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Content marketing is an efficient and affordable way for organizations of all sizes to drive more business to their brand. To get the best ROI from content marketing, though, you need a good game plan in place. Creating a content marketing strategy is an essential foundation for your online marketing efforts no matter your industry or the size of your business.

What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?


Succeeding in content marketing is about more than just creating and sharing great content. It’s about the entire approach that you take to defining and reaching your target audience. A strong content marketing strategy describes what a business does online to meet brand objectives. Understanding your audience, knowing your marketing channel options and creating a strategic plan for content are all part of crafting a strong strategy.

You probably already do content marketing, or marketing online using written and visual collateral. You may even have a basic system in place to source and publish content. Your current content strategy is a good starting point for developing a more thorough marketing strategy that better helps you meet ROI goals. Gather any information you have on the effectiveness of your current content strategy before you sit down to create a comprehensive strategic plan.

You might also use a content plan or editorial calendar to determine when you’re going to post content on different channels. Many business owners make the mistake of thinking that having an editorial calendar is the same thing as developing a content marketing strategy. A content plan is a part of your overall content marketing strategy, but you need more than just posting quantity goals to succeed online. You need a holistic strategy that ensures you’re getting the right content to the right people at the right time.

Why Your Business Needs a Content Marketing Strategy

Using content marketing tactics without any real strategy is similar to trying to build a house without measurements or a blueprint. You might get things right as you go, but you’re sure to make costly mistakes too. Having a defined strategy to guide you will help you avoid marketing missteps. Crafting your content marketing strategy can benefit your enterprise in many ways.

It Offers
Consistency

Developing a strategy for content marketing ensures that your brand messages are consistent. It does that by helping you establish a brand identity and increase brand awareness . Consumers want to see who you are as a brand, not just what you do or sell. You know that appealing content has a strong voice. Maybe you’ve read a blog before and felt like you could identify with the author or wished the article was longer. That’s what a strong brand identity does.

In order to create a strong brand identity, you must stay consistent. Consumers won’t stick with your content if they can’t figure out who you are as a company
 

consistency
 

It Helps You
Connect with Customers

Your content marketing strategy and lead generation capabilities are closely connected. In order to generate leads, though, you need to know who you’re targeting in the first place. As you create a content marketing strategy, you’ll develop brand personas that help you understand who your customers are. Imagine that your online content is targeted at single women in their early 20s, but your audience research shows that the highest percentage of conversions on your website come from married women in their early 30s. You need content that fits the needs of your actual website visitors.

You can adjust your brand personas to fit the consumers you plan to target at different steps in your sales funnel. Knowing who you’re talking to is the best way to be sure that your message hits its mark.
 

customers
 

It Drives
Marketing Productivity

Even the most organized executives can fall behind on marketing efforts without enough motivation. Creating a strategy that defines why, what, when and how much you need to post can help keep you on track. If you work at a small to mid-size enterprise (SME) where more than one person is responsible for marketing efforts, your strategy documents also help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
 


 

It Helps You
Measure ROI

There’s no way to conduct a successful online marketing campaign without knowing what returns you’re getting on your investment. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know what metrics they should look at to measure ROI because their goals aren’t specified from the outset. Creating a strategy document gives you measurable goals and helps you define success.

Knowing the ROI of your campaigns also means that you can make proactive adjustments to your content plan. Being able to adjust campaigns while keeping them in line with your overall content marketing strategy is crucial to both brand consistency and ROI.
 


 

It Strengthens Your
Internal Brand Image

Your content marketing strategy will guide how you interact with your customers online. It can also help drive greater brand loyalty among employees. People do their best work when they believe in the companies they work for and buy into the sales mission. Giving employees a strong sense of who you are as a company empowers them to work harder for your brand.
 


 

Your Content Marketing Strategy
Can Increase Retention

Industry experts agree that a strong content marketing strategy can help increase retention even after customers have completed an initial transaction. Remember that content marketing provides a powerful way to level the playing field between big-name companies and smaller brands. You don’t need a million-dollar budget to keep the attention of your target audience long after the sale is made.

