How researchers get heard
Abstract lines

Is This Content Marketing or Content Services?

If you’re a research communicator or marketer, that’s a fundamental question you should be asking about project you take on. Why? Because your shop is superlean and you almost certainly have to do both marketing and services. And being clear about which you’re doing — and why you’re doing it, and how much of each you should be doing to be effective at bot — can mean the difference between making a difference and just treading water, for yourself and your organization.

But first: What’s the difference between content marketing and content services? Jimmy Daly at Animalz, the SaaS content marketing agency, has a new post in part about this choice that’s worth studying. Here’s his summary graphic of the differences:

Content marketing grows traffic and conversion for the organization — it grows the audiences and the ways you can capitalize on them.

Content services are everything else the organization asks you to do because you’re the internal content agency as well as the external one. So you draft the grant proposal, the two-pager, the copy for the conference program, the last-minute dek for the board, and the internal newsletter.

As a research communicator or marketer, you usually dislike doing services work — not just because it’s dull, not just because it pulls you away from what you do best, but also because you’re increasingly being measured on hitting marketing goals…and every hour of service you perform is one less hour you can invest in marketing. As Daly notes, this is where traffic and conversion stalls, because you’re spending much of your time doing great services work that doesn’t relate to marketing goals (and for which success is often tough to measure).

Let’s face it — because when push comes to shove in most non-profits, services still eat marketing for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It’s a rare research-driven non-profit that’s big enough to devote separate teams to content marketing and content services. Your small team — often, just you — is it for both. So you’ve got to figure out how to make a competitive case for content marketing, maybe to leaders for whom “marketing” isn’t a huge priority or who still think marketing’s value begins and ends with media hits.

There aren’t any easy ways out of this box. My recommendation: Start with explicit intentionality — by

  1. Saying you (and shops such as yours) are in the business of both delivering content marketing and content services;
  2. Then, describing in as much detail as possible the strategic benefits of content marketing to your center, institution or organization (using examples of your past successes or successes from other organizations);
  3. Articulating clear objectives and metrics for your content marketing to generate those benefits (if you haven’t already done so);
  4. Recruiting allies (such as researchers or development officers) to give testimonials how important your marketing work has been for them;
  5. Finally, setting forth the minimum amount of time per week you need in content marketing activity to hit those targets.

For smart CMOs, this is kindergarten stuff. For other organizational leaders, it’s often still news. Regardless, it’s up to you to deliver it. The alternative is being sucked into a vortex of ever-expanding services precisely because you’re so good at what you do…which then never allows you to do what you’re truly good at.