How to Achieve Your Marketing Goals with a Content Strategy
You have a mission for why you’re doing marketing – goals you want to achieve from it. How can a content strategy help, and what does it entail?
Content marketing is a big deal these days because of its effectiveness. Not just for lead generation, but for thought leadership as well. It’s a necessary element of any marketing program.
With this article, you’ll have everything you need to create a content strategy that’ll help you achieve your overall marketing goals. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Why document your content strategy?
You may want to dive into your content marketing efforts right away, but not so fast! You need a strategy first! Why? These are just a few of the biggest benefits of creating a strategy before starting with content creation…
A strategy keeps you organized. It is the place for instructions and everything you need to know. Having one place for all your strategy elements makes content creation exponentially easier and more effective.
Unless you’re a one-person content marketer, you’re going to need to know how to collaborate with other people in your department and company as a whole. A content strategy makes sure everyone is on the same page to prevent confusion.
A content strategy helps you stay focused on your established goals. This includes your overall marketing goals and any subgoals you have for your content efforts. If you’re not staying focused, you risk wandering away from the main reasons why you’re creating content in the first place.
You want to be able to see whether your content marketing is working, and knowing how you’ll measure your results will help. When you’ve established the metrics and processes for measurement in your strategy, you’ll see the growth and ways you can improve. It also helps you report in on your efforts to company leadership.
A content strategy will help you see problems before they get worse. This falls more under the measurement section of your strategy, but it’s a key reason why you need this document. Don’t let a problem go unnoticed when you have a way to prevent it.
Your strategy may seem like a daunting task at first. There are many elements to include in your document, and each one requires thought and review. You may think you can and should skip this process, but don’t. You’ll regret it because of the reasons below.
- You want to stay organized to prevent loss.
- You have a team of people that all need to collaborate together.
- Your focus depends on having everything available and understood.
- Measuring your content outcomes will give you purpose.
- Measuring will also prevent issues from getting unmanageable.
What should be included in your content strategy?
Your content mission statement should answer three questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What content do you create?
- How does it benefit others?
Your answers give your content creation purpose. It shouldn’t be more than 1 long or 2 short sentences. It can be more specific to your blog or take a broader look at all your content creation.
If you’re curious as to what a mission statement looks like, here’s the one I use for my blog:
This blog serves the everyday marketer, business owner, and curious reader by offering articles and resources about marketing to assist this audience with their own related efforts.
Now it’s your turn. What is your content mission statement? Create one to add to your strategy.
Your main goal should already exist. It’s the overall marketing goal for all your content efforts. It can be the goal for your blog, social media, advertising… More often than not, it relates somehow to lead generation.
Include your main goal in your content strategy to help you create your subgoals. When your main goal is visible, you’ll be better able to create subgoals that correspond well with it.
Creating content goals helps you with staying focused and on track. They are the driving force for all your future activity, so you want to make them count.
Goals aren’t going to work unless you make them SMART. What does this mean?
Don’t cut corners when creating your content goals. The more thorough they are, the easier you can measure and achieve them.
But wait! What if you don’t know what to use as a goal? Copyblogger created a list of some of the best goals to go after with your content efforts. They don’t make the goals SMART for you, but they are a great starting point. These are just a few of the content goals they include:
- Build trust and rapport
- Increase customer loyalty
- Discover new business ideas
Sometimes, you only need one content goal. This is mostly true when you just have a blog, but if you also have a resources section, videos, etc., you’ll want to tie each of them in with their own goal. For example, a goal for your blog may differ from the goal for your eBooks. A goal for your videos may differ from the goal for your blog, and so on.
Develop your own content goals, and add them to your strategy. It may help you to keep your main and subgoals easily accessible and visible throughout the content creation process. Printing them out and pinning that document to your wall may help you stay focused.
When you’re creating content, you need to know your target audience very well. You need to have established reader personas to guide you as you write. When you start your content efforts without them, you won’t know who your content is for and how to tailor it for them.
By having your audience defined in your content strategy, you have what you need to keep your content directed at them. This will make your efforts more effective because your audience will receive a more personalized experience.
What do you need to know to create these audience personas? These are the key steps:
- Collect demographic information or your existing audience, if applicable.
- Use your existing demographic data to create the data of your ideal audience.
- Research what your audience’s needs and pain points are.
- Examine how your website visitors behave after landing on your content pages.
- Get input from your sales team.
