Is Content Killing Traditional Marketing?

In an online world driven by content, some business organizations are beginning to set aside traditional marketing strategies and replacing them with content strategies focused on owned media that helps drive customer loyalty and revenue.

A new book, “Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost Into Profit” by the Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi focuses on just how organizations can start transforming marketing strategy into a standalone profit center.

Rose, chief content strategist with the Content Marketing Institute, sat down with Chief Executive to talk about why CEOs should be paying attention to content marketing strategy, and what it takes to get these kinds of programs up and running.

Q: For CEOs who may be uninitiated in the content marketing/owned media world, what are some good first steps for getting this new model rolling?
A: The key is to get your team thinking about content as a thematic destination (or product if you prefer) rather than as a campaign. Most businesses are creating content in an ad-hoc manner, simply looking at it as an alternative for direct marketing materials or advertising. But content is, and always will be, more expensive to create and distribute than ads.

Thus, it must provide more value than simply an impression or even a visitor. We have to build the asset that’s actually worth investing in—which is an audience. That’s where we can start to monetize content in more ways than simply an impression or a visitor.

So, even just thinking about creating content in a different way—as building toward something that looks and feels like somebody would want to subscribe to it is a great first step. Whether that’s called a blog, or a resource center, or a university or a print magazine matters not nearly as much as looking at it as a product vs. a campaign.

Q: How easy is it to augment traditional marketing strategies with content-based strategies?
A: It’s not easy. That’s the double-edged sword here. The biggest mistake CEOs make is blessing a “content program” that is simply just random acts of content spread out over multiple channels and meant to augment the existing direct marketing strategy.

You will see some early benefit from doing that—and it can be a way to at least get going if you have nothing going on at all. But for most, where content is mostly a frustration of measurement and reason “why”, then my advice would be to not look at it as a simple augmentation of traditional marketing—but as a new kind of development that has the potential to add value to all of the traditional marketing strategies.

A great example of this is looking at traditional advertising. One of the biggest benefits of having an owned media audience is to be able to leverage that database, upload it to social media platforms and get a better media buy effectiveness rate on your social media ad spend. But the critical thing there is to have the owned media audience to begin with.

Q: How should CEOs fill the roles within a marketing team necessary to get this off the ground?
A: It can be a challenge no doubt. The skill sets are changing, and the demand for talent these days is high. We have typical team structures and roles and job descriptions if anybody is interested in reaching out.

We recommend taking an honest look at the team, the skill sets and the planned investment. Then look at building an organization that can service multiple parts of the business with content. Once you understand the gap in the current team (because many of the team will have these existing skills) then put together a talent acquisition strategy that makes sense.

Q: Looking into your crystal ball, what will be driving the conversation on content marketing and owned media a few years from now?
A: I think it will be how we compete with the places where we used to place our advertising. As advertising begins to diminish in effectiveness, media companies will begin to look at subscription and other business models in order to stay alive. They will offer “native” and other types of products to businesses to monetize that audience.

Our challenge will be where to put our marketing dollars—into our own media programs, or into content that appears natively on others. This balance will become the 20/20 version of the classic “marketing mix” question. The other thing that will rank high—and perhaps not related as much to the owned media question—will be the role of technology.

Marketers continue to chase technology as a magic salve to their production, distribution and measurement problem. That will only be exacerbated in the coming years with AR and VR, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. Bright and shiny object syndrome is only about to get brighter and shinier. It will be the smart marketers who stick to their knitting and not get lost in the machine.

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Patrick Gorman

Patrick Gorman is managing editor at Chief Executive magazine, based in Stamford, CT. His business journalism background includes 12 years covering the C-level marketing and technology spaces.