By Michele Linn published November 15, 2013

How to Create a Documented Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions

36 questions to answer-coverIn this year’s content marketing research, one new question we asked was whether organizations were creating more or less content, compared to a year ago — and the majority of marketers are doing just that. Does that sound intimidating? Do you feel this is a positive trend, or one that just creates greater challenges?

This debate leads off our second roundtable discussion on the results of our B2C content marketing study. But, hold tight — what we learned holds lessons for anyone who is using content marketing, including those who work in B2B and nonprofit industries. 

Watch as our participants Andrew Davis (author of Brandscaping), Julie Fleischer (Kraft Foods), David Germano (Empower MediaMarketing), Buddy Scalera (Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide), Michael Weiss (Content Marketing Institute/figure18), and Karen Budell (Imagination Publishing) discuss the trend of increased content creation in the video below:

CMW B2C Roundtable, part 2 from Content Marketing Institute on Vimeo.

Andrew Davis summarized the call to action from the discussion nicely:

My hope is that we start focusing on less content, bigger success, and higher quality content over just high quantity.

But how exactly should you do this? You need a documented content marketing strategy in order to be successful. As we’ve seen in the responses to our annual survey, 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 are more likely to 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

Of course, this leads to questions that we, at Content Marketing Institute, receive frequently: What exactly is a documented content marketing strategy, and what does it consist of?

In short, to develop a documented content marketing strategy, you’ll need to work through the following key activities:

  • Get buy-in for an innovative process such as content marketing
  • Make the case to your key stakeholders
  • Develop buyer personas
  • Map your content
  • Create your brand story
  • Develop your channel plan

Because each organization has unique opportunities, resources and challenges, no “template” exists for building a content marketing strategy. However, there is a set of questions that you can use to help guide you through the process.

Similarly, there is no singular “right way” to document your content marketing strategy. For instance, we have seen that both small businesses and those with simpler content marketing plans have found it adequate to work through the key questions, without much need for explicit documentation. For larger organizations, or more complex initiatives in which there are more stakeholders, documenting everything may make more sense.

To help you determine what documentation processes will be most effective for your organization’s content marketing strategy, our newest 16-page guide, The Essentials of a Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions to Answer, explains the basics.

What do you think is essential to include in your content marketing strategy? What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

  • J-P De Clerck

    Nice. Many businesses can sure use such documents.

    • Michele Linn

      Thanks, J-P. We hope this helpful for many organizations.

      • J-P De Clerck

        Youtility 😉

  • carmenhill

    Very good guidance, Michele. You can’t have a documented (or effective) content strategy if you don’t fully understand what that means and/or what the tools are for creating and maintaining it.

  • L.

    I work for a smallish grad program that also does a lot of professional training and capacity building. My colleagues are convinced that we need to do a four-times-per-year ezine to get information out and say in touch with our supporters; I’m feeling uncertain, given the data smog that seems to be increasingly daily. Any suggestions on whether this is a good option (a good piece of a content marketing strategy) or what other plans might be?

    • Mike Myers

      Great question. And I think this is a great example of your colleagues jumping directly to a tactic. While an e-zine may be the perfect choice here, you can’t possibly know until you understand what your goals are and what your audience wants, which you learn by creating a strategy. Maybe your audience loves printed material, maybe they would appreciate an email newsletter…maybe they want something more or less frequently. The process of creating a Content strategy will tell you these things so you can move forward with confidence. Not that it’s easy, but it’s necessary. Hope that helps!

      • L.

        Very much so. Many of them have experience in consulting and development work, so the one analogy that has worked is how much background work needs to be done in their work, as with marketing, before we know whether what we can offer has any chance of being effective… I feel like one of the biggest challenges of my job is getting them to sit in that problem space long enough to figure out whether what they’ve assumed is the problem is actually the problem, and many of them (unknowingly, I think) assume they know what marketing is about. Am slowly working at a layered content strategy. Thanks!

  • Doug Kessler

    Great discussion and post, Michele.

    It’s a reliable guide to how much a business values anyhing: is the strategy written down? If not, they don’t.

  • Micheal Bian

    This is great a great marketing strategy. awesome article. TY