Taking content marketing offline

KZN Top Business Portfolio 2013
It’s a bit embarrassing; in a severe case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes, I’ve been offline, neglecting my content marketing for a few weeks while I was focused on a client’s content project; not exactly living up to the fundamental truths that:

  • content marketing has to be planned and executed timeously, and
  • no-one will bother to re-visit a website that never offers anything new and interesting.

I’ve just finished editing the KZN Top Business Portfolio, a publication highlighting business opportunities and showcasing successful companies across the province.  So what, you may ask, makes this a content marketing project?

Just for starters, content marketing is a relatively new concept and this annual has been around for fifteen years.   (I had planned to tell you exactly when the term “content marketing” was coined, but I haven’t been able to establish a date.  Or, in fact, who coined it.  With several “authoritative” sources each crediting someone different, some of the problems and opportunities inherent in content marketing are apparent, but more on that in another blog.)

So, to go back to the question, what makes a book a content marketing project?  Isn’t content marketing all about online marketing?

Absolutely not!  Digital is the perfect way to publish and share content, but it doesn’t define content marketing.  The point is to give your target market useful information that builds trust in your expertise and encourages them to look to you for more.   Of course your content should be published online.  Your corporate website is first choice, and other online publications that reach your target market are ideal too.  And you can use  social media to promote it.  But this isn’t the only way to do it.

For years, food companies have published recipe books and leaflets, paint manufactures have printed colour guides and design suggestions, healthcare companies have distributed information on everything from acne to vaccines (and probably conditions starting with a z too, I just couldn’t find one!)

A book is just one more content marketing option.   This one offered the various contributors the opportunity to publish material for an identified target market, possibly one that they would not reach elsewhere.  Regional and local government highlighted growth opportunities, promoting the province as being a great place in which to invest and to live, and businesses showcased their companies to investors and other businesses in the region.   But the common thread was the need to create content that would be of interest.

Most organisations knew exactly what they wanted to share, but others were uncertain of what to say or simply didn’t have the time or resource to think about it.   I was happy to get stuck in and, since it is the digital age, websites seemed a good place to start.  But it wasn’t always that simple.  Some websites were headed for online obscurity.  Some offered outdated information, others were missing vital new material and, in one case, it transpired that some of the information on the corporate website is now considered confidential!

The point is that, once developed, websites are sometimes viewed as project that has been completed, a job well-done, instead of a vibrant, responsive tool.  And while it’s relatively easy to update photos when a new MD is appointed, or include the details of a newly-launched product, businesses don’t always take advantage of the opportunity to add new and relevant content and keep their websites fresh and interesting.  Or even to maintain it.

Content marketing provides the opportunity to engage with visitors and build a relationship, and is a valuable part of the marketing mix.  But this takes time and effort, and it needs an allocated resource to get it right.  And the only way to achieve this is to have a content strategy and a plan to execute that strategy.  Just like publishing a book.

We need to know what our target market will be interested in reading, what will keep them coming back for more.  And then we need to develop content on an on-going basis – and not ignore it for a few weeks just because we were too busy!

PS The book will be published online very shortly too, in a classic example of re-purposing content to maximise ROI.


  1. Pat Pughe-Parry on July 15, 2013 at 16:47

    A really interesting article Ann and pertinent to what I am doing at this exact time. I am currently doing a complete re-design of our ADHD website and looking at what from the current site is relevant, what can be ditched and what I need to add. Even more importantly is how it is presented so that our target market many of whom struggle to read and/or get quickly bored will be able to navigate it with ease and enjoy exploring the site.
    PS: Yes, I had wondered where you had gone. Keeping all the balls in the air is overwhelming to say the least.

    • Ann Druce on July 15, 2013 at 17:33

      Hi Pat, thanks, glad it was well-timed too! Good luck with your redesign.

  2. Dr. Jacques van den Berg on July 15, 2013 at 13:40

    Extremely interesting! In my opinion a website should have highly qualified staff answering any communications channelled through the website. Trillions of messages are falling through the cracks of bad website management. Content planning would also be a very high priority. And they need to eliminate two major problems: A: not giving the name and come communication details leading to top management (in some websites they don’t give any such information, only a number for consumers who would sit on the phone for a week to be able to speak to anyone on an 086 mass production comms channel); and B: not having a Contact Us link on the website, is also sheer stupidity, such ridiculous website planning coming from even major corporations in cases.

    • Ann Druce on July 15, 2013 at 17:30

      Hi Jacques, thanks.

      Yes, I think that failing to allow for communication or not responding is such a missed opportunity.

      I suspect that it’s because so many of us are technophobic and busy, and it’s simply easier to rely on the web boffin. Which is fine as long as they are as expert as they should be. But this isn’t always the case, as shown in this article: http://bit.ly/18jxFM6

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