By Joe Pulizzi published August 11, 2012

Like it or Not, Information Must Be Your Product

Although each brand we’ve worked with executes the content marketing process differently, there seems to be one key differentiator between those organizations that are successfully changing behavior through content and those that aren’t: Information as a product.

Whether you sell products or services, the new rules of marketing require that, along with everything else you sell, the process of delivering consistently valuable information must be considered throughout the organization as, yes, a product.

What do I mean by that? When an organization looks at their content marketing as a product, they inherently create a number of initiatives and processes around that product, including:

  • Upfront business planning
  • Product testing
  • Research & development
  • Product success measures (marketing return-on-investment)
  • Customer feedback channels
  • Quality control
  • Product evolution planning

Successful companies such as Procter & GambleIBM, and SAS have all approached their content in a similar fashion.

Why approach information as a product?

Simple: Organizations today have no choice but to place that kind of importance and processes behind their content initiatives. Customers today are in complete control and filter out any message that does not benefit them in some way. Since that is the case, organizations must first build a solid relationship with customers through the use of valuable, relevant information — then, and only then, will organizations be able to sell the other products and services that grow the top line.

This is happening now

We are seeing this trend happen now, as more businesses morph themselves into media companies. You are seeing appointments of titles such as “chief content officers” and businesses that are starting to hire full-time journalists. Traditional businesses are starting to purchase media companies themselves. Need an example? Just look at Red Bull Media House. Red Bull has become a media company that just happens to sell energy drinks. This is what the new content marketing organization looks like.

What you need to do

Any company serious about growing top line revenues, and at the same time concerned about how to market in the future, needs to make the “information as a product” concept a priority.

Small organizations with limited budgets should start seeking out expert journalists to begin overseeing their content program. Mid-to-large organizations may want to look into hiring an agency that understands that storytelling, and not paid media channels, are the key to future growth.

In order to be successful, you need marketing culture that includes both a strong marketing and publishing core, and a keen understanding of how consistent editorial content can maintain or change customer behavior.

Three takeaways:

  • Start to think about your content packages as a series, similar to a television show. Set up the pilot as a test, and then if successful, roll ahead with the series. Eloqua has done a fantastic job of this with its Grande Guide series.
  • All product managers need to be trained in advanced storytelling techniques. The power of story revolves not in the product, but depends on the true needs and pain points of the target audience. The product manager must be submersed in this. Most product managers never think about this aspect and the opportunities are wasted.
  • The pilot team. Content marketing is not a hard concept, but it means thinking differently about how we communicate with both customers and employees. A full marketing makeover takes time, especially in a larger brand. Find the storytellers in your marketing department and set up a skunk works operation as your testing ground. Focus on hitting a single or two instead of a home run. Once you get some singles accomplished with this group and success is clear, then you can push it through the entire organization.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Barry Feldman

    Strong one Joe, one of your best. I love that, “find the storytellers in your marketing department.” For smaller companies, I guess that would translate to “hire a storyteller.”

    • Joe Pulizzi

      or possibly, both!

  • Doug

    Have been saying that for years: content is the FIRST product of any company. If your message doesn’t sell, what chance does your product or service stand?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Doug…if only more people would listen.

  • Roger C. Parker

    This is one of those seminal articles and posts that will be quoted & referred to for years.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Too kind Roger. Thanks!

  • superior marketingllc

    very useful blog

  • superior marketingllc

    Nice blog