A Food Pyramid for Content Marketing

October 5, 2011 •

Food Pyramid

The following post was initially published on the Content Marketing Institute Blog (September 15, 2011).

At Right Source Marketing, we get a lot of questions about where to allocate content marketing resources.  On blog posts? Webinars? eBooks? The possibilities can be overwhelming. Yet knowing how to allocate resources is essential to successful content marketing. Even though the USDA’s food pyramid has transitioned to a food plate, content marketers would do well to consider a pyramid concept for balancing their use of the many content formats they use. While every content marketing program is different, I’ve created the below chart to show the basic portions of content that should keep most content marketing programs healthy and happy.

The Content Marketing Food Pyramid


The base: Curation, creativity, and coordination

These three concepts form the base of the pyramid because without all of these elements your content marketing efforts will fail.  Here’s what I mean:

Content curation: You’ve probably heard content marketing referred to as “thought leadership.” To be a thought leader, you’ve got to know what everyone else is saying, make sense out of it, and then add something original to the conversation. This means your entire content team will need to spend time reading industry blogs, following industry hashtags on Twitter, and keeping their eyes open for new ideas and trends. Sometimes, this research and reading doesn’t seem to accomplish much, but without soaking in industry content it’s hard to create anything notable yourself.

Content creativity: At the beginning of each content marketing engagement, we hold a brainstorming session to get everyone to think creatively about content. However, content creativity goes far beyond the initial brainstorming session. Creativity  may come in the form of getting through that first sentence when you’re facing a nasty case of writer’s block or finding the perfect way to fix that awkward sentence when you’re in editing mode. You can’t consistently create quality content without creativity.

Content coordination: Content marketing is complicated. If you’re doing it right, you’ll have several blog posts a month, drafts flying back and forth, and several writers fighting for space on the schedule (or begging for a deadline extension). Not to mention that you also have to distribute that content, report on whether or not it’s working, adjust your next efforts based on those reports, and incorporate whatever new social sharing site has come out that week. Content marketing flounders without an organizational maestro to take charge and coordinate efforts.

You might think it’s weird that there is no actual content on the base of the content marketing pyramid. Yet without curation, creativity, and coordination your content will not be supported by a sound foundation.

The middle: Blog posts and website copy

The middle section is a huge part of any healthy content marketing menu. Without quality website copy and blog posts, your content marketing program will be malnourished.

Blog posts build your brand’s following, secure SEO results, help nurture prospects along the buying cycle, and provide fodder for social media outlets. They catch attention and draw readers back to your website. For many content marketers, blog posts represent the bulk of content marketing efforts. Compared to other types of content, blog posts are relatively quick and easy to create, and if one blog post isn’t the best thing you’ve ever had on your site, that’s OK — you’ve always got the next one.

However, blog posts do not stand alone in the middle of the content marketing pyramid. Without thorough, compelling website copy, the chances of your blog’s readers turning into qualified leads are low.  Sure, potential clients may fill out your contact form because they loved one of your blog posts, but I’ll bet they took a look at your website copy first. Fail to reflect your organization’s unique value proposition in your website copy and you’ll fail to capture leads from your content marketing efforts.

The almost-top: Videos and case studies

Videos and case studies earn their spots on this level for two very different reasons, so I’ll break it down:

Videos. Everyone learns in different ways, and while one person may be content to read blog posts all day, another may want to watch a two-minute video to get a sense of how you think and who you are. While videos aren’t absolutely essential, they give site visitors a sense of the legitimacy of your business. Creating quality videos can be time consuming and expensive compared to drafting a blog post, so you might not be able to create one every other week, but you should definitely consider video as a way to complement your text-based content offerings.

Case studies. One of the most compelling ways to sell is by showing off the good work you’ve done for others. No matter how brilliant, informative, and interesting your blog posts and website copy are, potential clients or customers are going to want to know who else has worked with you successfully. Short, simple case studies are a good way to show this whether you’re mentioning them in a blog post or sending them to a potential client when responding to an initial inquiry. However, be wary of overwhelming your audience with case studies because it can come off as too hard a sell. Instead, choose the absolute best work your company does, and showcase it when it’s relevant.

Videos and case studies aren’t the only types of content that fit in this category — you could throw infographics and interactive portfolios in here as well. The point is, website and blog copy isn’t always enough. You should have different kinds of content for the different kinds of thinkers whose attention you hope to attract.

The top: Webinars and eBooks

Content such as webinars and eBooks are essential for capturing leads. People are generally willing to submit their contact information in exchange for significant content like this. Once you have that, your sales team can contact any qualified leads.

However, you’ll be hard pressed to get people to sign up to download a webinar or eBook if you haven’t already convinced them of your expertise by giving them quality content that is easily accessible as well. Build a readership with your blog, and then turn that readership into leads by requiring information in exchange for the content on the top of the pyramid.

About the Author

The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

  • http://www.ThatWhitePaperGuy.com Gordon Graham

    Nice approach! That’s a great way to define “thought leadership”… I’ve noticed many people want to claim their companies are “thought leaders” when all they do is repeat the same truisms as everyone else in their space.

    I notice you don’t mention “white papers” in the pyramid? These belong in the top tier with e-books. White papers are a premier form of content for generating leads, certainly in the B2B technology sector.

    And the powerful thing about the formats at the top of the pyramid is that can encompass and be broken down and repurposed into all the formats at the lower levels.

    • http://www.rightsourcemarketing.com Tracy Gold

      Thanks Gordon! Yes it’s important to say something new, not just repeat.

      I absolutely agree that white papers go up with webinars and eBooks. What would be an eBook for one business would be a white paper for another. It just depends on what people expect in your industry.

      Your last point is a good one too–remember that this also goes the other way–case studies and blog posts can be incorporated into white papers, webinars, and eBooks. The challenge is constantly thinking of how to make your content as effective and efficient as possible.

      Thanks for coming by and commenting!

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