The digital marketing landscape experienced a drastic change in the past decade with inbound marketing–specifically content marketing. The increase in popularity of content marketing can be attributed to the variety of benefits it offers. From higher brand awareness to improved SEO and social media signals, a good content marketing strategy gives you the edge to outperform your competition.

One of the main traps people fall into is having the mentality content marketing is easy or something that can be improvised. The reality is one needs a well-thought-out content marketing strategy to reap all the benefits it has to offer. In the following article, we’ll look at what makes an effective content marketing strategy and how you can successfully implement one in your organization.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing can be defined as a process for producing and distributing valuable content relevant to your target demographic. The purpose of content marketing is to attract, amass and engage a target audience. This is all done with the objective of driving some type of action from the consumer.

Your audience is searching for content online and content marketing is all about delivering content your audience seeks in all the places they are searching for it. This can be done through blog posts, social media accounts, video blogs, newsletters and many other forms of content. By effectively combining created, syndicated and curated content, you put yourself in a position to acquire new customers and to increase business from ones you already have.

What’s the Difference Between Content Strategy & Content Marketing?

The terms content strategy and content marketing are often confused for one another. While they are related, each term cannot be used interchangeably. Essentially, content strategy is an all-inclusive term, while content marketing refers to a single piece of your overall content marketing strategy.

One of the most important things you can do for your organization to succeed online is to understand the difference between content marketing and content strategy and how they work together to form a symbiotic relationship that produces tangible results.

Content Strategy

A basic definition of content strategy is the planning, development and management of content that is written or in another media form such as video or infographic. A content strategy is essentially a blueprint that lays out how an organization will lay out its onsite/offsite content in order to meet their objectives or business goals. Ask yourself the following questions as it will help you document your content strategy

  1. What’s the reasoning for publishing the content?
  2. Where should the content you create be published?
  3. When should the content be pushed live to the public?
  4. Who is supposed to see the content?
  5. What type of reaction, if any, are you trying to evoke from the viewer?
  6. What should happen with the content after you published it?

Once you can answer those questions, it’s beneficial to dive deeper and get more granular. Who is going to be writing, maintaining and posting your content and how often will they be doing this? Also, you need to look at how your audience will be finding and interacting with your content.

Creating a comprehensive content strategy takes time, research and careful thought. When you come up with a content strategy, you want to know the details of why and how your organization will use the content. This will help you better reach the organizational goals you have set for yourself.

If you already have a content strategy and want to create a new one–make sure to keep it fresh and don’t reuse strategies from the past. Your audience’s needs are constantly changing, which is why it’s necessary to rework your content strategy annually.

Content Marketing

On the other hand, a content marketing strategy is a type of sales approach by which customers are attracted by the creation and delivery of relevant, valuable content. It pairs together organic marketing with sales, and is the guiding force for building an audience through the creation and distribution of content.

The key reason behind creating and distributing content is to turn strangers into fans and eventually, fans into customers.

Why You Need a Formal Content Marketing Strategy

A common misconception is content marketing is something that can be improvised and is easy to execute without some type of formal strategy. While it may be possible for some individuals, the reality is you need a well-thought-out strategy to become truly successful. Here are the three biggest reasons why you need a formal content marketing strategy:

1. Direction & Targeting

You shouldn’t create content for everyone, which is why you need to define and target a specific niche or demographic through market research. You also need to conduct competitor research to find out what is working for others and what you can do to overcome them.

2. Measurement & Analysis

With no formal strategy in place, you won’t have a basis for comparison by which you can measure or determine success. With your content marketing strategy, you will be setting goals and defining metrics by which to measure success.

3. Defining Roles & Responsibilities

You shouldn’t manage all parts of your content marketing efforts alone. A formal strategy helps you assign responsibilities and establish directives for everyone involved in your efforts.

