The Future CMO — a Publisher?

Considering technology has enabled marketing to make use of once implausible platforms — mobile phones, interactive displays and even virtual worlds — who would have guessed that the next generation of CMOs would need an in-depth understanding of a trade that goes back to the days of Benjamin Franklin? The answer: not many. Even so, publishing is the driving force behind today’s most successful brands.

Even the word “publishing” sounds old-fashioned, so it’s understandably difficult to fathom how the process could possibly be revolutionizing the marketing techniques used by the largest organizations in the world.

Publishing and Trust
Do you know IBM’s most important marketing objective? According to Ed Abrams, vp of marketing for IBM, it’s to “create and develop trust with technology decision makers.”

Eduardo Conrado, corporate vp of business and technology for Motorola, is singing the same tune: Motorola’s most important goal is to “become a trusted partner and resource to customers.”

But how are they meeting this objective? By publishing online content, Webcasts, Webinars, videos, educational newsletters, white papers, content microsites. The list goes on. In order to create an environment of trust, marketers must develop valuable, relevant and compelling content on a consistent basis. That’s publishing — and now, marketing.

The challenge for corporate marketers is that most do not have the skill base or a clear understanding of the elements required for publishing.

Marketing Is Publishing
If you have any doubts as to whether marketing is morphing into publishing, just compare, side-by-side, the products of any media company and the communication tactics used by major marketing organizations. They are almost identical. The only difference is how they are measured. While media companies measure each product with an individual P&L, marketers measure their tactics through customer growth and retention.

While this is great news for non-media companies (advertising agencies and agency-side content providers) and client-side CMOs, it also explains why most media companies are hurting. The media’s main competition is no longer other media companies; it’s past clients, companies like yours.

This is a recent but rampant and steady shift. Up until just a few years ago, corporate marketers were still primarily dependent on aligning their products with media brands to distribute their overall message to their target audience. Now, they’re cutting out the middleman (that would be traditional media) and communicating directly to their customers. 

There are two major elements primarily responsible for this shift: Search engines, which have democratized the playing field, and technology, which is so cheap that there are essentially no barriers to publishing the messages you want to your target buyers.

The Publisher’s Skill Set
While the metrics, the marketing knowledge and the concepts of integrated marketing are still extremely valuable, the differentiator between the haves and have-nots of leading marketing executives comes down to the process of delivering valuable, relevant and compelling content on a consistent basis.
 
What are the defining traits of publishers?  And how can your average CMO adopt them to do his or her job more effectively? In short, CMOs need to think like publishers and understand concepts such as:

— The ongoing informational needs of the buyer (outside your products and services).
— Anticipating the informational needs of buyers and presenting cutting-edge industry trends (again, not product- or service-related).
— The art of storytelling and its role within the organization.
— Audience development tactics that rely on in-depth knowledge of buyer personas.
— Content tactics that cut through the marketing clutter and gain readership.

The CMO publisher allocates resources much like a media company would, including:

— Aligning an expert content network of journalists and custom publishers.
— Developing an editorial plan and content schedule.
— Leveraging employees to be part of the content-generation process and positioning them as industry experts.
— Creating an online, in-print and in-person content strategy as part of the integrated marketing program.

It Comes Down to Trust
Most leading organizations still leverage traditional media, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. During this “transition” period between traditional and alternative media strategies, big brands such as IBM, Siemens and Procter & Gamble are beginning to leverage vast amounts of traditional media to market their own content. IBM pushes buyers to their DNA portals. Siemens promotes to their Siemens Answers content program. P&G integrates both traditional and nontraditional marketing efforts toward sites like HomeMadeSimple.com and BeingGirl.com, which have both been big wins for the company.

These are publishing efforts that are designed to engender buyer trust. The new rules of marketing dictate trust over all other objectives. Trust leads to long-term relationships. Trust leads to the purchase. Trust leads to online and offline word of mouth.

Without publishing consistent and valuable content to customer segments, trust is hard to come by, even with a revolutionary product or service.

The Opportunity Is Now
Although organizations across the globe are starting to catch on, we are still at the beginning stages of the publishing and content marketing revolution. The average company spends about 30 percent of its total budget on the creation and execution of its own content. Over the next few years this number will grow to 50 percent. This means that more emphasis will need to be on best-in-class publishing methods and less on traditional measurements.

In today’s climate, a majority of Americans are more inclined to trust business than they are government or media (source: 2008 Edelman Trust Barometer). That means you start off with the deck stacked in your favor: your customers want to trust you. By publishing your brand message in the form of useful information, your company and brand are in a position to become “the trusted information resource” and to create lifelong brand loyalists. Those that don’t will be left on the outside looking in, and by that time, a publishing mentality may be too late.

Joe Pulizzi, author, speaker and evangelist for content marketing, is founder of Junta42 Match, the leading custom content marketplace, and author of Get Content. Get Customers.