How To Spot The Best and Worst Content Marketing Strategies

by Adrian Parker on Sep 02, 2013
See top industry experts speak at Social Fresh 2018 / Dec. 5-7
Where social marketers go to get inspired. Speakers include BET, American Cancer Society, 5/3 Bank, Duke University, Sallie Mae, IBM, Darden, Georgia State University, Chris Brogan, Brian Fanzo, Ekaterina Walter, and more.
>> Reserve your seat today

How To Spot The Best and Worst Content Marketing Strategies - Adrian Parker

Asking a marketer to describe their brand’s content strategy is like asking my wife what she wants for dinner.

You’ll hear 50 different answers that really only distill down to a handful of choices:

  • FORMAT – “We use video, images and real-time engagement…”
  • MEDIA – “We create paid, owned and earned experiences…”
  • CHANNEL – “We use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn…”
  • SOURCE – “We have curated, syndicated, and costume content…”
  • INTENT – “We drive traffic to our blog for lead gen and SEO…”

The only answer you won’t hear is “I don’t know.”

While these inputs represent vital building blocks for connecting ideas, communities and people, successful content marketing strategies start with 2 core questions:

1. Who are we talking to

and why should they care?

2. What are we saying

and why should they share?

Content is the oxygen of your social media ecosystem (tweet this). Strategy is the process of converting it into results by regulating what you do, why you do it and how. A content marketing strategy dependent on a specific channel, format or source will soon be on life-support as technology changes and interest wanes.

There is a better way.

At Intuit we’ve had the opportunity to test, learn and iterate on several campaigns targeting global business professionals and small business owners. The content marketing strategy we’ve adopted focuses on maximizing the 2 core questions and scaffolding our content plans around consumer-driven motivations.

The best and worst of content marketing strategies come to life in 4 types:

4 Types of Content Marketing Strategies - Adrian Parker

WORST: Vanity Content

With lagging consumer relevancy and even lower trust, many traditional, outbound marketing tactics fall into the vanity category. Companies struggle to hit tomorrow’s revenue forecast and reach today’s audience with yesterday’s playbook.

Until recently the marketing solar system revolved around products and brands, not consumers. Mass scale was rewarded, encouraged and expected. Vanity content strategies are like a bad blind date that expects you to pay for dinner after blabbering about themselves through three painful courses.

To be fair, vanity content pieces do have a place and a purpose but a strategy built on this approach is destined to fail. Just say no.

GOOD: Conversational Content

Conversational content powers Twitter timelines, serving as a virtual village where ideas go to spread or die. The steady stream of share-bait presents easy access to news, information, updates and random distractions.

Done right, this approach requires dedicated resources who are equipped with the right tools and empowered by leaders. Like a great dinner party, the key to great conversational content is to start the discussion, not own it.

Conversations can quickly become viral or convictional based on how audiences respond so leave room for the unplanned.

BETTER: Convictional Content

Content that evokes emotions, strengthens beliefs or confronts assumptions is challenging to produce yet powerful to consume. We often speak of “humanizing” or “personifying” our brand, alluding to the notion that people connect more easily with other people.

This approach works extremely well when focused on the people behind your products and a story bigger than your brand. What this content approach lacks in scale it makes up for in transparency and trust.

Great content elicits an action, which is the ultimate goal of most brand marketing and media. Instead of asking for the action, convictional content asks for a discussion.

BEST: Viral Content

The word “viral” has been abused more than Charlie’s bitten finger. By definition, the term denotes that new consumption comes from the activities of current consumers.

Or said another way, users begat other users. Even within Intuit virality has various degrees. Sales enabling content for QuickBooks Online Accountant Edition (B2B) performs very differently from a TurboTax video campaign (B2C).

While every piece of viral content isn’t necessarily marketing, all viral marketing delivers on the core 2 motivators: giving consumers a reason to share and care.

It begs an obvious question: In a world transformed by digital technology, why is viral content so prevalent online yet elusive for marketers?

Easy answer: We’re busy creating innovative ways to talk about what we know best – ourselves.

In business, strategies answer obvious questions and question obvious answers.

Any content plan will evolve over time but should always serve as a true north representation of what and who your brand stands for. I recently presented at Social Fresh West in San Diego on this topic and discussed how to drive digital results by focusing on relationships.

I shared a case study of this new “Care & Share Model” to illustrate how it comes together in the real world.

I look forward to hearing how brands and small businesses alike tackle these challenges. If your content strategy had a Facebook page, would any of your customers like it? Leave a comment below with how you would rank your own content marketing strategy. Feel free to link to examples!


Post Author

Adrian D. Parker leads Social, Mobile and Emerging Media for Intuit, a global leader in financial and business software. He directs the strategic vision for leveraging peer influence and tech innovation to improve customer’s financial lives. Previously, Adrian served as...

  • James

    Hi Adrian, great post….and great breakdown of the different types of content marketing. I find “giving consumers a reason to share and care” is hugely important…and more and more I’m seeing that its extremely valuable to let your customers TELL you what they’re concerned about and what they’re interested in. Its huge, and actually much easier than trying to be a genius on your own:) We’ve seen our customers manage this through blogging (of course) but also they end up adding some kind of public Q&A tool as the first step in that discovery/content process…so they can turn questions into valuable content that leads to traffic. They can also see what questions are viewed/search-for the most and then turn those into more detailed blog posts…so creates a nice cycle. There are some easy plugins out there that can achieve this…a few possible options are Answerbase, Question2Answer, and Shapado….can be useful in the building/identifying valuable content area.

    Great thoughts, we’ll look to share on our feeds.

  • Adrian, awesome metaphor :)

  • luisabarwinski

    Awesome article, Adrian!

    Would you mind if I translate it to portuguese? I promise to publish it with full credit to you on my blog :)

  • DemoNik Lacson

    Now this is how you do content the best (and worst) way!

  • Adrian Parker

    I wouldn’t mind at all! That’s a great offer – let me know how it goes and what I can do to help.

  • Adrian Parker


  • Adrian Parker

    Great builds and additions, James. I hadn’t heard of all of the solution providers you mentioned so I’ll check them out. Agree – a great content strategy starts and ends with great listening.

  • Fantastic post. As a divorced guy, I’m looking forward to reading about retention programs, too. :)

  • haha. comment of the day @douglaskarr:disqus. =)

  • Bas Bergsma

    Hi Adrian, great post. I’m getting the same questions and this helps me to pitch my companies strategy. Would you mind if I translate bits of pieces to Dutch? :-) Of course with full credit to you.

  • I can’t get behind any strategy that tries to make something viral. While I like the points made, the ranking is not realistic. If intent made something popular, we’d all have loved “Gigi”

  • Adrian Parker

    You mean you didn’t love “Gigi”? Obviously, I’ve successfully implemented the framework to drive actual results so it’s very realistic. That said, take what works for you… all won’t be applicable.

  • Adrian Parker

    Sounds great! Send me a link – would love to get feedback.

  • great to hear you’ve discovered how to make things viral. You are working above my pay grade

    I like Ben Affleck movies. Maybe you can give him some advice on how to insure the public always likes his stuff.

  • Arron George

    Great article! Working as part of a marketing firm has shown me how vital content strategies are but how many companies lack them.

  • John Vester

    If a company has survived pass a year online and offline its content strategy may have a lot of hidden teeth.