Before you put a single content marketing wheel in motion, you need to have a well-documented strategy to guide you as you implement and validate your results. Without such a plan, you might spend thousands of dollars per month on activities that can actually hurt your results in the long run. Here we identify 8 critical pieces of any successful content marketing strategy.
Every strategy begins with a goal. Without goals, you can’t measure success. In order to properly measure the success of a content marketing strategy, you need to start by developing S.M.A.R.T. goals.
The SMART acronym is designed to guide you in creating goals that your entire team can use to determine whether you are on-track or off-track with your strategy. A smart goal is:
We see varying degrees of thoughtfulness when it comes to “branding” with our own clients. Smaller companies think less about the importance of a strong brand than larger companies.
In truth, branding is a critical part of any content marketing strategy — regardless of company size — because growth is always the goal, and branding is necessary for growth. If you don’t already have them, begin developing these branding documents now:
We’ve written a lot of excellent informational content about building buyer personas over the years. Here are a few articles we recommend:
In addition, you should be developing strong buying scenarios to guide your content marketing team. These scenarios can be hypothetical or documented examples, but your goal is to develop a deep understanding of how your target personas progress through the buyer’s journey so that you can begin improving their experiences along the way.
Researching your market and your competition is not an excuse to become reactive in your content marketing strategy. The purpose of this research is to empower you to set focused SMART goals and objectives.
At some point, you will see your competition doing something that seems to be working, and you will be tempted to abandon your strategy, lose focus, and copy their strategy. By doing well-researched analysis before you build a content plan, you can avoid those distractions and be proactive in your approach.
Your primary goal with your competitive and market research is to determine your positioning — how your position and your messaging will align to make you stand out from your competitors within your market.
When we talk about positioning, we typically focus on two areas:
Content mapping and restructuring plans are increasingly critical for two reasons:
Instead, a content strategy should include a comprehensive content mapping blueprint that serves as a roadmap for creating new content and (more importantly) pruning or optimizing old content.
With a content mapping blueprint in your hands, your content creation will be more deliberate and thoughtful, and ultimately it will serve your SMART goals better.
Your content marketing strategy should be organized into 90-day content plans that focus on smaller SMART goals and objectives to serve your overall content marketing strategy. 90 days is enough time to accomplish ambitious SMART goals, but not so long that you could lose focus or get derailed by an unexpected shift in your market.
In addition, working in 90-day sprints allows you to build strategies that incorporate innovation and experimentation — all with measurable results — without constantly modifying your core processes. Here are some ideas for elements of a 90-day strategy:
Your content marketing strategy should include a list of base metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to track. Quarterly strategies will include their own unique and specific metrics to measure the success of those goals, but this broad set of metrics will be the finger on the pulse of your overall content marketing strategy’s health.
Some metrics are common to all strategies — like organic traffic, bounce rates, or conversion rates — but you also need to include metrics specific to your company’s growth goals. Here are a few that we see more often:
Lastly, you need to have a plan for how to implement your strategy. You may have a fully staffed marketing department with expertise in everything from copywriting, to PPC, to data analytics; or, you may have a single marketing manager and a few freelancers.
Whatever your situation, you need to develop a plan for executing the strategies that are fueling the growth of your business. We recommend putting together a team that will work well together and can communicate freely.
Another situation that is common for many businesses is that you have enough people, but you lack the training and experience to implement the strategy. In that case, consider hiring a coach to train your team and bring them up to speed.
All of this may seem like a lot of work to do before you ever create a single social post or web article, but if strategy isn’t informing your content marketing, you may be setting yourself up for failure. If you agree with us, consider these services that we offer to our clients: