Content Operations

Content Operations, Decoded: Revisiting B2B Content Ops

Discover how B2B marketing teams manage successful content operations. Learn how to manage content processes, people, and technology effectively.

Updated on June 14, 20249 minutes

To say in-house content teams don't have it easy these days would be an understatement. CMOs and content managers are feeling pressure to produce more, spend less, and deliver better results.

All at the same time.

For many content leaders, that starts with getting a handle on systems and processes. In other words, you need a content operations framework that improves efficiency and allows for scaling.

The problem?

Most existing material about content ops is basic at best and outdated at worst. Rather than providing actionable advice or exploring current issues, it tends to focus on theoretical best practices.

It's time for a fresh look at content marketing operations. I spoke with over a dozen content marketers to learn how B2B teams are thinking about content ops and building resilient systems today.

Why B2B marketers need an updated view of content ops

What is content operations, anyway? The standard definition goes something like this:

Content operations is the network of people, processes, and technology needed to realize a content marketing strategy. It covers ideation, production, publication, and beyond.

While this definition is technically accurate, it's missing a lot of nuance that shapes B2B content teams today. For example:

  • The people who play a part in content ops are more than a list of roles and responsibilities. Do you need in-house or contract roles? How about ops specialists?
  • The processes that power content ops are more complex than ever. How can you best leverage expert insights during production and distribution after publication?
  • The technology behind content ops is increasingly automated and AI-powered. Where should you incorporate AI to speed up production or operate with a smaller headcount?

We'll explore these concepts in depth so you can develop an up-to-date content operations strategy that moves your marketing forward with smarter, more efficient production.

What is content operations today? 5 elements to prioritize

The B2B content leaders I spoke with are focusing on five key areas. Here’s how to rethink your people, processes, and technology to build top-performing content operations.

1. Content distribution to strengthen promotion

For B2B content teams, publication is hardly the last step in the production process. Instead, distributing content is increasingly necessary for driving views, getting clicks, and generating conversions. Relying on SEO only isn’t viable given the stiff competition for many B2B keywords.

As Ross Simmonds, CEO of Foundation, says on the Content, Briefly podcast and explains in his book Create Once, Distribute Forever, "Content marketing in general has gone way too far down this path of content, content, content. We've forgotten that the industry is two words: content marketing."

We've forgotten that the industry is two words: content marketing.
Ross SimmondsCEO of Foundation

Think of distribution as the process of marketing your content across channels like:

  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Video
  • Podcasts

How should you divide your efforts between creation vs. distribution?

Justin Simon, Founder of Distribution First, explains, "As a starting point, most teams should try for 50/50. But most companies operate at a 90/10 ratio for creation and distribution."

Teams could fill their distribution calendars up with far less 'new' content than they are creating right now.
Justin SimonFounder of Distribution First

"Lots of time, effort, and energy get put into creating the content, and then teams tend to get lazy or busy (or both) when they need to share it. Ultimately, teams could fill their distribution calendars up with far less 'new' content than they are creating right now."

After all, the more often you distribute, the more opportunities you have to drive results and extract value from content. Especially when you use time-saving tools and processes.

Ross recommends HubSpot's Content Remix tool, which automatically repurposes content across channels, and Buffer for social media scheduling. To power distribution, Ross's team at Foundation uses custom-built systems that rely on ClickUp and Google Sheets. Automation keeps them running smoothly.

What's the most efficient way to repurpose content?

While distribution refers to sharing content across channels, repurposing takes the concept to the next level. It involves transforming content into different formats, often with the help of AI-powered tools.

Wondering which format you should create first to simplify operations and maximize value? The answer is almost always video.

As Ross explains, "The most versatile, useful and repurposable content asset is video. You can turn a single video into: Blog posts. Podcasts. Threads. Quora posts. Reels. Shorts. LinkedIn updates. Vertical content and so much more."

Justin emphasizes that "one video podcast episode can fuel an entire content strategy with emails, social posts, YouTube videos, etc. all coming off it every week."

The most versatile, useful and repurposable content asset is video.
Justin SimonFounder of Distribution First

2. Subject matter experts to provide experience and expertise

Since Google rolled out updated E-E-A-T guidelines in December 2022, subject matter experts (SMEs) have become critical assets.

Yet for busy teams, sourcing and interviewing SMEs is often easier said than done. Here's how content leaders recommend simplifying the process and repurposing SME contributions across multiple pieces of content.

Create SME quote libraries

When interviewing SMEs, focus on the bigger picture. Instead of asking one tailored question that only works in a specific piece of content, prioritize distribution and repurposing.

One thing we did was create a library of quotes, which was incredibly helpful.
Stefana ZarićContent Management Associate at Bright!Tax

"At my previous company, we aimed to create a seamless process for interviews with internal SMEs," shares Stefana Zarić, Content Management Associate at Bright!Tax. "One thing we did was create a library of quotes, which was incredibly helpful, as we used many of them in multiple pieces of content."

