Sorry to be the bearer of bad news— but the following approach is not a viable content marketing strategy …
“Let’s throw some pasta at the wall and see what sticks …”
A random content marketing approach will make you want to give up long before you ever see results from your hard work.
Why? Well …
As the unmistakable Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Yogi wasn’t talking about content strategy, but he could have been.
Without a content marketing plan in place, you will go to a lot of effort and may not see any results at all.
Today’s post will help you create a simple, easy-to-follow content marketing strategy that adapts to your business life cycle.
I’m writing it because I’ve fielded lots of questions about content strategy in the years since I published Master Content Marketing. That book focused on a nuts-and-bolts approach to getting individual pieces of content created.
But each piece of content fits into a broader ecosystem. And here’s the thing …
[clickToTweet tweet=”If you’re strategic about what you write and publish, your ecosystem of content will support your business and help you reach your goals.” quote=”If you’re strategic about what you write and publish, your ecosystem of content will support your business and help you reach your goals.”]
What is a content marketing strategy?
Inserting the word marketing between “content” and “strategy” makes a difference.
First off, content strategy is a broad term that encompasses all the content your business produces.
This could include things like:
- The content you publish on your website
- The content you publish on social media platforms
- The transactional content your prospects and customers see, like forms on your site; proposals; invoices; your customer service interactions, etc.
- Tangible content like your business cards; printed t-shirts; signage
- Digital content like online courses; podcast episodes, or video that you create
… and on and on
Content marketing strategy, on the other hand, refers to your plan for using content to promote your business.
Yes, all the content mentioned in the list above promotes your business to some extent.
But content marketing has a specific purpose — to help you reach your business goals with the authoritative and entertaining information you create.
At its core, content marketing strategy is about marketing strategy — it’s the best kind of marketing strategy there is!
That’s because content marketing engages, entertains, and informs. It can help you build a lifelong customer because it starts your relationship off with you serving them long before they ever make a purchase.
Why is a content marketing strategy or plan important?
The short answer is this:
Creating content without a plan won’t get you closer to your business goals. Creating content with a plan keeps your efforts on track and helps you achieve your content goals faster.
It’s so easy to get off track with everything that’s involved with content creation, don’t you think?
You get busy and you lose focus. You accomplish something — but what you create doesn’t move you closer to where you want to be.
In its most granular form, content creation is all about:
- Deciding what topic to create content about
- Carving out time to get content created
- Publishing content
- Promoting content
It’s a lot of work!
And if we simply hop on that hamster wheel and start running, well … we’ll get what any hamster gets. Exhausted and no closer to our goals.
Now there’s a scary thought. No wonder that little guy above looks terrified …
Why do I need a written content marketing strategy?
When you don’t have a written plan for your content marketing strategy, you have nothing to hang onto when things get hectic.
And things will get hectic.
I want to encourage you to carve out some time, take a step back, and make a solid plan when things are calm and quiet. Then, when things start moving fast, you can refer to your plan and work it!
Don’t rely on memory or a vague sense of content direction. Write down your content marketing strategy and use it in both the good times and the challenging ones.
More on that coming right up.
What makes a content marketing strategy effective?
The most useful content marketing strategy is the one that you actually follow. And it’s going to be much easier to follow a plan that is simple. I believe the best content marketing strategy does just three things:
- It’s simple to understand
- It’s easy to follow
- Following it gets results
The goal of my free Content Marketing Strategy Guide PDF is to give you a place to develop a simple strategy, follow that strategy, and get results.
Let’s talk about how you’ll develop your content marketing strategy. I’ve broken it down into four easy steps. Fill in the blanks and you’ll have a content marketing strategy framework that you can follow as you build your content ecosystem.
How to create a content marketing strategy that works (in four simple steps)
Here are the four steps I recommend you follow to create a simple, easy-to-use content marketing strategy.
- An effective content marketing strategy starts with understanding your underlying motivation and goals — know your BIG, as I call it.
- Take a life cycle approach to your content strategy and create the content your website needs for the stage it’s in right now.
- Get granular and create content for your marketing calendar.
- Have a current and future plan for the platforms your content will live on.
Let’s look at each of these in detail …
Explore my Master Content series
If you need to know how to create content marketing, read Book 1, Master Content Marketing.
