How to Optimize Content Ops with Modular Content Strategy

This article originally appeared on CMSwire.com

According to Gartner’s latest CMO spend survey, marketing budgets are rapidly dropping. As a percentage of company revenue, they fell from 11% in 2020 to 6.4% in 2021 — the lowest it’s ever been since Gartner has fielded the survey. But despite the drop in budget and resources, content and creative teams are facing more demand than ever. Creative agency work is being in-sourced, digital continues to skyrocket, and content-driven customer experiences are hot again (get ready for the “content is king” resurgence!).

The pressure is on for today’s content marketing and creative teams. They need to scale up content to meet personalization, localization and omnichannel needs with fewer resources than ever. This has put an intense spotlight on refining content operations practices. We define content operations as the set of processes, people, and technologies needed for strategically planning, creating, managing and analyzing omnichannel content.

In the past, content operations was often a fairly cumbersome activity. It reminds me of what an IT group might call a waterfall development process: a long content strategy and planning process, followed by painstaking content development and long review cycles and content activation in specific channels. After content has been out for a long period of time, if we’re lucky, we look at metrics and try to optimize that content. This entire process is very linear, requires a lot of deep expertise, and ultimately, takes too long for the demands of today’s marketing organizations.

Modular Content Scales Content Operations

Modular content is critical to successfully solving these major content operations challenges. Modular content is defined as:

The process of creating, managing and distributing content in its smallest, reusable form to speed up time-to-market across brands, channels, regions and customer segments.

Modular content approaches don’t mean you always have to start from the smallest piece of content and build from there. It instead means that content can be created from any form of content, including:

  • Content block: Content blocks are the most traditional way to think about modular content. These are individual content items at their smallest, reusable component. This could include a text snippet, disclaimer, a short-form video, or individual product shot. Marketing groups can always start with a content block, and construct content experiences from these in a more traditional, linear process if that is most effective and efficient.
  • Content set: These combined assets are often used together in distribution channels (e.g., product image and romance copy; disclaimer and loan ad). Teams can take a content set that already exists — say from a shoe campaign — and deconstruct the content assets into smaller blocks to reuse in other, upcoming campaigns. This allows those other campaigns to get up and running faster, without having to start from scratch.
  • Content experience: A content experience is the final group of assets presented to the customer and includes the most relevant content set plus the presentation layer styling. This could be an email with template design, marketing copy, disclaimers and a video. Content experiences can also be modularly deconstructed to become content sets or blocks that can be reused on other experiences, campaigns or channels.

The Benefits of a Modular Content Approach

Taking this type of tiered, start-from-anywhere approach to content operations has many benefits to a modern marketing organization. It will help streamline content operations and get to market faster by:

  • Democratizing content building: By taking a modular approach, highly skilled designers and writers will no longer be stuck creating a high volume of content that is only used once. Instead, they can free up their time and focus on creating more high-value, reusable content. Conversely, that means that brand, marketing, digital and sales teams can also self-service content by creating their own content experiences. They no longer have to go to a designer for every experience they are looking to create and can instead piece together their own experiences.
  • Taking an iterative approach to content: Modular content allows marketers to get away from the long, linear content operations process. Instead, teams can quickly put out content, see what is and isn’t working, and change specific content elements. They no longer have to start from scratch every time, but instead can adapt content experiences on the fly based on in-the-moment market feedback.
  • Decreasing content approval times: For many organizations, especially those with heavy brand or compliance regulations, approval times can feel like they take forever. In Life Sciences, for example, medical legal review (MLR) can take months. In industries like retail, brand approval will be particularly grueling. Modular content allows teams to reuse already approved content blocks to help decrease time-to-market — they’re already approved so they can either skip or speed-up certain content approval timelines.

These are big benefits that have the potential to transform and upend current marketing organizations. Modular content isn’t just a singular tactic that one group can take, but rather they have the opportunity to upend the way entire marketing and digital teams deliver customer experiences today.

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