Content marketing is much more than creating, distributing and sharing content in order to engage audiences, generate leads, improve branding, and other marketing goals you can serve with content marketing. It needs a strategic approach and that’s what a content marketing strategy is all about.
Content marketing fits in a broader marketing strategy so it requires a strategy of its own. However, just as all other strategies regarding specific marketing techniques (email marketing or social media marketing, for instance) such a strategy needs to be integrated in a broader strategy.
A content marketing strategy (not to be confused with a content strategy) analyzes the different ways content marketing can be used across the buyer’s journey, the customer lifecycle and/or the different customer (experience) touchpoints but it goes beyond that. Essentially a content marketing strategy looks how content marketing (not content) can be used in a strategic way as such and for and with other marketing, customer and sales strategies.
A content marketing strategy answers questions such as:
- Who are the buyer personas and what are their content needs and preferences? This questions looks at the type of information different ‘archetypes’ of buyers seek during their buying journey and maps the customer touchpoints, preferred communication channels, and – to some extent – the content formats, although that’s a question for the content strategy too. Buyer personas haven’t been invented for content marketing. They are used for an overall marketing strategy. But in a content marketing strategy you take a more complete look at them.
- Which marketing and other organizational goals can we realize or improve by better using content marketing? An example: traffic building, conversion optimization, event marketing, lead generation and management, email marketing, social media marketing, marketing automation, customer service, etc. can all be improved by a better usage of content and content marketing. Your content marketing strategy looks at this. As a matter of fact, don’t just ask what organizational goals content marketing serves as in the chart. Many people, especially those calling the buying shots, have no clue what content marketing is and so do many executives, even in marketing. So, ask what organizational goals you can support and strengthen instead of trying to separate content marketing from the overall equation.
- Which content marketing metrics and KPIs do we need to gauge success, in correlation with other marketing metrics and KPIs? Although there are some typical metrics used in content marketing it’s important to speak a common language across all marketing and even business efforts. Content marketing is not an island. One of the crucial success factors in implementing marketing ROI across the organization is finding common metrics and using a common language between different departments.
- How will we structure the internal organization – or better: how will we make sure that all content marketing related processes and flows are properly organized, in correlation with other marketing processes and/or teams? Often, content marketing thinkers advice to build teams that are more or less dedicated to content marketing. In practice, this seldom happens (except in some major firms) and teams better focus on the tasks and goals than the exact roles, realizing each company is different.
- For which other marketing goals and even business purposes – on top of the usual suspects – can we use content marketing? Examples: to support your customer service team, to empower sales, to optimize website conversions, etc.
- Which organizational processes, stumbling blocks, competitor data, management goals, customer insights, business stakeholders, teams, external partners, overall marketing priorities, etc. do I need to know in order to succeed? Before even thinking about content strategy, content inventorization or content production, these crucial questions need to be known.
- How is the industry you are in changing? And more specifically: how is the buyer’s journey of your buyer personas evolving in the industries your customers are active in and your business is active in. What role can content marketing play? As an example: look at the evolutions in the B2B services industry. Content plays a clear role but look further. For instance: Key Account Management is a priority in that industry. Can it be served using an optimized content marketing strategy? Also look at the influencer sphere of the buyers in that industry and at the different types of buyers.
- What questions do we need to answer and steps do we need to plan to put our content marketing strategy in action and move to the content strategy that looks at more content-related aspects?
- What existing budgets can we tap into to better achieve the goals using content in areas where return is below expectations (and what are these areas, of course)? An example: you may have an overall budget for your website but maybe it’s better to invest in more relevant content for your buyer personas instead and putting that design makeover on hold this year. Or maybe your organization invests a bit too much in generating traffic and leads but conversions stay behind. You can turn down the volume a bit and invest more in conversion optimization and lead nurturing, using content.
- How do we forecast and get budgets when no existing budgets can be tapped into or adapted? If your organization is missing out on important opportunities – and it always is – you need to make the calculated case for additional budgets.
These are some questions to answer in the content marketing strategy.
Why do you need a content marketing strategy?
The main reason you need a content marketing strategy is because content marketing is not an island. But isn’t a content strategy enough then? No, it isn’t. One cannot compare content marketing with a rather well-defined and strict marketing technique such as email marketing for instance.
Content marketing is an umbrella term. This means that it can be used for numerous reasons and can mean many things to many people. It’s less tangible than search engine marketing, for instance. This is exactly the reason why you need to think about the strategic role of content marketing within your organization and its ecosystem. Without a content marketing strategy, you risk focusing on the content – and content strategy – too much and not seeing the overall goals anymore. In fact, this is one of the most crucial and deadly mistakes in content marketing. Unfortunately, this disconnected view on content marketing happens very often and leads to a focus on the wrong things.
In an age where everything gets integrated and taking into account the fact that content marketing – and social media marketing – is a huge umbrella terms this mistake of content-centricity can not be made.
Finally, by looking at the role of content marketing in a strategic way, that’s integrated with overall marketing and customer goals, you don’t need to get buy-in for content marketing or even make the case. You’re most of all being a smarter and more effective marketer. In social media marketing, executives needed to approve budgets that were sitting somewhere else. In content marketing that’s less the case as it’s connected with many other marketing goals and is not something “additional”. This doesn’t mean that a solid content marketing plan does not often require additional budgets but you’ll sell more business and a better brand perception to the C-suite, not necessarily a content marketing strategy. More about getting buy-in for a content marketing strategy here.
In the ‘modern’ approach of content marketing, where more people look at the role of content in branding, reach, engagement, social and SEO. especially in a pure branding, reach and engagement approach, organizations look less at buyer personas but rather at audiences. Nevertheless, such a view requires a content marketing strategy as well. Unless your company lives from website traffic, a pure publishing model without an overall strategy makes no sense. It’s also advisable to not look at content marketing from the pure social and search context.
Note: if you see an infographic or chart providing a view of content marketing from the perspective of channels, content discovery, audiences, content distribution, etc. it’s not a content marketing strategy depiction but a visual representation of a content strategy, which is something entirely different.