How to Build a Content Ecosystem
There’s an old saying that lends insight into the difference between how humans and nature create: When humans produce something, they separate elements; when nature builds, it brings elements together.
Taking note from nature can bring strength to your content strategy. When you shift to thinking of your content as an ecosystem rather than as individual assets, you’ll produce results and content that connects.
What often happens is teams get wrapped up in asset-centric marketing. This is when you are producing one-off assets on a case-by-case basis, by request or out of necessity, without keeping the bigger picture in mind.
A content ecosystem on the other hand is when you interconnect every piece of content to work toward your larger goal.
With a few thoughtful shifts, you can see past the trees to the forest that surrounds you.
Let’s get started.
What to Consider When Building a Content Ecosystem
Link your content together to guide the customer journey. The first thing to consider when building a content ecosystem is how you will link assets together in a way that guides the path of your organization’s unique customer journey. Each customer journey is different and as we’re learning, we see that the buyers’ journey is not linear. Still, it’s important to anticipate your buyers’ needs at each step to ensure you’re creating content that meets these needs.
For example, when a prospect reads one of your blogs, what happens next? If the topic is educational, more than likely they are starting their journey and looking for guidance. By including thoughtful next steps through links in your blog, you’re helping them along their journey. Within the blog you can link to thought leadership, an e-book, or other content your prospect will find valuable.
It’s tiny shifts like this that elevate individual assets to a place of guiding the prospect, rather than pushing them along the path you think is best.
Repurpose your best assets to add variety. Each member of your audience gravitates toward different types of content. To reach everyone wherever they are in the customer journey and to understand how they prefer to consume content are musts. Repurposing content is helpful for this motion. You can leverage one of your larger, best-performing pieces of content and repurpose it. Remember, you can become so familiar with your content that repurposing seems repetitive, but chances are not all your audience have seen it the first time around. Also, half of those who did see it may have breezed through it. Repurposing is a way to get more life out of your quality pieces and entice a larger segment of your audience to view it.
Create a content experience. Understanding the bigger picture requires you to map out memorable experiences for your prospects. We talked about what types of content to include in your strategy, but when building a content ecosystem, think of your content as the parts of an ecosystem. What makes up the forest? Trees, wildlife, water, plants, flower, fungi—there are so many pieces that work in tandem and rely on one another to prosper. In your content strategy, this equates to thought leadership, educational pieces, straightforward solution guides, bite-size content, success stories, and more. It’s the way those different content types work together that sets the experience apart.
A customer’s experience with you on the path to purchase sets the tone for whether they engage with your call to action. Deconstruct it by thinking about every possible piece of content your customer may consume during their lifetime with you.
Here’s an example of what it may look like:
The experience comes from the way you set up your campaigns to engage your buyers on their journey. Map out your campaigns and see how they all fit together. What story do they tell? How do they shape what your buyer is feeling during each stage? If you were your buyer, would you have what you need at any given stage to propel you to take the next step? After asking yourself these questions you’ll have deeper insight into their needs.
Here are three easy steps to help you move from an asset-centric content strategy to a content ecosystem.
Perform a content audit and analyze the story its telling. Once you look at the content you have, you’ll have a clearer picture of whether it’s supporting the larger goal of your organization or if you need to formulate new content that connects the dots within the customer journey.
Work with your team to update and pivot your content strategy. After you’ve performed your content audit, you’ll be able to sit down with your team to talk about your findings. You’ll want feedback from your sales team, too. They directly interact with prospects and customers, so they’ll offer feedback based on what they are hearing on the front lines. This is the perfect time to decide how you can pivot or update your content strategy so you’re building a content ecosystem as you move forward.
Document the plan of action you create. To keep your team accountable and ensure you are focused on building your content ecosystem moving forward, your next step is to document this new plan of action. You can do this by creating a content map. Think back to your sixth-grade English class and the diagrams you would draw when brainstorming for an essay, but on a grander scale! Always keep your goals in the middle and then create branches that connect back to that story and flow with the natural journey your customers take from discovering your solution to making a purchase. Take it a step further and add in which stage of the customer life cycle each branch fulfills. When you do this exercise, it will become apparent where your gaps are and which type of content you should create more of.
Content is still king and the role it plays in your overall strategy is undeniable. By thinking of it in terms of a content ecosystem, you’ll propel your prospects forward naturally and avoid a clunky customer journey that leaves them with more questions than answers.
Kellie Walenciak is the global head of marketing and communications for Televerde, the preferred global revenue creation partner supporting marketing, sales, and customer success for B2B businesses around the world.