How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Hubspot recently reported that 70% of marketers now prioritize content marketing.

But it’s not enough to publish ten blog posts a month or two videos weekly. You’ll run out of steam real quick and reach a plateau.

With an effective content marketing strategy, you can realign your priorities, streamline the content production workflow and generate high ROI. 

In this article, I’ll show you how to develop a winning content marketing strategy, even if you have little to no marketing experience.

What is a Content Marketing Strategy?

A content marketing strategy is an action plan that guides your content production, publishing and promotion towards achieving business goals.

As you may know, content exists in different formats—written, visual and audio. 

Your content strategy determines how you use these formats to attract your ideal customer and keep them engaged throughout the buyer’s journey.

Why is a Content Marketing Strategy Necessary?

A recent Semrush survey of 1500 content marketers showed that 78% of respondents who generated adequate ROI from their content efforts had a documented strategy to follow.

Barring the luck factor, no startup or marketer has ever achieved massive business growth by doing random activities and hoping for the best. 

Whiteboard displaying the stages of a content marketing strategy
Content marketing strategy

You need a concrete action plan in place to know:

  • what you’re creating
  • for whom you’re creating
  • where and when you’re publishing the piece of content

An effective content marketing strategy removes all the guesswork from content production and distribution. It moves you from a chaotic workflow to an organized system that yields results.

3 Elements of a winning content strategy

Asides from time, which is a major determinant of how well your strategy turns out, there are some fundamental pillars you need to develop an effective content marketing strategy.

These comprise the framework on which you can attract, engage and delight customers. 

(1) Product

Every startup is in the business of value exchange. You tell your customers, “give us A, and we’ll give you Z in return.” Whatever you’re offering your customers, digital/physical goods or services, qualifies as a product in this context.    

To build helpful content for your brand, you must understand your offer and why it matters in the industry. For better insight, answer these questions on a board:

  • What is your product?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Why should customers trust your product?
  • Why is it better than your competitors’ (the unique selling point)?

(2) Audience

Your target audience consists of the people you want to attract to your brand and product. Therefore, your content must be relevant to their needs. It must also show (not tell) how your product can help solve their problems.

(3) Channels

Content marketing channels are platforms on which you can reach your target audience with information about your brand, product or service. As technology continues to advance, many of these channels continue to pop up.

An illustration of digital marketing channels by Springboard
Digital marketing channels – Springboard

The most popular ones are: email, social media, websites, podcasts, and YouTube (for video marketing). You must know which platform to use for a specific business goal.

    8 Steps to creating an effective content marketing strategy

Having explained the basics, let’s go over specific steps you should complete to create a working content strategy.

(1) Create an outline

The foundation of a successful content strategy is documentation. It lays the groundwork for brainstorming sessions. It also saves time since everything is outlined in a unified document. 

Start by creating a slide deck, spreadsheet or Google document that can be shared with the rest of the team and stakeholders. The best part about working with a live document is that you can make changes anytime.  

(2) Specify your business goal(s)

Your business objectives inform the rest of your content strategy to a large extent. These are all the results your content marketing efforts will help you accomplish over time. 

To get started, answer these questions:

  • What do you want your business to achieve?
  • How much time do you need?
  • How do you think content can get you there? 

These will guide you in creating goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Some popular marketing objectives include generating more traffic, increasing brand awareness, generating leads/revenue, etc.

(3) Establish metrics

After stipulating your business goals, outline your metrics. 

Content marketing metrics are standards of measurement that reflect how well your content is performing. 

Metrics change based on priorities and marketing channels being used.

Examples: 

(I). Startup A wants to increase monthly revenue by 20%. The marketing team must track sales enablement metrics like conversion rates, demo requests, and revenue generated. 

(II). X wants to intensify email marketing efforts. Then, X must track email open rates, click-through rates, asset downloads and subscriber churn rates.

There are many content marketing metrics you can track, but let’s look at a few below.

  • Traffic: this encompasses the number of users on your website or social media posts. You can track this in Google Analytics by looking for unique pageviews and users. For social media, track reach and impressions.
  • Engagement: these reflect how well your audience interacts with your content. Key performance Indicators for this metric include inbound links, bounce rate, click-through rates, total time reading (TTR), social shares, comments and mentions.
  • SEO: search engine optimization metrics track how high you rank for a keyword on Google’s search engine result pages. Two key metrics to track here are domain authority and page authority. For more insight, you can also run an organic search on Google with the keyword and find out if your website ranks on the first page. 

(4) Know your audience

You can only create content that resonates with your ideal customers when you understand them. That understanding can only be found through extensive market research. 

Market research helps you identify what your target audience needs instead of what you think they need. 

Here are ways to go about it:

  • monitor customers’ feedback
  • conduct surveys/interviews
  • study your competitors

Once you have sufficient data on your customer base, you can identify content gaps and produce helpful content that outperforms your competitors’. 

Digital marketing network displayed on digital tablet
Content marketing strategy

(5) Audit existing content

If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have some published content. That’s where a content audit factors in. 

A content audit is a process of evaluating all the content on your website.

It helps you identify content gaps and what resonates best with your audience.

Just like studying history helps humans control the present and influence the future, a content audit helps your team improve content marketing efforts.

(6) Determine the ideal channel for each content format

When producing content, you want to consider where it would perform best. You can’t publish a long-form blog post on Twitter; neither can you share video content on LinkedIn.

Here’s a quick guide for content distribution:

  • Website: blog posts, short videos, knowledge base.
  • YouTube: explainer videos.
  • Twitter/Instagram and other social media: infographics, short posts and videos. 
  • Audio streaming platforms: podcasts

When publishing on social media, incorporate a link that sends customers back to your website/landing page.

P.S: you mustn’t explore all channels at once. Choose a few your existing content team can manage effectively without compromising quality.

(7) Brainstorm content ideas

Your content ideas can make or mar all other marketing efforts. 

Therefore, customer-facing departments (customer service, sales and content) should come together and suggest topics that interest customers.

Dump all ideas on a whiteboard and work through each one, erasing the irrelevant ones.

Content research tools like Buzzsumo, Feedly, Semrush, and Ahrefs (my recommended), can also help you identify content opportunities. 

Go further with keyword research tools to see the exact terms your customers are searching for. Then craft a compelling SEO headline for each topic and let the content team handle the production. 

According to Alina Petrova, Head of Content at SmartCat, a great content idea should be:

  • useful to your customers
  • able to impact the bottom line (i.e., business goals)

(8) Draw up a content calendar

A content (or editorial) calendar is a schedule of when and where you plan to publish new content. It keeps the content team organized and productive. 

You can organize your content calendar as to-do lists with a date and channel attached to each headline. 

Better still, work with project management tools like Trello (my recommended), Asana and Monday. 

They can help you track the team’s production progress.

What to takeaway

Running a business in this era of information overload can be a bit daunting. But with a solid strategy like the one I laid out above, you can create content worth sharing and win customers’ hearts.

Of course, our framework is not the holy grail of content marketing strategy. But it’s a great place to start. Keep tracking metrics to find out what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re a greenhorn in marketing, check out Hubspot’s content marketing workbook to learn the basics.

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