From The Editor

It's Time To Rethink Your Content Approval Process

Abby Sorensen July 2017 Headshot

By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor

Content Strategy

 

Writing good content* is hard, really hard, especially in B2B. Why, then, do B2B companies make the content creation process even harder with a rigorous, lengthy, and redundant internal approval process?

A marketing team can conduct customer research to discover pain points, interview an internal SME who knows how to solve that pain point, and then produce a market-altering white paper. And then, that market-altering, sales-enabling, show-stopping white paper will…

… sit in the legal department for four weeks.

… take another two weeks for the SME to review it.

… head to the CMO’s desk for a “final” glance over the course of another week.

… be sent to the VP of sales to see if the messaging resonates with the business development team (chalk that up to two more weeks).

… go back to the CMO for final, final approval (but your CMO is on vacation so add in another week).

… filter through your agency, whose team will need at least a week to “improve” it.

… spend a week being revised with five, six, seven rounds of mostly meaningless edits.

For those of you who are counting, that adds up to three months of waiting to deliver a piece of content that isn’t materially different from an original draft. That perfectly capable original draft could have been influencing prospects three months earlier. An entire quarter has flown by, you don’t have any results to show from that piece of content, and your sales team is groaning about a dry pipeline.

“Oh well,” you say, “that’s just how long it takes to get content approved around here. I can’t make miracles happen.”

Prospects Won’t Wait For Your Content

Multiply this scenario by the dozens of content assets you need to tailor to individual buyer personas (because you should be tailoring your content based on market segment and buyer personas). It’s easy to see how content marketing is doomed to fail if your approval process isn’t streamlined. That hypothetical failure comes with a price: frustrated marketing teams and lost sales opportunities.

Your prospects aren’t putting their buyer’s journey on hold to wait for your next white paper to hit their inbox. Your prospects have investors and shareholders to please, orders to fill, and products to develop. 

While that white paper is collecting dust for four weeks in your legal department, your prospect is busy setting their strategy, exploring options, and setting vendor criteria for their next purchase. They’re navigating the buyer’s journey without you, which means your sales team is already at a disadvantage by the time they enter your funnel. There are plenty of reasons B2B companies miss sales opportunities, but a clunky content approval process should not be one of them.

Why Does Approving Content Take So Long?

As a B2B publisher, we know it can take an eternity for our strategic partners to get content approved. This George Patton quote hangs in one of our conference rooms, and we recite it often: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

And yet, approving our own content – content like this very article about content marketing best practices – was taking an eternity. If this can happen to us, it surely can happen to your marketing team. Looking back, here are some of the reasons it took us so long to approve content:

  • The process was new, so we wanted to “get it right.”
     
  • Our writer (me!) was new to the topic and wanted feedback from multiple stakeholders.
     
  • Our SMEs are busy with things that are more urgent and important to the overall health of the business than reading content drafts.
     
  • We wanted to “ensure our messaging was on-brand” and the people who know our brand the best are the same people who are too busy to read article drafts.

The “people are busy” excuse was the biggest culprit in our content delay. That’s a hard pill to swallow for marketing teams whose livelihoods depend on getting content approved, distributed, and analyzed.

Establish Content Approval Ground Rules

We finally came to this conclusion: post now, edit later if necessary, and learn along the way. It was better to model Patton’s idea of executing a good content plan now instead of waiting to perfect the content plan. Our writer (me!) could push our content out into the B2B world as long as the following conditions were met:

  1. A proofreader – in our case a freelance copy editor – reviewed each article for basic spelling/grammar revisions. (Spell check can’t catch everything, people.)
     
  2. Our writer (me!) and our SMEs had a firm mutual understanding of the topic and the overall theme/direction/goal of the piece of content. This meant we spent hours – lots and lots of hours – meeting to brainstorm topics, identify buyer personas, and outline how we can best help educate our audience.

Point #2 here is critical. If you aren’t producing good content* then there’s no point in trying to streamline your content approval process. And the only way to produce good content is to do the painstaking, tedious upfront work to identify, learn, and help your buyer before you start drafting content.

*Good content builds trust by truly educating your customers and helping them solve problems/challenges. Good content does not focus on telling the customer about what you do. Writing good content is hard. Writing content that only talks about the features and benefits of your products/services is not-so-hard.