How To Create Your First Content Marketing Strategy

How To Create Your First Content Marketing Strategy

A content strategy is a big picture plan for how you will use your content to achieve your business's goals. Content marketing is essential for today's businesses. Customers expect to see content from brands that explains and/or entertains. Every marketing expert knows the critical role content plays in any strategy. Of surveyed marketing experts, 80% considered content to be a top priority. The average business spends 26% of its B2B marketing budget on content.

A good content strategy will consider these questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What value are you providing for that audience?
  • How are you different from your competitors?
  • What types of content will you offer, and where will you post it?
  • How will you manage to create and publish content, and whose responsibility will that be?

Think about these questions and discuss them with your team to build the foundation of your content strategy. Content marketing can feel overwhelming, but creating a content strategy makes it more manageable by setting priorities and marketing goals. The steps you will follow to create your strategy will highlight information about your business and customers to direct your content marketing efforts.  

Why Do You Need a Content Strategy?

If you post content without a strategy, it's easy to get caught up in short-term successes that don't help your business in the long term. You might end up with lots of posts that get immediate engagement but don't provide any long-term value, or you could end up wasting your time posting on the wrong channels for your audience. Creating a big picture plan ensures that each piece of content you create and post advances your business goals. A long-term strategy means that your content will continue to work for you over time without needing to revisit decisions about the purpose and message of your content every time you post something.

A good content strategy can be a reliable, cost-effective way to get consistent web traffic and leads. If you have evergreen content that provides value to your customers and attracts the people you want to become customers to your site, this content will continue to reinforce brand loyalty and bring in new customers for years to come. While it requires more thought and work upfront, having a strategy will ultimately be easier to manage than posting content without a plan.

Worse than posting ineffective content, you could end up neglecting your content altogether. Content, specifically organic content, is essential for modern marketing. One survey found that 70% of customers would rather hear about a new company from a blog post than an ad, and 61% of shoppers have purchased something after reading a blog post about it. This highlights the importance of link building to your content strategy. Producing good content brings in new customers and strengthens loyalty to your brand. It also makes other companies or outside blogs more likely to engage with and link to your content.

How To Create a Content Strategy

Creating a brand strategy is essential, and it can be less complicated than you think. You'll need to set goals, understand your audience, choose the type of content you want to focus on, generate ideas, create a schedule and post your content. As time goes on, you'll analyze and adjust your content to work better.

Define Your Goals

A graphic showing "SMART" goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound

You can't create content to achieve your goals if you don't know what those goals are. The most common goals for a content strategy are to improve brand loyalty and awareness, engage and educate customers, and recruit new employees. You can start with big picture goals like these, and then narrow them down to more specific goals when it's time to implement your plans. A more general goal, like educating your customers, can set your direction, and making it more specific helps set your plan.

While increased traffic should hopefully come as a byproduct of your content marketing efforts, increasing traffic shouldn't be one of your goals. If your main goal is getting more traffic, you'll end up with lots of promotional links and other content that advertises rather than provides value. Customers will see through this, and you'll lose credibility. Instead, direct your goals toward areas like providing information or building brand awareness, which gives your audience something they can actually use to their advantage.

SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound – are a good structure for setting effective content goals. If your goals use specific and measurable numbers, you'll easily be able to identify and measure the relevant KPIs to see if you're meeting them. For example, if you want to increase brand awareness, you might set a goal to gain 500 new Instagram followers in the next three months. If you want to recruit more talent, your goal could be to increase submitted job applications by 10% over six months. Specific goals can also deal with customer referrals, email list signups, search engine rankings, or ebook downloads.

Understand Your Audience and Current Content

In this step, you'll gain a better understanding of both your audience and the message that your existing content is conveying.

You should use customer personas to understand your audience and your target customer. A customer persona is a fictional person that represents your customer base and displays what sort of preferences and habits that customer may have. You'll look at where your company fits into the customer's overall shopping habits and how they consume content. You'll want to have a sense of where your target audience seeks out content and what kind of content they prefer. This can inform the type of content you decide to make and where you post it.

Interested in learning more about customer personas? Read our blog on creating buyer personas to maximize success.

Assuming you've already been producing content before creating your strategy, it's a good idea to run a content audit. This is an in-depth analysis of how your content is performing in general and in relation to your competitors. This can show you what content is performing well and what works for your target audience. You should plan to focus on areas that are performing well, and think about how to improve weaker areas.

Google Analytics is a great tool for measuring content performance. Discover Google Analytics' most recent update to stay up-to-date.

Make Decisions: Content Types, Platforms, and Content Management Systems

A graphic of a Content Management System. Includes icons representing charts, video call, documents, and the internet

Next, you'll need to make some key decisions. Narrow down the type of content you want to create, the platforms you'll focus on, and which content management system you'll use. Deciding where to post content and what kind of content you'll post goes hand in hand.

