According to Google Trends, interest in content marketing has been on the rise since January 2011.
But this should not surprise anyone. Content marketing is a proven method to grow your brand or business. It’s no wonder so many people are interested in learning this skill. But how many of us are building a content marketing strategy that truly moves the needle?
What’s surprising is that many content marketers don’t have a documented strategy.
Years ago, I had a boss that would always tell me…
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
That ethos remains true when building a content marketing strategy as well. You want to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This way, the time and energy you spend creating content will get you closer to a business objective.
Today, you are working towards being an established content marketer, we’ll help you get a plan in place.
But first we need to clear up a little confusion about content marketing strategy.
Content marketing strategy defined
Some people like to make a distinction between the terms content strategy and content marketing strategy. The distinction, they suggest, is best explained with a Russian doll: a smaller strategy is inside a larger one.
In this case, a content marketing strategy is the smaller strategy inside the larger one, content strategy.
There is some truth to this.
Content strategy, according to Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, involves the planning, creation, governance, and maintenance of content, whereas content marketing strategy focuses on the narrow discipline of marketing content.
Fair enough, but I think this distinction is confusing and needless because we can also talk about content marketing strategy as the planning, creation, governance, and maintenance of content … and not lose any sleep.
I’d like to proceed with a clear definition of a content marketing strategy.
So, if strategy means “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result,” the specific goal or result for content marketing would be “building an audience that builds a business.”
For our purposes, then, let’s define content marketing strategy like this:
A content marketing strategy is a plan for building an audience by publishing, maintaining, and spreading frequent and consistent content that educates, entertains, or inspires to turn strangers into fans and fans into customers.
Which brings us to the next important question.
Do you need a content marketing strategy?
If you are a small business with a few employees or a one-man or one-woman shop, you may be thinking that your content marketing is so simple that you don’t need a plan.
Won’t a list of things that need to happen written on the back of an envelope get the job done?
Yes, that’s one way to begin, especially if you are typically a perfectionist and just need to start your content marketing rather than waiting until you have the perfect plan.
But at some point you will need to develop a more comprehensive plan — and then document it.
- Content marketers with a documented strategy feel more confident in their work.
- Content marketing challenges don’t seem as overwhelming when you have a strategy in place.
- A documented strategy makes it easier to get buy-in from stakeholders.
- It’s easier to chart your success when you have a documented strategy.
The jury is in, folks: We all need a documented content marketing strategy. And the cool thing is it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Crafting a simple content marketing strategy
Let’s be honest: Unless you are a content marketer for a big company, you don’t need much. Just a plan to help focus your time, money, and energy.
In fact, you can document your content marketing strategy in the time it takes you to answer the following 13 questions:
- Who are your users?
- Who are your competitors?
- What do you bring to the table?
- What do you hear?
- What content do you already have?
- What is the purpose of your content?
- How often should you publish content?
- How will you distribute your content?
- Who is in charge of your content?
- Who will produce your content?
- Who is going to maintain the content?
- Who is responsible for the results?
- What’s your destination (core strategy)?
Want to learn more about these questions and the process behind this simple content marketing strategy?
Then check out the following article: 13 Simple Questions to Help You Draft a Winning Content Strategy.
And don’t forget to download the accompanying free worksheet.
There is one thing to keep in mind, though. You will probably have to perform some serious research before you can answer those questions.
Your content marketing strategy begins with this person
The person I’m talking about is your customer.
Your customer is the focal point of your content marketing strategy. You need a substantial, deep, and comprehensive understanding of who she is.
When you do, the strategy will write itself. You won’t have to guess or wonder. But a weak, flimsy, or flat-out wrong understanding of who your customer is will sink your strategy every time.
Check out these five resources to help you understand who your customer is:
- Research checklist: Don’t Create Your Content Strategy Until You Research These 6 Things
- Empathy map: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head
- Worldview: Tap into This Psychological Driver to Create the Ultimate Message
- Customer experience map: How to Use Customer Experience Maps to Develop a Winning Content Marketing Strategy
- Personas: How Creating an Imaginary Friend Can Make You a Better Writer
Understanding your content
Once you thoroughly understand who your customer is, evaluate the content you already have.
This exercise will not only help you spot the gaps in your content that you need to fill, but it will also help you see that old content can become outdated and cost you top positions in search engines, cause user-experience failure, and more.
So, here are four resources to help you review your current content:
- A Brief Guide to Fixing Your Old, Neglected, and Broken Content
- How to Conduct a Content Audit for Quality and Audience Experience
- How to Plug the Holes in Your Content Funnel that Are Costing You Money
- The Single Best Way to Create Hit Content in Record Time
Measuring your content marketing efforts (conversion)
Ultimately, it comes down to this: how do you know if your content marketing strategy is working?
You’ll know if your content marketing strategy is working if you measure it.
This is why question 13 on the content marketing strategy worksheet (What’s your core strategy?) is so important.
That core strategy should:
- Give you room to stretch, fail, get back up, and grow
- Allow you to adjust as your environment changes around you, without having to make a drastic change
- Align with your values, so you’ll be able to sustain it and endure challenges over time
But how do you measure that? If you are like me and the words “analytics” and “measuring” make you uncomfortable, check out Mike King’s article:
That should keep you busy for a while.
In this hour-long session, our Chief Operations Officer, Tony Clark, and Chief Content Officer, Sonia Simone, talk about:
- Why content creators should have a basic understanding of web analytics
- What tools you must use (forget about the rest and focus on these)
- The essential metrics you should measure to get the best performance out of your content
- What to do with the information once you have it
This is a great introduction to understanding the tools you need to successfully measure your content marketing strategy. Authority members can access the webinar here.
So, do you have a content marketing strategy? Is it documented or a plan you keep in your head?
How did you go about creating it? Have any other tips you’d like to share with us to help other readers?
Leave us your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.