Developing a Content Marketing Strategy


Looking to create a content marketing strategy? You’ve come to the right place. But, before we dig in, there is one critical distinction you should understand: A content marketing strategy is NOT the same thing as a content strategy.

While people often use these terms interchangeably (which is understandable, as the lines are somewhat blurry), Robert Rose explains the distinction in his post, How Content Strategy and Content Marketing Are Separate But Connected:

  • Content marketing strategy: Content marketers draw and develop the larger story that an organization tells. They focus on ways to engage an audience, using content to drive profitable behaviors.
  • Content strategy: On the other hand, content strategy delves deeper into (in Kristina Halvorson’s words) the “creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” As The Content Wrangler, Scott Abel, says, content strategy helps you manage content as a business asset.

If you are looking for information on creating a content marketing strategy, read on.

If you want to learn more about content strategy, visit our Intelligent Content site or sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Do I really need to create a content marketing strategy?

Yes! As we’ve learned through our annual research, not only do you need a strategy, you also need to document it. Those with a documented content marketing strategy:

  • Are far more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing
  • Feel significantly less challenged with every aspect of content marketing
  • Generally consider themselves more effective in their use of all content marketing tactics and social media channels
  • Were able to justify spending a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing
Create your own content marketing strategy. Download The Essentials of a Documented Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions to Answer.

What should my content marketing strategy include? 

Think of a content marketing strategy as an outline of your key business and customer needs and a detailed plan for how you will use content to address them.

While there are no definitive “templates” for building a content marketing strategy — each one will be unique to the business that creates it — there are five components that they commonly include:

  1. Your business case for innovating with content marketing: By communicating your reasons for creating content, the risks involved, and your vision of what success will look like, you are much more likely to gain executive support for your strategy — and to get permission to make a mistake here and there as you figure out what works best for your business.

Learn more: Get our essential starter kit: Mastering the Buy-in Conversation for Content Marketing.

  1. Your business plan for content marketing: This covers the goals you have for your content program, the unique value you are looking to provide through your content, and details of your business model. It also should outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you execute your plan.

Learn more: Get help determining where content marketing fits in your marketing plan.

  1. Your audience personas and content maps: This is where you describe the specific audiences for whom you will create content, what their needs are, and what their content engagement cycle might look like. You may also want to map out content you can deliver throughout their buyer’s journey in order to move them closer to their goals.

Learn more: Get an in-depth look at how to create and use B2B buyer personas. You can also follow this five-step guide on mapping your content. 

  1. Your brand story: Here, you characterize your content marketing in terms of what ideas and messages you want to communicate, how those messages differ from the competition, and how you see the landscape evolving once you have shared them with your audience.

Learn more: Uncover the heart of your brand story with these six questions.

  1. Your channel plan: This should include the platforms you will use to tell your story; what your criteria, processes, and objectives are for each one; and how you will connect them so that they create a cohesive brand conversation.

Learn more: For additional insights and advice, take a look at how to build social media into your content marketing processes.

Don’t have time to build a complete content marketing strategy? Take a look at how you can simplify the process with a one-page plan.

Do I need to share our content marketing strategy with other teams/departments in my company?

We’ve found that it’s beneficial to give everyone in your organization access to your content marketing strategy — even those who may not be directly involved in the content marketing process.

This is particularly critical in large organizations, as it can help keep siloed teams on the same page, minimize duplicated efforts, and ensure that everyone is working toward the same content goals. But sharing your documented strategy is also good practice for businesses that are just starting out with content marketing, for content teams that rely on internal or external subject matter experts, or for companies that outsource any part of the content creation and distribution process.

Of course, how you communicate your strategy depends on the structure and culture of your organization. In some cases, it may be appropriate to share your full documentation. In other cases, it may make more sense to create targeted summaries for certain stakeholders (for example, busy executives, or external agencies), based on how your content marketing strategy will impact their particular roles, processes, and objectives.

In short, consider this: How can you use the principles of content marketing to “sell” content marketing throughout your organization? What do people care about most? This should help you determine which components of your content marketing strategy are most appropriate to share with each team.

How often should I update my content marketing strategy?

Some parts of your strategy should stay consistent even as your content marketing program grows and evolves — namely, your mission and business goals. In fact, these two things are so key that you may want to put them on a Post-it note so you can keep them in view whenever you are working on your content. (For example, at CMI, we use them as part of our acceptance criteria for every editorial content submission we receive.)

However, other aspects of your content marketing strategy will likely benefit from being reviewed and updated periodically. To ensure that your content marketing program remains on target, consider revisiting your channel strategy, core topics, and team processes on an annual basis — or more often if you are just getting started.

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