The best content marketers are servant leaders

When done well, content marketing is about helping clients and prospects. You can think of the role it plays as filling a knowledge gap or helping to solve a problem or need experienced by the audience (preferably, a higher-order need). It is one of, if not the, most client-centric approaches to marketing/business.

To help maintain this approach in practice, many content marketers think of themselves as educators or problem solvers vs. marketers or sales people. This frame reminds them of what their ultimate goal is – to educate or solve problems, not to sell products or services (although this is what naturally results when done well). In this same vein, the concept of being a “servant leader” can also be a useful concept to use.

A servant leader (or one who practices servant leadership) is defined by its originator Robert Greenleaf as one who “…focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid…” In other words, a servant leader puts “the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” Traditional leadership may achieve this same goal but it would be seen as a means to a leadership end or a by-product, whereas servant leaders consider it the end itself.

It is this definition of servant leadership that aligns almost perfectly with the best content marketing. Both have an audience first perspective; both are focused on helping that audience and consider helping the end itself, not just the means; and both often see organizational success (whether it’s leadership or selling) as the natural by-product of their efforts.

So if you want to become the best content marketer, start thinking of yourself as a servant leader.


The List: best-in-class content marketing examples and resources

In my travels I’m often asked to provide examples of best-in-class content marketing and sources of information/guidance on how to “do” content marketing.

As a result, and for a while now, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for good case studies to share and good books/resources to recommend. So, without further ado, here’s my list – enjoy!

[As a side note, you'll notice that this list is heavily skewed to financial services - not because the category has cornered the market on this stuff but because that's the industry I'm in. Regardless, though, the companies mentioned below still demonstrate the principles of good content marketing: knowing their competitive advantage, addressing lower and higher order needs, and publishing themes and topics that reinforce their advantage and address the needs.]

Best in Class Examples

Toyota video

Financial Services (retail bank based in Singapore) (by Sunlife) (by Credit Suisse) (B2B) (by TD)

Technology (by SAP)

Consulting (by Cap Gemini)

Other B2C

Epic Content Marketing, Pullizzi
Content Rules, Handly, Chapman
Inbound Marketing, Halligan
Youtility, Baer
The Challenger Sale (there’s also a site called Challenger marketing which has a great case from Xerox about leveraging higher order needs:

Inbound Hub – Marketing
The Content Strategist
Ann Handly – content Marketing
Content Marketing (Forbes)
Content Marketing Institute
Heidi Cohen
Inbound Hub – Insiders
Marketo marketing blog
Social media today
Marketing profs
Openview weekly