Content Marketing Strategy

89 percent of startups are using content marketing. A well crafted and intelligently researched content strategy is what separates the “haves” and the “have nots”. Oh, and if you’re wondering, that “have” is ROI on your content marketing.

There isn’t much worth doing in business that doesn’t start with a good strategy being a basic requirement. The first task when setting up a new business is to create a proper business plan. It’s no secret why, either. Trying to get anywhere without a map or clear directions is always going to be harder than doing it with the help of GPS (or at the very least some written instructions).

So, if 89% of new businesses get straight onto the content marketing bus, how many of them have a written content strategy? Well, in the B2C sector it’s 33%. There is a big gap between businesses knowing that content marketing is important and actually getting it right.

The simple fact of the matter is that without specialist knowledge and plenty of time, creating a content strategy is one of those tasks that gets left for tomorrow.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Michael Porter

Creating a content strategy is one of the four foundational steps that Impressona put in place every time we work with a client. The reason for this is that we’re in the results-driven business. Past glories and attractive-sounding words don’t do much when it’s time for the quarterly client results meeting. It’s important, then, that our clients have a strategy, otherwise how can we show any real improvement?

At its most basic, a strategy is a ‘from here to there’ roadmap. Understanding where you are and where you want to go is the least that a strategy should be able to achieve.

Traps and pitfalls of content strategy

Even when a company takes a serious and meaningful stab at generating an in-house strategy, it’s no guarantee of success. There are 101 guides on the internet on how to create one, but, as with any genuinely potent strategy, the key lies in a deep understanding of the specifics of your own situation.

A good example here is social media. A cut and paste of any of the content strategy templates on the internet won’t help you with the core question of “Does my marketing persona actually use Facebook?”, or even the more simple “What content marketing goals can I achieve by using social media?”. It’s a cold hard fact that, for some businesses, social media is a pure waste of time and no amount of strategising will change that (or make the resulting social campaign less of an ROI killer).

Let’s say a competent and effective strategy is created. Then what? Implementation is where it actually gets really tricky. You’ve got your persona sheets? Tick. Researched the demographics and know how and when to get their attention? Tick. Oh, their preferred content is video? And you don’t have any way of creating an engaging video? Queue the sound of the strategy being placed in the bottom desk drawer to gather dust. Sometimes, the implementation of the strategy makes the whole thing seem just too much even to begin the journey.

This usually means that the company in question just goes back to the ad-hoc publication of the odd blog and the occasional social post. In such a case, the strategy hasn’t really changed anything and wasn’t really given a chance.

Secret content strategy hack no. 1: “Go where the data points”

I’ve lost count of the number of times that we’ve finished a strategy and presented it to the client, only for the first comment to be: “But our customers don’t like blogs / videos / interactive content (delete as appropriate)”. When we drill down to it, it turns out that their customers haven’t historically liked their content. Drilling down further shows that the content wasn’t created with a specific customer persona in mind. There is a massive difference in creating a generic blog post verses a laser-targeted post that is compelling for a specific persona.

If the data shows that a particular content type that answers specific questions and is published at a specific time on a specific channel will be effective, then just do it. Make sure you have a baseline to compare the results with, and that your governance is in place to collect the right results data.

Make a plan, stick to it, and measure the results. If that sounds deceptively simple, that’s because it is.

The importance of correct data gathering

Lastly comes the failure to actually collect all that sweet, sweet data. A strategy worth implementing will have identified the metrics that can show whether success is materialising (you did have a concrete idea of what success would look like when you find it, didn’t you?). Putting all your best content out there and then just leaving it hanging will destroy any ROI, for the simple reason that you just don’t know whether the content is doing what it should be doing.

The data which campaigns generate will, over time, give you vital access to intelligence and information that you can’t get anywhere else. How is your content performing with your personas? If you don’t know how to extract this data from what you’re doing, then you’ve got a problem.

So, let’s put it all together.

  1. Where are you now? What will it look like when you’re on top of a successful content marketing campaign?
  2. You’ve allocated the required resources not just to create the strategy, but to create the actual content as well.
  3. You understand what job everyone should be doing and who should be collecting that life-giving campaign data.
  4. You’ve got a positive feedback provisioning loop to use that data to make the next round of content even better.

While it’s not quite as simple as these four steps, it’s not far off either. There’s no point in me offering you a complete template, now, is there?

While it might seem like the whole thing will be a lot of work, and it will, there is simply no better feeling than getting those customers with you directly because they loved your content. They’re ready to do business and become fans of your brand.

Charles Hodson

Charlie is the owner of Impressona. Coming from a background as a freelance content writer, Charlie saw that many companies were ending up with generic off-the-shelf content. He set out to build a company that sets your brand apart by showing off the personality behind it.

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