Recently, our CEO had a revelation. Content marketing, he argued, no longer fully represented what we stood for or what our platform helped companies achieve.

His preferred category? Content operations.

The suggestion led us all to do some serious soul-searching. How much difference did one word really make?

A fairly big one, it turned out.

What Is Content Marketing?

The first step was to get on the same page about the precise definition of content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute says:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Basically:

Quality content → quality audiences → quality customers

The term “content marketing” has taken the marketing world by storm over the course of the last decade, spurring the growth of new kinds of companies (like ours) and opening up new conversations about the crucial role content plays in an organization.

Interest in content marketing has exploded in the last ten years.Interest in the term “content marketing” over the last decade. 

But the idea of content marketing isn’t new. (In fact, CMI has an excellent infographic that attributes one of the earliest known instances of the strategy to our late pal Benjamin Franklin.) What is new is the way it’s been applied with gusto to the B2B space. 

Allow me to escort you back in time to the distant land of 2009 when Kapost first threw open its doors. Back then, content marketing was alive and well in the B2C world (if not as sophisticated as it is today), but wasn’t nearly as embraced by B2B companies.

As the digital transformation empowered potential buyers more and more, however, it became apparent that traditional forms of enticement (paid promotion, cold calls, product demos) weren’t going to cut it anymore. Suddenly, potential customers started to expect a lot more resources—with a lot fewer strings attached.

In the early days of this power shift, companies that allocated a basic amount of resources and staff time to the problem could stay ahead of the game. Producing some great targeted assets (i.e., doing content marketing) set companies apart from the pack. All these years later, it’s no longer enough.

The B2B sales cycle is as complex as it’s ever been. Prospective buyers expect relevant, personalized content at every stage of their buyer’s journeys. They expect to have a solid idea of who you are and what you offer before ever picking up the phone to talk to a salesperson. They take long, winding paths from initial interest to final decision.

The marketer’s job? Keep up, or risk losing out big to competitors who adapt faster than you do.

Many companies are surprised by the increasingly complex demands of effective content strategy, whether they be early content marketing adopters who have watched their success taper off or new players who can’t understand why their intern’s weekly blog isn’t shooting MQL numbers through the roof.

That’s because, as our CEO recently pointed out, it’s impossible to create exceptional, customer-centric content that converts if you execute the way you always have.

What I’m really saying (and what we’ve come to realize) is: You can’t do content marketing today without a content operation.

So What Is a Content Operation?

A content operation is an internal operating model that moves teams from status to strategy, bringing visibility, collaboration, and confidence to content at scale.

Ready for another definitional blockquote? Basically:

Aligned tools, contributors, and processes → aligned content → consistent buyer’s journey → quality customers

A bit more robust, right? (If you want a more in-depth definition, check out our blog post dedicated to the topic, here.)

A content operation is the foundation that adds context to the process of content marketing. It’s the beginning, middle, and end that takes a team from tackling one piece of content at a time to seeing their entire content strategy as a coherent message—one that covers all personas and buying stages and is made up of assets that will continue providing value long past their publish dates.

A content operation is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s greater than just the marketing team, too. In fact, we’ve realized our strongest customers are those that use Kapost to prioritize cross-team collaboration and visibility; because getting all your stakeholders into the same platform makes delivering a consistent story to your customers a whole lot easier.

When we speak with B2B companies, we almost always encounter teams, tools, and processes that are siloed. The marketing folks may believe they’re doing great content marketing, but if their entire process is constrained within the marketing bubble, the assets they’ve worked so hard to produce are probably

  • Vastly underutilized
  • Not aligned with the broader strategic objectives of the company
  • Not aligned with the messaging of customer-facing teams

That’s why it’s so important to us that a salesperson be able to quickly find that awesome webinar to share with a prospect, that a customer success manager can propose the creation of a missing asset, that a marketer can see which pieces of content are used most by customer-facing teams, and that everyone has the appropriate visibility into workflows, calendars, performance metrics, and final assets. Because we know that if teams are disjointed, the buyer’s journey will be, too.

Takeaways

As the B2B marketing world has evolved—and as Kapost has evolved alongside it—we’ve all discovered that success requires more than just individual pieces of great content and more than just the marketing team. That’s why we’ve grown into a platform that supports the entire content lifecycle. Because we can’t just create and distribute content any more—we must build a foundation on which teams, processes, and tools can work together to build seamless customer experiences.

So long, content marketing. Hello, content operations.

Need to pitch a content operation to an executive? We’ve got you covered. Download Building a Business Case for a Content Operation for all the metrics, talking points, and scripts you need to impress anyone in the C-suite. 

Zoë Randolph

About Zoë Randolph

Zoë serves as Content Architect at Kapost, where she oversees messaging, hosts webinars, and authors long- and short-form content. When she's not contemplating the future of B2B marketing, you'll find her immersed in a book, talking politics, or agonizing over the mediocrity of Cal Bears athletics.