You simply need a strategy that you know you can execute. By strategizing how you’ll communicate via your brand personas, you’re targeting higher returns in terms of retention.
 


 


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How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy


You know that your content marketing campaigns could be more effective if you had a strategy to guide you. Now it’s time to create your content marketing strategy document. It might require some upfront time, but thinking out your strategy now is the only way to ensure long-term content marketing returns.

You might wonder what you need to determine before coming up with a content marketing strategy. Before drawing up a strategy, gather


  • any branding or strategy guides you already have,

  • market research you’ve conducted,

  • information about your company’s social media profiles,

  • data about any marketing campaigns you’re currently running and

  • ROI reports for past campaigns.

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, follow these nine steps to create your content strategy guide.

1

Define Your Content Marketing Goals

You can’t market effectively or measure the returns on your efforts if you aren’t working towards clear goals. Make a list of goals that you want to meet. Examples include


  • increasing new leads,

  • improving retention,

  • increasing overall site traffic, and

  • getting new blog or newsletter subscribers.

This is also the time to define your KPIs, or key performance indicators. Your KPIs are what you use to determine marketing ROI. Imagine that your social media profiles are currently generating 20 new leads per month. Three months after you’ve launched a new campaign, you check in and discover that you’re now averaging 40 new leads per month. This data shows that your campaign helped increase leads by 100 percent. Use hard data so you can accurately gauge the success of your content marketing efforts and make adjustments as needed.

2

Create Brand and Buyer Personas

There’s no way to create consistent content if you don’t know who you are as a brand. If you haven’t already developed brand personas, now is the time. Your brand persona describes the attributes of your company. Brand personas include information about an organization’s


  • character,

  • mission,

  • tone and style of delivery, and

  • key brand messages.


Use your brand persona to guide consistency in your written content.

Your buyer personas describe the type of people who buy your products. Many businesses find that they can target more than one type of buyer persona. Imagine that you sell a men’s grooming product subscription box. You would likely have content targeted to men as well as content targeted to women who might be shopping for their husbands, fathers or sons. To create a buyer persona, you should


  • gather any data you have about the demographics of your actual customers,

  • reach out to customers through surveys or informal interviews,

  • write short bios for your different customer groups based on their feedback and

  • talk to your marketing team about the kinds of people who buy your products.

Read these buyer persona examples to get an idea of the types of information you should include.

This is also a good time to create a customer journey map if you don’t already have one. A customer journey map helps you understand how people come in contact with your brand. It shows the steps that they go through before making a purchase and will help you identify the questions that you need to answer with your content.

customer journey

While buyer personas are important, remember that you need to target content for a wider audience too. Your buyer personas describe the people who actually purchase your products. You also need a general idea of your audience, or the people who are interested in your products but may not actually buy them. This wider audience is important because they are often the people who share your posts and products with buyers or ask for your products as gifts.

3

Audit Your Current Position

Now that you’ve determined where you’re going, you need to figure out where you are. To conduct a content audit, you need to


  • collect the URLs for all of your posts,

  • catalog that content by category,

  • collect data about the performance of your content, and

  • create a plan to keep, move, revise or replace content based on that data.

You can use a tool such as SEMRush to collect URLs and performance data.

Zero in on the content you already have that works well. What is effective about the content? How does your audience interact with it? Know what’s successful so you can understand what you should keep doing and what needs to change.

4

Identify High-Performing Content Channels

Look at the data you gathered in step three. Which online channels offered the best results in terms of viewership, interaction or sales conversions? Focus on developing content for channels that deliver high results first. Then, take a look at the channels your direct competitors are using. Are they getting results from channels you don’t use? It might be time to explore new avenues for some of your content.

If your organization hasn’t done any previous content marketing, take a look at your competitors. Where do they post content? What types of content do they use? Knowing where your industry’s audience spends time online is vital. For example, an Instagram campaign might not be very successful if most of your customers are 60 plus. Choosing the right channel for your content is crucial.

