Content Marketing

Create Content like a Publisher: Thought Leadership with Avitage


One of our recent partner additions is a company called Avitage, in Waltham, MA. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Jim Burns, founder and CEO, as part of our ongoing B2B Thought Leader Interviews. Jim and his company have been helping B2B selling customers create and deliver content, especially multimedia content, for over fifteen years.

Content is a key success factor, as well as a real challenge, for our customers. What suggestions can you give our readers to help them create content that will improve the success of their lead nurturing programs?

To address the content requirements organizations face today requires a new mindset, and a new way of creating content. When companies were taking a product-centric approach to selling, content supported product-based conversations and questions with customers. Among many implications, this meant that content could be used with all industries and buyers. Content shelf life was essentially the life of the product. And the production process could endure protracted development time and costs. (It was usually left to sales to figure out how to make products relevant to individual buyers, their business problems, industry peculiarities and competitive alternatives. So marketing was largely masked from this requirement, if it was done at all. )

Changes in the customer buying process, web and digital media, as well as marketing automation have changed the game for marketers. But most still approach the content creation process in very traditional ways that I call the “point production process.”

What is the point production process?

Most people create content for a specific purpose, event, even delivery method: a brochure, a presentation, a webinar, a video, etc. Whether they use internal or contracted resources the approach is pretty much the same. Permit me to oversimplify:

  1. What’s the purpose?  To train, market, sell or brief (provide information)
  2. Who’s the audience? Specifically.
  3. What’s the delivery method? Document, website, PowerPoint, video, etc.
  4. How long should it be?
  5. What’s your budget? What’s the quality threshold?
  6. When do you need it?

I’ve been saying for years, at some point the typical production conversation includes the following: “You can have it good, fast or cheap … pick any two!”

Once these decisions are made, the process moves to extracting source message points from the client (or helping them determine the message), developing a script and storyboard, producing the product, client review, final production and duplication. The delivery methods are a function of the content being produced.

How do you see today’s content requirements?

A change in mindset starts with getting clear about what is required from the content process. I want a process that gives me acceptable quality so it doesn’t denigrate my brand. I need content to become available quickly, if not instantly, and continuously. I can’t expand my budget exponentially. So I need to optimize all three factors. But I also need to create content that is relevant based upon the specific issues and interests of each stakeholder, where they are in the buying process, what industry they are in, which alternatives they are considering, different purposes (training, marketing, briefing, selling) of my communication.

If I’m selling internationally, I need content in four to seven languages. All of this means I have a HUGE volume requirement. This means I have to really consider how to leverage my content investments. I have to be able to share or borrow with other functional groups. And I have to be able to maintain content elements to extend shelf life as long as possible.

Not to pile on, but today my audiences are interested in content in formats beyond traditional text-based documents including: web pages and microsites, blogs and online articles, audio podcasts, digital video, live web conferences, mobile devices and linked into a plethora of social media sites (to name just a few).

I get tired just thinking of all this.

And how can my production teams determine what will be relevant to specific audiences at specific times? They don’t understand, and have no practical access to, the contextual situation of every communication.

What you’ve said makes real sense both in terms of our content requirements and the challenges for fulfilling on them. What do we have to do to get there?

Many marketing thought leaders have used the expression “think like a publisher,” and I completely agree. The problem is, most people aren’t clear what that means. They don’t have actionable processes that help them create like a publisher.

I was fortunate to have spent over three years with Ziff Davis in the eighties when they were investigating ways to move their print publishing business into the electronic publishing world. I learned a lot about how publishers think, view the world, but mostly how they implement a different business model to regularly publish high quality content, on very short timeframes, and make money doing it.

The vision I had when I started our company, was to enable a business person to assemble and deliver a video tailored to every audience, even an audience of one! And I wanted to do that especially for sales people, despite the realities of limited time, patience, creative and technical acumen. The process we created turned out to be essential in a world where only the front line of business, and those setting up relevant drip nurturing programs in Marketo, understand the content  relevance requirements of target audiences.

NOTE:  Avitage is running an upcoming webinar to further expand on these ideas.  You may register for the webinar here. And for a 90-second streaming preview of the webinar, click the Play button below.