Content marketing strategy, content strategy, and content plan.
People often use these terms interchangeably (which is understandable, as the lines are somewhat blurry), but each is a bit different:
Content marketing strategy
At its core, your content marketing strategy is your “why.” Why you are creating content, who you are helping, and how you will help them in a way no one else can. Organizations typically use content marketing to build an audience and to achieve at least one of these profitable results: increased revenue, lower costs, or better customers.
WANT MORE? How to create your content marketing strategy is discussed is more detail below.
On the other hand, content strategy delves deeper into (in Kristina Halvorson’s words) the “creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” Note that content strategy often goes beyond the scope of a content marketing strategy, as it helps businesses manage all of the content they have.
WANT MORE? Here are 10 content strategy practices that will make you a better marketer.
In contrast to the other two, a content plan is very tactical. It documents the specifics of how you will execute your strategy, and who on your team will be handling each task. It’s important to understand that you need a content marketing strategy BEFORE you build your content plan. Think of it as a marketing plan that specifically relates to content; thus, it should include details such as the key topic areas you will cover, what content you will create, when and how to share your content, and specific calls to action you will include.
WANT MORE? If you are interested in planning, check out these 23 templates, checklists and guides.
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
What should my content marketing strategy include?
Think of a content marketing strategy as an outline of your key business and customer needs, plus 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.