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Updated on: May 16, 2023

To be great at content marketing, CMOs need to think like publishers

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Content marketing, especially in B2B SaaS, has become a central part of modern business practices. Content marketing, being 62% less costly than traditional marketing while driving three times the amount of leads, has become many marketers’ go-to when it comes to engaging their audience and growing their business. Yet, many marketers are still struggling to truly reap its benefits, causing them to abandon the practice or put it aside if they don’t see immediate results.

The reason behind this struggle is that CMOs, when managing a content marketing strategy, approach it the wrong way. When it comes to content marketing, CMOs should not be thinking like marketers, they should be thinking like publishers. Why is that?

1. Content rules, but only when you truly make it your king

Content is king. You’ve likely heard this adage dozens of times by now…

Content has gained its power by being:

  • Prospects preferred method for getting to know brands
  • Consumers’ most likely reason for engagement with a brand 
  • An exponentially cheaper way of generating leads compared to outbound marketing. 

With opt-out rates for types of marketing like display advertising, emails, and paid search increasing, marketers have turned to organic discovery as their salvation, hoping that by providing content that is of value to the customer, they will be able to attract and preserve relationships with consumers. 

CMOs don’t deny the importance of content. In fact, 78% of them believe custom media represents marketing’s future. In fact, some CMOs have already begun adopting the publisher mentality. You have probably heard of Adobe and its software products, but did you know that they own CMO.com? CMO.com is how Adobe embraces brand publishing. Through this site, Adobe delivers marketing insights, expertise, and inspiration for and by marketing leaders. They have a team of editors and content creators dedicated to publishing a continuous flow of engaging content. Other examples include Profitwell’s Pricing Page Teardown, General Mills’ Tablespoon.com, and Wynter’s CEO’s Linkedin/Youtube series “Do You Even Resonate.”

Unfortunately, many CMOs don’t approach content with the same dedication and importance as these brand publishers do. Many view it as a side project for their own companies. Why is that?  

In publishing, content is your product, it is the center of your business. If you adopt a publisher’s mentality then “content is king” won’t just be a common best practice, it will be your mantra. Publishers aren’t just assemblers or curators of content. Publishers take engagement to the next level by offering original, valuable, and consistent content in several forms. Because a lot of marketers see content as a means to an end, (MQLs, conversions, etc) they hesitate at the sight of the price and workload associated with generating the volumes of quality content required to maintain an engaged audience. A CMO needs to think like a publisher because publishers view content as the main act, they create a whole “content factory,” they don’t shy away from it when costs go up because they know the value it can provide when done correctly. 

Generating a lot of quality content and knowing how to distribute it is no easy task. When a CMO thinks like a publisher, content is the main character. They don’t see it as just a part of their business, but rather a dedicated business all on its own, one which must meet the needs and expectations of their customers without being wasteful. When you truly view your content as your king, as your product, much like publishers do, you have no choice but to assure that it is being consumed and creating conversations in an impactful way. Publishers are constantly seeking to generate unique and dynamic content in many different forms. They know that every great publishing product combines consistency and surprise. 

2. It’s an attention economy, and we are in a recession

In the United States, it is estimated that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. With consumers being more and more overwhelmed by brand messages each day, and their attention growing thin, marketers struggle to find new ways to outshine their numerous competitors. Until relatively recently, marketers thought this meant getting as many consumers as possible to see as many messages as possible. Now they’re focused on being found, instead of chasing after uninterested consumers. 

This is a mindset publishers have had since the beginning of their profession. If CMOs begin to think like publishers then they will be able to orient themselves through the masses of consumers, finding the audiences where they have a realistic opportunity of being an important source of knowledge, education, insight, and entertainment. 

CMOs who think like publishers will be relentless in their search to unlock the wants of their customers. A publisher’s mindset is all about their reader. While many argue that marketing is all about that as well, there have been many times when being “customer-centric” and being profitable clashed in a marketer’s mind. In a publisher’s mind, being profitable has always been about being able to understand their consumer. It’s always about giving them what they truly wanted not only so that they would come back for more, but because of the trusting relationship that is created as a result. CMOs, now more than ever, need to adopt this mindset. 

Keeping the customers looking for your brand and not the other way around is a great way to lower acquisition costs as well. If CMOs ensure the quality and consistency of the brand’s content, as any publisher would, then they can slowly help position their brand as an expert in the industry. Gaining notoriety and credibility within your industry is a natural way of attracting consumers as well as a natural way of lowering acquisition costs and increasing revenue. It doesn’t matter if the attention economy is in a recession if you’re rich in valuable content. 

