8 content lifecycle management stages and best practices
60% of the content created by leading brands becomes “just clutter,” as Marketing Week puts it, impacting neither consumers’ lives nor business results.
A pretty dreary statistic for content marketers, right?
But when you dive deeper into the study, it actually reveals an opportunity. The problem isn’t that consumers don’t want content — it’s that brands aren’t managing content effectively.
This brings us to content lifecycle management, or the process of developing, publishing, organizing, repurposing, and retiring content during its lifecycle at an organization.
In this article, we’re going to cover the different stages of managing this process so you can get the most out of the content you create.
Stages of content lifecycle management
When managing the content lifecycle, there are 8 different stages you should go through to do it effectively. Let’s take a look.
Stage #1: Establish your overall content marketing goals and strategies
Without a content marketing goal (and strategies to help you achieve that goal) you’ll essentially be flying blind with your content.
No wonder having a documented strategy is a common thread among top-performing marketing departments — CMI’s 2022 state-of-the-industry report shows that 62% of top performers run their content marketing with a documented strategy and only 11% of bottom performers do the same.
So before doing anything else, it’s important to first establish your overall content marketing goals, and then strategies to help you hit them. A good way to do this is by asking yourself and your team a few simple questions. What’s the point of publishing content, for example? What are you hoping to achieve?
For many businesses, content marketing goals include one or more of the following:
- Drive organic traffic to your website.
- Generate sales and revenue.
- Nurture leads through the different stages of the sales funnel.
- Build loyalty with existing customers by providing resources and education.
- Encourage people to take a specific action like signing up for your email list, making a purchase, registering for a course, or downloading a digital product.
- Improve the conversion rate on your website.
- Establish industry authority by becoming a thought leader in your space.
Then, attach strategies to your specific goals. Let’s say your overall goal is to drive organic traffic to your website, for example. What strategies can you use to achieve this? A good exercise for this stage is to write out a simple chart like this for each goal:
Content marketing goal: Drive organic traffic to our website
Corresponding strategy: Publish frequent, SEO optimized blog articles
Content marketing goal: Nurture leads in the middle of the sales funnel
Corresponding strategy: Publish high-quality customer stories (case studies) on our website
Stage #2: Determine the resources needed
Once you’ve established your goals and corresponding strategies, it’s time to figure out the resources you need to achieve them. For the content lifecycle management process, this can be anything from funding to personnel to software — and everything in between.
Going back to the goal of driving organic traffic, for example, if you’re going to be publishing frequent SEO optimized blog articles, here are some resources you’ll probably need:
- Funding for internal staff, freelance contractors, or an outsourced agency
- Staff or contractors to strategize, write, edit, and publish content
- The right MarTech software to keep everything organized and allow collaboration
- SEO tools to optimize your content and automate keyword research
By identifying these needs upfront, you can set priorities for your funding requests using minimal resource expenditure.
Stage #3: Set up your content team and arsenal
Now that you know what you need for content lifecycle management, it’s time to assemble your team. Most of the roles on content marketing teams can be split into three general categories — management, strategy, creation, and distribution.
The Content Marketing Institute goes into further detail, outlining the following roles as critical to large content marketing teams:
- Chief content officer (CCO) or director of content marketing – Responsible for setting the overall goals and integrating content across departments.
- Content strategy director or content strategists – Responsible for the development and flow of content as an asset throughout the business, including how the content gets distributed.
- Content manager (aka managing editor) – Responsible for project management and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the editorial calendar.
- Content production director (aka creative director) – Responsible for managing how your content looks across departments and channels.
- Audience development manager – Responsible for developing subscription assets (email lists, social media followers, etc.) and building engagement across different media. This person may also be in charge of distribution.
- Influencer wrangler (aka subject matter expert manager) – Responsible for managing content created by internal and external influencers or experts.
- Technical content manager – Responsible for facilitating content marketing processes with technology
- Content writers, designers, and producers – Responsible for creating the actual written or visual content.
Stage #4: Determine your distribution plan
When determining your distribution plan, remember that content distribution can be divided into four main buckets — owned, earned, shared, and paid.
As a quick review, owned media channels are those that your company owns like your blog, your website, your email and SMS list, and more.
Earned media is basically publicity. In the past, this meant being featured on a morning TV show or radio spot. Today it refers more to unpaid mentions by influencers or on channels like podcasts or blogs.
