In a time where almost everyone creates content, you can’t rely on the act of publishing alone to help you stand out.
To rise above the noise, you must make sure you’re putting real purpose behind everything you decide to create.
If you’re in a role like content marketing manager your decisions are often vital to the success of your content marketing efforts.
After all, your work means something. Not just to the business, but also to the audience you serve.
I’d argue the audience is the most important reason for doing the work you do.
The more you create content to satisfy their needs, the more they’ll benefit and the more you’ll help the business you represent.
Of course, to get started you’ll need to create a content marketing strategy.
What is a content marketing strategy?
A content marketing strategy is a plan to use content in various forms to attract an audience for your business’ products, services, and programs while influencing the behavior of that audience over time.
Although content marketing is a prime component of a digital content strategy, you should not confuse them as the same.
What is a digital content strategy?
A digital content strategy is an overarching plan to use the digital landscape as a means to promote your business or brand.
This plan includes paid and organic efforts, including advertising, syndication, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and more.
As you might imagine, content marketing plays a crucial role in supporting these digital efforts but can extend beyond the digital world.
Why have a content strategy?
Simply put, you should have a content strategy because the content is what people search for, consume, and share online and offline.
There’s also a low barrier to entry, and anyone can get started at a relatively low cost. However, without a proper content strategy in place, you can end up engaging in time-consuming activities that yield little results.
How do you create a content strategy?
Let’s take a look at the steps you should take to create a content strategy. You’ll find it’s more straightforward than you might think.
Step 1: Define your goal
What are you trying to accomplish for your business? At a high level, you’re trying to attract an audience and influence their behavior over time. Don’t stop there. Get specific.
- Maybe you’d like to sell more of a particular product.
- Or, drive more traffic to your website, physical location, or event.
- Do you want people to view more pages and spend more time on your site?
- Do you want to increase donations for a nonprofit?
- Alternatively, your goal may be to establish yourself or your business as a thought leader in your industry.
Many times it’s a combination of these things.
For our purposes, let’s assume you’re trying to generate more leads for your business. You may decide to offer worksheets or other tools that the audience you’re looking to attract finds valuable enough to give up their email address in exchange.
The next step is crucial in identifying those assets that’ll have the most significant impact on your content marketing strategy.
Step 2: Identify your audience
For your content marketing strategy to produce the best results, you’ll need to choose a well-defined audience that you’re looking to attract. You may have more than one audience. Each one should be treated differently based on their unique needs.
Many people are cloudy on who it is that they’re going after with their content marketing strategy. Don’t fall into this trap. When you’re unclear about your audience, you end up creating general content. General content gets you only so far as it just adds to the noise vying for people’s limited attention.
When you’re clear on the audience, you can be more specific with your content because you’ll know your audience like no one else. You’ll have intimate knowledge of their struggles and how you can best help them become more successful with not only your content but also your products and services.
Let’s think through a silly yet straightforward scenario to see how the content you create can be vastly different based on whom you’re trying to attract.
Imagine that your task was to explain quantum physics to the following people:
- A physicist
- Your best friend
- A twelve-year-old
I’m sure you can already see how your tact would vary given the audiences above. The audience dictates the approach you take and the information you provide.
If you understand the audience like no one else, your content better resonates and gets the attention it deserves. You must make a choice.
Step 3: Find your topics
Now that you know your content marketing goal and the audience you’re trying to reach, you’ll need to figure out the topics you’ll need to address with your content.
Not only will you want to think specifically about your area of expertise across three levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, you’ll also want to consider topics of interest that may come just before your audience would know they need to do business with you.
For example, if you sell email marketing software to small business owners, you may consider creating content about ways they can market their businesses with a limited budget. Email marketing may not even be something this audience is aware of yet.
This pre-content provides quick wins for your audience allowing you to build trust and strengthen relationships, so you become the business they turn to once they’re ready for your product or service.
Here are some ways you can decide on topics to create content around.
Capture frequently asked questions
Are there questions you regularly get from your prospects and customers? Create content to address those questions. If you don’t have immediate access to your customers, ask those that do. They’ll get you going. Prospects may also be searching for the answers to those questions.
Research search-related terms
You can also research what people are searching for in your area of expertise, product, or service.
A simple way to get at this information is to use an SEO tool like the Conductor Insights app. You can use this free tool to get ideas based on what people are searching for online.
I used the Conductor Insights app to identify a series of topics to write about on my site relating to content marketing. This post you’re reading on “how to create content strategy” is one of them.
Here’s what it looks like:
Step 4: Create consistently
Since content marketing focuses on influencing behavior over time, consistency plays an essential role in your success. Think about your regular relationships. It’s those people you’re in regular contact with that occupy the most space in your brain. The same thing happens in content marketing.
Keep in mind that Google and other search engines also love fresh content. When you create and publish high-quality content on a consistent basis, it signals to the search engines that your site may deserve a higher ranking in the search results.
Consistency doesn’t mean you need to publish content every day. It’s likely you have other responsibilities to your business or brand. At the very least consider creating one piece of high-quality content per week.
If the thought of creating new content each week overwhelms you, consider breaking the process up over the course of several days.
- Day one: Outline
- Day two: Draft
- Day three: Edit
- Day four: Publish
Read more about this content creation process and moving your content ideas to action.
If you’re working with other contributors, use the process as outlined above to create realistic timelines for when to expect contributions.
Set the due date a day or two before the publish date if you’re responsible for reviewing and editing the contributions before they go live. This buffer gives you the opportunity to handle any back and forth that may be necessary to get the content ready to publish.
If you’re contributing to someone else’s site, be sure to do these eight things beforehand. You may even want to recommend these eight things to your contributors.
Use Google to help you outline your topic.
Type your topic into Google and look for the “People also ask…” suggestions to see what other items people are searching for about your topic.
Here’s what came up for this post:
I used the questions above to outline this post.
Step 5: Promote your content
What good is your high-quality piece of content if no one knows about it? You need to get the word out, particularly if you’re creating content for your own business. Another team member may be responsible for promotion if you’re part of a larger organization.
In either case, you should still be doing some legwork to promote the content you’ve created.
Here are just a few ideas:
Promote with email
Hopefully, you can promote the content to an email list you’ve built. Whether it’s in a newsletter or a regular email that supports your latest posts, email marketing drives traffic to your content. Use it. For the best results, make sure you always build your email list organically by allowing people to opt in.
Promote on social
Share on your social channels with a focus on the channel you use most frequently.
Reach out internally and externally
If you’ve done your job correctly, the content you create is a valuable tool for your audience but also for internal partners within your company that serve the same audience. Be sure you’re sharing with them, so they’re aware of its existence. They may find it helpful for projects and use in their day-to-day activities.
Also, reach out to the people you’ve built professional relationships with outside of your company. They may have people in their audiences that would benefit from the content you’ve created.
Do you need to do all these things to create a content marketing strategy?
Many times people get by with doing just a few of the things listed above. However, their intent isn’t as focused and can lead to a mentality of quantity over quality.
The more closely you follow these steps, the more powerful your content marketing strategy becomes. That’s when you get your content and business to the next level.
Now you have a plan on how to create a content marketing strategy. By following the steps above, you’ll set yourself up for success and avoid the trap of creating content as an activity rather than a meaningful act that supports your business.
Get started by thinking about three business-related goals for your content marketing strategy. Once you have those goals, think about how content can help you achieve them. You can then follow the remaining steps to map a full content marketing plan to succeed.
What do you think? Was this post helpful to you? Did I miss anything? What questions do you have?