What is Content Marketing? IDC’s Definition of Content Marketing

If you looked away for a split second you may have missed the rise of Content Marketing from “buzz word” to “must have”. In fact, at the beginning of 2014 CMOs at the largest technology companies reported that “Building out content marketing as an organizational competency” was the 2nd most important initiative, only behind measuring ROI. Since then, they have responded by putting more budget, staff, and energy into the area, yet there is still confusion around the topic. What exactly is Content Marketing? Is it a type of marketing asset? Is it a process or a technique? Or something else?


IDC’s CMO Advisory Service, has seen this issue first hand and to help remedy the situation the group has  published a document, What Is Content Marketing? IDC Defines One of Marketing’s Most Critical New Competencies. Included within is a formal definition for Content Marketing.

IDC’s Definition of Content Marketing

Content marketing is any marketing technique whereby media and published information (content) are used to influence buyer behavior and stimulate action leading to commercial relationships. Optimally executed content marketing delivers useful, relevant information assets that buyers consider a beneficial service rather than an interruption or a “pitch.”

What is Included Within Content Marketing?

A definition is a great start, but the question that follows is, “What is, and is not Content Marketing?” To help marketers become more grounded in this definition of content marketing the CMO Advisory Service has also published a guide for “Types of Marketing Assets.” In the graphic below you can see the break out of marketing assets into three categories:

  • Content Marketing Assets 
  • Product Marketing Assets
  • Corporate Marketing Assets

Each is important to the company and within the marketing mix, but only content marketing is new in purpose and new in form. Also, key to remember is Content Marketing Assets are not replacements for Product Marketing Assets or Corporate Marketing Assets.

Why Content Marketing, Why Now?

For decades the marketing team produced communication assets about its products, services, and about the company itself.  Before the digital era, sales people were the primary persuaders and these assets were used as sales tools. Marketing conducted some persuasive outreach, primarily through direct mail. However, this little thing called the internet changed everything – as digital technologies have progressed, buyers have become increasingly self-sufficient, the contribution of the sales person has eroded. This erosion leaves a gigantic gap in a vendor’s go-to-market capability. How do companies build these relationships with buyers if they won’t talk with sales people? Content Marketing fills this gap.

At IDC we believe that marketers must continue work to keep pace with their buyers. To be successful, not only is agility required, but clear guidelines and processes on how to execute new and exciting practices like Content Marketing.

Sam Melnick is Senior Reasearch Analyst with IDC’s CMO Advisory Service, follow him on Twitter: @SamMelnick

The Product Marketing Reporting Structure Dilemma

Where should product marketing report into within a technology organization? Marketing? Business Units? Product Management? The CEO? IDC’s 2008 Tech Marketing Benchmarks study indicated that product marketing reports directly into marketing at approximately 45% of technology companies. This is by no means a clear trend to be replicated by every company. In fact, based upon years of research at IDC in this area as well as my own experience in the product marketing function, I continue to believe that the correct answer for product marketing’s reporting structure is. . . . it depends. Yes, this may seem like a cop-out initially, but there really is some support for my opinion here.

The first question to consider is what is your definition of product marketing? IDC’s official definition is as follows:

  • Marketing professionals accountable for developing and executing the strategy to increase market share for specific products. Activities include market sizing and opportunity assessment, proposing future product development, developing market requirements documents (MRDs), crafting key product messages, conducting competitive analyses, and determining pricing, packaging and program offerings. (this category does not include product management, industry marketing or solution marketing) – refer to IDC’s Sales and Marketing Taxonomy

Regardless of your reporting structure, your first step needs to be the definition of this role within the organization including how this role will interact with other parts of the company. (i.e., roles, responsibilities, performance measurement strategy) Many companies have overlapping responsibilities between product management and product marketing depending upon the business unit or individuals’ skill-sets. Combining these two roles is also quite common.

So back to the reporting structure dilemma. Not only have I seen product marketing report into different parts of an organization, but I’ve seen it oscillate within the same company between marketing and the business units every couple of years. Regardless of what has happened historically in your company, product marketing should report into the part of the organization where the greatest misalignment exists today as well as where the greatest opportunities for improvement exist. (assuming these areas of misalignment cannot be fixed more easily from a process or tactics perspective)

For example, Citrix, a company recently cited in the Leadership Quadrant of IDC’s 2009 Marketing Performance Matrix, shifted product marketing’s reporting structure from the CMO (Wes Wasson) to the business units in early 2009. Wes described it as follows: “we occasionally shift the hard line reporting of field and product groups, depending upon where we most need to optimize”. Another factor to consider is who owns the budget. Wes and his team decided to keep the budget within his control. The result is a strong sense of balance between control of staff and related processes (by the business units) and control of the budget (by the CMO/marketing).

What is your product marketing reporting structure and who owns your product marketing budget? Please share your thoughts below or feel free to contact me directly at mgerard@idc.com.