Where content marketing begins
The Marketing Department is where content marketing begins to take root, typically.
As it grows, content adds natural allies step by step on its way up the organization. It’s best to view content as an evolutionary process, as the infographic above shows.
How content marketing begins to thrive
One big job, early on, is to educate fellow marketers about:
- What content marketing is
- How it works
- How content fits into a company’s overall marketing strategy
- How content complements, rather than competes with, other marketing activities.
A content marketing workshop helps you bring the entire Marketing Department up to speed on content more quickly, so you gain the time and space that content needs to flourish.
A larger question: How should content fit into Marketing?
Successful marketing leaders assign one or two full-time managers, plus outside resources, to get content up and running. Ideally, content marketing reports directly to a chief marketing officer (CMO) or vice president of marketing.
In companies that sell to businesses, how content marketing fits into the organization is marketers’ #1 pain point, based on the Top 100 Questions that marketers ask about content marketing.
Why? Because it’s not always clear in B2B companies: Who should come up with ideas for content? Who should write content – subject-matter experts, influencers, freelancers or marketers?
To succeed, content must be positioned properly by Marketing Department leadership. Ask these strategic questions:
- Is content marketing seen as an ally, creating valuable content that customers crave and subscribers who give permission for future marketing?
- Is content marketing seen as a rival, hungry for attention and resources in a zero-sum budget game?
- Is content marketing seen as a threat to advertising and other types of marketing that are losing effectiveness?
As Marketing integrates the content function, these blogs address strategic questions:
- How do we successfully integrate content marketing throughout the marketing department and functions?
- How can you get your organization or team engaged in content marketing?
- How do we create time for content marketing in our jam-packed days?
Sales is a natural ally for content marketing
Because salespeople want Marketing to provide them a clear, concise, consistent message that helps them win more deals. Sales also opens the doors that enable you to do buyer persona research and to gather customer questions.
As content marketing begins to flourish, customer questions are a great starting point to create relevant, resonant content. Here’s how to capture customer questions.
Once you’ve created content to answer your customers’ top 100 questions, you’ve gone a long way to make Sales’ job much easier.
Equally important, content marketers need to create a unifying message, a pitch that hooks customers’ attention in the first 7 seconds and keeps all your content on message.
Why? Because a 2017 survey by Televerde found that Sales wants better messaging even more than they want qualified leads! Indeed, most customers start the buying process online, rather than by reaching out to a salesperson.
Research and Development (R&D) is a key ally as content marketing evolves
Why seek allies in R&D? Because they’re not only solving today’s customer problems, they’re also fixing tomorrow’s.
Content marketing naturally evolves into addressing tomorrow’s customer problems and solutions.
Great content marketing creates demand for tomorrow’s solutions with thought-provoking content. “Thought-provoking” means content that:
- Provides data to answer the biggest unanswered questions in your industry
- Points to coming trends worrying enough to keep customers awake at night
- Challenges assumptions that everyone in your industry holds, even though there’s no evidence to back them up.
How to work with R&D? You can interview subject-matter experts, invite them to create bylined articles, and even prompt them to create their own webpages and blogs.
Don’t settle for simple thought leadership
Too often, people treat thought leadership like a term paper. It proves you know your stuff, but creates no reason for customers to take action.
Instead, create thought-provoking content to challenge customers’ thinking. Drive them to act on tomorrow’s problems and opportunities sooner rather than later.
Customer service tunes you into users’ needs
In fact, the Customer Service Department is the best source of user questions.
Create content to address user questions and you will:
- Provide better user experiences
- Enable users to get more out of the products they’ve already paid for
- Build user relationships that lead to cross-selling and up-selling
- Glean information that’s useful to R&D for the next iteration of products.
Sitting side by side with customer service reps in a call center will teach you a lot about users’ pain points, feelings and needs. This practice helps you get ahead of marketers who lack any direct customer contact.
For instance, the 2019 Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs study shows that only half of marketers use research techniques that include direct customer contact. Direct contact vaults you ahead of marketers who only touch customers at arm’s length:
To boost your empathy with customers even more, commission buyer persona research.
Executives climb aboard an advancing content bandwagon
When you create content to support a new product, a greenfield market or an orphan opportunity – and meet with success – you turn executives’ heads.
For example, when we created content to support the Latin America market, the region moved from flat revenue into growth mode. Since no one had expected growth in Latin America, it turned executives’ heads.
Execs and other Sales regions began to ask, what’s changed? How can we get some of that content marketing in our region?
That’s when content marketing begins to take off companywide.
The content marketing journey ultimately leads to the CEO
If Marketing has a strong relationship with the CEO, it’s even possible to tackle content with a reverse-evolutionary process.
If so, start the content journey with the CEO, then work down through the executives, Customer Service, R&D, Sales and Marketing.
Weave teaching into your company culture
Great content marketing creates a teaching culture, where everyone in the company who touches a customer has helpful, useful information to share. That’s what Marcus Sheridan advocates in his book, They Ask You Answer.
When everyone understands what’s the job to be done – to become customers’ best teacher by providing the best content – your company has fully evolved in content marketing.
Marketers need to educate CEOs and execs about the value of creating content assets over time. For example, the Michelin Guide has been building the Michelin Tire brand for almost 120 years!
Show leaders how content marketing transforms businesses. For example, show how:
- The Michelin brothers created a guide for drivers that grew the automobile market, enabling them to expand from bicycle tires into car tires and to become a leading authority on travel
- Red Bull operates 2 profit centers, one for an energy drink and one for content
- Arrow Electronics outmaneuvered competitors by buying up industry trade websites – securing the best customer lists, the best data on customer interests and content usage, and the best platforms to reach electronics engineers.
If you can start at the top, do so
If not, content marketing needs to begin inside Marketing, then evolve organically, adding allies and turning heads one department at a time. That’s how the effect of content reaches the top of the organization: through its success.
As you evolve content, you create long-term competitive advantage for your company. Do content well enough, long enough, and you’ll build a lead that separates your company from the pack.
Evolve content one step at a time
Play the long game. It’s the way to win.
“Where is content marketing typically situated in an organization?” is one of marketers’ Top 100 Questions about content marketing. Here are the answers.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.