This post was co-written by Curata’s CMO, Michael Gerard.
Being in charge of content marketing can feel like you’re trying to simultaneously conduct an orchestra, host a wedding and put on a broadway show. A documented content strategy is vital to keeping it all together. In fact, according to the 2015 CMI/MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Benchmark report, marketers that have a documented strategy are more effective than those who do not document their strategy.
Enter Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid™, a strategic framework that enables the execution of a content campaign, assuring optimal content consumption, reuse and reach.
This hands-on guide will teach you what the Content Marketing Pyramid is, why it works, and how you can implement it within your organization.
For even more in-depth instructions, download the full eBook on the topic, the Content Marketing Pyramid.
Why Use the Content Marketing Pyramid?
In addition to providing a documented content strategy, the Content Marketing Pyramid will:
- Improve your focus with an organized strategy that establishes clear goals and priorities
- Increase your production capacity by making more efficient use of valuable resources
- Create a predictable stream of successful content to engage your buyers and drive pipeline activity for marketing and sales
According to the 2015 CMI/MarketingProfs Benchmark Study, only 38% of B2B marketers rate the effectiveness of their organization’s use of content marketing as “effective” or “very effective.” The Content Marketing Pyramid will also alleviate many of the pains of ineffective content marketing. Operating without a smart framework leaves you susceptible to the following consequences:
You may be dealing with departments that operate in silos, a content marketing strategy with no documented objectives and a lack of communication between content creators.
How the Content Marketing Pyramid Can Help: This framework will document, centralize and coordinate all your content marketing efforts.
A Fractured Customer Experience
Readers will experience inconsistent messaging and disconnected touch points. This will only lead to a lack of brand loyalty and dissatisfaction.
How the Content Marketing Pyramid Can Help: The Content Marketing Pyramid will lend itself to cohesive message and centralized information.
Because of the chaos and lack of communication, you are always reinventing the wheel. Since very little is documented, you might find yourself recreating nearly identical pieces of content instead of simply reusing or repurposing existing content.
How the Content Marketing Pyramid Can Help: This framework eliminates waste by streamlining internal development process and ensuring that every piece of content performs multiple roles across a variety of formats and channels
Even if you aren’t experiencing any of the aforementioned consequences, content marketing is only about to get more competitive — and challenging. Take these stats for example:
Since many marketers don’t get an unlimited budget, the best way to compete is to find ways to extend the budget and resources we already have. By implementing a strategic plan, you’ll be able to create more effective content that enables you to do more with less.
Start with Overall Strategy
Before we get down to the granular level of a content marketing pyramid — which is used to plan and execute a single content campaign — let’s zoom out a bit. Campaigns are byproducts of a larger strategy. We recommend developing your strategy on an annual basis and updating it quarterly to readjust for any changes in the marketplace or to your business.
It is important to remember that your content marketing strategy is not driven by content: It’s driven by what you want to achieve with your content. The most successful teams ensure their own strategy is in alignment with organization’s goals and the goals of their CMO and related teams. Here’s a helpful framework to form your strategy:
Start with top-level, company goals that are defined by your company’s leadership team. These will serve as the basis of your marketing organization’s strategic direction.
Examples of top-level corporate objectives include:
- Increase share of mobile market
- Break into new geographic or demographic market
- Displace a competitor
- Establish [company] as a leader in [topic]
After the corporate objectives in place, set specific marketing themes that support these corporate objectives. Usually there are two to four global themes set by marketing leadership, each one focusing on key concepts, messages and areas of corporate objectives.
For instance, if a corporate objective is to increase your company’s share of the mobile market, examples of marketing themes include:
- Empowering the mobile workforce
- Innovations in mobile
- Defining the mobile value proposition for businesses
Once these themes are established, the creation of a content strategy through Content Marketing Pyramids can begin. The next section will take a deep dive into the anatomy and importance of these pyramids.
What is the Content Marketing Pyramid?
A Content Marketing Pyramid is defined as:
Development of content and related assets intended to reinforces common messages/themes through multiple content formats, distribution methods and promotion channels across owned, earned and paid media.
Each pyramid will consist of Core Content (the heaviest, most valuable asset, which is based upon thought leadership, primary and/or secondary research) and the corresponding Derivative Assets and Promotional Micro-Content.
