How to make the Content Marketing Hierarchy of Needs work for your business

Mark Schaefer
4 min readSep 14, 2023

The aspects of content marketing have been sliced and diced many ways but I think considering content in this “hierarchy of needs” format may help you simplify the process of determining a strategy for your business.

Of course there are many different kinds of content, and gratefully more are being invented all the time. But as I think about this, every kind of content I can think of ultimately serves one of four purposes. It is useful to think of content this way because the simple illustration has wide-ranging consequences for your business.

Let’s dig into this a little more today.

The content marketing hierarchy of needs

You’re probably familiar with the famous Maslow Hierarchy of Needs idea suggesting that humans must cover their basic needs (like food and shelter) before they can think about higher level goals like relationships and self-actualization. Likewise, content can serve a similar hierarchy of human needs.

1. ANSWERING QUESTIONS

The most simplistic form of content marketing is answering questions. If you are just starting out in content marketing and there is not yet much competition in your niche, this is the best place to start.

Answering basic questions is probably the easiest way to attract organic traffic to your website if there is not much existing competition. The problem with this type of content is that it may not attract repeat visits or earn much “time on site.” Once people get a question answered they will probably leave.

2. TEACHING

An excellent example of “teaching content” is the Social Media Examiner enterprise built by my friend Michael Stelzner. Each day, his SME posts are filled with helpful tips aimed at teaching the latest practices about social media. Another favorite of mine is Ancient History Encyclopedia that send me fascinating articles about ancient languages, the architecture of castles and the best way to make a sword.

This type of content can attract passionate fans, which provides opportunities for monetization through relevant programs and services (SME has a conference and…

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Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!