Think like a Publisher
Developing and implementing a
marketing content strategy is today
the single most critical task
that B2B marketers must master.
Content has always been “king of the hill”.
The power of unique, quality content has been self-evident as a way of capturing audiences with continuity programming. One of the earliest examples of content marketing came in 1895 when John Deere published The Furrow magazine—a magazine still being published today.
Procter & Gamble created its own radio soap opera production subsidiary in 1940, and produced the first network television soap opera in 1950. P&G Productions created 20 soap operas on radio and television, becoming a pioneer in producing award-winning daytime serials like As The World Turns and Guiding Light, which ended in September 2009 after 72 years. P&G brand marketers were unbeatable because they understood the need to produce their own content to drive business.
So what is different about content marketing today?
The production of content exploded as the Internet became a viable way to reach audiences. For too long, however, the content on websites was not much more than online versions of printed brochures. Customers ditched the approach by ignoring such content. Company-centric content gradually gave way to customer-relevant content—what we call contextual content. Such content has to be well-written and designed, but most important; it has to be relevant to specific buyer segments. It has to be about customer needs rather than product features and benefits.
You simply cannot afford to market the old way—with branded messages that are watered down into creative taglines that hardly any potential customer could give a hoot about you.
Your customers are in control.
We live in a world where buyers want to make up their own mind about what they need. When buyers have problems that need solutions, they will go on the Internet and read about their problem until they are satisfied that they know how solve their situation. They do this without ever talking to one of your salespeople. If you are not in the online dialogue while they are learning, you will not be in the final list of companies they choose to explore in face-to-face meetings. This is true whether they plan to buy a new fire engine or CRM software or business continuity insurance.
Content is today’s path to marketing success.
The raw fact is that B2B marketing is now a content publishing business. Buyers demand content. Search engines demand content. Marketers must demonstrate through content how we understand our buyer’s needs and how we have developed solutions that are a perfect match to the issues they are trying to resolve.
Today, every marketer must learn what academia insisted on for as long as there have been professors teaching at colleges:
Publish or Perish.
What does it mean to think like a publisher?
When I was editor of a trade magazine for retail merchandisers, we met every day to plan the next issue of the magazine. We visited stores. We talked with retailers. We met with the people advertising in the magazine. We knew the industry and where to find stories that would help these retailers drive more business with better merchandising solutions. We had an editorial calendar so advertisers could plan their ad schedules around the content we would be publishing. The passion everyday was to publish the best content serving our industry.
In the 1980’s, the marketing agency I founded with two partners, produced recipe books for P&G that were unique to each household – coupons personalized to the households’ previous redemption patterns. For Butler Manufacturing, a provider of steel buildings and metal roof systems, we produced a quarterly magazine, Building Profit, that ran for nearly 10 years.
Today, at Cincom Systems, CEO Tom Nies is constantly producing content to teach and inspire employees to better serve our clients. Marketing publishes eBooks and an animated video that help Chief Sales Officers find new ways to improve how they sell complex products as a major element of the Cincom Acquire software brand. We also publish an award winning bi-weekly online magazine called Expert Access—with over 125,000 subscribers and a weekly one-hour radio program on a local station where we interview business leaders to provide stories that motivate or inform listeners on how to do their jobs better.
What it means for marketers to become publishers is to have the same commitment for producing outstanding content that a magazine publisher has for developing articles that are useful to subscribers. Your buyers are looking for content that is relevant to the issues they face every day at work. You can build a powerful relationship by helping them with their issues and helping them to more smartly buy solutions to their problems or their aspirations.