Companies are scrambling to publish more content than ever before. They’re dedicating new content teams to keep up with the consumption demands of prospects and customers. Before you blindly assume that more is better, take a step back and make sure your publishing schedule sits on top of a solid content marketing strategy that is rooted in business goals and customer research.
This article will review key components to consider when planning and executing on your strategy. But first, it is important to agree on a definition of content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a marketing method that involves creating and sharing valuable information that is entertaining, educational, interesting, or emotionally driven with the purpose of building a relationship with a target audience and ultimately generating profitable customer action. Content comes in many forms such as videos, blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, newsletters, social media messages, and more. By publishing this useful, relevant, and engaging content consistently, and delivering it to the right audience in the right place and time, your brand will become a trusted source that consumers will choose over your competitors.
Content Marketing Strategy vs. Content Strategy
Content marketing strategy and content strategy are often confused, and while there is some overlap, they are different concepts. Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute says it is helpful to think of content marketing strategy as the big picture “why” and content strategy as the nuts and bolts of “how” content will be used in your organization. He is fond of saying content marketing is using a thick magic marker, while content strategists choose a fine pen. Content marketing strategy seeks to understand the story your company or organization wants to tell, and looks at different ways to engage your audience. Content strategy breaks down the tactics you’ll use to create, publish, promote, and track the results of your content.
Consumers in Control
Traditional “push” marketing that interrupts the consumer becomes less effective everyday, as we learn to consciously and subconsciously ignore irrelevant messages. The answer is a content marketing strategy that “pulls” consumers in by giving them enough value that inspires them to choose to receive information from your brand. Personalized, high-value content cuts through the clutter and speaks directly to audience members, delivering information when and how they want to receive it.
Content Marketing Strategy Components
Now that we’re clear on what content marketing is let’s dive into the components of a great content marketing strategy:
- Business goals and objectives– The first step is to carefully consider the business outcomes you are setting out to achieve. What does success look like, and does everyone agree on that vision of success? Clearly state these goals, and the objectives it will take to achieve these goals.
- Competitive audit– Create a list of your competitors, and do some detective work. Where do they publish content? What kinds of content do they prefer? Look at their publishing frequency and what topics they cover. See if they focus on long-form content with lots of value. Go into as much detail as possible. Knowing what you’re up against is critical to determining how you need to be different to cut through all the noise.
- Content audit– Take a complete inventory of the content assets you currently own. Include details for each piece of content including what type of media and its intended marketing channel and audience persona. Evaluate what content is performing, what needs to be updated, and what can be put on the back burner.
- Customer personas– Develop a complete persona of each type of existing or potential customer you want to reach and their main pain points. What are their desires, fears, and interests? What keeps them up at night?
- Obstacles and opportunities– Plan in advance how you will overcome challenges such as not enough resources, inconsistent quality, lack of trained staff, uncooperative management, and rising competition.
- Brand story– Your brand story is the overall narrative you want to communicate. It defines your value proposition and sets the tone for long-term customer relationships. Your content marketing strategy must be completely aligned with your brand story.
- Content ecosystem– This is your paid, owned, and earned media channel plan. Owned media is websites and other assets you own outright. Earned media refers to your brand being mentioned, referred or shared by publications and key influencers. Paid media includes content discovery like Outbrain, or sponsored social media posts through sites like Facebook. Map out the content you plan to deploy in each of these areas, and visualize on the entire content ecosystem works together to help you accomplish your goals.
- Content distribution plan– Determine how you will get your content in front of your intended audience. Find out where they are already discovering content—for example, social media, email, video sharing sites—and what type of content they prefer. Research which channels are the best fit, and constantly update and refine your approach.
- Measurement– How will you measure success? What are your most important KPIs, and what are the smaller KPIs that ladder up to helping you achieve the objectives you set from the beginning? Pageviews, shares, and time on page, can be important, but newsletter subscriptions and followers are critical to building an audience. And qualified leads, purchases, and higher value customers are ultimately what you need to prove a return on investment, and make your case for more resources to drive growth.
- Toolbox– What tools will you use to create content? For example, does your company already use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress? Figure out if you will use your own writing staff or utilize services such as Scripted or Contently. You’ll also need good analytics software to track and measure each piece of content. Google Analytics is always an options, but to see a more clear picture of who the people are interacting with your content you may want to test out something like Kissmetrics or TrenDemon.
Does all this sound like a lot of work? Well, it is! But it’s worth the time and effort to lay down your strategy, define your goals, and plan your tactics before you start. Too many companies start publishing a ton of content with no plan behind the flurry of activity.
Having a mapped out plan that includes all of the above components will also increase the likelihood of getting complete buy-in from all stakeholders. If you don’t get key stakeholders engaged in your content marketing strategy, it will blow up before getting off the launch pad. Tap your powers of communication and persuasion to get top management, engineers, information technology (IT), legal, product management and governance players involved from the start.
And make sure you keep on testing and tweaking—constant diligence will be rewarded with more brand impact, awareness, sales, and profit.