Remember that your brand’s website, blog, email newsletter and so forth are also content channels. To build a strong online brand presence, be sure that you spend time getting traffic to these channels too.

5

Decide What Types of Content Fit Your Needs

You know who your buyers are, and you know where you can reach them. Now, it’s time to decide what types of content you’ll use to appeal on those different channels. Remember that there is no one right answer about the type of content you should use. For example, a B2B company selling enterprise software likely benefits from publishing white papers while a B2C company selling scarves wouldn’t use that approach.

To decide what type of assets will work best for your organization, target your content to fit your buyer personas . If you run an all-natural skincare brand and you’re targeting content to a persona who spends a lot of time traveling, you might blog about hacks to pack skincare essentials for a long trip.

Think about the questions that your buyer has about your industry. Are they general questions that are best answered with an FAQ? Are they lifestyle questions that can be answered with a DIY tutorial? Keyword research can reveal the types of questions your audience is asking. You should also ask your employees and current customers for their input to ensure that you’re using a balanced approach.

types of content

6

Plot Out Resources

Unless you’re starting from scratch, your organization already owns some content marketing resources. Don’t get rid of them just because they aren’t in the right place to fit your new strategy. Instead, look at how you can utilize current resources more effectively. That might mean redesigning your website. It could mean repurposing blogs with poor viewership and using them in email marketing instead.

At this point, you can also start thinking about the quantity and types of content that you need to share on each of your channels. When it comes to ideal posting quantities, you’ll need to dig into specific data about your industry. Again, look at what your most successful competitors are doing. Draw inspiration from their strategies as your starting point. Remember that you always have the opportunity to revise your strategy once you’ve collected information about what works and what doesn’t.

7

Create a Content Plan

Many organizations center their content marketing strategy around an editorial calendar. While you know it isn’t enough to have a calendar alone, it is an important piece of your strategy. Your content plan details what you will post, where you will post it and when it will be posted. Use a visual calendar or agenda format so everyone on your marketing team knows where you are in terms of posting as well as what’s ahead.

Of course, you also need to decide how you’ll source your content. Maybe you have experience writing and are able to create some assets yourself. Perhaps you have a dedicated marketing staff member who is responsible for creating content. For most businesses, though, outsourcing the content creation process is the best way to get original content. Note where your content is coming from on your editorial calendar.

Whenever possible, secure your content several weeks in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to fill content gaps. Remember that you should also incorporate curated content into your calendar. Curated content is content that belongs to someone else that will interest your audience. For example, a hardware store might share a handyman’s video blog about making basic sink repairs.

8

Distribute Your Content

After successfully creating content, it‘s important to distribute it to your target audience. The best content is worth nothing if people don’t read it! Check out the different content channels defined in Step 4 and use them to drive traffic to your page. Choose whatever channels work best for you, and define a standardized distribution process.

You can use a social media scheduling tool to streamline this process and upload all of your content for the coming week or month into the program. Set a schedule for when each post will be published. The program will automatically post the content for you, keeping you on schedule.

In addition to social media, you can send your content as a newsletter or browser push notification. Paid ads are also effective in attracting your audience.

For longterm success, especially with SEO, it‘s important to acquire high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites, which will get you qualified traffic from two sources: linking pages and Google.

9

Measure the Results

Your content marketing strategy should always be evolving. That’s only possible if you measure the results of your campaigns. Remember, you already identified your goals and KPIs. You also analyzed how your content was performing before you enacted a new strategy. Once your strategy has been in place for a few months, run the data again.

Some of the most common KPIs that companies target in this phase include


  • customer feedback,

  • time on site,

  • subscriber growth,

  • conversions,

  • SEO rank,

  • lead quality,

  • on-site engagement,

  • brand authority,

  • overall traffic and

  • sales.

Using your benchmark data and your new data, calculate ROI. We’ll go over how to do that in detail in just a bit.