For internal SMEs, I usually conduct one interview that generates a library of quotes.
Vivek ShankarContent Strategist for Fintech Companies

"For internal SMEs, I usually conduct one interview that generates a library of quotes," explains Vivek Shankar, Content Strategist for Fintech Companies. "I record it for splicing into social bits later."

Involve SMEs in the strategy

Many SMEs can provide more than just soundbites. Consider involving them in the strategy or using their insights to shape the content.

Freelance Fractional Content Marketer Jess Cooper finds it helpful to work backward. "I interview on a general topic I know the business strategically wants to target (usually related to a pain point the brand helps with). I then use that interview as a source of topic ideas and include the SME's insights on them. It's amazing how tangents or off-hand comments lead to the best topic ideas and hot takes."

It's amazing how tangents or off-hand comments lead to the best topic ideas and hot takes.
Jess CooperFreelance Content Writer & Marketing Consultant

Adam Kimmel, Principal at ASK Consulting Solutions, goes back and forth with SMEs, involving them throughout the entire process. "I like to interview once, define or refine the pillars, and use that info to inform the content strategy. From there, SMEs should be involved in reviewing the briefs (async), and align with the marketing manager before the drafts are started."

Outsource SME interviews

Managing SME workflows can be incredibly time-consuming. But your team doesn't always have to manage these programs in-house.

Niels van Melick, CEO at Leadwave, handles the interview and content creation process for in-house teams. "We conduct 20+ SME interviews every month, and it all comes down to solid preparation. The content manager usually involves the SME in the content brief stage. Then, we prep the interview, send the questions beforehand, and conduct a 30- or 45-minute interview."

Are your internal SMEs short on time? You don't have to rely on them exclusively.

Hassan Ud-deen, Content Marketing Lead at Hack the Box, relies on collaborations with external thought leaders. His SME program uses async interview platform Leaps to automate outreach and interviews.

3. AI-powered tools to improve efficiency

AI can't replace your content team (at least not yet). But with AI-powered tools, your team can create better content faster.

However, there's a fine line between using AI as an assistant vs. as a producer.

Jon Norris, Founder of re:purpose, advises, "The important thing to remember is that the best use of current AI systems is to enhance, not replace, human creativity. Think of them as a very polite intern who can take care of any simple or menial task."

Apply for early access to Relato

  • Secure your invite for early access
  • Give feedback, have your say
  • Receive news and updates

How should you incorporate AI tools into content operations?

"We use AI to help us plan, generate ideas and outlines, refine content, and compare pieces of content. It has greatly increased our productivity and helped us scale up our output despite being a tiny marketing team at a startup," shares Courtney Steele, Head of Marketing at DeepHow.

Courtney's team prompts AI tools with the company's ICP, TAM, and POV. Then, she uses these tools to compare content within a topic cluster, analyze competitor content, and identify content gaps.

We use AI to help us plan, generate ideas and outlines, refine content, and compare pieces of content.
Courtney SteeleDirector, Marketing & Communications at DeepHow

Tamara Franklin, Content Marketer at Salesforce, recommends using AI-powered tools like ChatGPT and Zapier with automated workflows in Asana to produce and scale content efficiently. She automates tasks like:

  • Keyword research
  • Outlining content
  • Finding sources
  • Project management

Jon focuses on developing custom AI tools. "Generalist LLMs are fine as a tech demo, but the real utility is going to come when we have lots of smaller models specialized to one or a few tasks that can easily be trained with your data."

Jon shares, "I'm building a 'house style bot' which can live in Google Docs or Wordpress. You tell it which overall writing style you want to conform to, plus extra rules for your brand, and it will review everything you write and edit for style."

How much time can AI-powered tools save you?

Your results may vary depending on which AI tools you use and how you incorporate them into your content operations.

For example, the content team at Keyhole uses AI tools for ideation and research. Sweta Panigrahi, Content and Community Manager, considers AI tools "catalysts in the content creation process."

Sweta shares, "We have boosted our productivity, with nearly 4-6 hours saved on a weekly basis. The content turnaround time has reduced from 4 days to 2, and we have noticed a decent increase in traffic from AI-assisted content."

We have boosted our productivity, with nearly 4-6 hours saved on a weekly basis
Sweta Panigrahi Content and Community Manager at Keyhole

4. Fractionals and freelancers to enhance in-house teams

Many B2B content leads are charged with building (or rebuilding) teams without increasing headcount—which means contractors.

Here are a few strategies B2B teams are using to onboard freelancers and incorporate fractional content marketers into in-house operations.

Delegate blog content to freelancers

The most common approach is for B2B content leaders to rely on freelancers for blog posts. At Mouseflow, freelancers "produce about 80% of blog content for us," explains Alex Perekalin, Marketing Content Manager.

