How Content Operations Can Make or Break Your Revenue Targets

Could something as mundane as content operations have an impact on your company’s revenue enablement efforts? In this post, I’ll demonstrate why the answer is yes. When we think of streamlined and scalable content processes, most business leaders view it as not having close proximity to revenue. It’s seen as more of a marketing function. But in modern companies with digital models, content operations increasingly have a direct impact on revenue. 

CONTENT OPERATIONS CAN HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON CONVERSION RATES

Let’s see what it looks like when we take an example of content that sits close to revenue creation, on the sales enablement side. Here’s a hypothetical business scenario:

  • Year-end target for net new revenue = $5M
  • Average revenue per customer = $20K
  • Net new customers to be added by year end = 250
  • Net new customers needed per month = 21
  • Number of salespeople = 7
  • Average number of deals per month per salesperson needed = 3
  • Opportunity-to-customer conversion rate = 15%
  • Monthly opportunities per salesperson needed = 20
  • Total monthly opportunities needed = 140
  • Total annual opportunities needed = 1,680

Now, let’s assume for this scenario that the sales enablement materials provided by content operations, as it’s currently functioning, are helping the company achieve the 15% average opportunity-to-customer conversion outlined above. How much could these conversion rates improve with more effective content operations? Or conversely, how much could revenue suffer if content operations actually deteriorate and become less effective?

Companies that get serious about sales enablement report improvements in their conversion rates of anywhere from 10% to 30%. To run some extremely conservative estimates, let’s assume we can improve the overall conversion rate by bringing it up from 15 to 17%. And let’s assume when we take our eye off the ball with content ops, our conversion rate goes down to 13%.

Decreased Efficiency of Content OperationsStatus Quo Efficiency of Content OperationsImproved Efficiency of Content Operations
Total of Annual Opportunities168016801680
Conversion Rate13%15%17%
Customers @ $20K218252286
Revenue$4.4M$5M$5.7

In our sample scenario, the company could fall short of their target by $600K due to inferior content ops. Or, they could exceed their target by $700K if they focus on improvements to content ops. That’s a delta of $1.3M in revenue between a deficient and an optimized content operations system, even at a fairly small company.

As you grow, the stakes get even higher if you are not paying attention to the link between content operations and revenue. If your revenue target is $50M instead of just $5M for example, using the same conversion rates and ARPC above, you’re looking at a potential swing of $13M from the worst to best scenario. If we 10x our scenario again and take it to $500M, your company could miss out on $130M in revenue, all because you’re not paying attention to the potential that sits within content operations to boost sales efficiency and productivity. 

The potential of content operations to improve sales velocity is tremendous, especially when it comes to sales enablement content. Making seemingly small improvements to conversion rates by removing friction from content processes seems at first like it can’t have much impact, but it most definitely can. 

EFFICIENCY OF CONTENT OPERATIONS CAN HELP OR HARM SALES TEAMS

Salespeople, especially when selling complex products or services like B2B software, often need to have quick and accurate access to a wide range of information to do their job effectively. When they can’t get the critical information they need, when they need it, both their efficiency and productivity drop.

Now imagine if:

  • … net new content reached salespeople 10% earlier in their sales cycle each month, how many deals per month it would impact over the course of an entire year
  • … salespeople could find their content 20% faster, giving them back precious hours, how it would improve their overall attainment and velocity
  • … sales managers had to spend 15% less time repeating the same onboarding information over and over one person at a time, and could free up their time to support their reps
  • onboarding content could be consumed 30% faster, decreasing sales rep ramp time and getting them productive as quickly as possible
  • … teams could boost their initial onboarding effectiveness by 20%, how much impact it would have on speed of ramp and overall velocity

When you consider these factors, and their impact on the bottom line, investments in content operations seem like a no-brainer. But, beware that simply throwing budget and headcount at this issue won’t work. In fact, just adding more people into the mix without the right skill sets combined with the right content infrastructure, management and publishing tools, the odds are that you’re actually going to make the problem worse.

CREATING A SCALABLE CONTENT OPERATIONS MACHINE

Very few companies do these types of calculations to link content to revenue. As a result, they don’t truly understand the value of content enough to actually invest in creating a scalable content machine. But if you do decide to improve content ops, your approach will need to include the classics of People, Process, Technology:

  • People. A high-functioning content operations system includes not just internal folks to create, distribute, manage, and publish content, but a network of external vendors who can help accelerate velocity, ideally taking advantage of diverse time zones in a follow-the-sun model. The people they have on the team are not only content producers, but highly technical too, including ones with expertise in project management (ideally PMP certified), and have knowledge of the latest content management and AI tools.
  • Process. The focus of content operations, especially in the case of content that sits close to revenue functions, must be on increasing efficiency, but especially speed in terms of time gained back by salespeople and sales managers. All content operations process improvements need to be oriented around efficiency, but to do that, it’s especially important to identify the content that will have the greatest impact on time spent by salespeople. Once that is clear, it’s possible to forecast revenue impact using “time saved” as a proxy for “time invested” by salespeople in actually closing business.
  • Technology. I can’t stress enough the importance of having technologists on a content operations team. Increasingly, human time is lost in mundane tasks, such as manually moving content from place to place, uploading files, and doing things humans should no longer be doing in a world of automation possibilities. Technology selection is critical to ensure no parts of the content operations processes get slowed down. Content teams will increasingly need their own development resources to automate simple processes, communications, “suggestion engines” and so on.

When you take a company global, the impact of ineffective content operations becomes immediately apparent. It’s inadvisable to scale things that are clearly broken, but actually impossible to suddenly scale ineffective content operations across geos or multiply your content by many languages. When content processes begin to require global scale, they are often disappointed when they talk to localization teams, because they quickly learn that their process lacks scalability. Localization teams often serve as a barometer of whether content processes were truly efficient to begin with in just one language.

BUSINESSES REQUIRE A FOCUS ON CONTENT OPERATIONS TO SCALE EFFICIENTLY

If you look around the various functions at your company, you’ll find content operations in many places. However, the risk of not optimizing content operations is highest when the people who depend on that content are responsible for generating revenue. Ask yourself if there are any other areas of your company that already demonstrate a high ability to produce and distribute content at scale. For example, do you have strong operational processes and automation on your marketing or localization teams? Often, these teams create content systems that can help your business scale. 

If content operations knowledge exists within a company and is not being leveraged, you might have a mismatch between the distinct parts of the revenue engine and how it operates. For example, marketing content operations might be buzzing along nicely at high speed and with good ability to scale, while inefficient content operations elsewhere might inadvertently foil all of the good work being done upstream, even if those content ops actually take place closer to revenue and closer to salespeople.

Of course, there are many interlinked pieces that affect conversion rates, from hiring to lead quality, from opportunity qualification processes on the business development side, to sales management practices, and so much more. More effective content operations cannot solve all problems within a business’s go-to-market motion. But content operations can play a key role in optimizing and improving revenue enablement. The success of your business in optimizing your revenue engine may very well hinge on whether you choose to build a true content operations muscle.

Nataly Kelly

Nataly leads localization at HubSpot and has previously held diverse roles in marketing, international operations and strategy, research, and product development. Her latest book is "Found in Translation" (Penguin). She writes for Harvard Business Review on topics of international marketing and global business. Nataly works remotely from New England, having lived in Quito (Ecuador), Donegal (Ireland) and the rural Midwest where she grew up.

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