By Tracy Gold published September 15, 2011

A Food Pyramid for Content Marketing

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 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.

What does your content marketing pyramid look like? Have a content marketing food group to add? Please comment below!

Author: Tracy Gold

Tracy Gold is a Marketing and Content Associate at Right Source Marketing, a content marketing and marketing strategy firm. Please don’t hesitate to drop Tracy a comment on this post, and for more like this, follow me on Twitter @tracycgold or check out the Marketing Trenches blog. For a full take on content marketing best practices from the Right Source Marketing team, check out our webinar on magnetizing your content.

Other posts by Tracy Gold

  • http://www.thewordchef.com Tea Silvestre

    Nicely done, Tracy. Great minds think alike! I wrote a post not too long ago on the 5 basic marketing foods you should be serving to customers: http://thewordchef.com/2011/06/whats-on-your-marketing-plate/ – I didn’t use specific channels like you did, but rather focused on the “ingredients.” Either way – loved the metaphor for helping folks figure out how to serve up a message!

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

      Tea–love it, especially “don’t be a fancy pants.” A good read. Thanks for coming by and reading! 

  • TimmyT

    What about infographics?

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

      Covered in the videos and case studies section! But of course if you’re a very visual person and creating infographics is easier than writing a blog post for you, you can swap em out. 

  • http://twitter.com/KatieMcCaskey Katie McCaskey

    Great way to visualize all the parts of a successful content marketing plan. Thanks, Tracy!

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

      Thanks to you, Katie! 

    • http://twitter.com/getlimed L I M E

      Totally agreed. The image makes the blog.

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

        Thanks! I can’t take credit for that, we had our designer take a pass at it going from my quite less attractive initial sketch (to put it nicely). The value of working with a designer who knows what they’re doing! 

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

        Thanks! I can’t take credit for that, we had our designer take a pass at it going from my quite less attractive initial sketch (to put it nicely). The value of working with a designer who knows what they’re doing! 

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

        Thanks! I can’t take credit for that, we had our designer take a pass at it going from my quite less attractive initial sketch (to put it nicely). The value of working with a designer who knows what they’re doing! 

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

        Thanks! I can’t take credit for that, we had our designer take a pass at it going from my quite less attractive initial sketch (to put it nicely). The value of working with a designer who knows what they’re doing! 

  • Pamela DeLoatch

    Tracy, I really liked how this is broken down. It is very clear how all parts of the pyramid depend on each other to be a solid structure. Your point about case studies is right on the mark: of all of these examples, only case studies offer definite examples of how your products or services have satisfied your customer–which is very persuasive to potential clients.

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

      Thanks Pamela–yes, case studies are absolutely essential. And if you set them aside as “case studies” instead of creating blog posts that are thinly veiled case studies, you don’t lose your readers’ trust. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1412910279 Corrie Hanrahan Mieszczak

    Thanks for this great post, Tracy. I’m starting up my marketing consulting business and doing tons of research on developing website content. Your information is relevant and easy to understand–great job! I’m currently working on a few proposals for potential clients and this will really help me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1412910279 Corrie Hanrahan Mieszczak

    Thanks for this great post, Tracy. I’m starting up my marketing consulting business and doing tons of research on developing website content. Your information is relevant and easy to understand–great job! I’m currently working on a few proposals for potential clients and this will really help me.

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

      Glad to help, Corrie! Good luck with those proposals. 

  • http://terristurner.com Terri S. Turner

    Great way to breakdown steps for content channels.  Just curious where repurposing blog and web content in enewsletter campaigns and social media might fall on your pyramid?  Thanks for sharing.
    Terri S. Turner
    TST Business Strategies, LLC

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

      Terri, I could make a whole new pyramid about repurposing content for enewsletters and social media, but you’re right, that’s a whole chunk of content that’s not on this pyramid. As channels to distribute content as well as being content in their own right, social media and newsletters are important to every other type of content on the pyramid, so it’s hard to say exactly where they’d fit. You could stick the whole pyramid over a circle surrounded by all the ways to get the news out about the content. 

      Thanks for the great comment, Terri! 

  • http://blog.openviewpartners.com/blog/the-open-marketer Amanda Maksymiw

    Tracy,

    Great way to look at common b2b content types as prospects move through the channel.  Thanks for sharing!

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

      Thanks Amanda!

  • Ascammell

    Interesting and useful article. Do you think white papers have gone out of fashion now that blogging and social media is so established? Traditionally white papers provided a platform for thought leadership, without the hard sell. Is there still room in the pyramid for them perhaps or have they had their day?

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

      White papers do belong on the pyramid, and good ones would fall right at the top with Webinars and eBooks because of the resources they take to create and the value they can provide. I’ve read some great white papers relatively recently, and they’re still a valid platform for thought leadership, though some industries seem to be switching to “eBooks,” in terminology if not in format of content. 

  • Beth Wood

    Very interesting way to present the info.  I agree with everything you say…except I’m wondering where social media falls in your pyramid?  I realize that Twitter and Facebook (et al), don’t allow for quantity of content, but they are essential to getting your content heard and seen.  I would place this at the top, with webinars and ebooks.  Tweeting links to your blog posts, and commenting on others’ tweets and blogs does work to get your brand/company/message in front of the masses.  

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

      Beth, as I replied to Terri below, I could make a whole new pyramid about distribution of content using social media and email newsletters. For the sake of this pyramid, though, social media and other forms of distribution apply to every single level–it’s no use having a blog post or e-book if you’re not going to get the word out. 

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Glad to spark a thought. 

  • http://people.csail.mit.edu/pawand/ Pawan Deshpande

    Great minds think alike.  See my near identical pyramid from last year:http://www.contentcurationmarketing.com/articles/8378/the-foundation-of-your-content-marketing-pyramid-c/

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

      Pawan–great minds do indeed think alike! Thanks for pointing out your pyramid, I hadn’t seen it. Makes me think I should have specified this one as the “online content” pyramid. Integrating online content with offline content, such as presentations and books, as you call out on your pyramid, is essential. 

  • http://twitter.com/andjdavies andjdavies

    Interesting – I posted on the pyramid metaphor a while back – http://idioplatform.com/2011/02/the-content-pyramid-and-the-huffpo/

    Looking at how insight bubbles up the pyramid, and authority flows down.

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

      I know, I’m coming late to the party, especially because of that whole plate thing. UGC is great (I see it’s prominent on your pyramid), but for a lot of companies–B2B companies in particular–getting a large enough volume of UGC can be hard. Thanks for coming by!

  • http://teamworkscom.com Paul Pruneau

    Thanks Tracy for the great post.
    For visual learners like me, this is a clear simplification of the value of each type of content and how it ranks.

    Also, I appreciate you insightful views on how Content marketing flounders without an organizational maestro to take charge and coordinate efforts.

    You’ve given me inspiration to get to work on my ebook now!
    Keep up the good work!

    PP

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

      Paul,

      Organization is so clutch. Our own Alecia Farley is indispensable. Spreadsheets abounding!

      Glad to have provided inspiration to get back to work on the ebook!

      Tracy

  • Cindy Anderson

    Tracy, as a membership association, we are only recently tackling the development of a content strategy. We are just starting to become active in the social media spaces and much of our content is still delivered via newsletters and our member magazine, although most of them are delivered electronically. Where do you (or others) see content developed for and delivered through traditional (print) media falling? Thanks!
    Cindy Anderson.

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

      Cindy–that definitely makes sense. I probably should have titled this the “online” content marketing pyramid, because you would have to make it a lot bigger to include print media! Something like a letter or a newsletter would fall in the blog category, while a magazine or research report would go up higher on the pyramid. Basically, the content lower on the pyramid is the “snack size” content you use to build your base, and the content higher on the pyramid is what you use to move closer to the sell–or in your case, provide the most value for your members and capture the attention of prospective members. 

      Thanks for coming by and reading–sounds like an interesting road ahead for your association! 

  • http://twitter.com/Mywritingworld Fran Aslam

    I was getting ready to go on my almost daily comment writing routine and decided to do something different and landed here.  Tracy I enjoyed reading your article.  It is creative and contents are informative I like the content pyramid. Keep up the good work
    Fran A

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

      Thanks for stopping by Fran!

  • http://www.GreenGiftsGuide.com Amity Hook-Sopko

    Way to make it visual!  This is more helpful than my color-coded editorial calendar :)  You also made me realize I haven’t give case studies much of a chance in my niche.  I tend to see comments as more conversation than testimonials.  Thanks for the shift in perspective.

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

      Thanks Amity! I dunno, that color-coded editorial calendar sounds pretty useful to me. And yes–case studies are essential. But you might not always call call them “case studies”–you just have to have some way of showing off your past work. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GONW6ZIUXAJ4NMM2NSEJA4BQ6E NikitaH

    Thanks Tracy for the great post.
    For visual learners like me, this is a clear simplification of the value of each type of content and how it ranks.

    Also,
    I appreciate you insightful http://www.gitara1.com views on how Content marketing flounders
    without an organizational maestro to take charge and coordinate efforts.

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

      You’re welcome! Thanks for reading. 

  • http://twitter.com/benfowler Ben Fowler

    Tracy you mentioned in a comment – “for a lot of companies–B2B companies in particular–getting a large enough volume of UGC can be hard”. What principle or research (or anecdotal evidence) is at the core of this? I manage a B2B online community that is so far 95% UGC. We have a ways to go for engagement: Lots of people posting, but lots more not.

    By the way, great post and thank you. 

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

      Anecdotal evidence, Ben, and I’d love for your story to prove me wrong.  The point I was trying to make and should have made clearer is that mining quality UGC is not some magic fix that means you’ll have to put very little resources in to get a ton of awesome content. Look at this blog–mostly UGC–but the CMI puts a ton of resources into managing it. Even sites like Social Media Today put a lot of resources into generating content–they moderate it, promote their site, etc.. In my experience, most businesses (sure, B2C and B2B both fall in this bucket), are not willing to dedicate the time to do this, and then are surprised when they fail to get UGC. 

  • http://grandresume.com/professional professional resume

    Like piramid of Maslou!

  • http://www.theuniuni.com/ Payton_vege

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!