What is feedback?
Feedback is well understood. In fact, starting with a definition may seem simplistic to some. Still, we think there is value in putting us all on the same page.
One definition we especially like is actually aimed at providing feedback for individuals’ behavior, but permit us to paraphrase it to describe feedback in content management: Input from the present about past content creations may affect future content creations.
Why is feedback key?
Feedback is not so very different from the telemetry—the process of recording and transmitting the readings of an instrument—used to monitor the condition of spacecraft. It provides data on the status of vehicles in space. Similarly, feedback from sales reps provides data on the status of content out in the field.
Telemetry sounds very scientific and formal, and it is. On the other hand, feedback sounds laid back and informal, and it is. However, technology is making it far more precise, as we’ll see.
With that space analogy in mind, we can pose some questions based on the feedback we receive:
- Is the content off course (not connecting with the intended audience)?
- Is it in a decaying orbit (losing relevance)?
- Has it suffered a catastrophic failure (not being used by sales reps at all)?
After all, according to research by IDC, 90% of selling content is never really used in selling.
How to Integrate Feedback into Your Process
While we are focused on definitions, it would be good to have an agreement on a term often closely associated with feedback—agile.
Agile is more appropriately a description of content development itself and the mechanics of content creation. However, these topics end up being talked about in the same breath, so it seems relevant to us.
Agile, in a content context, is borrowed from the world of software development. At its heart is the idea that development is iterative and incremental in nature.
It is nimble and quick.
Think of composing a letter of explanation on behalf of a committee of coworkers. You make a start by creating a draft. You know at the outset that what you’re creating will not be the final product.
You want reactions from your committee members to improve upon your first effort. You take this input and integrate it into the original to quickly create something better than what you started with. This is agile in action.
In an agile process, feedback is the high-octane fuel that drives the effort.
Without it, it would be impossible to know what to change, how much or in what ways. And getting the reactions quickly and using them promptly are what make the process agile.
Creating an agile content strategy with all the feedback mechanisms in place is absolutely the way to proceed. However just building a process that works on paper doesn’t mean it will flourish in reality.
Remember, sales reps are there to sell. They don’t want to think about content. And insisting that they spend any time providing feedback is not the answer either.
Imagine an Olympic runner who undergoes disciplined training for years to hone his body into a running machine. Now imagine someone wants him to run the Olympic final… with his shoelaces tied together. No matter how good he is or how well-trained, he won’t succeed. It’s like a ballerina in work boots. How graceful a performance will she have?
No one consciously handicaps sales reps, but sometimes misunderstandings or miscommunications can have that effect. Feedback is critical, but it’s no secret that gathering it can be quite a challenge.
The best way to ensure you get it is to eliminate any and all barriers or handicaps that could possibly stand in the way of reps providing it to you. Said another way: It must be absolutely effortless for reps.
How to Improve the Feedback Process
This is where technology comes in. With the right system in place, sales reps will be able to provide feedback without even realizing they’re doing it. Your system can collect data about what content is most popular as well as when it’s being used and by whom. It can be set up to couple feedback with analytics in ways that will multiply the benefits for you.
For example, a properly designed feedback mechanism can tell you if your visual content is more popular than your written content. You can also learn if content about widgets has been more popular in the last month than content about gadgets.
Of course, it can also collect comments and suggestions offered by sales reps. And when your feedback feeds your analytics, the comments become the icing on the cake.
Once you establish technological solutions to help you collect feedback effortlessly, it’s important to use it. The data collected through analytics is the most important information you’ll receive about your content strategy. In fact, it’s so important that it should be the key driver in your strategy.
Think about it: When you have transparency about the who, what, when, where, why and how of sales reps’ usage of content, you’ll have all the information you need to adapt, iterate, and continuously improve that content.
Remember, when it comes to agile content development, feedback is the magic elixir—the super fuel that drives the engine of change and continual improvement.