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Your content marketing strategy is the secret sauce behind all your content success. It determines the who, what, where, when, why, and how of every piece you produce.
A well-defined content marketing strategy also helps stretch every dollar and streamline production processes. Whether you want to grow website traffic, increase leads, or drive conversions, you need content—but not just any content. You need a content plan.
A content plan isn’t:
No, that’s not a content plan—those are content tactics. While each is fine and dandy, without being part of a greater plan and strategy, each tactic is just an isolated attempt to accomplish something.
But what is that something? What do you want your blog post to do? Why do you spend thousands of dollars on customer case studies, and who even consumes what you create?
That’s what a content marketing plan seeks to define and answer.
Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to create a content marketing strategy (the right way) in 2023. We’ll show you step-by-step processes for developing your plan, creating different types of content, and making sure you don’t forget anything with a checklist.
But first, let’s get on the same page about what a content marketing strategy is and why this matters.
A content marketing strategy explains how you’ll use content to get your customers to take a specific action:
Your content marketing plan outlines the following:
With the above definition in mind, let’s look at an example of a content marketing strategy.
Let’s say your cybersecurity business struggles to build brand awareness. Management decides it wants to increase traffic to the website’s blog and product pages, but it doesn’t have a large budget for high-quality video production or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
With that in mind, you create the following high-level content marketing strategy example:
That’s a very rough overview of what your content marketing strategy could look like—but it is a solid beginning to a plan.
We’ll probably say this a few times (because it deserves repeating), but always follow the 80/20 content creation and distribution rule. This rough guideline suggests you spend:
The fact is: just because you build it does not mean they’ll come.
Ambitious, inexperienced content marketing teams get hyped about their strategy and overemphasize the content production process. They produce amazing content on the internet that nobody can find.
And when it comes to digital marketing, that’s as good as never existing at all.
Spend the bulk of your time promoting your great content. That means you should invest time into:
Content marketing without a formalized, well-researched strategy is just throwing darts at the board and hoping one sticks. You can get by with this method for a while—you might hit 6-figure traffic numbers—but it won’t last.
When the slightest algorithm changes or numbers start to dip, you’ll resort to throwing darts again—and this time, you might miss them all.
A content marketing strategy helps you get from point A to point B. It lets you define success and work toward it rather than chasing vanity metrics and wondering how your content marketing succeeded while your business went under.
Here are a few of the data-backed benefits of a content marketing strategy:
Now, let’s talk about business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) content marketing strategies.
B2C and B2B content marketing strategies share a lot in common, but there are a few crucial differences:
While B2B and B2C used to use different content marketing strategies, we’re starting to see overlap more often. Now, it’s possible to sell some B2B content with fun, exciting content on social media—and some B2C businesses have taken advantage of traditional content, like demos and tutorials.
The takeaway: Recognize the differences but don’t be afraid to experiment and see what resonates best with your audience. Just because you’re a B2C company doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of webinars—and just because you sell B2B products doesn’t mean you can’t engage with customers with live streaming or Twitter posts.
Following a formalized step-by-step content marketing production plan will ensure you leave no stone left unturned. Resist the temptation to jump around here—the value is from starting from the top.
The best content idea will flop if not supported by the right strategy, goals, and promotional plan.
Take Hoover, for example. It had the idea to boost sales by placing an advert (content) promising 2 free flights to America when a customer bought £100 worth of Hoover products. The result? Hoover made £30 million in sales (woohoo!) while incurring £50 million in plane ticket expenses (boo!).
Follow this step-by-step process to ensure you get your whole plan right.
Set key performance indicators (KPIs) for what you want your content marketing strategy to achieve. There aren’t any wrong goals. However, you can have the wrong content for the goals you’ve set—and vice versa.
Here are a few KPIs to consider:
Define your buyer persona clearly. Who will read your content, and why should they care? What are their pain points?
Content marketing also gives you an opportunity to expand your target market. Your business might have already identified key buyer personas, but your content marketing strategy might experiment by getting in front of other niches or groups of people.
Regardless of who you target, take time to understand them. Write down their characteristics and demographics. Discover what kinds of content they enjoy and consume.
