Five essential elements for a documented content marketing strategy

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 31 Jul, 2017
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How effective do you consider your content marketing to be? Does it frequently help you achieve your business goals or are you unsure if the time you invest is actually worthwhile?

Research by the Content Marketing Institute shows that only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a written content marketing plan. Much academic research has been conducted into the benefits of writing things down. Having a written down document makes it easier for everyone to consistently work to the same objectives, review and measure.

With anything from 28 to 46% of total marketing budgets being allocated to content, you can’t afford not to have a documented content strategy in place. Knowing that you need to sit down and produce a strategy can be intimidating but you shouldn’t let this put you off. To make it easier, we’ve identified five core elements your document should contain. Tackle each one in turn to make the task more manageable.

Here are the five sections your documented strategy should include:

Element 1: Why?

Have you been investing time and resources creating content without any meaningful motivation beyond  knowing it’s something you should be doing? If so, this first element will help you to hone in on the why propelling your content. This section is a crucial part of your strategy because it will anchor all of your content creation, promotion and measurement activity further down the line.

Consider this part of the strategy your business case for investing in content and approach it as such. What is it you’re hoping to get out of your content activity? What contribution will content make to your organisation’s wider goals? How will it help you get to those overarching business targets?

Element 2: Goals

Source: The Content Marketing Institute

All strategies need to document what the endgame actually is. When it comes to your content strategy, that means laying down your content goals. Should your content assist with lead generation for example? Build brand awareness? Create brand advocates? Nurture leads? Help generate site subscriptions?

Once you have a rough shortlist of content goals, use the SMART system (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, time)  to fill in the blanks. It’s helpful to document the potential obstacles that stand between you and those goals so you go into the content creation process well equipped and set up for the best chance of success.

Element 3: Audience

Defining your audience is a really useful part of a documented content strategy and something you’ll refer to over and over again as your content marketing activity kicks off.

You may already have created buyer personas for your business. If so, these can be placed within your content strategy. If not, you’ll need to consider things such as:

  • What does your audience look like? (age, gender, profession)
  • Where can they be found online?
  • What are their preferred social media networks?
  • Who are their influencers?
  • What are their interests?
  • What problems are they looking to solve with your product or service?

This guide to creating buyer personas will help you get started answering these questions.

Having these personas within easy reach means you can easily check if your content is on the right track when you begin brainstorming possible content ideas and then proceed to the creation process.

Element 4: What do you want to say?

An important part of your strategy is defining what you actually want to say with your content. You could take this a stage further and split your intended messaging into a number of sub-sections which tie back to the different parts of your sales funnel or user journey. You may want to include things such as how you differ from the competition and the problems your product or service solves. It’s helpful to refer back to your buyer personas here, to keep your messages focused on known customer desires and pain points.

Having a list of things you want to communicate via your content will make your content planning and brainstorming process easier too as you’ll be able to link ideas and assets to key messages.

Element 5: Channels

In order for your content to achieve the goals you set in Element 2, it will need to be published and promoted. In this fifth core element of your strategy, you should think about where your content will live and the channels you’ll use to make it accessible and visible to your audience.

You may have some budgeting decisions to make if you plan to use paid channels such as content networks like Outbrain, or printed newsletters, to push your content out.

Think about cross-promotion here too. Whole Foods for example has a strategy of publishing a post on its blog:

which links to a video on its YouTube channel:

Bonus elements

These five sections form the foundation of a documented content marketing strategy and serve as a useful starting point if you haven’t documented your strategy previously. It’s important to note that your strategy should be a living thing, referred to and updated often. As such, there’s lots of scope to add to it with any additional information that will help you reach your content goals.

Other sections to think about include measurement and how you’ll track the effectiveness of your content. You may find it helpful to incorporate a content marketing plan defining the types of content you want to create or an audit of past content. This is your document and ultimately, it should help keep you on track for content marketing success.

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