It’s these highly intentional and focused content marketing activities and interactions that will help you move the needle on the big goals, from awareness building to lead generation to sales enablement.
The Content Marketing Pyramid: A Structural Overview
The Content Marketing Pyramid is made up of five levels of content, which are organized into three main parts:
Level 1: Core Content
Core content is substantive, original content that involves research and/or deep insight. Assets are created from this primary research and thought leadership. These can include print books, eBooks and guides that provide an in-depth exploration of the source material.
These assets will serve as the source material for the remaining assets in the Pyramid and are often gated. All remaining assets in the pyramid are intended to drive your audience to this core asset and capture a lead.
Level 2, 3 & 4: Derivative Assets
In the middle of the pyramid, there are assets that are derived from Core Content. These assets take chunks of information from the Core Content to create more focused and precise pieces. They are also more accessible and produced in a variety of formats, such as:
- Long Form Blog posts, presentations, infographics and SlideShares (Level 2 & Level 3)
This content is usually not gated, depending on your lead capture and nurturing strategy. In either case, content from these levels is meant to engage your audience and — and lead them to the gated, Level 1 content.
- Blog Posts and contributed content (Level 4)
Level 4 content is typically produced more frequently and in a more routine manner than Level 2 and 3 content. It becomes a part of weekly, if not daily, content production process and — because of this — provides a different kind of anchor for your strategy. It is the “bread and butter” element of your content marketing. Blog posts are the most common asset at this level, but contributed content or bylines (i.e. guest posting on other blogs) also fall into this category. Contributed content is key to spreading your message beyond the parameters of your owned media properties, and to ultimately drive outside readers back to your Core Content to generate leads.
Level 5: Promotional Micro-Content
Finally, at the base of the Content Marketing Pyramid is promotional and conversational micro-content. Level 5 content helps build awareness for, increase consumption of and facilitate conversation about all of your other content. Level 5 includes social media posts, as well as curated content. For more information on curating content, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Content Curation.
Here’s a table further clarifying the differences and similarities between each level of the pyramid:
9 Benefits of the Content Marketing Pyramid
Not convinced yet on the Content Marketing Pyramid? Here are NINE benefits that will help optimize the impact of your content marketing efforts, from awareness building to demand generation to sales enablement.
1. Unified Content Objectives.
One of the main purposes of the Content Marketing Pyramid is to align all content around corporate objectives and marketing themes. This framework will help share this strategy across all departments so that everyone is working towards the same goals and using the same playbook for content creation.
2. Message Repetition
Marketing themes are the most effective when they show the buyer a consistent message via multiple touch points. The Content Marketing Pyramid facilitates intentional repetition of key marketing messages across multiple channels.
3. Content Saturation
The most effective content marketing programs extend far beyond owned properties by distributing to earned and paid media channels. This framework allows you to repurpose existing content to fit these specific channels.
4. Format Diversity
While some people in your target audience may prefer learning by reading an in-depth blog post, others may be able to absorb content better via an interactive webinar or a podcast they can listen to on-the-go. This pyramid encourages you to create multiple different content formats.
5. Flexible Content Creation: Top to Bottom or Bottom to Top
Although the levels are the same across all content pyramids, which level you start at can vary depending on the specific circumstance. For example, you might begin your pyramid with the development of a cornerstone research study (Level 1 Core Content) that you can break down and repurpose into Derivative Assets and Promotional Micro-Content. Alternatively, you might be inspired by some particularly insightful comments on a blog post or conversation on social media and build up from the bottom of the pyramid.
One of Curata’s most successful pyramids began as a long-form blog post and then expanded to cover all levels of the pyramid (The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics). Of course, there are pros and cons to both the top-down and bottom-up methods:
6. On-the Fly Content Maneuvers
This framework allows you to take full advantage of unexpected content opportunities, such as newsjacking, event-related content and jumping into spontaneous industry conversation. These random acts could inspire entirely new pyramids or could be inserted into existing pyramids.
