A sharpened pencil on a white piece of paper with pencil shavings scattered around - content strategy successful
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With many consumers becoming distrustful of traditional advertising, content marketing has become the digital marketing tactic of choice for contemporary marketers. The success of content marketing, however, hinges on a well-documented content strategy. 

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented content strategy. Unsurprisingly, 86% of the least successful content marketers have no written strategy in place.

So, we've turned to content marketing experts to learn what a content strategy is, why businesses need one and what steps to take to develop one.

What Is a Content Strategy?

Lauren Reed, editorial services manager at iQ 360 defines a content strategy as "your business's approach to creating and distributing content for your target audience." While a content strategy may be straightforward, it's easy to get wrong if you don't prioritize content that’s relevant for the right audience.

It's also essential that you document a content strategy that focuses on providing value to your audience. "A successful content strategy," Reed continues, "is one that seeks to understand what your audience wants and needs, and focuses on developing content that is useful, educational, relevant or otherwise valuable to them."

Related Article: Content Modeling: What It is and How to Get Started

Why You Need a Content Strategy

"Businesses need a content strategy," Daniela Andreevska, marketing director at Mashvisor explains, "in order to make sure that they attract the right users who will convert into customers, educate them on the benefits of using their product, convert them into customers and retain them as customers." You need a content strategy to bring potential leads down the sales funnel and keep them coming back.

While Reed agrees on the benefits of content marketing, she adds, "creating content without purpose, simply for the sake of putting something out there, can be a costly and time-consuming mistake." Knowing your strategy before you start producing content will allow your brand to create more relevant content, which converts to greater trust and a better ROI for content marketing efforts.

6 Steps To Creating Your Own Content Strategy

These six steps are essential to developing a solid content strategy:

1. Set Your Goal(s)

Reed recommended you start with an objective. "Starting with the end business goal helps keep you focused," she said, "otherwise it can be easy to get distracted." Without concentrating on business objectives, you could end up publishing content just for the sake of it. “At this point, make sure you have your analytics all set up,” suggested Taras Prystatsky, content marketing strategist at Respect.Studio. Potential metrics to track in your analytics tools could include page views, social media shares or ecommerce conversions.

Related Article: What's The Biggest Risk With Content Marketing? 

2. Determine Your Target Audience

"Get to know your target audience," said Andreevska. You want to know where they spend their time online, what they spend their money on, and how you can solve their problems. "Map out their journey from the discovery phase, to the consideration phase, to the point of purchase, to hopefully becoming a repeat customer," Reed recommended. You want to develop content that attracts your target audience and leads them every step of the way to a purchase.

3. Work the SEO Angle and Do Keyword Research

After you've determined your target audience, Andreevska said, “you have to carefully research the keywords relevant to your audience," as these will become "the backbone of your content development." Many tools can help with keyword research like Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner. You can create content around these keywords that drives traffic and higher SEO rankings for your website and brand.

4. Analyze the Competition

Once you understand what your target audience and keywords are, it's great idea to examine your competitors content along with the areas and keywords that they rank for. "Look at what your competitors are doing, but more importantly, look at what they're not doing," Reed said. Study the topics, keywords and length of the content on their website or other distribution channels. If you find areas where your competitors have content that's lacking, you can fill in the gaps and provide better value to your target market.

5. Choose Your Distribution Channels

Don't let the endless amount of distribution channels overwhelm your teams. Prystatsky believes brands should choose a small handful of channels for content distribution, such as a blog and a YouTube channel, allowing the company to "focus on distribution to the right people through the right channels."

6. Develop an Editorial Calendar

Once you've chosen your distribution channels, "create an editorial calendar to iron out the nitty-gritty details of where and when this content will be made available," Reed said. An editorial calendar will help you keep track of your content and ensure you're publishing consistently.

7. Build Credibility on Your Topic

Prystatsky concluded, "when it comes to B2B — it is much more important to build a credible image instead of catching hype." Following these steps will help you create a content strategy that provides real value to your audience and develops long-lasting trust for your brand.