A Practical Guide to Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Without a plan, a goal is just a wish.

A well-documented content strategy helps the marketing of great content go from being reactive to becoming proactive.

Without a content strategy in place, the usual process is to create a piece of content, publish it on your blog and push it out via your email list and social media channels.

Then, you cross your fingers and hope your audience reads it, enjoys it and shares it.

We call that the ‘publish and pray’ strategy. It’s a lot like throwing spaghetti against a wall and hoping something sticks.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.

This content comes in many forms, such as white papers, newsletters, social media posts and other content types you find through digital distribution.

Whenever you watch a YouTube video, read a blog post or listen to a podcast, you’re consuming content. And content marketing is all about making sure that content is informative, entertaining and interesting so your audience will want to keep following your brand.

What Is a Creative Content Marketing Strategy?

A creative content marketing strategy is a plan that defines clear, actionable goals that serve your audience and build your brand using creative content.

It serves as a roadmap to keep you, your teams and your partners on the same page, and at the forefront of relevant discussions in your industry.

A creative content plan focuses on a targeted audience and is aimed at meeting business goals through the creation and distribution of unique content.
Put simply, you’re going to need a plan.

Without one, it’s like trying to build a house on a vibe, not a blueprint.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to start with a clear content strategy before you focus on creating and distributing content.

A documented creative content strategy factors in everything, including your return on investment (ROI), which is why it pays – as in real money saved – to start with a strategy instead.

A great content strategy is that plan.

A thorough content strategy looks at everything from your capacity to create content, to the type of content distribution methods most suited to helping you reach your established goals. It will also provide you with the tools to measure performance and help you meet your key performance indicators (KPIs).

And you’ll sleep better knowing you have an actionable plan to lead you toward your business goals.

Why It’s Important to Have a Creative Content Marketing Strategy

A well planned and executed creative content marketing strategy that produces quality content will help establish your brand as a relevant industry leader.

More than 60% of marketers see noticeable sales increases after implementing a content strategy.

Every organisation is different – that’s why each content strategy is unique. Establishing a robust content strategy enables you to reach your target audience effectively and meet brand goals through the creation of original content.

It’s also highly measurable so you’ll know just how effective your content marketing efforts are.

How Do You Develop a Creative Content Marketing Strategy?

Ask the Essential Questions

Questions like these are critical to enable you to walk in your customer’s shoes and get a clearer vision on how to present yourself.

You’ll find out where your audience spends time online, what motivates them to listen to you, and what makes them brand advocates. You’ll also see how you perceive your brand and whether your perception matches how it’s seen by your audience.

When you truly know who your customers are, what they’re interested in, and what content engages them on which platform, you have the basis of a solid content strategy.

A good strategy answers these essential questions:

1. Why do you want to reach people?
2. Who do you want to reach?
3. What will you talk about?
4. Who will create the content to engage them?
5. How will you reach them?
6. When will you reach them?
7. How do you want people to react to your content?
8. What does success look like?
9. How will you measure it?

Why Do You Want to Reach People?

You need to identify your key objectives and goals because knowing what you are trying to achieve directs everything moving forward, including:

● THE MESSAGE YOU COMMUNICATE
● THE PLATFORMS YOU USE
● THE TYPES OF CONTENT YOU CREATE

There will probably be more than one objective. You might have a primary goal of drawing quality leads to your website, and a secondary goal of increasing brand awareness.

If that’s the case, it helps if you list your objectives in order of importance.

What is the primary business objective? (What does success look like?)

What are the supporting business goals? (How do you support the primary objective?)

Who Do You Want to Reach?

You need to identify the primary and secondary audiences that influence your business objectives.

The overall objective of the content community group’s strategy is to increase brand awareness, perception of value and influence across the entire audience to support the achievement of the stated business goals.

Who are your customers? Sometimes customers are decision-makers, but not the person who’ll be using what you’re selling.

Are they local, national or international?

What do they read? What else do they buy? What devices do they use?

Take the time to create customer personas. For these, you’ll capture specific details about your audiences, like their job title, their main challenges at work or at home and other personal information. Model your customer personas after your current customers. If you need to, you can ask your current customers to fill out a survey and construct your personas based on their answers.

Once you know who they are, you can focus on where they are, and what they do (for example do they hang out on Facebook, Reddit, or LinkedIn?).

What Will You Talk About?

Define existing buyer journeys – how will they find your site? What are they looking for?

Do they need information to help them make a decision? A case study, or an eBook?

Buyer’s Journey Stages:

Awareness: When a person has symptoms of a problem but don’t know what the problem is.

For example: You have a pool filter that reads “NO FLOW” when you turn it on. You know the filter isn’t working, but have no idea why.

