As marketers—especially in the low-cost world of digital production—we can virtually publish anything we want. Instantly.
So, when content marketing experts encourage us to “think like publishers,” we tend to get caught up in shipping our content out into the world.
But publishers actually think differently. And as marketers, we could learn thing or two from them.
I started my career in the publishing business—higher education textbooks, to be exact. And while business strategy dictated the timing of new editions, the content revision process revolved completely around understanding what the target audience wanted.
We assembled teams of leading professors to review the current textbook and compare it with leading competitive texts. We hired academics to create additional resources. We worked with the authors to trim outdated content and expand on chapters reviewers loved.
Basically, we undertook a massive effort to know our audience and what they wanted.
“Okay,” I hear some of you saying, “But students don’t want to pay for that content. So, how can we say the publisher got it right?”
In fact, higher ed publishers don’t see students as their primary audience. Faculty are their prospects because professors decide which books students should purchase. So, every time a student complains that they have to buy the new edition of a textbook, it means the publisher has been successful.
In contrast, as content marketers our primary goal is getting prospects to notice, consider and choose our offerings. We may be more audience-focused these days, but we can be myopic when it comes to creating content—gravitating toward topics that position our products or services in positive ways.
That’s important. But it’s also important to step back and evaluate our content through our prospect’s perspective. Is is truly useful and valuable to them? Does it address a priority issue? Is it timely? Does it reflect a deep understanding of them, their role, their business, their industry? And if we want our content to knock it out of the ballpark, here’s the big question we need to ask ourselves:
If we can stand in our prospect’s shoes and say yes, we’re already thinking like a publisher. If not, it's time to do some sleuthing to uncover deeper insights on what makes our prospects tick.