You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map, would you?
Or maybe you would, but you probably shouldn’t.
It’s the same way with content marketing.
Without a strategy, you’ll likely get lost on your journey to business success.
If you wish to gain recognition, drive traffic, and boost sales through content marketing, the least you can do is lay out a solid plan.
Many brands invest immense amounts of time and energy each year to create fresh, exciting content.
And each year, these same brands struggle to get their content seen by the masses.
Why? Because they don’t have a clear strategy in place.
Whether you’re just starting with content marketing or doing it for years, it’s never too late to develop a content strategy.
At MediaOne, we’ve dealt with hundreds of clients in various industries.
And through years of testing and refining, we discovered that a well-documented content strategy is a key indicator of content marketing success.
Why is this?
Well, that’s because a content strategy gives you the information you need to make well-informed content marketing decisions.
It helps you know your audience, what topics they’re interested in, and how to best present your content.
In other words, it takes the guesswork out of content creation.
The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be to create content that resonates with them and draws in new readers.
What’s Content Marketing Strategy and Why is It Important?
A content marketing strategy is a document that outlines a clear plan for content creation, distribution, and promotion.
It gives you the information you need to decide what types of content to create, where to post it, and how to promote it to reach your marketing objectives.
It describes how you plan to attract and engage your target audience.
The plan typically covers a detailed analysis of your customers and the type of solutions to the problems you plan to help them solve.
It also outlines how you plan to promote your content and measure the results.
If you’re starting with content marketing, or if you’ve been doing it for years without a clear strategy, it’s never too late to develop one.
The Difference Between Content Marketing Strategy and Plan
At its core, a content marketing strategy answers the “why, “who,” and “how.”
It outlines the overarching goals for your content and describes how you plan to achieve those goals.
On the other hand, a content marketing plan is a more detailed document that breaks down each content piece into specific steps to ensure quality and consistency in your content creation efforts.
A content marketing plan is very tactical in approach. It documents the specific details of how you intend to execute your strategy.
A strategy begets a plan, although the two are ultimately linked.
Without a clear strategy, your plan will be aimless, random, and ultimately ineffective.
Think of it this way:
A content marketing strategy is the foundation on which your plan is built, while a content marketing plan is the blueprint or instructions for how you will execute your strategy.
There are many benefits to developing a clear content marketing strategy and plan.
Do You Need a Content Marketing Strategy?
A strategy gives you a sense of direction. It makes it easier to know what outcomes to expect, what to focus on and when.
Throughout our many years of working with different clients, we’ve found that you need not only a strategy but a documented strategy.
A few mental notes aren’t enough.
A strategy ensures your content is focused, consistent, and targeted at the right people.
It tells you what to create, when, where to post, and how best to promote it.
7 Benefits of Having a Well-documented Content Marketing Strategy and Plan
- It gives you a clear direction.
- It helps you know what to focus on and when.
- It makes it easier to measure the results of your content marketing efforts.
- It ensures your content is consistent, relevant, and targeted at the right people.
- It provides a framework for developing new content ideas.
- It directs you where to post your content to reach the right audience.
- It helps you know how to promote your content effectively and measure its performance over time.
What Should My Content Marketing Strategy Include?
A content marketing strategy outlines your key business and customer needs, identifies your target audience, and outlines how you plan to use your content to achieve your marketing objectives.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all template for building a content marketing strategy — each one will be unique to the business behind it and its goals — there are five key components each one commonly includes:
- Your Business Case: You must begin by clearly articulating your business objectives or the reasons for creating your content marketing strategy, the risk involved, and the vision of success.
You’re much more likely to gain executive support for your content marketing program when you can clearly communicate these key points.
It also gives you a little wiggle room to make mistakes as you try to figure out what works best for your business.
- Your Content Marketing Business Plan: This is the nuts and bolts of your content marketing strategy.
It covers the goals, objectives, and tactics you’ll use to achieve your marketing objectives.
It also outlines the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter along the way and details on how to track your progress.
A good content marketing business plan should highlight your unique value proposition, budget breakdown, and a clear outline of the resources you’ll need to bring it all together.
- Your Audience Personas and Content Maps: This is where you describe your target audience in detail and identify the specific needs, challenges, and goals they have.
You also want to map out content ideas to each audience segment, tying them back to their buyer’s journey stages.
Having a clear understanding of who your audience is and how they think is essential to creating an effective content strategy that resonates with them on an emotional level.
- Your Content Marketing Calendar: This is where you plan out the actual schedule for when specific pieces of content will be published, as well as any supporting collateral (such as social media posts, infographics, videos, and blog posts).
The more specific you’re with your content calendar, the better.