So, you search ‘pool filter no flow’ and find a blog with a post that defines the problem for the symptom you’re facing.

Consideration: The person knows exactly what ails them and is searching for a solution.

For example: After your initial search into ‘no flow pool filter’, you find one of the causes to be a blockage in the filtration system. Now, armed with the knowledge of the problem, you search for solution.

Decision: When a person has found the perfect solution and is ready to solve it.

For example: After finding the solution to the problem and realising its better to call a professional, you start researching pool service companies in your area.

Information you’re looking for includes daily availability, how to make an appointment and a quote for the work that needs to be done. Or if there’s an available discount.

Miscellaneous: Not all content has to be tied into a purchase. Sometimes you want to use your platforms to give people a peek into your personality and expose them to the ideals that have shaped your organisation.

How Will You Reach Them?

Visual Content

Infographic Design

An infographic combines text and images in an intelligent and engaging way to communicate the top-selling benefits of your product or service within a short time frame.

Not only are Infographics key content formats for visual thinkers and can explain almost anything, but they also work as educational tools for non-profit organisations, or government agencies, to communicate important information.

They’re also a great method for visualising complex data in a way that’s understandable to everyone.

Also, people love infographics because they’re interesting to look at, easy to understand and have a high retention rate. They are a key player in any well thought-out content marketing strategy.

Video Production

Everybody loves online video. And as audiences get more excited to watch videos, they also get more excited to share those videos with friends and colleagues on social media and other online channels.

This is great news for brands keen to reach out and connect with their customers in innovative, engaging and entertaining ways.

When executed well, video can compel your target audience to act, by converting people into viewers, buyers, and brand evangelists. With this in mind, it’s an exciting opportunity to build trust and long-term relationships with your audience.

Presentations

Are your presentations putting your audience to sleep?

Wouldn’t life be better if PowerPoint presentations actually engaged your audience by making them feel something? To sit on the edge of their seats because they have no idea what’s going to happen next? To tell your story in a way that they can’t wait to hear the next chapter?

Well-designed presentations that really speak to your audience not only look beautiful, they are also visually persuasive. We’re making sure that presentation slides stuffed with too many words, teeming with boring bullet points and infested with bad clip-art (we’re even shuddering thinking about it) are a thing of the past.

A successful presentation brings a stimulating mix of animation, video, data visualization, voiceover, music, text, and engaging graphic formats such as infographics, explainer videos and motion graphics together.

Motion Graphics

Motion graphics are a groundbreaking content type that puts the power of video in any marketing team’s hands.

This content types allows you to take dense information and package it into a format that’s entertaining and highly watchable.

Because they’re animated, you don’t need to rent our or purchase expensive video production equipment. You just hand over a script with all the information you want displayed and a design concept, and your animator takes care of the rest of the work.

Motion graphics are great for engagement on social media, presenting high-level concepts on your website or explaining how to do something (like using complex business software) on your video platform of choice.

Written Content

Blog Content

Blogging is one of the most powerful, impactful, and popular marketing tools on the web today.

But blogging also performs critical marketing functions to support your overall content strategy and boost your brand’s online footprint.

Here’s a short list of the (huge) benefits of regular blogging for your business or organisation:

1) Blogging drives the right kind of traffic to your website.

2) Blogging showcases your authority as a thought-leader or industry expert.

3) Blogging is great for SEO and social media.

White Papers

A white paper is a PDF document about 10-15 pages long, although it can easily be longer, depending on the depth of research undertaken. It’s a deep-dive, in-depth report on a specific topic, written in an authoritative, almost academic tone of voice (compared to the more casual, conversational tone of voice of a blog article). White papers rely on data and quantifiable research of a topic.

The white paper is a powerful lead generation tool because it has a reputation for driving a high trust factor through info-rich content. These premium content formats are highly desired by B2B audiences, and knowing the educational value they bring, prospects are happy to handover their email address or other information, such as their major industry challenges, in exchange for valuable information.

89% of white papers get shared around to friends and colleagues. Really great white papers are the golden nuggets of B2B marketing. People email them to colleagues, share them on social media, and include them in business cases to present to the people making the buying decisions. If the information is important to your audience, after they learn from it, they’ll share it.

Ebooks

An eBook showcases your expertise and promotes thought leadership.

Some of your ideas may be so powerful and insights so valuable, that they deserve a more in depth treatment than possible with a whitepaper or blog article. Enter the eBook – a content format purpose-fit for long-form content aimed at a wide audience via smartphones, tablets such as iPads, and e-readers such as Kindles.

eBooks are a powerful marketing tool for generating quality leads

You can sell your eBook, give it away in exchange for your customer’s email address, or use your eBook as a promotional tool for personal branding and promotion as a thought-leader.

