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The Value of Content Assets: Guidance for Enterprise Executives

The value of enterprise content extends beyond the balance sheet.

Content is the enabling force behind highly personalized and intelligent customer experiences. In some cases, it can even be worth billions of dollars, in terms of content marketing spend. Sadly, content continues to be undervalued by most companies. Many enterprises aren’t aware of the hidden value in the content they already have.

In this episode of the Acrolinx Content Insiders podcast, Volker Smid, CEO of Acrolinx, and Chris Willis, CMO of Acrolinx, interview Cruce Saunders, founder of [A] and a longtime advocate for content engineering and content intelligence practices. Join these three thought leaders as they jump into a deep-dive on content valuation and determining the real worth of a portfolio of content assets.

Listen to the full audio and watch the video here.


Transcript

Chris Willis
Welcome to Content Insiders brought to you by Acrolinx, the AI-powered platform that eliminates content chaos and delivers strategy aligned content at enterprise scale. For more information on Acrolinx, stay tuned at the end of this broadcast or visit us at www.acrolinx.com.

In this episode, Acrolinx's CEO, Volker Smid, will speak with Cruce Saunders, founder and principal at [A], and me, Chris Willis, CMO of Acrolinx, about how enterprises must start looking at content as an asset to their business and from there how they can maximize the value of that asset. 

Volker Smid
So good morning. For me, it's more a good afternoon or late afternoon, it's getting late here back in Germany. I am Volker Smid, Chief Executive Officer of Acrolinx, joined by Chris Willis, our Chief Marketing Officer today. And you, Cruce, on an interview where we try to talk about the value of content in general. 

So let me hand it over to you, Cruce, for your introduction and then maybe you hand it over to Chris. And then we go straight into the topic. 

Cruce Saunders
OK, sounds good. Thanks, Volker. I'm Cruce Saunders, founder at [A], which is at simplea.com. We are a global consultancy working in this area of content supply chain optimization. So we work with the largest enterprises in the world on some of the biggest content asset stockpiles in the world. 

Helping them to move content from producer through management, through omnichannel delivery, increasingly into some form of personalized variance in a modular form. And so we've been doing that for a number of years. And so along the way, we've had to look at content value and systems with a lot of organizations. And so I'm looking forward to our conversation about value today. 

Chris Willis
I'll say, and that's I think why we really wanted to have you join us today. I'm Chris Willis, I'm the Chief Marketing Officer at Acrolinx and this is a pivotal episode of Content Insider. It's essentially setting the stage for the things that we're going to talk about all season and specifically looking at content in the enterprise as an asset.

It's not a thing that just happens. There's value in it. There's a spend associated with it, even if it's a headcount spend. And helping companies to understand that what they're doing is really the value of their organization. If you think about a major enterprise with a huge e-commerce website. 

The value of the content on their website is in the tens of millions of dollars, if not more. And we have one customer that's in the billions and it goes overlooked. And I think that's what we want to bring to the surface, is that content isn't just a thing that happens. It's not just a thing that gets thrown up someplace. It's the lifeblood of the business. Volker, I think you have a quote that you like about water. 

Volker Smid
Yeah, true. So let me use that term or that phrase that I learned long before I joined, actually, Acrolinx. And I prepared myself, I read a piece of content from Accenture Digital, a lady that is called Donna Tuths, and she produced a piece that is called "Content is the H2O of a modern enterprise".

So she essentially referred to content as being the water of an enterprise. So life essential for an enterprise and I liked that term and actually it inspired me a lot. And the more I looked into the area, the more I was surprised, to say the least, about the lack of consideration of value of content. 

I give you an example and then hand it over to you, Cruce. I think on average, this world runs about 1.7 billion websites, 50 billion pieces of content that Google crawls every month. And if I boil it down to a typical enterprise website, let's say a life sciences company.

They have between 2 million and 2.5 million pages on a website, a global, at-scale life sciences company. And on about 90% of their pages, they talk about their products. And if we only assume, which is the very low end of the estimate, that every page of content has cost $1,000, if I do the math, I think this company sits at $2.5 billion asset of content. 

So number one, that asset is nowhere on the balance sheet. Number two, it's not a budget line item anywhere. It has a complete lack of control. And also there's a value associated to it generating a positive customer experience, a positive NPS score. It can for OTC drugs drive leads in a multi-channel environment. But poorly governed, it can also imply some degree of risk and risk has associated costs. 

So here is an example of an enterprise that sits on an unknown 2.5 billion content asset piece and can probably not express what the value of that asset is, let alone managing, governing it or controlling it for the best outcome. Why is that, Cruce? And how can we jointly start to change it? 

Cruce Saunders
It comes down to the way spend happens around content. Why content gets lost is because spend is based on in quarter P&L-oriented spends where content production is an expendable cost. But the asset value of what is produced never gets accrued to the balance sheet in literal terms.

And because of that, the CFO's perspective says that $2 billion that's been spent just get spread out among a lot of different departments, functions, product groups, international teams. They don't look at it as a portfolio. They don't look at it in aggregate. And they certainly don't measure it on a per asset basis.

And I would go so far as to say that when they've spent the money, all they've created is potential value. The creation of content is itself not value-producing. It is only the consumption of content that is value-producing. –@mrcruce And so the content has to be quality and has to be in an environment that's managed for risk and has to be able to be provided to channels and has to be able to be understood on an asset basis, not just on a consumption or page basis. 

In order to be able to cross that chasm from P&L thinking to balance sheet thinking, we have to be able to fundamentally change the way we look at content and measure it as an institutional really cornerstone. Because as you pointed out, a lot of organizations derive most of their top-line revenue from content interactions of some kind, some sort of customer experience. So that is behavior that's moving on the basis of content. That behavior, that consumption event creates the value. –@mrcruce

And so when Google originates a new entrance into a website, Volker, as you know, previously running a company in the search business, that there's tremendous cost that people put into Google ads to get people to come to visit their content versus a competitor's.

So if an organic content asset is able to bring in that resulting site entrance that I would otherwise be willing to pay $50 for, my content has produced $50 in value. 

Volker Smid
Yeah. 

Cruce Saunders
And so that's just one example of the generative and obviously traceable value of content that isn't traced today.

Chris Willis
Absolutely. This came about for us at least because I'm in a conversation talking about efficiency and we can increase the efficiency of your content creation. We can help you save money. And the response back was, "Oh, what? What money? What do you mean?" 

And if I go further and I show you an ROI model and I show you a big number at the bottom of it. The question is, is somebody's going to write me this? I don't have this. You're telling me I'm going to save $50 million as an enterprise. I don't have that kind of budget. Show me where that is. And it's like you say, it's not a thing that we're paying for. 

It's a thing that people do when they come to work. I create content. You create content. We're all doing it sitting at our desk. And it's largely lost that that's the base of the business, it's the framework of how you generate revenue, how you keep customers, how you invite new people to have customer experiences.

It's all the content that's being created by these people and not identifying the value of that is a step towards not being able to have a conversation. All these companies that are out there trying to talk about content marketing technology, you're missing the top of the pyramid. We haven't identified that this is a thing of value yet, and I think we have to do that.

Volker Smid
So I would fully agree with both of you. And now, provocative statement or question number two is. And I have worked for global companies, for Fortune 100 companies. And I know what the typical behavior of Fortune 100 companies is. If they see a need to control something, what they normally do is they create a global function for it.

I'll give you an example. Supply chain is today a global function. It does not sit in a business unit. It sits as a global function. And over the course of the last three decades, I think global companies have reduced their supply chain centers by 80% and have consolidated a lot to gain more efficiency, more control, more speed, more agility, in essence, more value. 

Another example would be facilities. A global company probably runs like 500 different facilities around the world. And over time enterprises have learned oh, there is a lack of control. Every country does whatever they want to do. It's completely inefficient. And we have square foot allocation per employee in China that is X. 

And in the US, it's Y. So what they do is they create a global function. They start to manage and control the destiny and the outcome of that asset value. Are we in a phase now, Cruce, where we have the belief that managing the efficiency or in other words, the costs of creating the content and also managing and controlling the output of content will be similar to the examples on the supply chain and the facility management in global companies.

Cruce Saunders
100%. It's happening now, in many of our clients, there are now functions that didn't exist a year ago or two years ago. Global omnichannel groups, global customer experience groups that facilitate cross-silo, cross-functional content interactions and leverage supply chain and infrastructure investments across these groups. 

So that way we're enabling the knowledge interactions between an enterprise and its customers, partners, and its larger ecosystem in the most efficient way possible. Our world is mediated in largely digital terms and communicated through channels that are more and more malleable every day.

We have voice interactions taking over our consumer lives. Voice interactions will absolutely take over our enterprise lives. There's nothing to say that the content production, which is topical to a voice interaction should be produced in a separate silo and copied and pasted between voice and various renditions of that same topic that same content. 

If I need to resolve an issue in a software or I need to manage a chargeback process, or I need to understand the benefit of a feature before I buy a router. Any of those functions are topic-oriented content interactions that happen across channels. They might happen in a chatbot, in a voice box in multiple languages, in multiple places on different devices. 

I need to be able, as an enterprise content owner, to orchestrate that as a global function. And Volker, I 100% agree that the enterprise will adopt global content operations. In fact, we've proposed an entire organizational structure for that, we call the content services organization. And we are putting these in place inside of some of our enterprise clients today.

And that is ideally situated in an orchestrating role where it manages the structure and semantic standards and the asset value and assessment standards for content assets on a global basis, while the local content production happens in the individual functions. 

That way, there's a way to organize and manage the abstraction and the value at a global level, but not control the individual content production that has to happen in the field and on the edge. And this is what enterprises constantly struggle with. The spend you talked about, it's just spread out. It's just spread out in all of these places. 