As you look at your KPI data, remember that content marketing returns tend to be negative for a period before they provide positive results. This is because content marketing is a long-term project. Make sure that you’re paying attention to the conversations that buyers are having about your business online. This will help you get a qualitative sense of the success of your strategy in terms of building brand awareness and loyalty.


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What Should a Content Marketing Strategy Include?


Your content marketing strategy document should include all the information that your marketing team needs to successfully execute campaigns. That means it might include some specialized jargon or assets that only people who work in marketing will really understand. However, you should also make sure that your strategy is easy for individuals throughout your company to grasp. After all, you won’t be able to convince key stakeholders that you need to increase your department’s budget or hire new staff if they don’t understand your plan.

A strong content marketing strategy plan generally includes


  • brand identity guidelines,

  • a list of marketing goals,

  • a list of the KPIs you’re tracking,

  • developed customer personas,

  • applicable market research and data,

  • a customer journey map,

  • descriptions of the content channels that you use,

  • an assessment of your current content marketing capabilities and resources,

  • a workflow map,

  • a chart of internal marketing responsibilities and

  • a content calendar.

Make your content marketing strategy accessible to everyone on your team. You might keep documents in a binder in a central location. You could send every employee on your team a digital version of your strategy. Communicating clearly about where you’re going and how you plan to get there will guide your team.

How to Measure the ROI of a Content Marketing Strategy

measuring ROI

The work doesn’t end after you’ve developed a content marketing strategy and put it in place. You’ll need to evaluate your results to determine if you’ve met your goals in terms of marketing return. That means looking at KPIs and campaign costs so that you can determine the ROI of your efforts. After all, hard data is the best way to prove that your content marketing strategy is working.

The formula to calculate ROI is simple: First, find the gross gain from your investment. Then, subtract the cost of your investment from its gain. Finally, divide the number that you get from your cost of investment. Here’s an example:

You spend $500 on a targeted email campaign for your company’s socks. You know that you sold $2,500 worth of socks from the leads generated through that campaign. That means that you had a net profit of $2,000. To find the actual return on your investment, divide your net profit of $2,000 by the initial investment of $500, and convert to a percentage. In this example, your ROI is 400 percent.

Remember that looking at the ROI of a campaign isn’t the same as looking at how a campaign impacted individual KPIs. ROI is a big-picture number that helps you determine how profitable a campaign was without looking at how your efforts impacted individual performance indicators. You can also calculate changes to KPIs to determine the impact of your strategy on specific metrics.

In our ROI example, you made a high enough net profit that you can say your campaign had a 400 percent return. Now imagine that you want to know how effective your campaign was in driving traffic to your website. Before you launched the campaign, your website got an average of 100 daily views. After launching your campaign, your website garnered an average of 150 daily views.

Subtract the number of daily views from before the campaign from the number of daily views after the campaign. You learn that the campaign helped generate 50 new daily views. Divide your net increase in daily views by your benchmark daily views, and then convert it to a percentage. Since 50 divided by 100 equals 0.5, you know that your campaign led to a 50 percent increase in daily website traffic.

You might wonder how long it takes to see results after implementing a new content marketing strategy. There’s no cut-and-dry answer, but most organizations should see results anywhere from two to six months after implementing a new strategy. Remember that those results aren’t always as clear as an increase in ROI, though. They might also be increases to KPIs or a growth in the buzz about your brand online.

The key to finding success with your content marketing strategy is to stick with it for the long haul. You might need to make adjustments along the way. However, a solid strategy offers the long-term consistency that you need to build a strong brand reputation.

Bring Your Content Marketing to the Next Level With a Content Marketing Strategy


Putting together a content marketing strategy document might seem like a lot of work, but you know that plotting your journey out ahead of time almost always makes it easier to get to your destination without missteps. Think of your content strategy guide as your roadmap to success in online marketing. Without one, your content is likely to get lost in a sea of voices instead of rising to the top of the tide.


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