If you’ve been in a few marketing strategy meetings, you’ve probably heard things like “We need a blog” or “Let’s make some cool videos” thrown at the wall. We’re all for blogging, multimedia materials, and trystorming in general. But, without some strategy behind these efforts, you’re likely not going to see impactful results or learnings you can take back to your organization.
Maybe the blog will get a few clicks. Maybe your video will land a few thumbs up on YouTube. But, what does that mean to the business?
Building a strategy for content marketing sounds complex and time-consuming. And it can be if you’re going into deep content audits, expansive persona development, and pulling in a lot of stakeholders. But, you can also get very far with a lean content strategy.
Here we boil down content strategy to critical elements so you can build a solid game plan in a few days or even hours (if you’re caffeinated enough).
Let’s jump in!
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1) Tie content marketing to goals
It’s important to have a goal for every piece of content you put out there. But those goals must be related to a business goal ‒ either directly or indirectly.
For example, establishing a certain amount of website page views as a goal will help you understand your inbound traffic. But, that doesn’t have a direct correlation to business goals such as revenue or leads. This is often referred to as “vanity metrics.”
However, if you have data showing the conversion rates of website traffic to a form fill (i.e., a lead), you have a baseline for strategic content goals.
Our content marketing survey report shows that businesses that are more successful with content marketing lean toward three metrics for their goals:
- Website analytics
- Form fills
- Email performance
In general, content marketing is great for audience building, making opt-in subscribership and form fills ideal conversions to measure. But you can build virtually any strategy into your desired outcomes.
If you don’t have internal data to build strategic goals, try a web search to find benchmarks for whatever you want to measure (e.g., form fills conversion rates, completed eCommerce purchases, etc.)
2) Create a content marketing mission statement
Some might feel that a mission statement for content marketing is one of those “soft” marketing activities that get filed away and forgotten. But, in a world full of shiny-object marketing activity and non-strategic tactics, having a vision keeps all your effort rowing in the right direction.
There are plenty of resources out there for writing a content marketing mission statement. Our take is to build a one-sentence declaration that shows your “who,” “what,” “where,” and “why” behind content. A statement typically:
Here’s an example mission statement for a content marketing agency, such as New Leaf Marketing Solutions:
“New Leaf Marketing Solutions builds trust and subscribership with values-driven businesses by delivering quality educational materials SMB marketers can use to improve their content marketing effectiveness.”
This mission statement:
- States the value of your content to the audience (your who and external why)
- States the value of your content to the business (your internal why)
- Highlights key channels (your where and what)
Don’t worry about making a mission statement perfect. They’re malleable, and you just need something to act as a “true north” when making content decisions. It’ll be a lifesaver the next time someone comes to the marketing team with a shiny object like, “I think Tik-Tok is super fun. Let’s do marketing there!”
3) Strategic content marketing is audience-driven
If there’s one word to take out of this entire blog, it’s “trust.” Building trust is the foundation that makes content marketing a reliable lead-generation tool. Content marketing is rarely promotional or sales-y because you can easily create skepticism when talking about your products (even if you have the best intentions).
Instead, focus topics on your prospect and customer challenges. What are they trying to solve? What should they be thinking about to get ahead? Answering those questions in content gives you a solid calendar of thought leadership with value to your audience and your business.
Generating audience-based topics could be as simple as talking to customers directly. This could be a phone call, case study, or survey. Another popular way to learn about audience challenges is to cross the carpet and talk to your customer service and sales teams. They’re in the trenches every day and should be able to bubble up the top trends.
4) Plan content marketing with a calendar
Strategic initiatives rarely work when flying by the seat of your pants. So, build accountability into your content marketing operations. The best way to do this is with a content calendar listing and prioritizing what you’re creating, where you’re publishing, and when.
For much-needed project tracking and visibility, you can build processes into your calendar that tracks projects from beginning to end. Workflows vary depending on the project, format, collaborators, and other factors. However, there are three high-level phases and common steps you can use to start your production process:
- Approve topics
- Gather SEO data (keywords)
- Gather information (web research, interviews, etc.)
- Write copy!
- Design supporting assets (graphics, etc.)
- Create landing pages (if necessary)
- Create social media content (if necessary)
- Review with stakeholders/subject experts
- Edit and finalize
- Post to your platform (website CMS, etc.)
- Insert metadata, tags, or other back-end information
- Go live!
It’s a lot of work, but high-quality content is key. The highly involved process is one reason why our content marketing survey data shows that most successful content marketing operations use outside agencies. There’s simply so much content available these days. If you’re not providing value, you’re probably not going to get far with content.
A tip to make better use of content marketing is to build your content calendar alongside your other marketing activities. Whether you have a marketing campaign or activity, be it a newsletter, product launch, webinar, tradeshow, or other marketing activities, content marketing is a great way to tie back to the larger marketing picture and increase awareness of high-priority projects. This builds extra value into the assets you develop and hopefully takes your campaigns to a higher level.
Looking for great examples of content marekting?
Check out our breakdown of Lulu Press’s content marketing for a great example of how YouTube and blog content can complement each other for a powerful content strategy.
5) Design a content marketing conversion strategy
What are you measuring? Demo form fills? Newsletter subscriptions? Free trials? Whatever the case, work backward from that conversion action to build a conversion path with content marketing.
This could be as simple as putting your call to action (CTA) strategically on your website. Or, maybe you need a cross-linking strategy to maximize exposure to your CTA, backlinks from external sites, social media, developing high-value assets, advertising, marketing campaigns, or other activities that funnel your audience to your CTA.
Remember that people are typically hesitant to fill out forms, and just about every brand offers a newsletter these days. So, if you’re going to ask for personal information such as an email address, make good on it with high-value content. This fulfills your promise as a brand while warming those subscribers up to a future sales opportunity.
6) Measuring metrics for content marketing
Reviewing metrics for content marketing comes down to the goals that make the most sense for you. We can’t cover every scenario of measuring metrics, but here are some high-level metrics you can look at based on generic goals:
- Goal: Brand awareness – Organic page views, sessions
- Goal: Lead generation – Metrics: Form fills, page views, sessions, email opens
- Goal: Revenue – traffic-to-order conversion rates, form fill rates, lead quality scoring, lead conversion rates
One thing to keep in mind is that content marketing is typically a long-term strategy. It can take months at a minimum before content marketing yields a return. It takes a while for a website to build domain authority and keyword traction, so commitment is key.
In the meantime, we recommend you:
- Use content marketing materials in other marketing activities
- Use PPC campaigns for short-term lead generation
- Stick with it! Content marketing is highly cost-effective and a differentiator over the long term.
Content marketing strategies for the win
Now you have building blocks for a darn good content strategy. Bringing strategies for content marketing to your next planning session pushes your marketing beyond throwing darts at the board. Who knows, it may even be the nudge you needed to gain critical buy-in for some additional resources to crush your marketing.