White papers have been around forever and are a staple of B2B marketing. Magazine and newsletters are nothing new either. But, the role of publishing and content in the marketing mix came into tighter focus in 2001 with the publication of “The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual,” a sometimes over-the-top, but provocative treatise on how the web will (and has) enabled “conversational” marketing and the end of the “command and control” marketing hierarchy which reigned supreme for decades. The idea, fairly original at the time, logically suggests that marketing communications will become more complex, organic and conversational going forward.
This means that content will become more important–whether created internally or by users. Wikipedia defines publishing as “the process of production and dissemination of literature or information – the activity of making information available for public view.” So, is Marketing becoming more like publishing ? Well, yes and no. By the traditional definition above, Marketing already is publishing. But the explosion of new media channels, information, user generated content, etc. all of which are being enabled by web 2.0, are taking content marketing to another level entirely. And this has major implications for the Marketing mix and organization.
4 Basic Content Questions
- Customer Needs — It’s so basic, it should hardly need stating. Content Marketing starts with your customers needs and your value proposition. There’s a tendency to rush out and begin development of content without asking basic questions like: what, if any, kind of content does my customer want ? How does content support my core value proposition ? How will it engage my customers and better meet their needs ? How will it differentiate my brand versus competition ? Answering these questions is key to deciding if a content strategy is right for your brand.
- Build vs. Buy — Content can be sourced internally or externally. Huge amounts of content already exist and the CMO needs to ask the tough questions: do we have any business getting into the business of creating content ? Can we really do this better than what’s out there today ? Are we better off simply buying or partnering to acquire the needed content ? What’s the role of user generated content ? Let’s face it–we’re an invention culture and need to be open to the idea that perhaps there really are others–even our customers–who could do this better.
- Channels — What are the most impactful Marketing contact points in our category ? Which channels–RSS feeds, blogs, news release, e-newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, etc. should we be using to communicate our content ? Are different channels required for different content ? How will they be integrated ?
- Organizational Structure and Processes — A new organization structure is needed for content marketing. Who creates new content ? Is it the old publishing group, or some new expanded function ? Content marketing demands new processes as well. Who approves ? When content drives organic exchanges between customers and the company, what legal and regulatory processes need to be in place to safeguard the company?
There is no doubt that Marketing IS becoming more like publishing. There are greater opportunities than ever before to develop content which envelops your core value proposition and enhances and differentiates your product or service versus competition. There are more channels to disseminate this content. And, new organizational structures and processes are required to manage this content in an integrated and impactful manner. If this is the future of Marketing, it’s one that offers Marketers greater degrees of freedom to win in the marketplace than ever before.