The goal of every company is to grow and to expand, but that expansion, of course, brings challenges.

As you get bigger you develop different product lines. And then you sell those different product lines into different geographies around the world. And a matrix settles over your organizational chart. And quickly the virtues of getting bigger start to become curses, or, at least, significant impediments.

This is particularly the case as you try to respond across your organization to new major business trends. Like content marketing.

All of those different product lines and different geographies have developed their own marketing teams, each producing content. So when you try to roll out a change across the entire organization, it seems to be an impossible task.

But it’s actually not. Here’s why.

What Is Content Marketing?

Aligning Around Content: Many Business Units, A Common Customer by @tobymurdock

First, some clarification. What is content marketing itself? The term is a source of confusion as, of course, marketing has been producing content for decades and decades. So what’s new about content marketing?

Well, our buyers are in control. The Internet has empowered them, and they are conducting their purchase process on their own. Marketers used to reach them with product-centric content, but buyers now know that such content is available to them at any time, only a quick Google search away. They resent having such product-centric content pushed at them.

So instead, we must earn the attention and trust of our buyers with content focused on their interests and concerns. So, actually, the more complete name for this trend would be “buyer-centric content marketing.” The shift to buyer-centricity is the new element differentiating today’s marketing content.

The Common Customer

It may appear difficult to transition a large company’s marketing department to buyer-centric content marketing. It’s overwhelming to think that marketers working across different product lines and business units have to shift away from product-centric content, and start focusing on their own content marketing. Yikes!

We must earn the attention and trust of our buyers with content focused on their interests and concerns.

But more often than not, the different business units in large companies still serve a common customer. Take a large technology company, for example. It might have grown to have a hardware unit, a software unit, and a services unit. And each likely has various sub-units and product lines within them. So much to change!

But in this example, all of these units are selling their various products to a common buyer: the CIO. And in buyer-centric content marketing, it’s the buyer that matters.

A Single Content Operation to Win the Content Battle

So when you start to roll out content marketing in a bigger company, you do not need to transform every last business unit and product line. Yes, there needs to be some shift of resources—of people and dollars—away from product-centric content and towards buyer-centric content. You need to respond to the modern, empowered buyer, and most of that traditional product-centric content is not getting consumed anyhow.

But because each business unit does not have a unique buyer, it does not need a unique buyer-centric content marketing effort either. Product-centric content is still necessary, of course, so let each unit continue to produce those necessary assets for the bottom of the funnel. This is the bulk of what they already do and does not have to change.

 

But then for the top-of-the-funnel, buyer-centric content, the various business units should come together to form a common content operation to serve their common customer. And they must come together, because each business unit going it alone does not work.

Why? Well, of course, having different business units all talking to the same customer is highly ineffective. This leads to conflicting messages from the same company reaching the buyer. There is duplication, overlap, and waste.

But it is more than that. As a marketer, when you produced traditional, product-centric content, it was easy to be the authority on your subject. Your business was, of course, the producer of that product.

You cannot afford to go it alone with each business unit working in its own silo.

But buyer-centric content is more challenging. Let’s think of our example of the tech company and their buyer, the CIO. Think how many sources of content are available to the CIO as they seek out information to do their job better—content not only from other tech vendors, but from trade journals, institutes, the media, social media, and on and on. There is so much competition. Being the authority on buyer-centric topics is much more difficult than it was for product-centric topics. Thus, resources must be pooled across business units for your content to stand out and earn your buyer’s attention.

You cannot afford to go it alone with each business unit working in its own silo. And not all of your product-centric content will flip to buyer-centric overnight, nor should it. Rather, big companies should move a portion of their resources from product-centric to buyer-centric, and critically align business units in a unified content marketing operation that serves the common customer.

Yes, as a big company you can succeed in content marketing. And you do so by aligning your vast organization around your common customer.

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