When it comes to creating a Leadership Marketing strategy, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

We have to figure out how to combine three key elements — your brand voice, your ideal customer’s values, and market data — to create a strategy that will uniquely serve your business and your customers.

But one other key part of this is to understand your business’ goals for content marketing. If you don’t understand what result you want to achieve through content marketing, you’ll struggle to ever achieve it.

In general, there are three main types of content marketing strategies: thought leadership, lead generation, and SEO. Each one will use different tactics, different methods, and different elements to achieve the goal.

1. Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is your content marketing goal when you want to be known as an expert in your industry. Maybe that’s your goal because you want to grow your platform, land a book deal, get some big interviews or media placements, or just so that you and your brand become a “household” name in your industry.

The main focus of a thought leadership strategy is on reach: how many new people can we reach with each piece, how many times will it be shared, and how many people will reference it.

The first distinguishing characteristic of a thought leadership marketing strategy is the type of content you’re going to want to produce: it has to be new, edgy, in-depth, and attention grabbing. This is definitely not the place for content “templates.” You need to mine your own knowledge and expertise for the gems that will really make you stand out from the rest of your industry.

I recommend the book Think by Matt Church and Peter Cook if you’re interested in honing a process for uncovering thought leadership content ideas. (It’s free as a PDF on their site!) Their pink sheets process is an excellent way to systematically uncover and discover unique ideas and thoughts.

This isn’t the sort of content that you can just dash off at a moment’s notice. It will require dedicated thinking time and perseverance. You can outsource the actual writing of this content to a team like mine, but you’ll need to be more intimately involved in the process, giving your writer your best ideas for them to translate to the page.

The second most important characteristic of a thought leadership marketing strategy is a strong publicity and distribution plan. Thought leadership pieces only build your brand if people actually read them. It’s vital to get them outside your existing bubble of readership and in front of new people. In fact, it might be more important to publish these pieces on sites where you can reach new audiences than on your own site. Consider pitching guest posts on big name sites and having concerted sharing campaigns for every piece you publish. This is definitely a quality over quantity strategy.

2. Lead Generation

A lead generation content marketing strategy is focused on getting people to opt-in to an email list so that you have permission to continue to market and sell to them. This requires two elements: traffic and an enticing reason to opt-in.

Content that drives traffic often looks different from thought leadership content. It’s often not as long or in-depth. It’s more of a quick jab, an uppercut that leaves people wanting more. This kind of content has to be exciting and engaging, and is often also useful.

But it’s only part of the equation; lead generation content only works if it also entices people to opt-in to an email list. Many times that means having a really juicy freebie or ethical bribe to offer in exchange for the email address.

Both parts of this strategy rely heavily on understanding your target market. If you’ve struggled with lead generation through content in the past, it may be useful to do some in-depth market research (my team can help). Once you know what keeps your ideal customer up at night, you can craft content and an opt-in offer they can’t resist.

Of course, content alone doesn’t drive traffic, so a strong promotional strategy is also important here. Many time, when lead generation is the main goal, paid advertising comes into the mix. Combining great content with paid traffic is an excellent way to find and warm up leads. The CDA team can help you do your customer research, create the content, and even partner with an ads expert to make your lead generation strategy really sing.

3. SEO

The third type of content strategy is focused on getting the leads to come to you (instead of going out and pursuing them — as with advertising) through search engine optimization (SEO).

My philosophy is always to write for humans first and search engines second — but there’s no denying that there’s an art and a science to getting ranked and found on Google.

This sort of strategy is most important for local businesses, SAAS companies, and product-based businesses, but nearly every business can benefit from some SEO optimization.

The main consideration for an SEO content marketing strategy is knowing what people are actually searching for. This often requires the services of a clever and experienced SEO consultant to uncover the keywords your customers are actually using when they search for you. We partner with Meg Casebolt of Love at First Search to help our clients understand their SEO opportunities.

Once you know your keywords, we can craft content that is optimized to tell Google you are the expert on that subject. Depending on the competition for a keyword, you might need a truly epic “ultimate guide”-style piece to get Google’s attention. Or, you might simply need a series of helpful, interesting posts on your subject.

We never do keyword stuffing or black hat SEO tactics, but we can help you take advantage of SEO opportunities and help your clients find you.

Find the strategy that fits

Depending on your business goals, you might use one strategy all the time or employ different strategies at different points in you business’ life.

For example, one of our clients is a SAAS company; for a while, their blog was focused on positioning their CEO as a thought leader in their industry. But more recently, they decided to focus on creating content to take advantages of some SEO opportunities that Meg found for them.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there is always some overlap in results. Obviously an SEO strategy is designed to bring in potential customers who are looking for your product or service, so it is also a lead generation strategy in some respects. A great thought leadership piece could also generate solid leads for your business. And a leads generation strategy could equally produce a piece that ranks highly for a certain keyword or becomes recognized as thought leadership.

But sometimes it’s useful to think of them in these distinct categories to help determine where your focus should be now, at this stage of your business. Understanding your goal helps you create a leadership marketing strategy that will serve your business better and generate better results.

Read more: Creating the Perfect Content Marketing Strategy