Content Marketing isn't exactly new, but it's certainly come mainstream with the evolution of the Internet and recognition that the online customer experience should be as much about engaging and building loyal subscribers as it is about selling products and services. The two go hand in hand these days.

To learn a little more about content marketing and how it helps engage customers, we spoke with Robert Rose, Senior Analyst at Digital Clarity Group and co-author of Managing Content Marketing.

Q: When did you first recognize this need for brands to become storytellers?

Well certainly the idea of “brand as storyteller” isn’t new. There are some amazing people that have been proposing this for twenty or more years. But I think what is new -- and something that I discovered really about 5 years ago is that there are three ideas coming together simultaneously.

There’s this notion of content being both easier to publish, and easier to search and consume digitally. Then, there’s this idea of the “experience economy” to engage customers at a deeper level. And, finally, there’s the idea of Content Marketing -- using content to pull and aggregate -- so that you earn and own audiences rather than just rent the space to present to them.

When you put all this together the idea of brand as storyteller takes on a whole new meaning. This is because it’s no longer just a “branding” perspective -- but rather transforming demand generation marketing into a media/publishing organization that services the entire lifecycle of our customers.

Q: Does every organization have a customer journey? What can they do to understand what it is?

Wow am I glad you asked that. Yes, they *really* do. Everyone has a customer journey.

That means everyone from you as a person -- to the ‘you’ that’s a Fortune 100 company to the ‘you’ that’s a government agency.

For you as a person it might be to influence your way into a new job. Or, it might be to convince your wife that you need those new golf clubs. Or -- it might be that you have to facilitate a million customers to buy your new tablet computer, or effectively inform 10 million constituents what progress you’re making on their behalf.

In any regard there’s an engagement journey that your customer goes through -- and the key to understanding it is to understand your audience. The key is knowing these people as people -- not as a demographic, a title or a segment of population. Who are these people -- and why do they care about us.

Editor's Note: Get more of Robert's content marketing insights in our free August 8th webinar: Webinar: Rethinking Web Engagement — Leading with Content Marketing. It's going to be a great one!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your “new” marketing funnel, mentioned in your book “Managing Content Marketing”?

Sure… the new marketing department is now charged with much more than just driving leads into the organization. We’re more than just the “brand” guys who take long lunches and don’t do much.

We now have direct responsibility of not only driving sales -- but in keeping that customer, upselling them, retaining them and ultimately turning them into an engaged, brand subscriber.

I can’t tell you how many companies I go into where marketing is “not allowed” to communicate to customers. That’s just crazy.

Simultaneously, I go into companies where marketers have never ever talked with a customer. That’s even crazier.

As marketers -- we have the opportunity to be more strategic than ever for the organization these days. We have so much power. But, as Uncle Ben in Spiderman says -- with that great power comes great responsibility.

Q: What kinds of resistance to content marketing have you received? (e.g. from people with well-oiled systems and process in place or simply resistance to change)

Well, I dare say no one these days has a well-oiled machine. Or, if it is -- the question is, how long until the oil needs changing?

The landscape of business is changing so fast today -- it’s just a matter of time until any business is out-marketed. I’m also happy to say that the “building the business” case (formerly the biggest resistance) has come down every year in the study that CMI does with MarketingProfs every year, and is now below 10%.