Here’s an important observation, though it might not seem like one at face value: Most organizations see content marketing as a marketing activity. Full stop. Not surprisingly, they therefore delegate responsibility for content marketing to their marketing departments. While this won’t immediately strike you as a unique or critical insight, let it percolate in your head for a minute. The important point is that this widely accepted view will soon get turned on its head.
Let us explain.
Most people view content marketing as revolving around blogs posts, videos, and infographics – in short, all the usual suspects in terms of marketing content. They rarely if ever consider all of the other types of content that companies create — technical manuals, product data sheets, and customer service FAQs to cite a few examples — and how all of it could align with and support their efforts.
Similarly, most marketing teams never engage their peers in other departments about their content marketing activities unless it’s to ask them to serve as subject matter experts for a particular project. Regardless of whether that’s due to a lack of time or interest, they also don’t go out of their way to understand what content other departments are creating, let alone try to corral those efforts or align them. As a result, it’s easy for silos to form and for other departments to create content without regard for corporate standards. And who can blame them? They have their own goals to meet and adhering to the marketing team’s guidelines is rarely one of them.
This lack of coordination can lead to two big missed opportunities:
- First, for content marketers who cite an inability to consistently produce enough content to meet demand among their top challenges, tapping into all of the customer-facing content that other teams already create offers a possible solution. If marketers could find a way to take advantage of non-marketing content, they’d likely discover that they had more than enough content. In fact, their real challenge wouldn’t be publishing enough content; it would be figuring out how to utilize that content and align it with marketing standards.
- Even more important is the missed opportunity to create a superior customer experience. The fact that in most companies, multiple departments publish customer-facing content means that inconsistencies in many areas will inevitably occur, such as in readability, tone of voice, use of brand names and jargon, and even grammar and spelling. As a result, instead of creating a better overall experience for their customers, these companies are at risk of confusing them. Imagine, for example, a company that uses four different terms interchangeably to mean the same thing. That “creativity” in the use of terminology can confuse and alienate customers. After all, sloppiness and inconsistency don’t exactly inspire confidence or trust.
Allowing two big opportunities like these to get away won’t be good enough in the future. Instead, as content marketing continues to evolve and mature, it must become a discipline that transcends multiple departments. Some companies have already started to recognize that all of the customer-facing content they create has a role in moving customers down the path to purchase, regardless of where it comes from, and that in fact much of it is just as important or even more important than the material that marketing produces.
It’s only a matter of time before content marketers realize that they must partner closely with their counterparts in other departments such as technical documentation, customer service, and product development. Plus, they’ll discover that they need to bring the content that their entire organization creates into the fold of their content marketing program.
For those reasons, companies will begin to bring together the disparate teams that create customer-facing content today. Members of the marketing team, for example, may find themselves merging with their peers in tech docs and customer service with the goal of creating a single content engine to fuel a unified customer experience from start to finish. Smart companies are already blazing ahead in this direction.
Importantly, even though content marketing will no longer solely focus on marketing content, marketing’s role will not diminish. On the contrary, it will become more important than ever as marketing evolves to become a centralized hub for overseeing — or at least influencing — the creation of all customer-facing content company-wide in partnership with other departments.
While few organizations today present unified content to their customers, the situation will change in the months and years ahead. If you want to prepare for this change rather than get blindsided by it, stay tuned for our next post and we’ll explain how.
Are you using content beyond what your marketing team is creating to support your content marketing efforts? If so, how? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. According to the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Prof’s “B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America” report, producing content consistently is the second greatest challenge B2B content marketers face (which 50% of respondents selected), second only to producing engaging content (cited by 54% of respondents).