Content Marketing confusing Thought Leadership initiatives?


With the social media explosion, a group of PR and marcom professionals have adopted Content Marketing as their mantra.  Some go so far as to include key B2B marketing principles (like segmentation) taught by Northwestern professor Philip Kotler and practiced by many for a long time.    That’s well and good, but telling someone to segment is not the same as advising them on how to comply with CAN SPAM laws.  With the content marketing articles I have seen, there is a dearth of real meaty advice on how to segment and position solutions to customer needs, and a surplus of tactical advice on how to post and tweet.  In the end, I don’t think “content marketing” is comprehensive enough of a methodology for B2B marketing professionals who work with sophisticated products with long sales (ahem, buy)  cycles.

While I agree that some of the core ideas of Content Marketing are very, very good….. for example, advocating that the sales cycle should be flipped to the “buy cycle” and to engage customers in a dialogue….I do not believe that proactive targeted marketing campaigns just won’t work any more, as some seem to imply.

So what has this do do with Thought Leadership initiatives?   Well for one, I believe that Thought Leadership is one of the key pillars of a B2B firm’s marketing strategy.  And as such, an over reliance on Content Marketing could jeopardize those efforts.  Second, the uneducated could easily jump to the conclusion that Content = Thought Leadership….and nothing could be further from the truth.

Take for example the following comment from Craig Badings who responded to a comment of mine on his interview with David Meerhman Scott from his excellent Thought Leadership blog:

Craig: “Merely supplying content doesn’t make you a thought leader. Rather, thought leadership content should shape or frame the discussion in your market. It should make people question, see things differently, deliver interesting and unique insights to elements of the buyers life that other product/service suppliers aren’t doing. And all of this should be done to engage with your clients and to invest in building trust.”

Craig’s comments are dead on.  Originally  I had written:

“In my mind, new terms like “content marketing”, “knowledge marketing” or “thought leadership” marketing appear to confuse the basic issues involved in B2B marketing….. Many marketers over focus on the solutions (they call them products).  Many others (in particular PR and marcom) just focus on communicating content, but don’t want to get to dirty with the needs or the solutions.  My sole point is that while social media might has changed some of the ways we can communicate with customers, it hasn’t altered basic B2B marketing principles they way many now so claim (under the cover of terms like content marketing).

Craig summed it up nicely:

“…..the basic B2B marketing principles stay the same – content marketing, thought leadership, etc should all be informed by those principles.”

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About Mark Delfeld

Experienced B2B Marketing Professional with a track record of generating demand, penetrating new markets and maximizing the pipeline View all posts by Mark Delfeld

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