I often notice posts about how to create a content marketing culture. In most cases a crucial part is missing: content management and intelligent information management in general. In practice, the advice provided in blogs about the creation of a content marketing culture in reality often revolve around setting up a content marketing strategy, creating a customer-centric and connected/integrated digital business culture.
They are spiced with advice on 1) how to turn questions into useful content, 2) how to create a mindset to communicate more and better utilizing the right content at the right time, 3) how to set up processes and training programs regarding the role of content in marketing and 4) how to keep that role in mind and action across the organization. Sometimes these tips are truly more about social media marketing and communications than about content marketing in the strict sense.
Such ‘content culture’ posts often contain good ideas and in the information age, that has been there for quite some time now, it’s indeed crucial to get a mindset of information and content (marketing), especially in a context of customer experiences. In the end, information management and content management exist since a long time too and the experience always mattered a lot. The need to manage content didn’t simply arise because of internal challenges. It had to do with managing expectations, optimizing, experiences, content governance, good communications, business goals beyond marketing and – in a web content management context – being able to optimize processes to display content and information where it serves the needs of visitors/customers and the goals of the business.
Step one in creating a content marketing culture is not about marketing
The first step in creating a so-called content culture is not one of marketing. It’s one of information and content processes across different business functions, whereby marketing, sales, certainly ICT and more stakeholders are involved. This is often forgotten as is the essential role of ICT , the CIO and other divisions or people, including management.
Forgetting it doesn’t only lead to disconnected processes and silos but also to missing the essential first steps in ‘having a content marketing culture’. It’s not a coincidence that ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology and that CIO stands for Chief Information Officer. Connecting the information and – literally the docs – is one of the key missions of ICT.
Some of that information is meant for marketing, some of it for other goals and/or indirectly for marketing and sales. Information about customers, for instance, gets used for improving sales, marketing and customer service. Information that can be turned into content for marketing, sales or customer-facing purposes is managed using enterprise content management systems (and others).
Today, many businesses have document and content management systems or similar solutions (intranet, collaboration) but too often they are underused in the company and are not in a continuous process whereby all information and content gets properly used by different stakeholders.
Access to the right content is always essential. The same goes for marketing, customer service, etc. However, in many organizations the used enterprise content management and/or collaboration systems contain masses of content no one knows about. There is also often quite some content missing in those systems. In reality, I notice that the use of existing content (that could be turned into inspiration, ideas and content that can serve customers, answer community questions and more), is not properly done because of human elements, not the content management and collaboration tools themselves. In other cases, the tools are simply not user-friendly enough, among many other possible reasons or the disconnect between business/marketing and IT and ‘ownership’ of systems isn’t integrated enough, a must in this day and age where intelligent information management and (enterprise) content management are at least as much about engagement as about ‘records’.
From content management to content marketing: 3 ‘cultural’ steps
Content management and collaboration systems often contain lots of information that can be ‘repurposed’ or lead to relevant or useful content. And it’s not just product information or internal documents.
Think about research that is conducted, for instance. Or solution sheets that can contain great information on the reasons specific solutions/products were developed. I’ve seen so-called sales kits that were so well written that they contained so much information to help sales people build their sales narrative, based on customer needs and market evolutions, they could be used write literally hundreds or thousands very useful blog posts by reworking them. Same for market research, stowed away somewhere.
So, before building a so-called content marketing culture, here are some other ‘cultural’ steps I advise you to take:
- Build a customer-centric culture around the customer experience. I won’t elaborate on that, I repeat it enough and we all know that content marketing only makes sense if we know how we can achieve our business goals using it by focusing on customer needs, the customer life cycle, the emotional triggers of people and what our so-called audiences (I really prefer to say target groups) want, like, share, find cool, think is fun, etc. As long as it makes sense.
- Connect the digital business dots. You know content marketing is not an island. Marketing isn’t an island either. In the digital business (that focuses on consistency and ‘connected customer experiences‘ in the largest sense) everything is connected. The involvement of ICT is really essential (but undervalued).
- Create a culture of intelligent information management and intelligent information activation, accessibility, governance and actual usage. As said, in my previous post I talked about thought leadership and opening the right drawers at the right time. Well, your company, enterprise content management system, internal search solutions, collaboration tools and whatnot should enable everyone to find those right drawers fast.
The latter means two things:
Employees need to use the content and information that is available. They often don’t know it’s there and if they do know it’s there they often don’t check it out, forget about it or don’t know what to do with it. How often do your subject matter experts and sales teams, for instance, check out your marketing content on your intranet or ECM (Enterprise Content Management) platform? There are many possible reasons why this happens: from bad systems that are hard to use and internal communication issues to laziness, distrust, lack of training, wrong rights or lack of interest.
People responsible for enterprise content management need to focus on the user experience and, in the end, also customer experience management. Content management is sometimes still pretty ICT-oriented and ICT is not always well-aware of what other departments want. That’s certainly not always their fault. We know that ICT is becoming (and asked to become) more focused on business. However, executives also have to take ICT more serious (and often don’t). This seems like a perfect place/pilot to work better together and make sure that a culture of content use and accessibility can lead to a more connected digital business and customer-centric (content) marketing culture.
In this blog post I mainly used information in a content context. It’s pretty obvious that in order to build a customer-centric content marketing strategy and ‘culture’, information in a data context is essential too…