Lately I've been doing a ton of work around the content marketing vendor landscape, conducting research as well as helping clients ascertain what their technology needs are and pinpoint the vendors that can solve their problems.
Again and again, one step arises in this process that's absolutely essential and mission-critical both for the short- and long-term success of any content marketing technology investment, yet it's also one too often overlooked by stakeholders: soliciting shareholder input into the decision making process.
Gathering cross-functional input goes far beyond getting stakeholder requirements. Although requirements are, of course, critical.
After identifying the broad outlines of your organization's content needs, the next step is to identify stakeholders and end-users both within and outside of the marketing organization to solicit for their requirements, input, and collaboration. It's important to gather requirements across teams: cross-functionally as well as across workflows.
Some brands actually submit mini-internal RFPs or surveys to stakeholders to help gain very specific documented input on needs, pain points, and feature requests. Not only does this step help identify needs that may have been overlooked, but collaboration also creates a sense of ownership and goes far to facilitate end-user adoption.
The alternative? Tools are foisted upon the teams that will use them. The very human reaction is, almost universally, pushback. Not a very desirable scenario.
Another reason to solicit stakeholder feedback when selecting content tools is integration concerns, and integration almost always goes far beyond marketing. Content marketing tools can easily require integration with enterprise systems ranging from HR to data, storage platforms to customer service, and even finance.
What's the big idea?
When circulating the feedback request, including the purpose of the exercise and vision is critical. Carlos Abler, 3M's online content strategy lead puts it this way, "Never lose an opportunity to 'sell' the idea to stakeholders in order to gain the deepest and most useful stakeholder input, and to rally their support for the long haul and how departments are benefited. Note that there are cross-functional benefits that can be highlighted, such as optimized asset sharing, customer/audience knowledge sharing, economy of effort, and long term reduced redundancy and effort."
Compiling stakeholder feedback to glean insights, ideas you may have overlooked, and pattern recognition is essential. Getting out the vote is obviously not a democratic process. A person or committee is charged with leading the selection process, and lead they will. But the input of the people who will be using the technology informs not only better decisions, but also better, smoother adoption once that final decision has been reached and investment is made.
We like to end the questionnaire for stakeholders with a single, vital question to distill the process to its essence: If this new tool could accomplish just one thing, what would that thing be?
The answers will be food for thought, as well as invaluable input for decision-making.