10 Mar 2015

Content Marketing Isn’t Really about Content At All

Let me be clear up front: content marketing is about content regardless of this article’s headline. You can’t take the ‘content’ out of ‘content marketing’ and expect it to stay the same. Content is what makes everything go round.

Okay – now that we got that out the way, let me be clearer: content marketing isn’t all about content.

There’s far more that goes into content marketing than content, and it’s often not talked about in articles or on content-centric blogs like this. The common conversation is more about the content strategy, specific content pieces, and the results that come from it all. But the truth is, you can’t get results without successful implementation. And implementation—as many businesses know—is the hardest thing to do, especially when it comes to new marketing strategies.

Why Content Marketing is Hard

Content marketing can often be a major paradigm shift for organizations. It’s not easy to move away from traditional marketing mindsets that protect your intellectual property and use strategies that talk ‘at’ your customers rather than with them. It takes courage to give away something of value without expectation of immediate return. It takes courage to set your efforts up for the long game and not a short-term win.

The jury’s no longer out on content marketing – we know that content marketing works, especially when organizations that really “get it” start to do amazing things online. But, before the content even comes into the picture, you need to set up the 3 P’s of right people, processes, and priorities. You won’t see results unless these elements are thought through.

Priorities

You can’t do content marketing unless content marketing is your priority. And not just a marketing priority – it takes more than that. It takes an understanding of what content marketing is, isn’t, and how it can work to align with your goals and help you fulfill them.

Buy-In

Whenever I speak to someone about content marketing, I always repeat the same phrase:

“Content marketing is not a strategy or a tactic; it’s a culture and a paradigm shift.”

The best way to create a content marketing culture is to get buy-in from the decision makers – upper management, the owners, or the “boss.” In order to shift towards a new paradigm of marketing, you need a new perspective that comes from the top down. You need a strong leader who can “sell” content marketing to anyone involved. They ignite the sparks that illuminate your content marketing vision by sharing the answers to questions like:

  • Why is our business doing content marketing?
  • How will this process work and who will be involved?
  • What are the goals we should reach for?
  • Who are we and what do we want to share with our audience?

Traditional marketing vs content marketing

Buy-in is the most important component to align your team and create a culture that drives results. If you haven’t gotten buy-in from important people, especially your boss, you should make a stop at HowtoConvinceYourBoss.com for some insightful resources.

Understanding

If the decision makers are bought into content marketing, they most likely already understand what it is. But that’s not always the case. I’ve worked with clients who have invested in a content marketing program, started to implement it, then decided to pivot away from “social media” for more traditional routes. Social media wasn’t even part of the initial content marketing strategy. An understanding of the content marketing paradigm and what is involved was clearly lacking.

Content marketing isn’t just about social media, SEO, links, or whatever term may be mentioned, and a siloed misunderstanding of what it is can hold content marketing back. Real understanding and buy-in helps further an organization’s vision for their marketing, especially if that understanding comes from someone who can lead the charge and inspire others to take part.

People

If you’ve hurdled over the first obstacle of priorities, now you need the tool box to make content marketing happen: people. These people can come in many shapes and sizes and a mix of types will make it more successful, whether they are internal team members or external resources, including:

  • Writers / editors / idea people
  • Graphic designers
  • Content curators
  • Decision makers with buy-in/understanding
  • Project managers
  • Subject matter experts
  • Task oriented helpers
  • Strategists

Content marketing team
The content marketing team you put together depends on the scale of your efforts. If you’re a small business with limited resources, maybe it will work best if you find a smart freelance writer who can interview an internal expert and craft a great blog post a couple times a month. If you’re a bigger organization with more budget and resources alloted, you may need someone to manage every step along the way, corral your internal talents, and hone processes. That’s where hiring a smart content marketing manager comes into play.

Whatever scale you work at, people will be the heart of content marketing. Without people, the unique perspective that your organization can offer won’t come to life.

Process

You’ve come far if you’re ready to set down processes. To show you a real-world example, let’s take a look at our content marketing efforts here at Vertical Measures. Buy-in and understanding has never been an issue for us, since content marketing is the name of the game inside our office and we have one to the top content marketing evangelists in the industry at our helm. That said, we do make an effort to put all new employees through our content marketing workshops so they understand our distinct philosophy. We also have extremely smart people who are passionate about contributing to our own marketing, so we are set there.

Content marketing mind map

Our challenge then—and my challenge as the Marketing Manager overseeing it all—is to carve out a process that works for our people, aligns our priorities, and produces measurable results. It’s a continual process to even figure out our process, where we have to keep asking ourselves questions like:

  • Who should produce content and what is our angle?
  • How do we come up with ideas for our content – on an individual basis, in brainstorming meetings, or what?
  • What project management system do we use to push things forward?
  • What timelines should we set for our content? Do we need a calendar?
  • Who needs to know what and when do they need to know it?
  • What external resources do we have if we don’t have enough bandwidth to pull an idea off internally?
  • How much internal time do we spend on our own marketing?
  • How can we become more efficient in our content creation?

What it all Comes Down to

As you can see, I didn’t dive deep into content creation, strategies, measurement, or any other specific step along the content marketing spectrum. That’s because content marketing isn’t really about content at all. It’s about aligning priorities based on solid understanding with proper buy-in from decision makers, pulling together the right people, and defining processes that make it all work. Make sure you spend a minute, an hour, a week thinking through these things before your utter the word ‘content.’

If content marketing is a baseball season, thinking through these things is your spring training – so you better show up, define your goals for winning, and get the right players on your team. The organizations that do this before stepping up to the plate are the ones that will, as they say, ‘knock it out of the park.’

Want to learn more?

Content Marketing is a Team SportRegister for our upcoming webinar, Content Marketing is a Team Sport, to learn how to build a team of people that will make your content marketing successful. Join us and content marketing expert, Byron White of WriterAccess, on Thursday, March 12th at 11am PST / 2pm EST.



Register Now

2 Comments

  • Barry Feldman Mar 10, 2015

    ***** My nomination for post of the year. Great stuff Quinn.

  • Quinn Whissen Mar 12, 2015

    Appreciate that, Barry, especially coming from you. These are some of the reasons I’ve seen content marketing fail *way* too often. I hope some of my words can help people shift their understanding to what it’s really all about.