The fact that you have written and published an eBook gives you serious ‘cred’ in your industry.

SEO Copywriting

Words – or ‘written content’ as we now call it – are still the backbone of your overall content strategy because there’s nothing Google likes more than relevant, intelligent, helpful, concise and well-written content. The text on your website is – literally – what feeds Google and gets high rankings for your top-selling keywords. Good quality written content is still hard to beat.

SEO-driven content improves your Google ranking, drives targeted traffic, and gets your customers to engage, like and buy.

This means that your SEO copywriting is vital to the success of your website’s content and plays an absolutely critical role in all phases of your sales conversion funnel. Given the important job written content has to do in attracting customers to your site, it’s worth the time, money and effort to ensure search engine-optimised copywriting is considered concurrently with your website build.

If SEO doesn’t get a seat at the planning table right from the get-go, then often you’re left trying to put a giant peg into a tiny square hole.

Audio Content

Podcasts

Want to hold a captive audience while they’re on-the-go? Or perhaps when they’re taking a morning jog or catching the train during their morning commute?

Podcasts give you the unique opportunity to reach your audience while they’re going about their day since they don’t have to be tethered to a screen to engage with your content.

Successful podcasts come in a wide range of formats, such as low-key conversations between friends, professionally produced episodic stories and intellectually stimulating sit-down interviews with industry experts.

Immersive Content

Virtual Reality

Want to give your audience a thrill by having them jump out of a plane? Or want to wow them with the beautiful landscapes of the Sahara desert?

With virtual reality, your content doesn’t end at the screen. Using computer-generated images, you can transport your audience to different worlds where they’ll have some awe-inspiring experiences.

You can also use virtual reality in a more practical sense. For example, if you’re a real estate agent, virtual reality is perfect for giving potential buyers in-home tours. Or, if you’re in the education sector, you can use virtual reality to relive history with your students or to take them through step-by-step instruction.

However you use it, virtual reality is sure to shape our online interactions in the coming future.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality uses digital assets to reshape real-life. Apps like Pokemon Go are augmented reality success stories that show how popular this content type can be when used correctly.

Brands use augmented reality is numerous ways, such as to animate a static object (think a wine label) or to create deeper engagement with their art work (such as watching a brand’s mascot dance).

Or, you can use augmented reality to develop a helpful app. For example, an app that has markers guiding the user to a nearby subway stop.

Web Design & Development

Your website is the pillar of your digital identity. Therefore, it’s important to have a gorgeously designed responsive website that works across all devices.

But no website is built without a proper plan in place.

To start a website design and build, you’ll want to look at other websites that do similar things as your business and record the ones that you’re in love with. Note your favorite parts about the website. Is it the design? Or the functionality?

Once you’ve come up with a detailed list of websites to inspire your own, you’ll want to design a set of wireframes. Wireframes are the basic outlines of your site pages, showing where text, images, video and other content should go.

The next step after designing your wireframes is to get a designer to create flat designs of your website. These flat designs take the concept you developed for your wireframes and fill them in with how you want your web pages to actually look. This includes the correct colour palette, the header, footer and placeholder images.

After the static designs have been signed off, you’ll want to send the wireframes and Photoshop design files (PSDs) to your developer or development team to start building the website. Make sure to include a scope of work document that includes all the functionality you need for each web page, as well as the required copy.

As your developer builds your website, they’ll send you a staging link where you’ll be able to click around your site and test it for any bugs. When you come across a bug, record where the issue occurs with a screenshot or a video if possible. This information will help your developer diagnose the problem and be able to fix it promptly.

Finally, once your site has been debugged, you’re ready to launch. If you’re placing your website onto an existing server, ensure you do so at a time when website traffic is at its lowest. This could be over a weekend, a holiday or overnight.

Now is the time to showcase your website by carrying out a launch campaign through a newsletter announcement, advertisements on Google and Facebook and even publishing a new video to your YouTube account.

Content Distribution

What channels are best to reach your business’s audience and how can you optimize the distribution of content to get the right message in front of the right eyes?

Content distribution can be broken down into 3 channels:

Owned Channels

Owned media channels are the ones that you directly control. Their benefits are:

– No additional cost to host content
– A controlled and uniform message
– Guaranteed placement

Here are examples of owned channels:

– Your website
– Newsletter
– Corporate reporting
– Social media channels

Earned Channels

Earned channels are anything your create that is then picked up by third-party publishers.

Earned Media is one of the most authentic and effective ways to amplify and validate your message – it’s like another organization saying “Hey, listen to this!”