With the right marketing strategy, people will give you their attention if you give them something worthy of paying attention to. Like a thought-leading publisher, CMOs need to anticipate and set trends, harnessing ideas from their audience and their company’s experience to create engaging, value-adding content. If they are the only ones or first ones to provide this knowledge then they will be who the masses turn to when trying to engage with that specific content. 

3. CMOs must hold attention, not just capture it

If you look at it in theory, marketers and publishers don’t have very different mindsets when it comes to their ideal depth of relationship with their consumers. Both strive to create a loyal base that will frequently return to the company/brand throughout their customer lifetime. Commonly known as the 80-20 principle, the Pareto Principle refers to the fact that 80% of a given business’s profit typically comes only from 20% of their consumers, a big reason why marketers have shifted an increasing amount of their focus on retaining rather than attracting customers. This task, however, is not one that can be tackled in the short-term. Like any relationship, marketers must work to gain their consumer’s trust and loyalty.

So, one must ask: why is it that when it comes to content, marketers don’t have a long-term view like publishers do but rather a campaign mentality? A campaign mentality means that an action is only seen as useful for a certain timeframe and specific goal. This means that content isn’t viewed as a developing and ongoing value that you share with your consumers over time. It’s viewed as “an ebook created to send this message” or a “video meant to go viral.” If CMOs are to truly begin thinking in a customer-centric way and create strong relationships with their consumers using this mentality, then they have to shift from this campaign mentality. This publisher mentality represents a cultural shift from short-term content creation goals to long-term development, curation, and distribution of engaging content. With this shift in mentality, CMOs will be focused on creating and forging something of great value over many years. 

This means that over many years CMOs should manage their content not only for continual engagement, but also to truly learn about their customers. They will be able to understand their likes/dislikes and get closer to them through the data they get by observing the most viewed content they have published. In the end, that’s what CMOs must work towards; managing all the marketing functions to attract and, most importantly, retain customers. 

How to shift to a publisher mentality:

1. When it comes to your content initiative, dump the campaign mentality

Run your content creation as if it was a separate business. It should be a steady flow of content that provides true value for your customer for an extended period. Content should not be created according to different campaigns being executed by the brand. This may attract, but it probably won’t retain.

2. Be bigger than your brand

As a CMO, you should be building your content strategy around a purpose or mission—not just your product or brand. Publishers think of long-term missions to fulfill through their content creation based on the value they can bring to their customers. They don’t focus on just providing information that has to do with their brand or product.

3. Bring in unexpected participants

One of your main responsibilities as CMO is bringing in the right team to execute a task. Your content team, however, shouldn’t go about it alone. As a CMO, you’re probably surrounded by many people from different specialties and, therefore, a vast amount of knowledge in different fields. Have your content team bring them in for different pieces, interview them and gain insight from their experiences so as to further enrich your company’s content. This is especially important when it comes to your sales and customer success teams, they are on the frontline when it comes to prospects so they often hold the key to their needs and questions that can ultimately be turned into some of the most valuable content.

4. Make your READER the focus point

To shift over to the publisher mentality, you must stop viewing your audience as potential paying customers and view them more as readers. You must become obsessed with your readers if you are going to provide a consistent flow of engaging and surprising content. This means being able to master quality and quantity. Of course, you want to provide useful content to your readers, but if you know them, then your content will also be diverse in how it addresses their wants and needs, even if they don’t know it yet. A publisher’s goal is to keep their readers engaged, not to create MQLs or SQLs.

5. Plan with an editorial calendar

This might seem like an obvious one, but you would be surprised at how many times content is often put on the back burner as other obligations arise. Maintaining and abiding by a content calendar keeps the task of regularly and thoughtfully posting content top-of-mind. Build a calendar with content planned months in advance.This way your content obligations are never forgotten, ideas have time to be developed, and you have the flexibility to react to specific dates, events, holidays or campaigns if necessary.

When it comes to content, the earlier, the better and I’d like to help you get started. Check out our ultimate guide to B2B SaaS content marketing. Here you’ll find the best tips, tricks, and topics needed to make sure you’re spinning your content marketing plate well. But always remember: think like a publisher, not like a marketer.

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