Content Types

The major content types are:

  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • Case studies
  • Templates
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts

Of course, there will be some overlap among these. An infographic or a video might serve as a social media post. While your content shouldn't be directly selling your product, it can still be helpful to think about the type of information a customer might be looking for when dealing with problems or questions surrounding your product. For example, a skincare company might write blog posts about the best ingredients for a particular skin concern. A software management company could produce podcasts about productivity. An LMS could publish case studies showing how their product helped customers across different industries.

Content Platforms

Look back at your customer personas to see which social media platforms and types of content you should focus on. Different demographics will be on different platforms. If your customers are teens and young adults, they'll likely be on TikTok. If they're business leaders or use your product or service at work, they'll likely be on LinkedIn. Similarly, different demographics have different content preferences. Most podcast listeners are young, educated adults who are looking to learn and be entertained. Boomers and Gen X tend to prefer research reports and news articles, while younger customers usually prefer video content over written text.

In addition to customer preferences, think about what format makes the most sense for the information you want to share. If your field requires long, technical explanations, you might want a longer ebook to provide advice. If you sell furniture, you'll want to post interior design photos on Instagram or Pinterest. The social media platforms you choose will also influence the format of content you'll want to produce. TikTok requires short-form videos, and Instagram requires aesthetically pleasing photos.

Content Management System

Finally, you'll need to choose a content management system. Content management systems allow you to both add content to your website and store and publish that content. WordPress is the most popular, with a 43.3% market share. Other well-known options are Wix and Squarespace, and there are many more, including those specifically geared to specific types of businesses, like large corporations or e-commerce shops.

Brainstorm and Prioritize Ideas

A graphic of a checklist

Once you've made your format and platform decisions, start listing content ideas. You can look at sites like BuzzSumo to get more ideas and get a sense of what content is popular. Other tools like IMPACT's blog title generator can help you figure out how to structure and present your topics. Ideally, most of your content will be evergreen, but timely content is an important part of your strategy as well. This can include content surrounding holidays that are relevant to your business or your response to new developments in your industry.

Create and Implement a Schedule

A graphic of a content calendar

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what you're doing with your content. Now, you should finalize your plan by setting a schedule for when you'll post that content. Put together a content calendar and assign responsibility for creating specific posts or other pieces of content.

Posting frequently and consistently is essential for certain types of content, like podcasts and social media posts. Others, like ebooks and case studies, can be published on an as-needed basis when there's a topic that makes sense for you to address. While these aren't as time-specific, include them in your content schedule to make sure that they get written and published.

Once you've created your content calendar, stick to the plan, and post your content.

Collect and Review Data

Creating a content strategy isn't a one-and-done process. After you post your content, collect data about how well it performs, and then make time to analyze that data. Look at KPIs like follower counts, clicks, and email signups. Notice if one type of content, or one-piece within a content category, is performing better than the others, and try to determine why that is. Compare your results to the SMART goals you set at the beginning of the process. If you met those goals, it's a good sign that your strategy is working. If not, update your plan accordingly.

Content Strategy Examples

Sometimes the best way to understand what a content strategy looks like is to consider some specific examples.

HubSpot Sales Blog

HubSpot wrote a blog post detailing the company's strategy updates that helped it break an 18 month plateau in traffic. First, HubSpot switched from a month-to-month strategy to a long-term strategy. This let the Sales Blog editor schedule content that provided long-term value, even if it didn't get a lot of views right away. Then, they focused exclusively on bringing in organic search traffic. This meant moving away from quick wins and focusing on SEO for other posts they wanted to publish. Finally, they expanded the blog's scope to capture search traffic for topics that could be tied into the HubSpot brand but weren't as obviously connected.

Evernote Blog

Evernote is a popular note-taking and organizing program. Along with news updates and tips for using Evernote, the company's blog writes articles about topics that a person who needs a note-taking program would search for. These include tips for remote work, breaking bad habits, and setting effective resolutions. These posts are a good example of content that provides value for the reader and helps bring prospective customers to the brand's website but does not actively try to sell anything.

Create Your Content Plan

An illustration of a marketer with his content plan laid out in front of him on a giant piece of paper

Content marketing is essential for your business. Online content is now a major factor in how customers find and get interested in new brands. To put out the content that will get the best results for your company, you need a content strategy. The decisions involved in creating a content strategy can feel overwhelming, but breaking it down makes it simpler. A big picture plan takes over some of the daily decision-making involved in content marketing, so it can make your content creation work easier while also getting better results.

If you need some guidance along the way, you can always ask the marketing experts at Steel Croissant for help. We can work with you on each step of your content strategy process and provide you with the confidence to create the right content for your brand.

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