Shared media, on the other hand, refers to social media channels and other online communities. Content in this bucket includes user-generated content, product reviews, customer interactions, shares, retweets, and more.
The last bucket, paid media, is your typical paid advertising for content promotion. This includes everything from PPC to paid influencers marketing to native ad placement.
Of course, many of these buckets overlap and can be used to augment each other — which is why it’s so important to develop a distribution plan. You’ll also want to consider the following:
- Your business – Different types of businesses need different distribution methods. An established B2B company, for example, is likely to find success sharing content like case studies and long-form blog posts on owned and shared media, whereas a small B2C startup will probably have more success using paid influencer marketing.
- Your audience – B2B customers are typically found on LinkedIn (with 80% of B2B leads coming from LI alone). Gen Z customers, on the other hand, are typically on TikTok. In fact, eMarketer predicts TikTok will surpass Instagram in total Gen Z users in the U.S. by the end of 2021 and Snapchat by 2023.
Stage #5: Set up approval and quality assurance processes
The next stage in the content management process involves setting up your workflow in a way that streamlines the approval and quality assurance process. Otherwise, it’ll be a struggle to keep track of all the different pieces of content that have to move from one desk to another.
Here’s an example of a streamlined workflow in action:
- Your content director sends a request for a podcast episode to the content manager.
- The content manager then assigns the script to a writer and editor, with a deadline.
- The writer turns in the script for approval and it’s automatically routed to the content manager, who likely has the script going through at least one round of revision.
- The content manager eventually approves the script and it’s automatically passed on to the podcast director, who can then contact the narrator, schedule recording, and pass the raw files automatically to production.
- Production finalizes the script and it goes straight out to the podcast.
This type of system streamlines your quality assurance process, while automatically passing the content to the right roles as soon as it’s signed off on. The people responsible for approval will always get the content in a timely manner and there’s no chance of content getting published without approval.
There are many software solutions out there that can help you create these workflows — Welcome being one of them. 😉
Stage #6: Start content creation
Now it’s time for the main event — actual content creation. This is a big stage and it includes everything from strategic planning to keyword research to writing and production.
To manage this process and keep everything (and everyone) organized, it’s a good idea to have some systems in place first. A good project management software or content marketing platform will usually do the trick.
Welcome‘s content marketing platform, for example, enables teams to create faster, repeatable processes to deliver content your audience will love. Here are a few specific ways our platform helps with content creation:
- Keep a pulse on what’s going out across every internal and external channel. Our powerful-yet-flexible calendars allow you to easily visualize what’s going out, to whom, and when.
- Centralize the way your team plans every campaign. Plan the effort, craft the communication strategy, and ensure everyone can help amplify the story using tools like shared campaign briefs, project workspaces, and collaborative content editors.
- Create and proof content of all formats with our built-in editor. This allows you to author an original piece and upload content directly. That way, your team can create, proof, and version work — all in one place.
- Leverage real-time search data and recommendations that help inform your content strategy, optimize content so that it ranks well for search, and ensure it resonates with your audience.
- Invite internal and external contributors to create, review, and approve content. Whether you work with a staff of writers or an external agency, you can easily empower your team with the tools they need to collaboratively perfect every brand story.
Stage #7: Repurpose your content
Repurposing content means using elements of an existing piece to create a new piece that serves a new or different marketing purpose. It’s much easier and less time-consuming than creating content from scratch.
Plus, it’s an excellent way to get the most out of each piece, without having to reinvent the wheel each time. Examples include:
- Changing content into a new format: Turning a blog post into an infographic.
- Breaking up long-form content into a series of shorter pieces (or vice versa): Using content from a 10-page white paper to create several shorter blog posts.
- Changing content to suit another channel: Taking a 2,000-word blog post and breaking it up into 5 bite-size LinkedIn posts.
- Changing content to suit another audience: Turning a written case study into a video to target younger demographics.
- Changing content to suit another stage of the buyer’s journey: Turning a series of blog posts into an ebook.
Stage #8: Keep updating content (or retire it)
The last stage in the content lifecycle is to keep your content updated — especially evergreen or high-performing pieces. Also known as revamping, this process ensures your content remains relevant and continues to serve its purpose.
For example, let’s say you have a high-performing blog post about email marketing that was published in 2019, before the pandemic.
Revamping the piece by adding new information to the original article keeps it relevant and ensures that it continues to provide value to your audience.
You can do this by adding new statistics that have emerged since the article was first posted or by updating the recommendations to reflect current trends.
