by D&E Staff

September 3, 2015

Everyone’s looking for the secret to unlocking better content marketing as though it were the Da Vinci Code. Many marketers are quick to jump to the content itself, but it’s often the preparation for content creation that can make the biggest difference.  Identifying gaps and deficiencies in current content will ensure new content is correctly targeted, easier to write and more effective.

The best place to begin is with a content audit, in which you assess your own marketing materials as well as those of competitors.  There are four keys – four C’s, actually – to making this review process more effective:

Key #1:  Collect

What materials should be audited?  If you think all you need to assess are just a few blog posts, white papers and case studies, think again.  Website pages, videos, sell sheets, job proposals, customer presentations and even business cards represent valuable content that deliver messaging to your stakeholders.  Try to collect a wide variety of content in order to paint a more complete picture of company image.  Take the extra time to have materials sent – either hard copy or electronically – from multiple locations.  We once collected over 300 pieces of content from all over the world to uncover an organization’s global inconsistencies.  Log each piece of content with a number, tag it and add it to a Content Audit Tracking Spreadsheet (CATS) you set up.  If it sounds a little intense, it is.  But your hard work here will pay off down the road.

Key #2:  Classify

Once you have your content, it’s time to assign a few important descriptors.  What type of content is it?  What is its intended purpose?  In what stage of the buying cycle is it used?  What headline or tagline does it use?  What value proposition is it communicating?  When was the content created?  How is it currently distributed?  If there are other important descriptors, be sure to capture them.  In your CATS, organize each piece of content in the rows and allow each descriptor its own column.  Depending on how much detail you want or need, you can put words or a simple “x” in the intersecting cells.  The point is to capture necessary information in this stage so you’ll be able to analyze the content quickly and efficiently in the next stage.

Key #3:  Compare

When everything is organized, it’s time to rate the content.  We typically assign numerical values to content – individually and collectively.  For example, how memorable is an individual piece of content?  How actionable, clear, helpful, decisive or believable?  Taken as a whole, how diverse is the type of content?  Over how many channels is content delivered?  How balanced is content across different buying stages?  How reflective is the content of the organization’s brand position?  After answering these questions and logging the ratings in your CATS, sort your spreadsheet for different columns to illuminate patterns and identify content gaps.  As you discover these gems, start thinking about how to chart or graph them.

Key #4:  Communicate

You could uncover the most dramatic insight, but unless you can explain it to others, it probably won’t get noticed.  You have a selling job to do.  Create pie charts to show the mix of content types you analyzed.  Your chart might show you have no shortage of blog posts, but fewer videos than you realized.  Or you might show a giant pie piece for product Web pages and a tiny little sliver for white papers.  Create bar charts to plot content by each stage of the buying cycle – awareness, consideration, trial, purchase and customer.  You might show all of your content is designed for prospects and you have next to none for accounts once you’ve sold them.  You could highlight a complete gap for content designed for those in the trial stage – in which case you’d know where to start with new content.

After the audit, you should have a much better idea what to write and for whom to write it.   Use the four keys to make it happen:  collect, classify, compare and communicate.  The content audit should serve as a strong foundation for great content marketing, paving the way for the next steps.  For more information on what’s after the audit, see 7 Critical Steps to Better B2B Content Marketing.