By Michele Linn published May 30, 2014

2 Essential Elements for Getting Started With Content Marketing

image-blindfolded woman shruggingThis week we are kicking off a series of “Back to Basics” posts that outline the fundamental skills and information you’ll need to achieve success with content marketing. While these posts will be best suited to beginners — who often struggle to connect the dots as they sift through the enormous amount of information available on content marketing — more seasoned content marketers may benefit from using them as checklists for covering the necessary bases. 

If you are new to content marketing, you can start off with Content Marketing Institute’s post on how we define our discipline and the ways it fits in with other marketing techniques.

Where to begin

Here’s a question I get asked all the time: “What do I need to do to get started in content marketing?” Simply put, there are two essential elements to every successful content marketing plan:

  1. An understanding of your goal(s)
  2. A mission statement

These two elements are key, not only because they help you decide what content you should be creating, but also because they are great lenses through which you can examine content projects from an enterprise perspective and figure out if there’s something in particular that you should not be doing.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail:

Understanding your goal(s)

Content should never be created for its own sake. Rather, it needs to support at least one core marketing or business goal. Consider the ways you would like a proposed piece of content to help your business. For instance:

  • Do you need to raise awareness for your brand?
  • Do you need to build your email list?
  • Do you need to nurture prospects along their buyer’s journey?
  • Do you need to convert your audience to paying customers?
  • Do you need to retain customers and/or increase their purchases (up-sell/ cross-sell)?
  • Do you need to convert customers to evangelists?

Remember to constantly ask yourself, “How will this project support our business goals?” If you find that the content you have planned will not support those goals, chances are that it should not be a priority.

Creating (and following) a mission statement

As Joe Pulizzi discusses in his book, Epic Content Marketing, a mission statement outlines a company’s reason for existing — and the priorities and perspectives it upholds in pursuit of that mission. As such, it should speak to three components of any successful marketing endeavor:

  1. The core audience target: The type of person you can help most with your content
  2. What will be delivered to the audience: The types of information you will provide through your content
  3. The desired outcome for the audience: Things your audience will be able to do once they have consumed your content

Hint: Your audience should never be “everyone” — even if you can find a use case for everyone. Be as specific as possible, and then get to know this person as well as you can. You may have a few different audiences you plan to target with your content, and that’s perfectly fine. If you’re wondering where to “draw the line,” consider whether their informational needs are different. If they are, you will likely need to consider them separately.

Here are some ideas on how you can use your SEO data to develop precise personas.

To see other examples of mission statements, check out this complimentary chapter from Epic Content Marketing.

An example from CMI

CMI has been going through its own “back to basics” exercises recently as a way to evaluate the impact of our team’s efforts and determine what changes we need to make to deliver the best possible content and experiences to our audience. As such, we thought it would be helpful to share what we have learned along the way.

Our key goal is to build our email list, as it’s the backbone of everything else we do (such as our live events, our online training program, etc.).

This is our CMI mission statement:

Content Marketing Institute leads the industry in advancing the practice of content marketing for enterprise marketing professionals. We educate our audience through real-world and how-to advice through in-person events, online training, a print magazine, daily blog posts, and original research.

Thus, whenever we evaluate the viability of a new content idea, we ask ourselves:

  • Will this help to advance the practice of content marketing (i.e., does it speak to our reason for existing)?
  • Will it be useful to marketers at mid- to large-sized brands (i.e., our target audience)?
  • Will it help us grow and maintain our email list or nurture those on the list to other activities (i.e., does it help us meet our key goal)?

While there are certain things we do that may not be a “yes” for all of these categories, the majority of our projects support our goals — and they always support our mission, above all else. It’s key that we make sure everyone on our team understands what our goals and mission are, so we’re all working toward the same outcomes and can measure the results we achieve (more on that in an upcoming post).

Launching a successful content marketing program has never been easier. Download our free workbook and let us take you every step of the way.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research to attract the attention of prospects, customers, media and other influencers. Before starting Mantis, Michele was one of the first employees of Content Marketing Institute where she was head of editorial and was instrumental in building the platform to 180,000 subscribers. For seven years, she had hands-on experience in all aspects of CMI’s editorial including the daily blog and annual research. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • rogercparker

    Dear Michele:
    A great start to what i hope will be a long-running series. Even the most experienced players can learn by reviewing the essentials and adding their voices. Roger

    • Michele Linn

      Thank you, Roger! We have an 8-part series planned to start.

  • Perfect money hosting

    For many this will be a minor point, however. As we’ve already mentioned
    on a day to day basis the CMI just keeps doing what you need it to with
    aplomb. It’s solid, dependable and powerful – it just won’t make you
    feel sexy.

  • globalcopywrite

    Hi Michele,

    I love this idea of a ‘back to basics’ series. Of course, it’s a great opportunity to review current content marketing strategies, especially if they’ve been going for awhile.

    Many businesses in Australia are just becoming aware of content marketing. For many of my clients, trying to find information for how to start is a little bit like jumping on the autobahn the day you traded up from horse & cart to an automobile. This will help those people immensely.

  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Nice post here, Publishing the odd blog post, sending a tweet now and then does not a content marketing strategy make.

  • MightyTravels

    Great post – will really help a lot of businesses who are clueless when it comes to simple content marketing strategies.

    Torsten @

  • Hassaan Khan

    Great Post Michele.

    Audience and delivery of benefit are important factors of Content Marketing.