Looking to create a content marketing strategy? That's wonderful! [And you're in the right place!] But, there is a critical distinction between content marketing strategy and content strategy.
Folks often use these terms interchangeably, and understandably since the lines are bit blurry, but Robert Rose explains the distinction well in his post, How Content Strategy and Content Marketing are Separate but Connected:
- Content marketing: content marketers draw and develop the larger story that an organization tells. They focus on ways to engage an audience, using content so that it changes or enhances a behavior.
- Content strategy: content strategy delves deeper into the "creation, publication, and governance of useful usable content." It helps you manage content as a business asset.
His metaphor: content marketers draw on the wall with magic markers, while content strategists use fine pens. [that's gold!]
One last way to try and simplify the difference: the content marketer addresses the "whys," the content strategist addresses the "hows," and together they work out the "whats" and "wheres". The content marketer creates the story and is responsible for developing the customer relationship with your brand or organization. The content strategist ensures that the language, management process, etc. works consistently and efficiently across multiple teams and each publication your brand leverages.
Two different approaches, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the same person can't wear both hats--that depends on your organization. My advice though: don't assume that one person can understand all the intricacies of content strategy or know everything about content marketing. Collaboration is key.
Now, that we've got definitions out of the way, if you're still looking for content marketing strategy information, continue!
Do I really need a content marketing strategy?
As noted by CMI research, not only do you need a strategy, but you need to write it down. Those with a documented strategy fell significantly less challenges and generally consider themselves more effective in their use of all content marketing tactics and social media channels.
What should my content marketing strategy include?
This is a hybrid of an outline of your key business and customer needs and a detailed plan for how you will use content to address those points. There's no "one-template-fits-all" (isn't that common with most things in business and life?), but there are five components that are commonly included:
1. Your business case
First and foremost for a new content marketing strategy, you need to gain executive support. Communicate your reasoning, the risks involved and your idea of what success will look like for your business. Cover topics such as:
- Why businesses need content marketing [48% of marketers support 3 to 5 buying stages with dedicated content, and 52% of marketers support 2 to 4 roles and buyer personas with dedicated content]
- How content marketing helps meet customer/client/consumer goals [82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content, and 90% find customer content useful]
- How content marketing impacts organizational goals [website conversion rate is nearly 6x higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs. 0.5%)]
- Budget and resource allocation [the average b2b organization spends 28% of its marketing budget on content, and the average b2c organization spends 25%]
- Content marketing expectations (internal and external) [78% of CMOs see content as the future of marketing]
You may not be able to get every element in place prior to making the ask, but the more questions you can proactively answer, the more effective your content marketing strategy pitch is like to be.
2. Your content marketing plan
This portion should cover the goals you have for your program, the unique value you're looking to provide via content and outline possible obstacles and opportunities during execution.
Content marketing is not a stand-alone marketing approach. Figure out how it fits in with other initiatives you're doing. It's your first-line technique to drive SEO, social media and demand generation; it's complimentary with public relations; use key principles to get better results from your paid search efforts.
When planning, it's extremely important to decide what you want to accomplish before you decide how you'll accomplish it. There's no right answer, but just pick one. For example:
- Prospecting--generate leads for follow-up by sales and marketing teams
- Thought leadership--develop name recognition and respect, and to influence your industry
- Sales--help your sales team close sales more quickly
- PR--build and repair public opinion about your brand and products
- Community--develop friends and fans who interaction with your brand socially
I highly recommend selecting five brands in your industry that are using content marketing successful and evaluate them. What is their core message? What topics do they cover? What types of content do they produce (blog posts, social media, podcasts, special reports, infographics, ebooks)? How often do they post? What types of CTAs are used in each type of content?
After you've answered these questions, you can identify your own purple cow. What gaps can you identify that they don't cover in their content marketing? [Hint: your style, the depth of your information, your unique approach or your value proposition could be what sets you apart.]
3. Your audience personas and content maps
This is where you describe the specific audiences for whom you will create content, what their needs are and what their engagement cycle might look like. You might also map out content you plan to deliver throughout their buyer's journey in order to keep them engagements and move them closer to their goals. [note: THEIR!]
Having a deep understanding of these fictionalized characters is critical. The good news: they aren't that difficult to create. The better news: Hubspot put together an interview guide and a free template for creating buyer personas. Easy as pie, right?
Keep in mind that these personas are part of a larger group of people who you can connect with. Find the associations or groups they belong to, find out which social media sites they use, identify magazines or other media they subscribe to and find events they attend. Research.ly (paid), KISSmetrics (paid) and Forrester (free tool, paid service) are all good tools.
Additional Information: take this one step further by mapping your content to help increase it's reach among your target audience.
4. Your story
Characterize your content marketing in terms of what ideas and messages you want to communicate.
Your core message is the primary benefit you offer your customers--it's the bottom line reason why you're in business and should be the guiding principle for all content. After landing on your central solution or the one big question/concern you answer, decide on 5 to 7 secondary messages or topics that support that core message. You don't want to bore your target audience by repeating the same message in every piece of content ad nauseum, right?
You have to know who you are before you can explain it to someone else. Brands that don't have their core value prop in place or have internal discrepancies, will never be able to share their story with the world in an honest and engaging way. Make brand storytelling a priroty!
5. Your channel plan
The final component should include the platforms you will use to tell your story [think technology and social]; your criteria, processes and objectives for each and how you will connect them to create a cohesive conversation (because nothing exists in a vacuum).
- What publishing platform will you use for each type of content you create? [i.e. website/blog platform like Wordpress or Squarespace, Youtube or Vimeo for videos, Stitcher or iTunes for podcasts, etc.]
- What social media channels will you be active on? [don't try to be on EVERY one--choose the platforms where your customers are active]
- Set objectives for each channel or type of content. [ex: drive traffic to another channel, engage, generate leads, educate, build community, etc.)
- Decide on the approach you'll take with each channel. [consider the appropriate tone, speaking style and content types/structure]
- What is the workflow/process on each channel? [set up the management of your content marketing, decide who produces the content, set up approval processes, assign technical labor and assign responsibility for promoting the content]
You should now have a good idea of:
- Your objectives for content marketing and how it will fit into your marketing mix
- Your target audience
- Your strategy for creating and publishing content, and the technology you'll use
- Your workflow for getting it done
These decisions will put you head and shoulders above the competition and places you among the ranks of the best content marketers in the galaxy. Congratulations!