Now (this is the most important part), take your goals and buyer personas and bury them deep in a cloud folder or file cabinet where you’ll never find them again.
Just kidding. Did it get your attention? Good.
Then, review your business goals and your target market regularly. Keep these resources available and revise them every time you create a new piece of content. Every new article, long-form guide, podcast, video, illustration, and infographic should contribute to a specific KPI and be relevant to a buyer persona.
Decide what content will bring your strategy to life now that you have your goals and target audience.
Want to increase sign-ups to your software-as-a-service (SaaS) SEO tool? You could create top-of-funnel video content on YouTube targeting SEO professionals. Want to upsell your current customers on a new upgraded pricing tier? You could build out an email drip campaign introducing them to the new features.
Remember: Always tie your content to a specific KPI and buyer persona. If you can do that, you’re on the right track.
Dive into the research once you have a broad overview of the content you want to create.
It’s not enough to know you want to write top-of-funnel articles about vacation planning—what specific blog posts will you create? Want to start a podcast series to increase brand awareness? What topics will you cover?
You’ll likely come to the content strategy planning phase with a lot of good ideas. Write those down, and put them to the side. These could have a solid place in your strategy, but let’s start with what the research shows.
Here are a few ways to begin your content research:
Here are a few research tools to consider:
Remember the 80/20 rule? Spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% of your time promoting it. The content you create is crucial but not nearly as influential as the channels you use to distribute it.
Get your distribution channels right, and your content will get all the love it deserves.
Think of what channels you have at your disposal:
Partner with the right teams and departments—depending on your team’s structure, you may already control social media, webinars, and email.
You need their buy-in before you create the content. If you can’t get their support, you’ll waste time and budget on high-quality content your audience might never find.
While it’s all for the good of the business, collaborating with teams might require a bit of give and take. They have goals to meet—and so do you. Come to the table with ways to align your efforts and help each other.
Audit your existing library to see what you already have before creating new content. Content marketing teams have a consistent problem of duplicating work, but this is where you can put a stop to that with proactive content management.
While auditing your existing content, ask these questions:
Create a schedule to put your content strategy into an actionable plan—this is the stage where you fit all your content pieces into the ever-shifting calendar puzzle. Your calendar likely won’t be set in stone, but that’s not the point. Building a content calendar is where you can plan the schedule for your content strategy realistically.
Go beyond just setting publishing dates. Schedule each stage in the process:
Remember: Collaborate with the teams responsible for your desired distribution channels. Depending on their bandwidth and other asks, you might want to accelerate or delay publishing a piece.
While most distribution teams are flexible with fitting in your pieces, you can show the same flexibility by editing your content calendar in advance to align with their campaigns better.
Here are critical dates to remember for you and your email marketing teams: 2023 Email Marketing Calendar.
Get ready to create the content—the fun part. Imagine that, right?
At this point, your content has a goal, audience, research, promotion channels, and schedule.
While it might sound crazy to go through this entire process to get the actual content creation, this strategic approach ensures the quality of every piece of content.
Back to the 80/20 rule (again).
You have a content calendar and know when to publish content, and now it’s time to make a plan for distribution. In step 5, you identified the right channels, and in step 6, you began to collaborate with the channel owners.
Now, it’s time to create a content distribution plan and calendar. A plan ensures you send messages with frequency, scheduling, and budget in mind.
For example, you need to get on your email marketing team’s schedule beforehand to avoid publishing your guide the same day they send their end-of-month newsletter—but you won’t know that unless you coordinate well in advance.
Monitor content performance now that you’ve released your content into the world. Metrics can influence updates you make to your plans for future content while providing crucial insights.
First, watch the metrics of your specific piece of content. Depending on its type, you might look for a few things:
Next, evaluate the distribution channels. You might find that certain promotional mediums work better than others—but you won’t know until you look at the data:
This checklist condenses the thousands of words above into a succinct to-do list. While you’ll want to reference the points above to ensure you cover all your bases, this checklist will give you a visual to know where you stand.
There are endless content marketing strategies your business can use. Seriously, we can’t imagine listing all of them here—and we wouldn’t want to waste the space because not every content type is worth your time.
