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Why most content marketing is backwards

Matt Kumin
Why most content marketing is backwards Matt Kumin

A website as a single-platform business is an expired business model. To thrive today, businesses must expand to cross-platform content marketing management in the same way that they manage their media or communications operations.

Any business that has a website should first think about a customer-first content strategy and mentality. Put simply, give your audience what they want, when they want it, and where they want it, within reason and resource. It's time that we kick the domain-first mentality and develop strategies for authentically delivering on all platforms. This takes strategic pace and discipline.

How to achieve strategic pace

When a company has the opportunity to engage consumers in more ways at all times, it often overlooks the strategic and editorial processes. It instead dives headfirst into haphazard tactics. A company wouldn't launch a multimillion-dollar media buy without first articulating its business priorities, developing insights on its audience, testing and crafting messaging, and then planning media placements. Why approach content marketing in any other way? Take a step back and tend to the strategic effort, and it will pay off. It's all about the work done at the front end to develop a strategic stance.

Create relationships based on the terms of the customers. Your approach might include delivering valued content, engaging in community and conversation, marketing products and services, or driving transactions. When it comes to delivering from a digital perspective, most have adopted a test-learn mindset over the years. In other words, knowing how quickly things move in the consumer marketplace, we must adapt. That adaptability of execution is a smart marketer's start. The good news is, as the content market matures, best practices are emerging that allow more sustainable operations to be built. Owning the strategic part, committing to testing, learning, and refining the most effective practices will lead to sustainability. That's what you want -- a maintained focus and adaptive stance.

Here are a few overarching strategic principles and how they translate to tactics:

Data early and often

Positioning data at the core of the company's operation allows the company to determine what platforms to be on, and why. Establishing a consumer engagement approach from a foundation of fact puts the company in a better position to be future focused and intentional with its content efforts. As a concrete example of how this works, take a look at applied search learning. For years, we've been trained to feed and optimize the keyword and SEM beast, which has provided a wealth of data and business success. Ask your SEM team which topics and keywords are resonating within your audience and the marketplace. Then apply those keywords to content themes that are embraced at an organizational level, create content based on those themes, and push it out to complementary platforms.

Establish your voice

Developing an editorial voice is akin to building a brand. The strategy is committing to the process of defining it, and then consistently delivering on that voice and brand promise. Tactically, the process begins with asking the all-important and metaphysical questions: Who am I? What do I stand for? How do I communicate with my audience and customers? In what tone do I speak with them? What is my persona when dealing with challenges and opportunities? As these questions are answered, begin drafting an editorial style guide and parameters similar to the brand guidelines format. Execute with a consistent editorial voice every day.

You are what you eat

In a practical sense, the content and sources that a company consumes define it as well as any outbound marketing or message that is communicated. If you watch Fox News, it says one thing. If you read The New York Times, it says another. As a company defines the sources it communicates with, those sources need to align with the brand's editorial voice and values. Continue to optimize this source-list over time for your audience by using data-driven methods and success metrics.

Be a cyborg

Fuse human resources with technology to create a more powerful content operation that delivers the vision and objectives. Find the right managers to drive content marketing and arm them with exceptional tools and technology to aid their intuition and systems. Content marketing management software, asset management, workflow, and content analytics are the modern equivalents of the picks and shovels that built the first web revolution. They will keep the operation lean, smart, and agile. With the proper training, teams will achieve next-level success.

When it comes to content strategy and execution, this all seems logical. However, there is a tendency to move hastily toward the multiple platform opportunities represented by a consumer-led marketplace. Operating with clear strategic principles and intentionality is the only way to tackle the objective. Content strategy must derive the tactics, not the other way around. Otherwise you'll find your brand blowing in the wind.

Matt Kumin is founder and CEO of PublishThis.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Marketing" image via Shutterstock.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Nick Stamoulis

2013, June 06

"the content and sources that a company consumes define it as well as any outbound marketing or message that is communicated."

Excellent point. Where you get your information and the sources that influence your opinion and style will definitely impact how you write and the personality you adopt. Follow the "big boys" in your industry but also look for those smaller bloggers/personalities with a large following. They've got the "it" factor that resonates with people.