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Marketing: Do You Really Have a Content Strategy?

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Strategy is a persistent pattern of behavior over time. And it’s even better when it’s documented.

Great things begin with imagining, but do you really have a content strategy if it’s all in your head? Successful organizations document their content strategy. It plots their future direction, but it’s also a way to determine if course corrections are necessary, because past performance has been measured.

It’s the only way to demonstrate a return on investment – and that investment is becoming a larger piece of the marketing pie. The Content Marketing Institute’s latest annual report shows that B2B marketers report having spent 4 out of every 10 dollars on content marketing in 2018. It’s important to have a strategy. It’s crucial to document it.

What are you documenting?

It’s easy to get tripped up over semantics. Do you need a strategy document or are you documenting a strategic plan? They serve different purposes.

  • A content strategy document explains your strategy and your approach. It’s your “why,” and it documents the strategy.
  • A content strategic plan details the steps and your tactics. It’s your “how” and “what,” and it documents your implementation.

One of the best definitions we’ve ever heard of “strategy” is that it’s a persistent pattern of behavior over time. If viewed in this light, you realize that a strategy guides plans. It also allows you to use the concept as mental litmus paper. It pushes you back into the “why” and prevents you from jumping into tactics that might be contrary to what you want your content to achieve. HubSpot created this article to illustrate the approach with a real-life example.

The key elements of a content strategy

You probably know most of these elements already – but it’s time to get them out of your head and into a document. As management consultants are known to say, “What gets measured gets managed.” The same goes for what gets documented.

Some approach this as an all-inclusive document. One excellent templated example that can add documented structure to your ideas is this one from Moz. You’ll especially appreciate this approach if you are – like us – unabashed storytellers.

It allows you to treat the documentation of your strategy as if you are writing a story:

  • Your brand and your customers are the heroes.
  • Your content’s current situation and condition is the ground situation.
  • Your business goals are the heroes’ central desires.
  • Your competitors are the antagonists.
  • Your strategy is the plot.

If your brand and your customers are the heroes, what must content do to help them complete the journey?

If you audit your current content, what does it tell you about where you are right now and where it needs to take your brand and customers?

Business goals and content goals may be related, but your content goals can have a specificity that is unmatched by broader organization-wide objectives. For example, you may determine that you want people to spend more time with your content because you want to position your brand as a subject-matter expert. Articulating this goal will give you some content marching orders in the form of format. You’ll focus on creating content that facilitates engagement.

It’s likely that you’re making a decision on the type of content to create based on your competitors. In this case, it’s not how their business or service competes with you – it’s how their content competes with yours.

Document your heroes. Create personas and granular brand profiles. If your brand was a softball team, what would its name be? Do a full-on SWOT analysis of your current content. Where does it kick, and what’s tripping it? How will you know if the new content you create is successful? What specific behavior will you measure? Now you’ve got some key performance indicators (KPIs). And how is the content itself behaving? Are you seeing better placement on search engine results pages (SERP) compared to your antagonists – er, competitors?

What if you get hit by a bus?

Whoa, that’s a dramatic twist – and probably not what you expected when considering the strategy-as-a-story-plot analogy. Consider it to be food for thought. Documentation of your content strategy taken to the point of written procedures for publishing, distribution, analytics, and ongoing maintenance allows you the peace of mind to know that your content strategy’s tactics are repeatable and can be taken on by others.

This flow of information over time is what validates your strategy, but it’s not mental gymnastics. You have documentation. You’ve got a map that shows where you were and now where you are. You’ve got KPIs based on specific behavior that can be measured to tell you about traction, or lack of it.

While nearly 90 percent of B2B marketers rely on content, just 37 percent say they’ve documented their strategies. But is it really a strategy if it’s just living in your head?

Learn more about how we can help you create a content strategy that rewards you with a way to accurately determine ROI.

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