We’ve all had that moment. Company is coming over and your place is a mess. You shove all of your laundry, empty boxes, cat toys, books, and loose papers – anything that’s out of place, really – into your closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Until that is, you go to open that closet door weeks later, and everything comes tumbling out in a disorganized mess.

Now imagine all of that stuff is your sales collateral – and you’ve shoved it all into some kind of repository system. 

If that sounds familiar, it might be because no one really owns your content management or sharing system. Or no one really knows where to look for the information they need. Or different teams keep information in different places. Or collateral falls out of date because it slips between the cracks. Or work gets duplicated as people recreate content that already exists. Either way, it does more damage than good.

After all, the stats don’t lie. About 70 percent of the content that marketing creates never gets used by sales. Only 44 percent of knowledge workers know where to find the information they need for day-to-day work. 59 percent of workers say they use more tools today than they did last year – when it comes to team collaboration apps, that number is around four or higher.

And like that closet full of household debris, the prospect of cleaning that all up at once? Daunting, to say the least. So how can you deal?

First, don’t panic. It’s okay – unlike your dinner guests, we won’t judge! Second, it’s time to stop treating your content system like a hiding spot or a dumping ground and give it a little TLC.

What doesn’t work: Organizing for storage

Google Drive is great for a lot of things. It’s easy to share files and documents between members of your team. You can collaborate on document creation in real-time. But as a repository for all of the sales and marketing collateral you’ve created? Not so much. Ditto for file sharing tools like Dropbox and OneDrive. 

They fall short because they just don’t provide the context around the files you save. If a rep needs a piece for a specific persona in a specific industry in a specific phase of your sales cycle, where should they look? The more time they spend stumbling through folders, the less time they have to serve that prospect or make that play. 

Let’s not forget the tools you buy for other purposes, like your CRM, that are really good at what they do best, but not so strong when it comes to your collateral. But it’s easy to fall into bad content management habits when you have a catch-all tool that reps use every day.

Or even worse – content is completely disconnected as reps keep their own versions and documents in their email or on their computers and mobile devices.

No matter how you slice it, the more files that pile up in the wrong places, the harder it is to find what you’re looking for. And all that clutter makes those tools less appealing to use overall, even for other tasks.

If your primary goal is “where should I put all this stuff?” then these solutions might work well. But really, effective content management means shifting that mindset to “how am I going to help reps find the right content when they need it?” And that means breaking away from thinking about storage to thinking about search. 

What does work: Organizing for searching (and finding)

Think about collateral from your reps’ point of view. When they’re on a call with a hot prospect, they need the right content, right now. Not after an hour of searching. That’s why we recommend having a single source of truth – one place that’s really good at managing content, and where reps know they can find what they’re looking for.

What does that single source look like? Ideally:

  • It has a robust search function that makes finding the right content as easy as asking a conversational question
  • Everything points back to a single source document, so you don’t have multiple versions floating around
  • It’s organized around the steps in your sales process, the buyer’s journey and the plays in your playbook
  • Reps can share, comment or add their own notes to the content to help make content even better
  • You can track how often content is used and assess how helpful it is in the field

Here’s where your playbooks and your content come together. Your playbooks guide reps through all the steps they need to sell, from general strategy to the nitty-gritty steps. A modern playbook ties those steps in with your content – a match made in heaven for you and your reps. 

In other words, you need to stop thinking of your content as something you’ll shove into a closet full of other content and leave. Start thinking of it as something that needs – and deserves – careful curation and management.

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