If you need to know how to use content marketing, read Book 2, Master Content Strategy.
Step 1: Know your BIG
What is your BIG motivation for being in business in the first place? Do you want to:
- Make an impact on the world around you?
- Build wealth for now and the future?
- Experience freedom and flexibility while you earn?
- Leave a legacy to future generations?
- Be recognized for your professional expertise?
Or maybe it’s a combination of the above?
As you commit your content strategy to paper, start with what you want to accomplish. This is the reason you’ll work hard! Keep it at the top of your mind in everything you do.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t chase someone else’s dream. Pinpoint your BIG goal and keep it top of mind.” quote=”Don’t chase someone else’s dream. Pinpoint your BIG goal and keep it top of mind. “]
Step 2: Take a life cycle approach to your content strategy
Here’s the reality:
Your content marketing strategy should change and adapt throughout the life cycle of your website.
This is an important premise in my book!
Let’s talk about the three distinct stages of your website life cycle. Find your website’s age below to see what you should focus on:
Birth to 1-year-old: On a brand-new website, you’ll focus on populating your pages with helpful content that establishes your expertise. If you don’t have an audience, think back to the most common questions you’ve heard over the years and create content that answers them. Aim for:
- A new article every week, so that by the end of the first year you’ve become an experienced content creator and filled your website’s pages with content you’ll link to and from for years to come.
- Clear, consistent categories so that people arriving on your website understand who it’s for and what it offers.
- Polished content that makes a great impression — aim to hone your voice and get better with every piece you publish.
2-5 years old: Your website is still new and at this stage, you will have some flesh-and-blood readers! You can do things like ask them to leave a response in your comments section or on social media. You’ll be able to create content that helps with their real-life challenges — because you’ll know what they are! Aim for:
- Publishing a new article at least every other week, so that you continue to show up with useful, engaging information your readers can count on.
- Creating deep dive content that gives in-depth information on specific topics that help your prospects and your business.
- Developing multimedia content that expands your message to other media platforms. If you haven’t explored repurposing your content yet, this is the time to start.
6 years and older: At this stage, you may have 300+ pieces of content on your site. It’s time to put on your spectacles and start to approach your content like a resource librarian! You may continue to publish every other week — but there’s more you must do. Going forward, focus on directing visitors around your site so they can easily find what they need. Aim for:
- A consistent updating schedule. Some of your content is years old. If it’s still getting visitors, is the content reflecting positively on your business? (If not, it’s time to update it!)
- A clear view of what content is most popular so you can link back to it and use it to link forward to newer content. Linking forward to new content from older content that already ranks well can help the newer articles rank higher.
- Mastery of multimedia content and an expanded presence on outside platforms. Make it a habit to repurpose every piece of new content you create so it’s findable in other places and it drives people back to your website.
Step 3: Publish to meet your marketing goals
We’re talking about content marketing strategy, and in this step, we’re taking your business’s marketing goals into account.
- If your goal is to grow your email list, make sure your content offers content upgrades (like the free Content Marketing Strategy Guide in this article).
- If your goal is to promote a product or service, make sure your content builds anticipation and meets buyer’s objections.
- If your goal is to expand your influence, consider creating content that features input from thought leaders in your field in the form of interviews (written, video, or audio).
This is granular stuff, my friends. This is where you’re grabbing a calendar, scheduling promotional campaigns, and planning content around them.
Hurray: Intentional Content Creation Ahead!
Step 4: Map out your platforms
Finally, it’s smart to map out exactly where your content will live.
Yes, you should focus first on populating your very own content home (otherwise known as your website) with your most authoritative and helpful information.
But once it’s there, where will you expand to next?
Pick one social media platform or one website where you know your ideal customer hangs out online and focus on mastering that first.
- Double down on your chosen social media platform and learn to use all its bells and whistles. If they allow text, images, and video, explore all three — and see how your customers respond.
- Or, identify a website you know they read and begin promoting that site on social media. This is “awesomeness by association!” Show your prospects and customers that you know what’s important to them. Plus, you’ll get on the radar of the site owner, who may be open to having you submit content for their website as a guest writer.
Need a refresher on this simple content marketing strategy?
Click through this quick SlideShare to review what I covered in this article: