B2B businesses continue to embrace the value of content marketing to position their brands, products, and services in more relevant ways with customers and prospects. In fact, B2B companies are ideally positioned to benefit from content marketing, given the inherent nature that expertise plays and the high degree of consideration and complexity that goes into buying decisions.

However, while many B2B businesses have compelling content, most lack a clear understanding of what should drive their content strategy. Every company needs a clear focus on the kind of content they will create and who it is intended for. We call these content archetypes. These archetypes are important because they bring focus, consistency, and scalability to content in a way that gives B2B brands a distinct voice, purpose, and platform on which to speak.

In our experience, the brands that take an approach like this make stronger connections with the right audience and get significantly better returns on their investment in content marketing.

Identify Your Brand’s Content Archetype

Altimeter, the research arm of Prophet, recently published a report, “Key Elements of A Content Strategy” that uncovers five distinct content archetypes that guide the content strategies of the strongest B2B brands. Before diving into each, it is important to note that the best companies pick one, maybe two, archetypes as the primary focus of their strategy. Driven by their core marketing objectives, they commit to this archetype for a period of time (maybe 1-2 years) while evaluating how they are doing and evolving their approach as needed.

The 5 Content Archetypes

Let’s take a closer look at these five content archetypes:

1. Content as Presence

The first is Content as Presence. This type of content is about engaging a broad audience while promoting brand awareness and brand health. It’s typically best used to help re-position a brand in a target’s mind or expand what customers think they know about the business.

For example, IBM has done a great job using Watson content to convey a more progressive and analytical IBM, to expand what customers think IBM can assist them with, and to demonstrate how Watson is already helping a wide array of customers.

2. Content as a Window

A second archetype is Content as a Window. This type of content is about giving customers and other audiences, such as prospective employees, a view inside the company that they otherwise would not have. This content is best used for businesses that want to humanize their brand or those that believe showing how they work is a key part of their brand promise.

The global shipping and logistics business, Maersk, is a great example of this archetype. It has built one of the best B2B content positions with its focus on giving people an inside look at the company, its operations and its people. By taking down the walls around its business, Maersk provides customers, regulators and prospective employees a view into its capabilities, purpose, and global scale.

3. Content as Currency

The third content archetype is Content as Currency. This is for brands that want to be seen as subject matter experts. This type of content helps consumers make better decisions for their business. It is particularly beneficial when used to augment the expertise of a sales team, who can educate customers on the right questions to ask, provide insight into how other companies are dealing with similar challenges, and help them move forward with a complex buying process.

GE, with its Industrial Internet platform, is an excellent example of how to deliver content that helps customers move forward. With self-assessments, relevant case studies, and points of view, GE is helping businesses understand the Internet of Things and what it means for their company.

4. Content as Support

The fourth archetype is Content as Support. This one is all about helping customers extract greater value and utility from the solutions you provide. It is best used in highly technical categories when product usage is complex, and ongoing loyalty and share of wallet of existing customers is marketing’s top priority. B2B companies following this strategy should focus on educating customers and partners about how to get the most out of their products by sharing tips on installation, product usage, trouble-shooting and integration.

Schneider Electric, a global provider of energy management and automation solutions, is one of the leaders with this content archetype. It publishes content about design, installation and how to lower the total cost of ownership that is helpful to both its contract partners and end-customers. This strategy enables Schneider’s sales and service teams to stay as productive as possible by giving its customers an alternative way of accessing their expertise.

5. Content as Community

And finally, we have Content as Community. This content focuses on fostering a community of customers or other stakeholders with similar needs. This approach is best suited for B2B brands in highly collaborative categories such as healthcare and technology, or those with extremely engaged and loyal customers who can serve as brand advocates.

American Express, with their OPEN platform, used content to build a community of small and medium-sized businesses. For more than 10 years, it has served as a destination for entrepreneurs to learn from American Express, and each other, about what it takes to grow and run a healthy business. OPEN is a great example a content community that creates value, without explicitly selling.

Questions to Ask When Determining the Best Type of Content for Your Brand

As you think through what archetype is best suited for your business, consider the following:

  1. What are your top marketing priorities? What part of the purchase funnel is most important to you right now – increasing awareness, winning more business or driving greater loyalty?
  2. What content will your customers find most relevant? What information do they need to help them better run their businesses?
  3. What type of content platform could you build that reinforces your brand’s promise? How can your content strategy work in concert with your sales and operations departments to drive more efficiencies and value for your customers?

Focus Your Content Efforts

Keep in mind the key to content marketing is selecting the right archetype is focus on. The best B2B brands have figured out which one, or maybe two, of these archetypes is the best path for them to follow to create scale and deliver the best possible return on their marketing investment.

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