7. Balanced Content Mix
The Content Marketing Pyramid also makes it easy for to adhere to the best practices for balancing all the different types of content. Using this framework, you will be able to efficiently plan the right ratio of:
- Created vs. Curated Content (65% created and 25% curated, according to our recent study)
- High effort vs. Low effort
- Owned vs. Earned vs. Paid
8. Operational Efficiency
Use this framework to streamline and empower your internal operations by:
- Aligning all your content marketing activities with clear corporate objectives
- Providing both a long-term road map and a short-term operational plan for content development and distribution
- Unifying all your efforts and teams around a central strategy and process
- Reducing lags and inefficiencies in your workflow
- Requiring the identification of clear and measurable goals and objectives
- Giving you a way to assign value to and measure the performance of each piece of content within a campaign
9. The Ultimate Reward of the Pyramid: Pipeline Impact
When you build out your content campaigns according to this framework, you create an upside down funnel that draws people in and drive them up from Level 5 to Level 1. At Level 1 they are asked to provide contact information in exchange for access to key pieces of Core Content. This will generate new leads and eventually generate new opportunities for your sales pipeline.
How to Get Started with the Content Marketing Pyramid
Step 1: Appoint a Leader
Though many people will eventually be involved in the execution of pyramids, it’s crucial that a single individual be responsible for the development of the overall strategy. Our recent Content Marketing Tactics & Technology study says that only 43% of companies have a content marketing executive who would likely be a candidate for taking on this critical role; however, this is projected to increase to 60% by the end of 2016.
Step 2: Build Support for the Pyramid Across Your Organization
Once you’ve established a lead, you can solicit support and feedback from all the key departments in your organization, such as the CMO, product marketing team, digital marketing group, social media team and overall marketing operations leadership.
Step 3: Establish Your Content Marketing Pyramid Workflow
The Content Marketing Pyramid workflow is a four-part cycle including: Strategy, Production (editorial calendar), Distribution and Analytics. Below is a high-level overview of each step. (These steps can be completed across multiple applications or through a content marketing platform such as Curata CMP)
Operational Metrics: Introducing Pyramid Points
One of the main goals of the Content Marketing Pyramid is to optimize the reuse and repurposing of your content. Why? To ultimately maximize your contents’ pipeline impact.
However, determining when and if you’ve created enough derivative content within a pyramid can be difficult. You may be left wondering: is there more I can get out of a specific eBook? To solve this problem, we have developed the concept of Pyramid Points to track and optimize the execution of your pyramids.
Pyramid points are a set number of points per asset per content level across the pyramid. They are roughly representative of the effort needed to complete the content assets. Using pyramid points will ensure you get the utmost use of each pyramid and will also help you keep track of the progress or status of each pyramid. Here is how we weight each of our assets:
A typical content marketing pyramid may run for 3-6 months. If you start one pyramid a quarter, you will have up to four pyramids running at once. The pyramid points provided above will help you track the extent to which a pyramid’s original content has been repurposed.
This will help decide which pyramids to allocate resources towards. Here is a template and example of how to measure pyramid points and determine the overall progress of your pyramid. (This pyramid is 73% complete, so more resources could be invested in the completion of this pyramid.)
Performance Metrics: Pyramids in Action
Pyramid points will aid in the execution of operational metrics. The real excitement begins when you can determine how well your overall pyramid performed.
Based on a framework from The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics, you should evaluate your pyramid across three dimensions:
- Top of the Funnel (e.g. social media, page views, retention)
- Middle of the Funnel (e.g. leads generated and touched)
- Bottom of the Funnel (e.g. sales opportunities generated and touched; revenue influenced)
Analyzing the performance of different pyramids can help answer the following types of questions:
- What impact has a pyramid made on your company’s revenue. . . pipeline? Website traffic. . . social media efforts?
- Which types of pyramids (and related content) perform well at the top, middle and bottom of funnel?
- Why is a particular pyramid underperforming other pyramids?
Where to Go From Here
Content marketing is a long-term play that has the potential to deliver a substantial return on your investment, if you know how to build a smart strategy and execute against that strategy efficiently. Start by forming your corporate objectives and marketing themes, then take a first stab at planning and executing a Content Marketing Pyramid. We believe it can help take your content marketing practice to the next level with a sense of confidence and ease that you never thought possible.
For an even more in-depth set of instructions, be sure to download the complete 70+ page eBook on the topic, The Content Marketing Pyramid.