- Survey your existing readers for their input.
- Do a content audit to see what’s working and what’s not.
Create your own content audience personas and add them to your strategy. They will come in handy every time you’re creating a new piece of content.
A competitive analysis is key to your content strategy because you’ll want to create content that beats your competitors. The only way to know whether your content is doing better than them is to have thorough research on your top competitors.
Auditing their existing content is the best approach. You’ll discover the content types that work and the missing gaps in their content that you can fill. When you audit their content, you not only learn how they’re doing. You generate ideas for your own content.
These are key actions you’ll want to take in your competitive research:
- Don’t restrict yourself to just their website. Check social media, guest blogging efforts, and other blog hosting platforms, such as Medium. Your competitors may use other platforms to host their content. You don’t want to miss these content pieces.
- Ask the right questions during your audit. How often do they publish content? How many content pieces at a time? How do they promote their content? When you know this information, it can help you decide on your own content schedule.
- Examine the content itself for quality. Is their content long-form? How thorough are they? Is anything missing from their content? Use this information to create your own content that’s better and more helpful than your competitors.
Your competitive analysis is never final because your competitors will change their approach with time. Make sure you’re checking their content regularly to see what they’re doing to improve. You don’t want to ignore this because you’ll just fall behind.
This is the time to audit your own content, if you already have it. Adding a content audit to your strategy will help you see what has worked and what hasn’t. It’ll teach you what you can do to improve in the future.
CoSchedule developed a content audit template that will help you do this seemingly daunting task in a much shorter amount of time. With their template, a task that could take days to complete can be done in only a few hours. It’s quite handy.
Your content audit should include these tasks:
- Check what content has performed the best in visitors and time on page.
- Check the content that has the most social shares and engagement.
- Look at your blog comments for engagement and sentiment.
- Look at the content that’s least popular and learn why that is.
- Examine your worst performing content for ways to improve.
- Find the content that you haven’t created yet to use as inspiration.
Your content strategy will benefit from having this audit. Why? Well, an audit will teach you many things about what you need to do to create effective content in the future. It’ll show you the mistakes you can avoid, and it’ll help you develop ideas for the future.
Add your content audit to your strategy, but be prepared to update it regularly. You can audit your content every month, quarter, annually… It just depends on how active you are and what your goals are.
A good content strategy will include a variety of content types. You don’t want to stick to just blog articles. You have so many content types to create!
Let’s go over some content options you’ll want to include in your strategy. These types have become exceedingly popular and effective.
- Ebooks and whitepapers
- Content upgrades
The list goes on, but you have an idea now as to what you can include in your own content strategy. You don’t want to limit the possibilities, so add the content types that you know your audience will appreciate. Even if it means leaving your comfort zone. Content creation is about your audience first, after all.
Another element to add to this section of your content strategy is whether you’ll use content curation in your own activity. This is a great way to build relationships with other websites. It’ll improve your trustworthiness and influence. When you include content curation in your strategy, you give your efforts a boost. Content curation will save you time, so it’s definitely worthwhile.
Add the content types that you have the ability to create, but make sure you’re focusing on the content your audience wants from you. Reserve resources for the top content types that’ll perform best. If video is popular with your audience, invest in everything you need to create them. If content upgrades and other gated offers are needed, consider hiring a graphic designer.
This is a section of your strategy that may be quick and simple, depending on how complex your content creation is. When you’re filling this section out, you’ll want to organize it by content type. Your blog will have its own categories compared to your YouTube channel, and so on.
This blog has nine categories that all revolve around the main theme: marketing. Some examples include:
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
What are the categories you need to include? Add a place in this section for each content type’s categories even if they closely resemble each other. It’s important that you divide them for easy reference later on.
When you’re a team of one, you don’t need this section. However, if you have a team, you need to clearly define each person’s role. This will prevent confusion and error.
If you don’t complete this section, Sarah might not realize she’s in charge of social promotion, so that’ll go ignored. Sam might not know he’s supposed to be creating the content upgrades for each blog article, so your lead generation will suffer.
Defining staff roles will save you from many mistakes and team confusion. It’ll improve your workflow and make your content creation much more organized and effective. Add your team roles to your content strategy so that everyone knows what they’re in charge of doing.
Content Style Guide
With multiple people on your team, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page with the tone and style of your content. When you have a team creating content, it can be easy for your content to have a wide range of writing styles. You don’t want that.
