which sections of a slide deck.

Pulling out something covered in green fuzz from the office fridge is never fun. Wading through vast amounts of content in a repository only to find outdated and irrelevant pieces is equally maddening.

Doug Winter is CEO of Seismic, a provider of cloud-based content automation solutions for the financial services industry.

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