Universal Content Marketing Strategy Guide
What is a content marketing strategy? It’s the plan you make to create and promote content online, achieving goals like more new customers, more web traffic, and a better reputation in your industry. Content marketing is an essential component of modern marketing. There’s no longer a question if companies should be producing blogs, social media, video content, or all of the above. These marketing tools are proven to attract more customers and improve sales along with a company’s reputation.
Of course, that means many companies are already doing content marketing, with more increasing their investment all the time. On one hand, brands want to keep up with their competitors. On the other hand, they want to stand out as leaders, not followers. Questioning what is a good content strategy, and if your plan meets the definition, can keep businesses trapped in a cycle of research and endless pivots as you try to both keep up and lead the pack at the same time.
A content strategy needs to help achieve goals in a way that also makes the work of marketing less demanding. While the nature of the Internet means a digital content strategy can never quite be set-it-and-forget-it, there is such a thing as a content strategy template that can put any business from any industry on the right track.
Follow this universal content marketing framework to create a content strategy you’re excited to stick with, even as you leave room for new ideas and flexibility along the path to your goals.
How Do You Create a Content Strategy?
Before getting into filling out the content plan template, the first step in building the framework is, well, the frame. This is developed through self-examination and fact-finding on behalf of your brand. Answers and insights from these early content planning stages will help ensure the finer details of the content plan are effective and make an impact on your audiences.
The purpose of completing a strategy of any kind is to develop a path of progress toward achieving a goal. And no strategist sets out to create a strategy without knowing their mission. So, before anything else, you must decide the goals for your marketing content.
Increasing sales is the goal of almost all marketing, so even if that’s your answer, don’t stop there. Go further and examine how digital content can improve sales for your business.
Common Goals for Content Marketing Strategy:
- Brand awareness: make consumers aware of your products and services and how you are unique in the market
- Lead generation or lead nurture: help sales get qualified leads, or better-qualify prospects before a sales conversation
- Customer retention and upselling: educate existing customers about a need for repeat business or purchasing new products and services
Maybe your sales team is most interested in upselling existing customers. Or you might plan to take it one step further to lead generation. For e-Commerce businesses or other market sectors, you might envision that digital content will be responsible for driving sales from beginning to end. There’s no such thing as a wrong answer or an impossible content marketing goal, as long as you have said goal in mind from the start. Setting more than one goal is fine too—in fact, most effective content marketing operations set KPIs around each one of these goals—but it might mean a need for multiple strategies to advance each.
Defining Audiences in a Content Marketing Strategy
Now that you’ve defined and explored your content marketing strategy goals, it’s important to reinforce your content strategy framework by thinking about the audiences. Just like you can’t construct a building without a foundation, you can’t create effective marketing content without putting your audiences first. They will be the foundation of your success and growth, so what you know about them should also form the basis and direction of your strategy.
While some companies want to say they appeal to every single person, the fact is that content which is created to appeal to everyone will probably be a waste of money that appeals to no one. Even in the broadest content marketing strategy, there are different audiences, and positioning your content appropriately will help your marketing succeed. Here are some questions to ask that will help you better-define the audiences that should be uniquely targeted in your strategy:
- What industry and job functions do our target audiences work in?
- What challenges do our customers face that our products or services help them solve?
- How do our customers feel about those challenges?
- What is the average income of a target customer?
- What is important to our ideal customer?
- How do our ideal customers get and share information?
- What would be any objections to our service or product?
- Who are we winning these customers away from?
- Where do our target audiences live?
It’s not a bad thing to have multiple answers to each of these questions, or to explore other questions that come up during the process. In fact, your different answers are what helps you understand how to position your content and appeal to the best audience for that topic or content format.
For instance, if you know one segment of your audience is in a specific city, while you also want to attract a national audience, you can create different (yet complementary) content that will catch the attention of each group while not leaving out the others.
However, it’s also important to remember that the answers to some of these questions might change over time. Even for established content marketing teams, the content marketing strategy template of 2019 is unlikely to serve audiences in 2020, and so on into the future. The changing times and business environment is why preserving agility in a content marketing strategy is just as important as a good foundation and framework.
How Many Content Marketing Audiences Should My Strategy Include?
Most businesses today speak to at least three audiences in their marketing. Plus, within each audience you can define at least three segments. Some are just starting to explore their need for products and services; some know what they need and are researching options; and some are on the verge of making a buying decision. These phases of marketing are often referred to as awareness, consideration, and decision. You could have nine or more different audience segments and perspectives to think about by the time your content marketing framework is constructed!
This precision will let you target each piece of content, whether a blog, video, infographic, or social media post. That way you know exactly how that piece should be advancing your goals and measure the outcomes.
Conduct a Strategic Content Audit
Before moving on to creating new content, the last preliminary step to developing your content marketing strategy is to survey any existing digital marketing content you have created. Here are the practical steps to a content audit:
- Create a list of all existing web content. This list will help you get a sense of how much content you have and where it lives on your website. Make sure to collect the URLs in your list so you can move between the list and the website easily.
- Gather data about the content. The information you need will differ based on the goals of your strategy. If you’re seeking to improve web traffic, figure out which pieces attract the most visitors and keep them on page. If your goal is brand awareness, information like social shares and comments might be more valuable.