Include each asset type, the format you’ll use (e.g., blog post, infographic, etc.), a detailed description of its content, and when it will be published.
You should also outline a clear process for approval of new content ideas to prevent bottlenecks.
- Your Brand Story: Your content marketing strategy should also include your company’s brand story, which drives everything you do.
It should be more than just a mission statement or list of products and features — it should be an emotional narrative that explains why your business exists and what makes it unique.
Understanding your unique value proposition will help guide your marketing decisions, including your content marketing efforts.
- Your Channel Plan: To be effective, your content marketing strategy must include a detailed plan for how you’ll reach your target audience.
That includes the platforms you’ll use (e.g., social media, paid ads, email marketing) and their specific goals and activities.
It’s also important to outline the metrics you’ll track to measure performance and show ROI and how you plan to optimize them over time.
- Your Content Marketing Culture: Finally, this is where you outline the company culture that will underpin your content marketing strategy.
That includes developing an editorial style guide (e.g., tone of voice, formatting guidelines) and ensuring that your team has all the resources and support they need to be successful.
A healthy content marketing culture will also be open to taking risks, trying new things, and learning from failures as you develop your processes over time.
How Often Should You Update Your Content Marketing Strategy?
The frequency with which you update your content marketing plan will depend primarily on the nature of your business and how quickly it’s changing.
For example, a seasonal business that relies heavily on new product launches may need to update its content marketing strategy much more frequently than an established company in a stable industry.
However, it would be best if you generally aimed to update it at least once a year. Note that you’re not changing everything but only some parts of your content strategy.
We also expect some parts of the strategy to remain consistent over time, such as your brand story and target audience personas.
That said, even these elements can be refined and improved over time based on what you learn about your audience’s needs and preferences.
Your goals and metrics can also be updated to stay aligned with your business’s growth.
The key is not to overhaul everything all at once but to make minor tweaks and changes that will help you improve over time.
As long as you’re monitoring and analyzing the results, adjusting your strategy based on what you learn is okay.
Once you’ve developed your content marketing strategy, updating and refining it as needed is crucial.
That will help ensure your plan is always aligned with what your audience needs, helping you create more compelling content in the long term.
10 Innovative Approaches to Develop a Solid Content Marketing Strategy
Now that you understand the key components of a successful content marketing strategy, it’s time to develop your own.
Here are 13 innovative approaches you can use to get started:
#1. Start With an Audit of your Existing Content Assets
Before developing your content marketing strategy, it’s crucial to take stock of what you have in terms of existing assets and programs. That will help you identify gaps or opportunities your competitors may use to gain leverage.
Take a look at what content you already have, and consider how you can repurpose or update it to align with your strategy.
Is the content still relevant?
How well does it reflect your brand voice and tone? What metrics have you been tracking, and have they been effective?
You also want to review other marketing assets, such as social media profiles, influencer programs, or paid advertising campaigns. Overall, this initial audit will help you better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your current content strategy.
#2. Start Small
You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your content marketing strategy. Instead of trying to do everything at once, it’s best to start small and build on that momentum over time.
Start by identifying one area where you can improve your content marketing efforts. That could be an updated editorial calendar or new types of content assets. Once you have that in place, you can build on it to create an even more effective plan.
Start small, start easy, and then build on your success over time. That will help you develop a strong content marketing strategy that delivers unprecedented results for your business.
3. Map Out Your Audience Personas
Another key element of any content marketing strategy is to create detailed audience personas. These will help you develop more personalized, targeted content that resonates with your ideal readers.
Begin by thinking about who your target customers are and what their needs are.
What kind of information do they want or need?
Use this information to create detailed descriptions of your ideal customers, including demographic and psychographic details.
Once you have these personas in place, it will be much easier to develop content that appeals directly to their needs and interests. That should help improve conversion rates and boost engagement rates over time.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when creating your audience personas:
- Establish a robust research process.
- Map out each persona based on detailed demographic and psychographic information.
- Ensure your content is tailored to address each persona’s specific needs and interests.
- Continually optimize and update your personas over time based on new data and feedback from your audience.
4. Set a Schedule for Publishing and Promoting Your Content
A well-developed content marketing strategy should include a regular publishing schedule and ongoing promotion tactics. Without a plan, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and overlook important promotional opportunities.
Start by setting clear goals for how often you’d like to publish original content on your website or blog. That will depend on your industry and the needs of your target audience.
Next, establish a schedule for promoting your content across different channels, including social media, email marketing, and paid advertising. These are all crucial elements that must be considered as part of an effective content marketing strategy.
Track peak hours and days, and then adjust your plans accordingly. That will help you reach more of your target audience and maximize engagement over time. With a strong content marketing strategy, you can create meaningful connections with prospects and customers, generate leads, and boost your business sales.
5. Have a Plan for Measuring Results
A person without a plan is a person without direction. The same goes for your content marketing strategy.
Having a plan means having a way to measure your results and optimize your strategy over time.
Start by establishing clear goals for how you’d devote time and resources to every content marketing asset and platform you use.
How much time do you want to spend on each activity? How much money do you want to spend on paid promotion, and how will that be tracked?
Make sure your goals are clear and measurable, and then monitor your progress over time. That will help identify what’s working, so you can make adjustments as needed.
With regular monitoring and analysis, you can ensure that your content marketing strategy is delivering the results you want for your business.
Here are a few examples of content marketing plans that can help you track and optimize your results:
- Set up tracking for your website links, including conversion goals and other key metrics.
- Create detailed editorial calendars that outline topics, dates, and promotion tactics for each piece of content.
- Track traffic statistics to measure the effectiveness of different channels and campaigns over time.
- Collaborate with other departments to gain insights into how your content is being used and shared by customers, prospects, and influencers
- Monitor your conversion rates and other key metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy over time.
- Analyze which tactics are generating the best results and make adjustments as needed.
- Submit weekly press releases to promote your content and engage with influencers in your industry.
- Use social media analytics to measure the reach and engagement of each piece of content you publish.
- Track your website traffic to see which channels drive the most visits and conversions to focus your efforts on those areas.
- Create detailed reports outlining how much time and money has been invested into different content marketing activities and their results.
- Use surveys, feedback forms, and other data-collection methods to learn more about your audience and their needs.
- Create a Google spreadsheet with article topics, dates, and promotion tactics for every piece of content you publish.
While working on these tasks, it’s also important to be flexible and willing to make adjustments as needed. Striving for perfection is great, but don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.
6. Test Different Approaches
No content marketing strategy is perfect from the start. To become truly effective, your plan must evolve and adapt over time.
That means testing different approaches to understanding what resonates most with your audience and identifying areas where you can improve and optimize your results.
Start experimenting with different topics, formats, and channels to find what resonates most with your target audience. Then use that information to refine your approach and optimize your results.
For example, say you notice that specific topics or formats perform better than others. A certain type of promotion may yield higher engagement and traffic, but your overall results are still lackluster.
Try changing the format, tone of voice, or other content elements to see if you can improve those results. Or experiment with new channels, promotion tactics, and other components of your strategy until you find what works best.
Another good way to test different approaches is to start publishing content with a “less than perfect” strategy. The best insights and results often come from seeing what happens when you try something unconventional or risky.
7. Pin Images and Infographics
A picture is worth a thousand words, and research shows that images can significantly increase engagement and improve your content marketing results.
One way to add more visual elements to your content marketing strategy is to pin relevant images and infographics on your website or social media pages.
That will help keep visitors engaged while also giving them a glimpse into the exciting ideas you are exploring.
If you have relevant images or infographics already created, include them in your content marketing plan. You can also work with a graphic designer or other creative professionals to help create custom visuals for your content.
Whether you’re sharing internal data and statistics, quotes from industry experts, interesting facts about your products or services, or tutorials, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate this strategy into your content marketing plan.
8. Maintain Online Relationships
You’re as successful as the people you know, and that’s just as true online as it is in real life.
It starts with social media, where you can engage with influencers, build relationships with your target audience, and share content with a broader group of people.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maintaining online relationships also means staying in touch through email marketing, forum conversations, and other online channels.
The key is to be active and consistent with developing relationships and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
To do this, start by identifying and partnering with the key people or organizations in your area of expertise. Then stay active on social media and other online channels to build connections, interact with others, and participate in discussions.
9. Stay on Track With a Content Calendar
A content calendar can help you stay on track, plan for the future, and measure your results.
To create one that works for you, add all of the elements discussed here to your regular editorial calendar (or Google spreadsheet).
Include dates for when you will publish new articles and which topics you plan to focus on.
There’s the temptation of wanting to be on every social media platform, but it’s best to focus on the ones that yield your desired results.
10. Use Interactive Elements
Another way to create more engaging content is to use interactive elements.
That might include polls and surveys, quizzes, calculators or other tools, or even social media integrations.
Each of these offers different benefits—some help you collect valuable data from visitors that can be used for future marketing efforts. In contrast, others provide a way to engage visitors or increase your social media reach.
But regardless of the type of interactive elements you decide to use, they can help keep people interested in what you have to say and motivated to share it with others. So be sure to include them in your content strategy as well.