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From the Trenches

The 7 Flavors of Content Marketing: What’s Yours?

Mike Sweeney | October 24, 2014

According to the B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America report, B2B marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are more effective than those without one.  As a matter of fact, of those who have a documented strategy, 60 percent consider themselves effective at content marketing. Only 32 percent of those who have a verbal strategy say they are effective.

So, not only is it important to have a strategy, but the actual documentation proves critical to the effectiveness of your content marketing programs.

You know what else plays a significant role in your content marketing success, or lack thereof? The flavor of content marketing you practice.

That flavor is determined before you even begin the planning phase. It’s determined by your function, your title, your perceptions, and your goals. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of in-the-know folks, you are wired to think about content marketing in a certain way, and that rarely changes. You choose what flavor you are, or perhaps it’s chosen for you.

Here are the seven flavors of content marketers, ranked in order of those most likely to succeed with content marketing.

1. Brand Builder

If your flavor is brand builder — that is, you’re looking to build brand awareness and enhance your brand perception — then you’ve come to the right place. This is what B2B content marketing is built for. In fact, 84 percent of marketers say that brand awareness is their most important content marketing goal.

Here’s why this flavor of content marketer will be so successful: Unlike the “old days” when brand awareness — and to some extent, loyalty — was built through volumes of hopefully memorable advertising, today it is built through content. Brand messaging is something that can be incorporated consistently with relative ease with the help of a good content marketing plan, and there are almost unlimited options in terms of content types, channels, and opportunities here. Capture readers with entertaining, educational pieces of content, and they start to see your brand as trustworthy, credible, and likeable.

2. Thought Leader

The thought leader and brand builder flavors are like chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and chocolate chip ice cream, essentially the same but with a few defining ingredients.

The thought leader flavor can’t get enough of content marketing, because save a well-orchestrated public relations program, there is little that can match the effectiveness of content marketing in terms of making owners, principals, or executives appear as the people who set the agenda for the industry.

3. Lead Nurturer

If your flavor is lead nurturer, you are the envy of fellow marketers. You have more leads than you know what to do with — due to your genius lead generation plan and meticulous execution, of course.

What you don’t have, however, are enough competent sales people to stay on top of all of these leads.

Enter content marketing.

Chances are that if you have figured out how to generate a high volume of leads, you’ve also figured out the types of approaches and tactics that convert leads into opportunities, and the types of material the typical prospect needs at each stage of the buying cycle. So get your CRM lead data cleaned up, fire up your chosen marketing automation tool, and start dropping smart content in your prospects’ laps.What Flavor Content Marketer Are You?

4. Social Media Manager

You’re the hit-or-miss flavor, kind of like Pumpkin Cheesecake. You’re either so right about your content marketing/social media approach, or so, so wrong. CMI’s 2015 study tells us that social media content is the single most used type of content in the arsenal at 92 percent, above things like eNewsletters or blog posts. But your primary objective should be to use a strong content marketing plan to fuel some level of social media activity and engagement, not vice versa, and that’s where a lot of marketers have lost sight of the big picture.

In the world I work in every day, social media represents a set of channels used to distribute, or amplify content. But it’s really a subcategory that belongs under the content marketing umbrella. My advice, as usual: don’t let the social media tail wag the content marketing dog.

5. Lead Generator

The lead generator is a tricky flavor. On the one hand, content marketing will generate short-term leads, especially if you invest in anchor content like eBooks or webinars, or really anything that allows for the collection of user/reader information. On the other hand, those leads are not necessarily “sales-ready”—something like an eBook download does not necessarily indicate intent to buy.

That said, over the long-term, if content marketing is not contributing to lead generation, and ultimately customer acquisition, then you’ve likely done something wrong. Just remember: if this is your flavor, don’t assume that content marketing is a stand-alone lead generation program, but rather the supporting cast to your existing or new programs.

6. Publicity Seeker

Otherwise known as the “Replace PR with Content Marketing, Expect Same Benefits” approach, this flavor is almost always a poor choice. While public relations is a broad discipline, involving many different tactics and expected results, most organizations demand one thing out of a PR investment — media coverage.

Most forms of content marketing, in and of themselves, will not generate media coverage in the traditional sense. Syndication or bylined articles… possibly… but most other tactics won’t get you what you’re after. Content marketing contributes to, but does not create media coverage.

7. Sales Guy/Gal

It’s completely acceptable to label yourself this flavor of content marketer, but you’ll never really be successful, not in the short term. While content marketing should certainly impact revenue in the long term, rare is the content marketing program that drops a customer in your lap during the first 3-6 months. And if it does, whoever closed the deal will attribute it to the sales approach, not to the content marketing approach.

My advice to you if this is your flavor? Just don’t do it. You don’t have the patience to make it work.

Which of the seven flavors are you? Or perhaps you’re a hybrid? Name your flavor in the comments, and explain whether content marketing has been successful for you.

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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.