It's like producing content in APAC for campaigns that are being hatched out of San Jose, but they're being really executed by the field teams. And so they need to be able to work against some of the same ways of infrastructure and supply chain that you talked about, rather than have to recreate the entire infrastructure for their plumbing of the content. 

You talked about water. It would be like giving the field, you have to use water, but I want you to create a water processing plant and innovate all the plumbing, all the fixtures, all the fittings. We're not going to give you any standards to how any of that's going to work together. You're going to reinvent water infrastructure in every market you operate in every time.

Volker Smid
Correct. Yeah, mission Impossible. So I think all of us would agree, so that's the one thing that there is content everywhere and there's content in silos. And the best representation of silo is that I think on average, Chris, we find in every of our customer situations, I don't know, up to 50 different repositories where people store content. By the way, these are the ones that they know. 

Chris Willis
Exactly. 

Volker Smid
There is probably a much larger number of repositories that they don't know that exist. And so over time, my hypothesis would be as you said, global functions. The content silos need to be broken down, that's my second hypothesis. 

Because from a user perspective, from a consumer perspective, I don't distinguish between technical content, marketing content or other content. For me, this is all part of the user experience –Volker Smid of @Acrolinx. And if all of that is true, Chris and Cruce, now tell me in a reporting line of a global company, so who is the EVP content and who does he or she report to then? Any idea, Cruce? 

Cruce Saunders
I think the organizational structure around content tends to trend towards an omnichannel leader of some kind. And that the content function reports to that omnichannel customer experience leader. And so there is a need to understand content as a part of customer epics and journeys and stories. 

And we need to orchestrate at the story level because, like you said, if I'm coming into a company, I might get support from one department purchasing assistance from another department, upselling from another department but to me, it's the same company. I have no idea. 

And so we have to be able to say, "Here is the journey we're orchestrating at a global level.  And then, marketing department, you're responsible for content in this structure against this set of approaches against these semantics that we share with everybody so that we call things the same campaign code, the same product ID, the same customer journey step." 

All of those things have to be shared from group to group but the individual groups can work with the ingredients. The other analogy we use a lot is food. Food production used to happen in a very, very manual way. But then 7 billion people showed up on the planet. And now, to be able to create a food delivery at scale, we have to automate the way that it's produced and managed and delivered.

And so the way that restaurants do it at some scale, industrial restaurants that serve millions of diners a year, they have a set of standard ingredients and local chefs recombine those into different dishes at the point of service. So it's that idea that they're standardized ingredients, standardized supply chain, standardized infrastructure, local preparation, local delivery. 

Volker Smid
Great. I think this is an excellent summary, Chris and Cruce. I think we are all on the same path. I think we are jointly building this or helping to build that. And I see like you see, I see not in marketing-centric companies like in financial industry companies. I see this function being connected to the Chief Customer Officer more and more. They are building content strategy organizations and operations organization because they see. 

Why do they see the content of value? Simply said, because in wealth management, the CPC for a single keyword can be above €100 or $100. That's a good expression of value of something, right? In wealth management you could think every lead can be worth tens of thousands, if not more, dollars or euros. So really enjoyed the conversation.

Would actually like to repeat this and go into the next degree of detail, and let's stay in touch. Let's stay safe and healthy during the time. And hopefully at some point, I don't know whether this happens this year, but an in-person  meeting to get together, sit down, think it through and sketch it out and continue to promote it. It would be lovely, Cruce. Many thanks for your contribution and Chris, to you. And let's continue to build it.

Cruce Saunders
Let's continue to build it. Thank you, Volker. Appreciate the time. Thank you, Chris.

For more Content Intelligence Resources

Check out the trove of resources in the [A] Treasury for even more information about content intelligence, and how the practices of content strategy, content engineering, and content operations fit into a content intelligence framework.

And, sign up for the Content Order for free access to even more material and exclusive content, including a 90-minute Roundtable on Omnichannel Customer Experience, and the [A] Guide to the Content Service Organization.

Authorship

Volker Smid is the CEO of Acrolinx and has over 25 years of management experience in the technology and media industry. Before joining Acrolinx, as the CEO of Searchmetrics, Smid contributed his extensive knowledge of the online sector to drive the ongoing international expansion of the Berlin-based group.


Chris Willis brings more than 20 years of experience growing companies in the technology sector. He has held leadership roles in marketing, creative, technical and business development at companies including Perfecto, Pyxis Mobile, KPMG-CT, ModelGolf and Cambridge Technology Group.


Cruce Saunders is the founder and principal at [A] and author of Content Engineering for a Multi-Channel World. He regularly speaks on omnichannel customer experience, content intelligence, AI, chatbots, personalization, content structural and semantic standards, and intelligence transformation. He also hosts the Towards a Smarter World podcast, where he connects with leaders impacting global intelligence.

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