By CB Whittemore published June 9, 2010

How to Think Like a Content Marketer

What’s the first step to becoming a content marketer? You need to think like one. Sounds basic, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Content marketing can’t thrive in some environments

While having a content marketing mindset may sound simple in theory, I regularly meet sophisticated business professionals who don’t appreciate how content can open doors, create connections and build more value than traditional marketing approaches can. Here are some examples why people aren’t thinking about content:

  • The command-and-control approach to information is so deeply ingrained within an organization that freely offering content is tantamount to acknowledging vulnerability.
  • Organizations are so internally-focused that all that matters are products, efficiencies, and pushing as much of that product out the door as possible without thinking too intensely on long-term repercussions.
  • Marketers simply haven’t stopped to think how conversation and exchanging content and information represent a means to an end and the beginning of rich relationships.

3 things you can do to start thinking like a content marketer

Truthfully, really embracing content marketing can be akin to changing a company’s culture. But, there are some things that all marketers can do to get in the right mindset.

Think about your customers  first

At the heart of a content marketer is an intense commitment to customers and a deep desire to eliminate complexity and simplify buying decisions. It requires that you banish an inward focus on products, services and your business silos and organize instead with your customers in mind. My True North is Zappos.

Try new communication tools

Next comes a realization that traditional communication tools aren’t working as well as they used to. The Breakup is a fantastic short video that comes to mind that illustrates this point perfectly where the consumer rejects the tiresome one-way interruptive insincere declarations of love that advertiser offers. Let’s face it: not only are customers successfully avoiding many traditional marketing communications, but they also seem to consider them mostly irrelevant.

Respect your customers’ time

Here are some customer truths we need to acknowledge:

  • Our customers’ time is preciously limited
  • They are bombarded with irrelevant messages
  • They don’t trust slick marketing messages
  • They won’t tolerate needless obfuscation or waste.

The only way to connect is by making meaning, developing trust and engaging in two-way interaction. Think about ways to do this.

The content marketing ah-ha moment

I love when I notice savvy marketers and business people experiencing a moment-of-truth that propels them in the direction of content marketing. It may go hand-in-hand with a sudden upheaval in the marketplace, a cut in budgets or a realization that differentiation is non-existent. Or perhaps it’s the result of conversation with someone impassioned about content marketing!

Regardless, the result is that they stop and intensely realize that the most natural and intuitive way of creating meaning and value for potential customers comes from focusing on them, rather than on their own stuff. They realize that they can gain considerably from listening to customers to uncover what matters to them and creating content that helps them make sense of all the chaos out there and make better buying decisions.

Although I had been living content marketing for a while, the most intense moment came when I mentally flipped around a brand tagline from “You’ll wear out before Wear-Dated” to “Wear-Dated won’t wear you out.” Talk about an Ah-Ha moment! My appreciation for what the brand could mean changed forever. The door opened for powerful, meaningful, relevant content that focused outward on customers and intended sincerely to simplify the category and not exhaust them.

What content marketing ah-ha moments have you had and what other suggestions to you have to help people change their mindset?

Author: CB Whittemore

C.B. Whittemore, chief simplifier of Simple Marketing Now LLC, has been immersed socially and digitally since 2006 when she launched her first blog – Flooring The Consumer. She practices fierce content marketing via the Simple Marketing Blog, a Junta42 Top Content Marketing Blog. C.B. obtained an MBA in Marketing from Columbia Business School and a BA in Art History from Smith College. Follow her on Twitter @cbwhittemore.

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  • deblamb

    Hi CB,
    I totally agree. You have to “think” like a content marketer in order to reach your audience successfully. I truly believe there are people who have not even really thought about it like that. One thing you mentioned which needs repeating is, “respect your customers' time.” How true is that!? If we would all just slow down a bit and really think about our customers, we might make some serious changes that would result in abundant opportunities.

    Great article! Loved your advice and direction. Thanks for sharing.

    Deb Lamb
    Freelance Ghostwriter
    http://www.youreverythingservices.com

  • deblamb

    Hi CB,
    I totally agree. You have to “think” like a content marketer in order to reach your audience successfully. I truly believe there are people who have not even really thought about it like that. One thing you mentioned which needs repeating is, “respect your customers' time.” How true is that!? If we would all just slow down a bit and really think about our customers, we might make some serious changes that would result in abundant opportunities.

    Great article! Loved your advice and direction. Thanks for sharing.

    Deb Lamb
    Freelance Ghostwriter
    http://www.youreverythingservices.com

  • CBWhittemore

    Deb, thanks so much for your comment. Oftentimes, when I speak with someone about their content, I literally see a switch flip in their brains indicating that they 'get' it and can start thinking like a content marketer. It's quite exciting!

    I appreciate, too, your focusing on time. We've only just scratched the surface of time and how to create true value as a result. That, too, takes time!

    Best,
    CB

  • Graham_Kilshaw

    I'm a recent CM convert, with a bit of a push from Joe and the CMI – nice work folks, keep it up. But my Aha! moment came a couple of weeks ago, when I was thinking about how do I communicate this shift in our thinking to our sales folks. Its no good me pumping the CM machine if sales and marketing are not aligned and then it came to me. So I asked our sales manager “Hey, Bob – what is your job title?” “Business Development Manager” he replied. “Right – but who's business are you developing?”. “Well ours of course” he says. And then he paused and said “Ahhhhh, I see!” and immediatley he got what I was alluding to. By the end of the day the rest of the sales team were talking about their “new old” job titles….

  • CBWhittemore

    Graham, what a fabulous Aha! moment you share! Those moments are amazingly subtle aren't they? But oh so powerful. Just a slight shift outward in how you perceive your marketplace and your customers. Congratulations on unleashing this new perspective and creating meaning out of job titles. I love it and can't wait to hear more. Thank you! CB

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    I was on a social media panel recently at which I stated that the marketing budget for our (previously bootstrapped) startup was no more than $10,000. The Tweeters in the room pushed back….reminding me that every bit of our content IS marketing, and content is what we do. It was an AHA moment and I quickly calculated that of the $1M we lived on for two years, 80% went into content! I was actually very proud to realize that because that means that 80% of what we did directly benefited our customer, and still does. But I did need to be hit over the head to realize that.

    Founder, Daily Grommet

  • CBWhittemore

    Jules, what a marvelous realization and example! Thanks for sharing it.

    The whole notion of budgets is one that forces too much attention on being internally focused. Better to have an outward measure of the customer focused benefits we create. Hmmm. I need to do some deep rethinking on the matter.

    Many thanks for adding to the discussion.

    Best,
    CB