You want your content to have the same tone and style for consistency. Your audience will just get confused if the content differs too much between authors. That’s why a content style guide is so important.
When you add a style guide to your content strategy, you keep your team or even just yourself informed of how the content should appear. Your strategy is a document everyone should reference regularly, so your style guide belongs here. Of course, having copies accessible outside of your strategy would certainly help, too.
Your content creation depends heavily on your measurement process. If you want to know whether your content is performing as it should, you need to know how you’ll measure that.
With content marketing, you have several key metrics you should measure regularly. These are a few that you should consider:
- Time on page
- Visitor path
- Social clickthrough rate
Measurement shouldn’t be restricted to just website data. Make sure you’re tracking social shares and engagement. Track search ranking and whether people are clicking through.
Content Marketing Institute created a guide for content measurement, and they provide four Google Analytics reports to assist you. It’s a handy article because the author, Michele Linn, teaches you how to track the metrics while also explaining how you can use the data you collect. That last part is especially helpful for those of you who want help understanding data.
Add a measurement process section to your content strategy so that you and your team can properly track your content’s performance. Include a place for Google Analytics data while also making room for social media analytics. This data is a must-have if you want to stay ahead of the game in content creation.
Your content strategy should have a calendar included. Your calendar is a separate identity from your strategy, but it’s still something that can strengthen this document.
Most times, your content calendar won’t be a Word or Google document. Many people use Excel, Google Sheets, or a paid program to host their calendar. This makes including it in your strategy a challenge.
That’s why your best option is to use this space not as your main, full calendar but more as a place for defining your schedule. Add how often you’ll publish content. Include the content types you’ll publish each time. If you’re following a themed approach, mention the content types and categories you’ll focus on per month or quarter.
Idea Generation Plan
You’ll always want to have an easy and effective way to generate ideas for your content creation efforts. Your strategy is a great place for listing a process and linking to resources for finding ideas.
Oftentimes, all you need to combat writer’s block are content topic generators. These online programs are very helpful at giving you topic ideas, and the prompts make creating catchy headlines easier.
You also want to have a way for finding blog topics that appeal to your target audience. This includes keyword research, a competitor review, and knowing who your audience actually is.
When you want to work as a team, it can help to have an established brainstorming process. As you all discuss topics and ideas, use this brainstorming process by CoSchedule to transform your efforts from lengthy and detailed to simplified and only 30 minutes long. It’s a great system to use when you have a team that all have their own ideas for content creation. It helps everyone narrow down the list of ideas into something more manageable and realistic.
Now that you have plenty of ideas coming in, you need to know how to organize them. Establish your own organization system for your content ideas so that they’re easily referenced. Your content strategy is a great place for this because all your ideas will be in one place.
In this section of your strategy, make sure your ideas are clean and legible. Don’t let them get lost in a mess. The best way to organize your ideas within your strategy is to separate them by content type and then category. Make a table within your strategy document to help you keep this system clear.
Content Promotion Plan
There are many ways you can promote your content, so it’s important you define each of them in this section of your strategy. Let’s go over two of the typical ways you can promote your content:
- Email Campaigns: create newsletters or announcements for your top content to share with blog subscribers, prospects, and existing customers. Make your email marketing count by optimizing each element.
- Social Media Outreach: use social media to spread the word about your new or top-performing content. Reaching out via social media can increase your content’s exposure and help you reach your target audience in a way that attracts them to your site. Just make sure you’re promoting your content with social media best practices in mind.
Those are two highly-effective ways to promote your content no matter what type it is. It doesn’t have to be just blog articles or website content. You can share videos or any content type that appeals to that specific audience. The important part about content promotion is that you must customize what you share to the platform’s audience. If the content doesn’t attract them, it won’t bring you results.
Is your content strategy ever finished?
Your strategy is never finalized. It’s always a working document because you’ll be changing and growing with time. You’ll have new content types or different promotional tactics. You might change how you schedule your content, or even your goals might change.
This is why your content strategy should always be available and ready for adjustment. It is essential that you keep your strategy current with your efforts and even external trends.
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Well there you have it. You’re now ready to create a content strategy that will help you achieve your marketing goals. Of course, you’ll want to customize how you organize and use your strategy, but it’s best to include every stage mentioned if you want to see the best results.
When you have a lot of content in existence, in development, or reserved for the future, you need a content strategy to keep yourself on track. You have goals to achieve, and a strategy is how you’ll get there.
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