Earned media is beneficial to your business in two key ways:

– It extends the reach of the content (and if that content is housed onsite, drives audience engagement on the website).
– Adds credibility to your brand because it comes from an unbiased third-party.

Paid Channels

Paid channels guarantee placement of content across a number of platforms, including social and traditional online media. Paid strategies use a range of tools to ensure the audience reach is highly targeted depending on goals and budget.

Examples of paid channels:

– Facebook – Funding calls and educational products.
– LinkedIn – Thought leadership articles, blogs, opinion-driven content.
– Outbrain – High-end thought leadership, opinion-driven content, new educational products/innovation – reaches huge and highly targeted audiences, i.e. content targeted at parents can be published on highly trafficked sites like Mammamia.

When Will You Reach Them?

At the right time, with the right content.

Start with a content calendar – which will enable you to schedule work in advance, simplifying content planning and budgeting. It will also ensure you publish relevant and timely content based on the calendar year, factoring in events that matter to your target audience.

You will have the flexibility to make decisions and optimize resource materials well in advance of the prescribed publishing date. This enables you to be proactive in response to current events without disruption to the overall agreed upon publishing schedule.

We recommend a single person take ownership of the content calendar. And that for every piece of content to be created, the content manager assigns the following criteria:

AUTHOR: The storyteller(s) is responsible for producing the story (the writer, designer, illustrator, videographer…)

TOPIC: Topics should align to key dates from calendar.

FORMAT/TYPE: Confirm format (article, blog, infographic, e-book, webinar, etc…) and make sure:

Format aligns to target audience.
There are a variety of formats represented.

DUE DATE: When the story or story assets are due from the author.

Who Will Create Your Content?

No matter what the size of your organization, you need to have enough resources to enable at least one key piece of written content per week, with more thought to quarterly ‘big ticket’ items such as motion graphics, eBooks or white papers.

It’s key that your business continue to adhere to a regular publishing schedule and not on an ad hoc basis.

Here are a few of the roles you may need to fill when executing your creative content marketing strategy:

  • 3D Motion Graphic Animator
  • Digital Marketing Manager
  • Copywriter
  • Graphic Designer
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Frontend Developer

How Do You Want People to React to Your Content?

To answer this question, let’s go back to your business goals and the desired outcomes.

One reaction you might want people to have is to automatically know your business is the best at what it does and to instantly become a customer.

Or, you may just want your audience to see your content, laugh and share it on their social feeds.

Better yet, you may want your audience to read a blog article you wrote and gain more insight into the world around them.

Knowing how you want your audience to react will inform the type of content you create.

What Does Success Look Like?

It’s important not to base success on unachievable goals. However, without a goal of some kind, you can’t measure success.

Metrics can be divided into two key-groups:

– Success in implementing the strategy. Were you able to develop a content calendar and assign responsibilities to your marketing team? Were you able to hit deadlines? And did you find that you had enough people to enact the strategy?
– Return on investment on successful implementation of strategy. Can the successful achievement of current key performance indicators be quantified in terms of ROI? Or do you have brand new ones you now need to track in order to see how effective your strategy has been?

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to determine the success of your strategy, remember that your goals should be SMART.

That means they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.

How Will You Measure Success?

With the right tools, of course!

Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMRush, Mention, Moz, Google AdWords, and a whole host of other programs give you the ability to see the whole picture on how you strategy performs.

With these programs, you can track how many people have seen your paid ads, have shared your articles on social, have viewed your videos on YouTube, have read your blog posts, how long they’ve spent on your site, and the list goes on and on.

It’s the era of big data, and tracking your audience’s behaviours is going to help you get the most out of your content. Here’s just a starter list of tools you can use to measure your success:

– Google Analytics
– Kissmetrics
– Socialbakers
– Alexa
– Bright Funnel
– SEMRush
– BuzzSumo
– Moz
– HubSpot
– Autopilot
– Campaign Monitor
– Mailchimp
– AdWords
– Pixel

Get Started Right Now

With a grasp on the basics of a creative content marketing strategy, why not get started putting yours together?

Or, if you need some assistance developing a content strategy send us an email, we’ve worked with all types of businesses from enterprise through to Not for Profist to develop robust Content Strategies..

More Reading on Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Check out some of our most popular blog posts to learn further about developing a creative content marketing strategy for your business:

Sound Check: Make Your Voice Heard With Podcasts

Are Infographics the Secret to Beating the 8-Sec Attention Span?

Once Upon a Brand: 5 Techniques for Telling Better Brand Stories

Contextual Marketing: Using the Personal for Lifetime Conversions

Can I Delete This Tweet: How to Avoid Social Media Fails

Share on