Why content strategy matters most
A content strategy is a map that will lead you to profitable content. Here are five reasons why every business must have one.
Does your brand have a strategy behind its content marketing?
Planning is integral to achieving that ever-elusive return on investment (ROI).
Even if you’re not a natural planner, you’ll probably agree that most tasks are easier to achieve if you plan first.
For instance, planning your meals for the week vs. winging it. Going grocery shopping with a planned list vs. nothing. Planning a trip vs. stepping off the plane with no idea what you’ll do or where you’ll go.
Some people get excitement from living life in the unknown. But, for most of us, whether we want to save money, eat healthier, or get a seat at that hip restaurant on vacation, planning is essential.
The same is true of content marketing.
Without a strategy, your content marketing efforts are far more likely to go nowhere and do nothing.
I’d argue that profitable content marketing is impossible without a solid content strategy.
To answer the inevitable “why?”, let’s discuss why content strategy matters most.
But first, what is a content strategy?
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy is a plan that lays out how you will ideate, create, publish, promote, and manage content.
A content strategy helps define your brand’s goals, workflows, guidelines, budget, team structure, and content rules. It definitively answers these questions:
- Why are we creating content? (What goals are we trying to reach?)
- Who are we creating content for? (Who is our target audience?)
- How will we create content? (Will we use in-house talent? Hire writers/graphic designers/videographers?)
- What content will we create? (What topics and formats will we focus on?)
- Where/when will we publish content? (On our website? On social media?)
- How will our audience find our content? (How does SEO tie in?)
- Who is in charge of managing, publishing, and promoting our content? (What does our content team look like, and who fills what role?)
All of these questions are vital to answer if you create content. And if you formulate a content strategy, all of them will be addressed before you publish a single article. That’s key.
Why a content strategy is your map to profitable content
If you’ve been paying attention, content strategy is a huge deal.
Because smart content marketing gets incredible results, and those results will cost 62% less to achieve than traditional or paid advertising.
But to get those results, you need a strategy, because a strategy is a map that will lead you to profitable content that earns ROI. Here’s why.
1. Businesses with successful content have a content strategy
97% of businesses reported using content marketing as part of their overarching marketing strategy, according to a Semrush survey. However, only 57% reported having a documented strategy, and a mere 19% said their strategy was advanced.
The clincher? 78% of businesses who said their content marketing was “very successful” also had a documented content strategy.
What does it all mean?
Most businesses use content marketing, but many aren’t realizing its full potential.
To do that, you need a content strategy. And, you need it documented.
It matters because, without a documented plan, your content efforts will be scattershot. And scattershot efforts lead to scattershot, unpredictable results.
That is, if you earn results at all.
2. No content strategy? No results
Here’s what doing content marketing without a strategy looks like:
A small brand decides to start a blog. One or two staff members who also happen to be creative are tasked with managing it.
They’re not sure where to find topics, so they look at what their competition is doing and follow suit. They post whenever they have time, so publishing is sporadic and scattered. They post about the topics their main competitor posts about with little differentiation. And when the brand gets busy, the blog falls silent for months.
A year later, the brand checks in with the blog results – and finds none. They conclude blogging is a waste of time.
Yes – in this instance, it is. But that’s because the brand in question started wrong from the get-go. They treated content marketing as an accessory that could be done in spare minutes of the day without much effort.
The truth is, if you want content marketing to work, you have to regard it as another vital business activity – and a content strategy helps you get there.
You need to plan how, when and why to do it, and who you’ll do it for. You need to strategize so your brand can post consistently and regularly (because consistency leads to better results) – and that will require more than somebody’s spare time.
Reality check: It will require dedicated effort from someone whose 9-5 work consists of content creation and nothing else.
How will you direct that person? How will you allocate the resources to employ or pay that person? How do you ensure the created content will earn results? You have to plan. You need a content strategy.
3. A content strategy aligns your people, processes, and technology
If you want results from content, you must ensure your entire brand and team are on the same page, working under the same expectations and toward the same goals.
A documented content strategy aligns all those things like puzzle pieces snapping together to form a complete picture.
Think of building a content strategy as laying out your battle plan for increasing brand awareness, drawing in more website traffic, nurturing your audience, increasing conversions and sales, or whatever goal you decide is most important.
Achieving these goals will require many moving parts, different people, and plenty of tools (like a publishing platform, SEO tools, a content calendar, social media scheduling tools, editing tools and content checkers, collaboration tools, and more).
But the strategy accounts for all these pieces and explains how they fit together.
That’s why you and your team should make decisions about and record the who, what, where, when, and why so your content has its best chance of succeeding.
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4. A content strategy helps you win buy-in
As we've explained, you need investment to ensure content marketing can work. You don't just need people who will plan, create, manage, promote, and distribute content. You need people who know what they're doing. And you need tools your people can use to facilitate all of those stages.
But what if the marketing budget isn't up to you? Then you need buy-in from higher-ups.
How do you get content marketing buy-in? By laying out a strategy with goals, a trajectory, metrics to track, and a budget.
The strategy serves as proof that you know what you're doing. Even further, it serves as a detailed guide for other people on how you plan to execute content successfully.
That makes it a powerful document to have on your side when you're working to earn buy-in from bosses, department heads, clients, executives, and anyone else who holds power to invest.
5. A content strategy gives you a competitive edge
Only 40% of marketers say they have a documented content strategy, according to a recent Content Marketing Institute survey.
This statistic hasn't budged in the last few years.
But, year after year, marketers with a documented strategy outperform their peers who don't have one.
For that reason, they have a competitive edge. You need a documented strategy guiding everything you do in your content marketing to earn that edge over the competition.
The power of a content strategy lies in the finished document and the physical act of creating it.
When brands sit down to figure out this content thing, they crystallize key areas vital to success:
- Clarifying and refining their content goals.
- Getting to the heart of who they need to target with content.
- Envisioning what that content should look like.
- Strategizing how to execute with a clear set of actions like a blueprint.
With all this in mind, we shouldn't be surprised that marketers who strategize content and write down that strategy are regular top performers.
Bottom line: If you want that competitive edge, you'll join that club.
Your content marketing is more likely to fail without a content strategy
A content strategy at the heart of your content marketing will determine whether your efforts will fly – or fall flat.
Unfortunately, most brands are approaching content marketing with a laissez-faire approach. They might even be getting "okay" results.
But the thing is, "okay" should not be the standard.
That's because content can achieve great heights for any brand, regardless of industry or size.
Think of that: Content has immense power to grow your brand.
But to tap into that power, you must have a content strategy.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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