"Before I joined Mouseflow about 1.5 years ago, the team mostly relied on spontaneous blog production—guest posts or occasional pieces written by in-house marketers. Now we have a content calendar, and the blog gets regular updates, mostly thanks to a team of freelancers."

"I built an outsourced system to power our content strategy," shares Michelle Brammer, Director of Marketing at GaggleAMP. "I handle the strategy, research, and general outline. Freelancers write and edit. It’s worked well for us for the last two years. Results have been fantastic with no broader impact to the team. Without freelancers, we’d have next to no content produced."

Without freelancers, we’d have next to no content produced.
Michelle BrammerDirector of Marketing at GaggleAMP

Rely on freelancers for top-of-funnel content

Freelancers are often a better fit for top-of-funnel content versus highly technical bottom-of-funnel content.

"At a previous company where I worked, we delegated some top- and middle-of-the-funnel content to freelancers. In-house content specialists would create briefs and outlines and then assign articles to freelance writers," shares Stefana Zarić, Content Management Associate at Bright!Tax.

"This helped us speed up content production and allow in-house specialists to focus on bottom-of-the-funnel and product-led content, as we were more familiar with all the features and had access to more company and product info."

Allow in-house marketers to get creative

When freelancers handle the majority of your organization's blog content, your in-house team has more time to dedicate to creative or strategic content marketing projects.

For instance, Alex's in-house team at Mouseflow produced and distributed a crowdsourced CRO Journal. Because freelancers handle so much day-to-day content production, he explains, "I can dedicate my time to case studies instead of solely focusing on writing SEO-focused content."

I can dedicate my time to case studies instead of writing SEO-focused content.
Alex PerekalinMarketing Content Manager at Mouseflow

Embed fractional marketers for longer-term commitments

Freelancers can certainly work with B2B content teams for months or years. But when you need a significant time commitment for a set period of time, fractional marketers are often a better choice.

Fractional content marketers tend to be more embedded in teams and may handle deliverables or consulting on a daily basis. They can assist with strategy, execution, or both.

For example, Content Marketing Consultant Aleksandra Beka Jovičić has worked with Preply Business for a six-month maternity leave cover. Her role focuses on execution. She takes responsibility for:

  • Managing a predetermined content calendar
  • Creating design briefs
  • Overseeing a team of five freelancers
  • Proofing content before publication
  • Collaborating with in-house SEO managers and location specialists

"I also write, but very little. In this role, I’m not responsible for the plan and strategy, just content production," Aleksandra explains. "That doesn’t mean I can’t participate and pitch content topics and new angles, but the overall plan isn’t on my plate."

Aleksandra recommends that content teams consider hiring a fractional partner "when they need someone who knows what they’re doing to quickly jump in and handle the content workflow for a few months. For example, to cover a team member’s parental or long-term sickness leave or sabbatical. Or to manage content production until the company finds the right person to join them permanently."

5. Content operations specialists to scale production

The larger your content team grows and the more ambitious your content production goals become, the likelier you are to need more elaborate systems or even dedicated operations specialists.

At Calendly, marketing aligns around processes rather than around a specific operations role. "Content creation at Calendly is pretty decentralized. We have several different teams creating different kinds of content," explains Content Marketing Manager Rachel Burns.

To make sure we're all aligned, we've put content ops processes, guides, and templates in place.
Rachel BurnsContent Marketing Manager at Calendly

"To make sure we're all aligned, we've put content ops processes, guides, and templates in place that enable content creators and SMEs on different teams to produce high-quality content, and distribute or repurpose that content across channels. These processes ensure everyone across the marketing org has visibility into what's being created and how it performs, so we can make the most of—and learn from—every piece of content."

When is it a good idea to hire a content operations specialist?

"Efficiency and scalability issues usually trigger the need for an operations specialist," explains Tamara Franklin.

"For instance, when teams consistently face challenges in managing workflows, content quality, and deadlines as they scale, it might be time to bring in an operations specialist. This role can streamline processes, implement robust content management systems, and ensure that the content production aligns with strategic business goals."

Ryan Sargent, VP of Content and Strategy at Ten Speed, recommends hiring for this kind of role "once your team is spending more time on operations than on strategy and execution."

Evaluate how much output you'd unlock by having a team member completely focused on operations.
Ryan SargentVP of Content and Strategy at Ten Speed

"Evaluate how much output you'd unlock by having a team member completely focused on operations," he advises. "Eventually, you'll find that a dedicated ops specialist is a bigger resource for your team than another content creator or strategist."

Final thoughts on B2B content operations

Creating a content operations team and framework demands (sometimes significant) upfront work.

But with careful planning, thoughtful execution, and knowledge of the issues that matter now, you can rise to the challenge—and successfully produce more quality content more efficiently, even with reduced headcount.

Have cookie?

We use cookies to give you a better experience on our website and to gather data that helps us analyze and improve our services. Read more