I recently asked Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute’s founder, about how technology is shaping content marketing.
His blunt response: “My advice is to get your strategy in order and then you can look at technology. No amount of tech in the world is going to help inconsistent, irrelevant content.”
Content marketers are notoriously bad at developing and documenting a content marketing strategy. According to the latest data from CMI and Marketing Profs, only 37 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. However, the same study reveals that 72 percent of those B2B marketers credit strategy development or adjustment for increased content marketing success over the last year.
So why such a big gap?
Developing and documenting a good content strategy doesn’t have to be a mystery. I’m going to discuss the three core elements of a strong content marketing strategy and the right questions to ask when building yours.
What is a content marketing strategy and what does it look like?
We could write an entire blog series about the definition of a content marketing strategy. But, for the purpose of this blog, here’s our inappropriately short definition:
A content marketing strategy is a document that ties your business and marketing goals to your organization’s audience and content marketing practice.
But what does it look like? That’s tough to answer.
There isn’t a standard for documenting your content marketing strategy. It will vary greatly from company to company. But, no matter how you put it together, a content marketing strategy will give you and your most important stakeholders a clear map for how you use content marketing to reach your broader marketing goals.
It can be a complicated process but, if you focus on these three elements, you’ll be in good shape.
1. Buyer personas
It might seem elementary, but to define how you’re going to use content, you must first understand who you’re developing content for.
This concept has plagued content marketers for quite some time. At Content Marketing World back in September, several presenters touched on buyer-persona development and how it’s time we rethink our approach.
Historically, buyer personas have consisted of demographic data like job title, company size, income, etc. They’re basically definitions of a target market. While it helps us understand a little bit about who our audience is, it doesn’t tell us a single thing about what they care about or what their decision-making process is like.
Instead, here are some core questions your documented buyer persona should answer:
- What is their ultimate marketing goal?
- What are the most important questions they need answered before moving to the next stage of the buyer’s funnel?
- What is their decision process like?
- With whom at their organization do they need to reach consensus?
Once you start thinking of your buyer personas in these terms, you can start tying them to actual content assets and tactics, which will ultimately make your content marketing strategy much more actionable and effective.
2. Your marketing objectives
In Kristina Halvorson’s book Content Strategy for the Web, she outlines a “Quad” model, featuring four important elements of content strategy, which differs slightly from content marketing strategy. But the model still fits.
At the center of this quad model lies the Core Strategy. The Core Strategy is “how an organization will use content to achieve its objectives and meet its user needs.”
Companies often take on things like content marketing assuming there are certain things they need to do. They think they need to blog or they need to create video or they need to do social media. But the truth is, not every organization needs to prioritize those things.
If your marketing goal is to increase organic traffic, you probably don’t need to focus on social media as much as optimizing your blogs and landing pages for search. If you’re hoping to increase gated content downloads, you might prioritize resource landing pages over your blog. If you’re trying to generate more leads or increase your prospect’s lead score, you might focus on email campaign and resource development.
Understanding your broader business and marketing goals will provide critical structure around how you think about and create content and will help your organization prioritize tactics that address your most pressing issues.
3. Your process
In this piece by Convince & Convert about improving your content creation process, the author plainly states, “If your contributors can’t follow your process easily, they won’t.”
Documenting your content creation process can help give clarity to what can be a muddy system. Your content marketing strategy and content marketing practice will be all the healthier for it.
Your content creation process incorporates your methods and the key players involved in your content marketing practice. It should address:
- Who generates topics?
- Who writes the content?
- Who edits the content?
- Who gives final approval?
- How often will you publish?
- Where will you publish your content and how will it get there?
- How will you measure this content and who measures it?
[PRO TIP: Using an editorial calendar will take the guesswork out of the process. Download our free editorial calendar template today!]
Thinking about and documenting this process will help you and others at your organization give valuable framework to the steps and people necessary to fulfill your content marketing strategy. It helps you find inefficiencies and outline the specific roles and responsibilities of the people involved.
Get to work
These three elements are the key ingredients to a successful content marketing strategy. They’ll take time and careful thought to document, but your content marketing practice will become much more effective and you’ll achieve your marketing goals faster as a result.