Think Like a Publisher, Act Like a Business

05/22/2014 10:34 am ET Updated Jul 22, 2014

If you were told five years ago that your company needed to get serious about publishing, you probably wouldn't have taken that advice to heart. Today it is the complete opposite. If a strong publishing strategy isn't part of your marketing repertoire then you are missing out on fruitful opportunities for customer engagement.

That said, content marketing remains in its infancy as companies across industries are doing the old Goldie Locks routine: trying on different content approaches until they discover the best fit for their business. One thing is for certain: content marketing isn't a fad and it is here to stay. So what's next for companies as they navigate a new world of marketing where content is the catalyst?

Unfortunately, there isn't yet a blueprint on the best approach for successful content marketing, but one thing we do know is that content is a great asset and should be treated as a viable, revenue-yielding, part of any business. In fact, there are number of brands that have excelled in this respect and are leveraging content and seeing results worth recognizing. We've taken a look at some of these companies and have compiled our best practices for turning your publishing team into a profitable asset for your business.

Keep The Bottom Line Top Of Mind

Take a look at the publishing industry. It has seen its fair share of challenges as print inches closer to extinction, brands become publishers and consumers become influencers. Editorial, circulation, and readers are always top of mind with publishers, but even more so is hard revenue-driven results. This is why we've seen innovative approaches to content creation and distribution as more publications go digital and explore new avenues for sharing content.

While publishing has certainly undergone a number of transformations, so have brands' roles as content creators. The one constant between successful traditional media and brands-as-publishers is a keen focus on profitability. One brand that has built a thriving publishing powerhouse is Net-A-Porter. The women's fashion retailer has taken content so seriously that it even hired Harper's Bazaar Editor Lucy Yeomans as the publication's editor-in-chief. The company has introduced both a print and digital content hub featuring articles, photography spreads, and advertisements alongside shoppable, branded content. Net-A-Porter's chief executive Mark Sebba has gone as far as to say that the company is in fact not a retailer, but a media company. The retailer's play as publisher has been successful because Net-A-Porter analyzes consumer behavior -- their target audience primarily shops online, but sticks to print for reading up on fashion -- and keeps its' eye on business objectives. This type of thinking has led the company to make the connection that profit margins are higher on advertising revenue than on retail. So for Net-A-Porter, content isn't just an engagement tool, it's a lucrative business asset.

Add Value That Delivers Results

It's important to have a laser focus on the end-game and to guide each decision with those objectives in mind. And companies that invest in this are seeing a big return on their efforts. Tesco, the U.K.'s biggest supermarket chain is a prime example. Tesco Magazine and its online counterpart Tesco Living not only add value to customers, but in 2012 it overtook The Sun as the most read publication in the U.K. With more than 7.2 million readers, Tesco has positioned itself not just as known brand, but as a leading source for information, entertainment and inspiration. Tesco's success on the publishing front is partly due to its ahead of the curve mentality -- using consumer data in the early 90s to predict trends -- and its focus on revenue-rich opportunities.

Tesco, doesn't just create content for content's sake. The supermarket leader supplements it's brick-and-mortar experience with content that complements the interests of its customers. Content is curated to match the company's vision to provide the best food, family and living experience. On the print and online publications, Tesco hits every touch point of it's shopper's interests from meal planning to nutrition tips, and entertainment ideas. As content becomes increasingly important for brands, it's important to keep value-add top of mind during the creative process. Every piece of content should align with the company's mission and business goals. Straying from this will make your company subject to confusing or inconsistent content that can lead to customer drop-off.

Content is a hot commodity for business and will continue to be a staple in how brands engage with consumers. While developing a full-fledge publishing team and publication may not be within the scope of your resources, there are important lessons to be taken from Tesco and Net-A-Porter. Regardless of your business objectives, it is important to align your content strategy with business goals and identify opportunities that will generate revenue. Content creation should be strategic, meaningful and impactful, otherwise it's not going to yield results that will grow your business.