Skip to content

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

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? Details on how to create your content marketing strategy are discussed below. You can also speed up the process by following the six steps in How To Write a 1-Page Content Marketing Strategy.

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.” 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? Learn about The 3 Strategic Pillars Behind Every Winning Content Strategy.

Content plan
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 create your content marketing strategy BEFORE you build your content plan.

Think of your content plan 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 5 Strategic Frameworks To Take the Guesswork Out of Content Planning.

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, but 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:

  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: Read How To Make a Better Content Marketing Case With ROI to find out how to calculate the value content adds to your business. 

  1. Your operations plan for content marketing: This covers how you’ll govern, manage, and measure the impact of your content efforts. Operations planning helps you clearly define your content purpose, mission, and objectives, so you can put the right team resources, processes, and systems in place to execute your program successfully.

Learn more: To develop organized, efficient processes that empower your team to achieve their goals, follow the five steps for building a content operations workflow

  1. Your audience personas and customer journey 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: Follow this five-step guide to learn how to mind-map your content and increase its reach.  

  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: Use these storytelling structures to build, strengthen, or repair your brand.  

  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: Wondering which social channels will help you strengthen your audience engagement? Discover the answers by building a social media content 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.


Keep up with the latest innovations for developing a content marketing strategy and executing on your plans. Subscribe to Content Marketing Institute and get first-hand access to the latest tools, techniques, and insights.