Companies today are throwing all sorts of content at the consumer, hoping that something, anything, will stick.

You want a company blog with Buzzfeed style listicles? Done! You want an entertaining persona you can follow on social media? Check out our tweets! What’s that? You’ll only consider us if we give you research results that no one else has? Download our whitepaper!

As a result, marketing departments are either drowning under the pressure of constantly feeding the content beast, or they’re paralyzed by indecision, and not producing any content at all.

The best content producing companies have clarity and purpose for the content they create and deliver. Not only do they have a clear idea for what content they are going to produce, more importantly, they know what they won’t produce. This kind of clarity comes from making data-driven decisions about what kind of content will deliver on the needs of their specific audiences/customers.

The Five Content Strategy Archetypes:

Our research shows there are really only five types of content that companies produce. The key to success is to prioritize one of them, and base your content strategy on it. It’s all about picking one type of content, and becoming really good at it, rather than trying to produce everything. These five archetypes are:

1. Content as Presence

This archetype is all about content that is promotional and aimed at reaching a wide audience. It focuses purely on promoting the brand, rather than the company, or its products. This type of content is also typically what we think of when we hear the term “content marketing.” It’s really great for companies who are new and want to get their name out there, or companies that have been around for a while and want to stay relevant to their audiences. Examples include Coca-Cola or Red Bull, who run flashy advertising campaigns or live events that promote brand values such as excitement, friendship or a lifestyle, but rarely talk about the product.

2. Content as Currency

This archetype is called “currency” because it involves delivering valuable, proprietary information to a customer in exchange for them considering your product or services. This content should help the customer make a decision in their personal or professional lives. It also makes the brand a trusted partner and credible thought leader, which in turn makes the customer more likely to consider purchasing their services. Examples include research whitepapers, expert advice or guidebooks. McKinsey is a company that does this well, running a full service research operation to generate credibility for its consulting services.

3. Content as a Window

Sometimes, it’s in a company’s best interests to turn the lens on itself, rather than its brand or products (hence “window”.) This archetype’s goal is to promote transparency and loyalty by highlighting the company’s values, practices, and employees. Its especially good for companies whose products and services are considered “risky” and have to address consumer concerns about safety or ethics before engaging. Examples include hospitals like Piedmont Health who create articles and videos that showcase its doctors, surgeons and tell stories of patients successfully undergoing risky procedures.

4. Content as Community

Customers who are part of a community of shared interests or hobbies may believe their peers are more credible than a brand that sells products for that interest. Especially when it comes to exchanging tips and tricks, best practices, or finding solutions to common problems. By creating a platform, such as a forum or social media group for customers to exchange these ideas, the brand acts as a participant in the community, and is able to take advantage of all the content that’s produced on it. A good example is outdoor equipment retailer REI, whose blog is almost entirely a made up of community sourced articles from outdoor enthusiasts.

5. Content as Support

Not all content as to be “marketing.” In fact, sometimes the customer’s biggest need is unsexy, product-focused content that simply tells them how to purchase, use, repair or upgrade a product or service. This is especially relevant for companies that make high-end, complex products, such as appliances or cars. Examples of this archetype include product manuals, how-to videos and FAQs.

How to Choose the Right Content Archetype

The first reaction most people have to the five content archetypes is “We have to produce all of them!” Practically speaking, this is true, but what we’re trying to establish is which content archetype will you invest most of your time and energy in. Try to answer, “what content will you be famous for?” If you can determine this, it will cut down waste, streamline your efforts, and most importantly, give you a clear content strategy with a purpose.

To do that, we recommend these steps:

Know Your Customer’s Needs

It all starts with using whatever data you have at hand to first identify your different customer personas (according to demographics, behavior, location) and then list their needs. Do they need product support information? Or would they rather get information that helps them make decisions outside of your products/services? Try to create a forced ranking of your customer’s greatest needs (that content can solve).

Identify Your Company’s Needs

Repeat this exercise with all the content stakeholders in your company, that is, any department or person whose success depends on the type of content their customer receives. Admittedly, it’s a little trickier since to create a forced ranking of priorities if multiple departments are involved. However, if you put the company’s needs as a whole before the needs of any one department, it becomes easier to prioritize the list. Does your company need to rebuild trust? Have more brand recognition? Less calls for its customer support centers? Try your best to narrow it down to the most important needs.

Select the Archetype That Delivers on Both

Using the process of elimination, go down the list of content archetypes and see which one has the best chance of delivering on both the needs you’ve identified of both the company and the customer.

Once again, this can be a difficult process and it might involve a fair amount of debate between your stakeholders, which is why we help facilitate these discussions in our Content Strategy Workshops!

The best way to reach agreement is to first choose an archetype that meets customer needs and then evaluate how well it does for company needs. In this way, your strategy is always putting the customer first, which, more often than not, ends up being the best thing for your company needs as well.

Final Thoughts

 Finding the right content strategy archetype for your company can be a challenging process. While there are many considerations, these are just a few to help get you started.

Learn how Altimeter can help with your content strategy.

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