- Analyze marketing content data. Once all your information is collected, it’s time to compare the content and see which formats and topics are proving most successful for your current efforts.
- Decide on the content’s future. Depending on how well content is performing, you may choose to keep it as-is, update it with more current information and insights, consolidate multiple pieces into one, or remove assets that just aren’t working out.
Another benefit of a content audit is to reveal gaps between the goals you have determined and what your current library contains. You may already be coming up with ideas for brand-new content, and also thinking of ways your existing content could do better with small changes, or in a different format.
Repurposing content is great for search engine optimization and improving web ranking. This doesn’t just mean updating the content with new data and calls to action, but also converting it to a new and more effective type of content.
For instance, maybe there’s a blog post you know is full of valuable information, but audiences just aren’t staying on the page long enough to read and absorb it. Rather than struggle through revising and republishing the blog, you could just make a video or infographic to share the same great information in a different and more popular format. Other ideas like turning customer testimonials into social media posts or converting an internal handbook into a customer-facing eBook could also work for your brand. The point of the content audit is you can only make these decisions if you know what is at your disposal to begin with.
Content Marketing Strategy Template
Now that your goalsetting, audience definition, and content audit are complete, it’s time to move on to the new parts of your content marketing strategy. Your strategy should be based on a five-phase template, which can be repeated for each campaign or otherwise regularly, like each quarter.
- Content Planning: In this phase, you will plan content topics and content format. You should also decide which social media platforms or other distribution channels like email or industry publications you will use to share and promote each piece of content.
- Content Creation: This phase involves the writing, filming, recording, and/or graphic design of each piece of content. Some pieces may include multiple phases of creation, review, and revision.
- Content Optimization: In this phase, content is reviewed and optimized specifically for organic search ranking. This includes making sure you have keywords in the title; that images have been alt-tagged for search; that social media posts are making the most of trends on those channels’ and more. You might have some team members working on this phase at the same time the content is being created.
- Content Distribution: The completed and approved content is distributed according to your strategy. This might mean sending it out in an email blast or newsletter, doing a paid boost on social media, arranging for third-party placement in a magazine or publication, publishing a webinar—or all of the above!
- Content Reporting and Analysis: Once the content has gone live, the final phase involves tracking and understanding how audiences are responding to it. Then, the cycle starts over as the data helps you understand how to revise existing content or audience reactions inspire new topics.
These five stages describe a universal content marketing strategy template any business or organization can use. Not only will this approach allow you to plan content in advance, but you’ll also develop a process for content creation and promotion, as well as strategic distribution and analytical follow-up.
No matter how you define each stage for yourself, the process will help you create a winning strategy.
How Do You Write a Content Plan?
This template might be useful to define the process of executing your content marketing strategy, but what about writing the content plan itself? Here is everything you should include in the written documentation of your plan to execute the content marketing strategy across the five stages:
- Clearly articulated content marketing goals.
- Summary of key characteristics about your audiences.
- Preliminary list of keywords you are targeting with this campaign or set of content topics.
- Gaps or flex points for current events and news to inspire new content you can’t foresee right now.
- List your topics with a summary of key points or value propositions to include.
- Define the format of each piece of content.
- Who is responsible for creating the content?
- Break out the specific keywords from your list to define how each individual piece should be optimized.
- Make a list of hidden SEO opportunities like image filenames, alt text, and metadata to make sure the team doesn’t miss any chances.
- Who is responsible for optimizing the content?
- Determine and list the social media channels and other platforms where content will be distributed and promoted.
- Create a calendar or other schedule to establish deadlines when each piece will be ready for distribution.
- Who is responsible for distribution of the content and monitoring social media?
Content Reporting and Analysis:
- Define the analytics that will prove whether each piece is a success, like time on page, shares, conversions, or whatever meets the demands of your goals and strategy.
- Define when you will gather data and which tools you will use to track performance.
- Who is responsible for collecting and analyzing marketing performance data?
If you still want more direction, we have created a content marketing strategy template and PDF that might help you with planning and execution.
Tools for an Easy, Data-Driven Content Marketing Strategy
Like any solid plan, the content marketing strategy you develop must be grounded in facts and reality, especially the truth of your market position and needs of your ideal customers. By constantly keeping the perspective of your audience in mind, you can work backwards from your goals to understand how the right content will help you achieve them. But with the fast pace of news and trends today, how can marketers be sure they really have a handle on the current, real-time needs and interests of their audiences?
The answer is DemandJump. Our platform leverages customer behavior insights using machine learning to provide you with a real-time perspective on the most popular search terms and topics of interest. We even draw in data from competitors and other sources to show you where your content is performing well, and what new content topics could help you capture even more of the market share. We even break down insights by phases of consumer interest so you can tell what each audience is looking for as they become aware of your brand, what kind of research they are doing, and what questions they are asking just before making a buying decision.
With the actionable insights provided by our platform, creating your content strategy and determining the topics to support your plan is no longer guesswork, but on-demand science. Creating a data-driven content marketing strategy has never been easier or more effective than with DemandJump. We invite you to register for a seven-day free trial and try out the platform for yourself.