There’s been a lot of discussion about repurposing content of late. Rebecca Lieb’s analogy to using all of the parts of the leftover turkey is one of the best examples, highlighting how big pieces of content can feed campaigns with ingredients for blogs, infographics, videos, etc.

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While most marketers tend to think of repurposing after the fact, how they can slice up a big piece into smaller parts, a recent webinar we hosted with Matt Papertsian from SiriusDecisions pointed out the advantages of a modular content strategy, where the menu for a series of small pieces is coordinated before anything goes into the oven.

Modular content is content that can be connected and/or combined in different ways and often is built using standardized formats, which improves flexibility and ease-of-use. This is different than repurposing, which is reconfiguring content that’s already been in the field.

If done well, modular content is driven by facts instead of assumptions. Here’s an example: Your team is considering producing another white paper. The last one did fairly well, and besides, you already have a template and writer in mind thanks to the prior effort. The problem is that the previous success could be masking opportunity for even greater success.

According to the Content Preferences survey from Demand Gen Report, two-thirds of executives want content that is less text heavy. That means one-third, or 33%, don’t mind white papers, and that could be enough to trigger a victory flag for meeting conversion goals. But what about the other two-thirds? How many opportunities were lost because a prospect was turned off by format?

This is where modular content makes a difference. By identifying content-type preference and other details about sub-groups within your target audience (using tools such as personas and CRM reports), your team could identify which content formats are most likely to produce the best results per sub-groups and then build the plan from there. Instead of automatically going to a white paper, your team might learn that videos, blogs and photo-sharing also are preferred formats.

This legwork also enables your team to be more effective while building content. Instead of tapping SMEs for whitepaper input only, also ask for photos and videos that support the input. One or two of the photos/videos could be included in the whitepaper, and the rest could be dripped out through photo-sharing and video-sharing sites and apps, or other formats.

And while you have the SME on the phone, ask if they are attending industry events associated with campaign personas and if they could provide a few sentences summarizing the event. Combine this with a some major points from the white paper, and you have a blog.

Having processes and templates already in place for a variety of content formats is helpful as well as having the discipline of an editorial calendar, which will help marketing teams maintain cohesive and consistent messaging across formats. Finally, don’t preplan too much. If along the way the sales team reports new information that indicates new messaging is needed, dig deeper to identify new module needs. Where are they hearing it? If it comes from in-person events, perhaps a new module for in-person events is needed. Likewise, if downloads for the white paper occur largely on mobile devices, consider content design to be more mobile-optimized.

Planning ahead is already better than planning-as-you-go. Modular content is a way to plan more effective content while letting documented preferences guide format choice.