Below, we focus on the best-of-the-best types of content marketing strategies. These are the tried-and-true tactics successful timeless and everyday businesses use to accomplish content goals.
Email marketing boasts an amazing ROI of $38 for every dollar spent. We know, we’re a bit biased, but we’d be irresponsible if we didn’t mention email marketing first.
However, the fact remains that email is a powerful content and distribution channel. Once you build your email list, you’ll have a base of subscribers who’ve asked to receive your content. That’s different from SEO and social media—where algorithms determine what content your user sees.
When someone subscribes to your email list, they request (and expect) your messages.
Here are a few ways you can use email for content marketing:
Blog posts serve plenty of content marketing purposes:
You can also promote your videos, podcasts, and infographics by adding them to your blog posts.
Video has been on the rise in recent years, thanks to better internet connections, more powerful mobile devices, and the rise of over-the-top (OTT) video content.
You can use video content to boost traffic from channels like YouTube and Vimeo or embed them within your blog posts to improve the content quality.
Social media is a must-have medium for most brands, but there’s never enough investment in the time, love, and energy that the channels deserve. Loyal followers across social media networks can be a huge revenue, traffic, and lead-generation driver for your business, but you’ll need to spend time creating high-quality content (not just reposting all your blogs).
Here are a few social media channels to consider for your brand’s content marketing:
Remember: Not every channel will be worth your energy. Think about where your audience spends their time—that’s where you want to be. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by trying to be active on every social media platform, either. Focus on quality over quantity.
Every content marketing strategy will look different, but there are a few universal best practices to keep your campaign on track. Follow these tips to get the most out of your strategy:
Find consistency you can maintain—whether with your email campaigns, social media posts, or blog articles. It’s better to post once a week rather than sometimes three times and not at all other weeks.
Also, be realistic when setting your initial cadence, but don’t hesitate to switch things up. Feel like it’s too difficult to maintain 2 blog posts per week? Change it to one. Want to go from posting 3x a week to 5x a week on Instagram? Give it a go.
However, when it comes to email, ensure your audience is on board. If they signed up for a weekly newsletter, don’t switch to a twice-a-week schedule without their opt-in and approval.
Don’t get caught up in trying to produce more and more content—instead, focus on high-quality pieces. Remember, 20% of your content will drive 80% of your results (yes, it’s the 80/20 rule again).
While you’ll likely write a fair amount of timely content, always try to identify evergreen pieces. Evergreen content stays relevant for longer—the benefits provided continue long after publishing. Sometimes, the content can last for years (and even decades).
For example, a post about the best social media channels in 2023 might not garner attention for too long. However, an article about email marketing best practices will likely offer relevant advice for years to come.
Resist the urge to chase every shiny new marketing object, as these will likely steal your attention occasionally. While it’s not bad to experiment with new ideas—it’s something you should always do—often, it’s not about finding new ideas but rather scaling your successes.
For example, if your blog’s organic traffic thrives and the Google search engine results pages (SERPs) show you some love, continue producing high-quality content. It’ll likely continue ranking well.
Then, scale it. Put most of your content efforts into what works, and always leave a tiny fraction to experiment with new ideas.
Don’t get stuck—always experiment with new ideas. Content marketing starts with creating content your audience loves, but those wants, needs, and trends change with time.
You might find a ton of success with your TikTok marketing strategy for a few months, but a new platform will likely emerge in the coming years, and you’ll want to shift attention there too.
Always try new ideas.
Create systematic processes for creating content. If you leave the processes all willy-nilly, you’ll find a mixture of quality—and you want consistency.
A content creation process could look something like this:
Remember the 80/20 rule always.
After launching your program, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks. Management might ask for more content, and the paradigm will likely shift from promotion to publishing.
However, it’s not always about more content. Often, it’s just about better promotion and distribution.
Ready to distribute your content marketing strategy with a tried-and-true promotional channel? Email marketing has been around for decades (much longer than any social media platform), and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Twilio SendGrid’s email marketing platform can help with the following:
See for yourself. Sign up for a free account and explore all our features, with storage for up to 2,000 contacts and the ability to send up to 6,000 emails per month.
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