In the case of content that’s truly outdated, the final step of content management is to retire it and take it out of circulation. This reduces clutter and keeps your web presence fresh and timely.
Best practices for choosing content lifecycle management software
1. Make sure you need it
Before choosing any new type of software, it’s always important to make sure you really need it. You don’t want to overwhelm your marketing stack with unnecessary or overlapping tools.
With that in mind, think about whether you’re experiencing the following pain points related to content management:
- Siloed teams within your marketing organization.
- Lack of collaboration, leading to wasted content and duplicated efforts.
- Lack of a centralized system to store and manage marketing assets.
- No real insight or reporting on how your content is performing across channels.
- Lack of visibility into marketing campaigns, including their progression and performance.
- Collaboration is primarily done via email and spreadsheets.
- Inefficient workflows and approval processes that slow down content and campaign production.
If these sound all too familiar, it’s probably time to add content lifecycle management software to your stack.
2. Determine what’s most important
Once you’ve figured out that you need CLM software, it’s a good idea to take a good look at your current situation to determine what’s most important. Ask your team the following questions:
- Where are our current processes falling short?
- How would a content lifecycle management solution fit into our daily workflow, both as individuals and as a team?
- What are our main goals as a marketing team?
- How do we currently execute and measure our goals?
- What are we lacking based on the pain points listed above?
Then, use the answers to these questions to prioritize what you need most out of a CLM platform. For example, if your team is managing campaigns mostly via shared spreadsheets, you might place emphasis on finding a platform that improves collaboration and workflows.
Or maybe you’re lacking a central place to store campaign assets. In this case, you’d want to prioritize a platform with marketing resource management capabilities.
3. Use as few tools as possible
Once you’ve identified exactly what you need your content management system to do, it’s important to look for a solution that uses as few tools as possible. Otherwise, it can get overwhelming (and ineffective) pretty fast.
For example, imagine coordinating all of the stages of the content lifecycle using a separate project management system, SEO tool, content development tool, asset management solution, content distribution tool, marketing automation platform, email marketing tool, etc.
If that has you stressed out just thinking about it, there’s an easy fix — Welcome. (Sorry! We can’t resist one more shameless plug, lol.)
Welcome’s software combines just about everything you need to manage the content lifecycle into one, easy-to-use platform. Plus, our software is designed to integrate easily with your other systems, giving you one central place to manage everything.
4. Prioritize integration
Speaking of integration, making sure your software plays well with others is another best practice when choosing CLM software (or any MarTech solution for that matter).
Because even if you’re careful to select as few tools as possible, you’re still going to have other platforms and systems that your CLM will need to work with.
Welcome, for example, was built to bring software and people together – that means a centralized platform that integrates with the marketing tools you need most, from Marketo to WordPress to Jira and everything in between.
5. Avoid compromising on quality
When choosing software to help you manage the content lifecycle, it’s important not to skimp on quality. One of the best ways to make sure you’re not getting duped is to read through unbiased and verified reviews on sites like G2 or Gartner’s Peer Insights.
These will often give you an honest idea of a software’s level of quality along with insights into what kind of customer support you can expect from them. Of course, no single review should be weighed too heavily, but an overall theme or score can be very useful.
You can also ask other colleagues in the industry if they have experience using any of the solutions you’re considering. If so, you can gain valuable insights by listening to their experiences — the good and the bad.
Content lifecycle FAQs
What’s a content management process?
The content management process is the overall coordination of your content lifecycle, from idea to finished product. It involves things like coordinating with various stakeholders, organizing interdependent tasks, and distributing content to the right channels.
What skills does a content manager need?
A good content manager needs to be highly skilled in the areas of organization and communication. Their main role is to guide a piece of content through its various stages and creative influences and deliver it on time, on brand, and on budget.
Hopefully, you’re feeling more confident now about managing the content lifecycle at your organization. If you follow the steps outlined here, you’ll be on your way to producing “clutter-free” content in no time.
Here’s a quick recap:
Stages of content lifecycle management:
- Establish your overall marketing goals and strategies
- Determine the resources needed
- Set up your content team and arsenal
- Determine your distribution plan
- Set up your approval and quality assurance processes
- Start content creation
- Repurpose content
- Keep updating content
Best practices for choosing content lifecycle management software:
- Make sure you need it
- Determine what’s most important
- Use as few tools as possible
- Prioritize integration
- Avoid compromising on quality