How to Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy

Despite what some people say, your content marketing strategy doesn’t need to be some lavish, complex plan. With a content marketing strategy especially your first one, a simple plan of action will do just fine. Here are seven easy steps to help you build your first content marketing strategy:

1. Do Your Research

Well before you even begin to write your strategy down, you should be doing a good bit of market research. Your organization should hopefully already have some idea of your target demographic for the product or service you are selling.

This is a good place to start, but you can get much more granular by identifying the types of people who will be interacting with different pieces of content. Ask yourself questions like: Where are your readers in the buying cycle? What it is they want or need? What problem do they need help solving?

2. Conduct Competitor Analysis

Once you find out more about your readers and where they are in the sales funnel, turn your attention to your competitors. What are they doing in terms of content marketing? What kind of content do they produce? Where do they publish and how do they amplify content? Are they going after the same target demographic as you? Do you see any components of a good content strategy that they neglect?

Asking yourself these questions when analyzing your competition can provide opportunities to strengthen or guard against.

3. Clearly Define Goals

Once you have both your market and competitive research complete, define goals for your content strategy. What does success look like to you and your organization? What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to increase overall conversions? Are you trying to appeal to and attract a new audience? Do you want to boost engagement among your current customer base?

The goals you set will be unique to your organization and your overall content marketing strategy. But know there aren’t any wrong answers. Having multiple goals at once allows you to better identify what’s is and isn’t working. Just make sure your goals are very specific, actionable and measurable.

4. Set a Budget

With your goals outlined, you can begin to draft a budget for your campaign. According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers with the most effective content marketing strategies allocate 42% of their marketing budget for content. If you already have a set budget from management, you can mold your goals to what your set budget is capable of achieving.

How much of your budget do you want to go toward content creation? Are you going to pay to promote your content? If so, how much of your budget will you allocate toward promotion? By splitting up your budget into separate funds, which each have their own purpose, you can spend your money more wisely and save it at the same time.

5. Choose Your Content Type

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your content marketing strategy, choose the type of content you’ll produce. With so many different types of content, simply choose 1-3 types of content that your marketing team is already familiar with. Some of the content types include:

  • eBooks
  • Webinars
  • Blog Posts
  • Case Studies
  • Interviews
  • Product or Service Updates
  • Social Media Posts

6. Plan a Distribution Strategy

Once you’ve decided what types of content to produce, you need to get it in front of your target audience. There are a few different ways to approach this. Depending on the size of your budget, you can always go the paid distribution route by utilizing Facebook or Twitter ads. You could even promote your content through Taboola or Outbrain. While these paid methods have their place, we have seen much better results through organic distribution strategies, namely through an employee advocacy program.

While your brand pages might have thousands of likes or followers, the collective network of all your employees combined is much greater than that. The average number of social connections’ held by each employee is 846. Even if you’re a small company with 20 employees, you still have a combined reach of over 21K people. To find out the improvement in social reach your employees can give you, check out our free social reach calculator.

When incorporating your employees as part of your distribution strategy, it is important to have a platform you can disseminate content in real time to employees or groups of employees so that they may share it on their own networks. With an employee advocacy platform like Bambu, this is all possible.

Using Bambu as a Content Curator

Bambu allows employees to share custom curated content on their personal Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages and comes with a powerful analytics suite which allows you to gain insight on brand amplification and the actual performance of your content. It also lets you know who is sharing what content, where they are sharing the content and what types of content resonates most with your employees.

By continually analyzing these metrics, you can be optimizing your content marketing strategy in near real-time. Plus, there is an eight times difference between social engagement achieved by your employee versus your brand channels alone, making your employees one of the best organic content distribution channels there is.

7. Add a Layer of Accountability

Accountability is fundamental in any business strategy. Define who is going to play what role when it comes to the execution of your content marketing strategy. Who is responsible for certain items if they haven’t been executed properly. Who is responsible for course correcting if you or your content marketing team go off course? All these questions are important to address from the very beginning.