If your organization is doing content marketing, and it should be, you almost certainly have a documented content marketing strategy. (If you don’t, use this as an opportunity to put one together or get in touch with us for an assist.)
When was the last time you looked at it? Has it been useful, or is it something that you created to check an item off your to-do list and never looked at again?
If your content strategy is buried in a subfolder gathering digital dust, my guess is one of two things happened:
1. It was created several years ago and never updated.
2. Your strategy document is long and complicated.
Consolidating your content marketing strategy into a short, 1-2 page document can give you a roadmap that’s easy for you to use and helpful for other people in your organization who may contribute to your efforts.
But don’t just take my word for it. Research from the Content Marketing Institute says 62% of the most successful B2B content marketers use a documented content strategy. Taking the time to write it down makes a difference.
What is a content marketing strategy?
Before we get into how to create your sleek new strategy, let’s take a moment to make sure we’re all using our terms in the same way. Content marketing strategy, content plan, and content calendar are all terms that overlap each other a little bit. To avoid confusion and miscommunication, here are basic definitions of each, adapted from CMI.
Content marketing strategy: Who are you creating content for, why are you doing it, and what form will it take? The content marketing strategy will answer these questions at a high level. If you’ve done your audience personas and buyer’s journeys, answering these questions should be fairly simple. The answer to “why” should connect to your business goals, so take the time to think about it carefully.
Note: A content strategy can be a separate document from your content marketing document that outlines all the content your business is creating in addition to your content marketing efforts.
Content plan: This is the place to get granular. Document which content will be created by which team member, topics, keywords, specific CTAs — and any details needed for someone to pick up and run with a piece of content. A spreadsheet or tool like Trello will be your friend here. (We actually use both for our CID content plan.)
Content calendar: Here’s where you plot out your publication dates. We use a Google calendar for CID content marketing efforts to get an at-a-glance view of what’s going live when.
Even marketers who have been creating content for years mix the terms up sometimes, so don’t sweat it too hard when it happens. The important thing is that you, your team, and any outside partners who are working on content with you are all on the same page.
Content marketing strategies keep everyone focused
Your content marketing strategy isn’t just a document. It can actually be one of the most powerful and important tools a marketer can have: A forcefield. Let me explain.
As a marketer, you probably spend a lot of time fielding requests for content from folks across your organization. It’s wonderful that they see the value in content marketing and know you can help them out. But sometimes those requests just aren’t the right fit for your brand and marketing goals.
Your content marketing strategy can back up your decision to execute a content request or not. In our experience, a content marketing strategy can help guide a conversation. You might learn that what your colleague is really asking for isn’t so far off-base after all. It just needs to be rethought a bit to fit the strategy. And, when their requests really, truly aren’t a good fit, well, you have a forcefield.
What to include in your content marketing strategy
The document we use is for our clients and ourselves is inspired by the smart content minds at CMI, It’s a simple and powerful compass for our content marketing efforts that has six short sections:
Goals: What business goal is the content marketing effort supporting? You have to answer this first to understand why you’re creating content in the first place. Try to keep it to one sentence.
Audience: Who are you targeting with the effort? Is it all of your audience personas? One of them? Document it here in one or two short sentences.
Categories: What information is the audience interested in? To answer this you’re going to need to do a little research. We use tools like Google or SEMRush to do some longtail keyword research on topics we think are relevant to our audience(s). That helps us create broad categories for our content. Think of the categories as big buckets that help you organize specific topic ideas. For example, the CID content marketing categories are:
If you look at the category tag at the top of this very blog post, you’ll see it falls under the “Marketing Foundations” category. This post is all about a specific topic within that category.
Formats: Are you writing blog posts? Social? Video? Put it in writing here.
Channels & Frequency: Where will your content live and how often is new content going to be published? The key here is to not overwhelm yourself and your team from the start. You can always up the frequency or add channels down the road. If you can only reasonably commit to two new blog posts a month, for example, do that. Maybe you do two in-house and tap your agency partner for two more so you have new content every week. Whatever you decide, being consistent is what’s important.
Measurement: How will you track the success of your efforts? List out your KPIs here.
Remember, the goal here is getting it all on 1-2 pages. You don’t need to be deeply detailed or provide a lot of context. This document should be easy for you, your team, your colleagues in sales, your CEO — basically, anyone who might need to be briefed on the strategy — to pick up and use.
Putting your strategy to work
Once you have your content marketing strategy in place you can create your detailed calendars, and start making and sharing your content. We recommend giving yourself at least a few months if not a full year (content marketing is a long game after all) to see how your plan comes together. Make adjustments to your strategy when needed, but always come back to your goals.
Take the time to think through your content marketing strategy and follow it for every piece of content you put out there. It makes creating and publishing content so much easier and more focused, which is good news for marketers like you and the brands you’re supporting.
So about that forcefield. We can help you build one of your own. Just send us a message to get started.