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How to create a successful content strategy

A content strategy is essential to help you meet your marketing goals (and avoid stress).

A content strategy is essential to help you meet your marketing and business goals (and avoid some stress along the way).

If you want to build big things you have to plan – it’s what turns a pile of bricks into a house. If you try to build a content program without a strategy, you’ll end up with a pile of words, pictures and videos that are unlikely to help your audience and or achieve your business goals.

What makes a good content marketing strategy?

The internet is awash with information. For every minute that passed in 2017, there were 3.8 million Google searches, 1440 WordPress posts, 3.3 million Facebook posts, 500 hours of YouTube video, 448,800 tweets and 65,972 instagram posts. All that in 60 seconds. Depressingly though, research shows 60% of content created by brands is poor, irrelevant or fails to have an impact on business results or people’s lives. Organisations need a strategy to cut through the noise and find genuine opportunities to connect with their audiences.

A strategy is a documented blueprint for what you want to achieve. It is a practical document that forces you to do your work upfront instead of relying on gut assumptions. Your strategy should identify your challenge and measurable goals, and map the steps you will take to achieve them. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) benchmarking report, less than half of Australia’s content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. 72% of organisations who viewed their content marketing as more successful in the past year, attributed that success to their content strategy.

The Mahlab method

Content strategy - Mahlab's end-to-end content strategy.
Mahlab’s end-to-end content marketing strategy.

Mahlab uses a repeatable and scalable model for our work. Our content strategies focus on understanding your audience, producing content to engage with that audience and then using insights to further hone the content crafted.

Our steps include:

  1. Explore: get to know your audience. This means understanding their pain points, what they read, what they want to know, what platforms they are on and how do they like to consume their content. Use a mix of owned and earned data to gather these insights.
  2. Plan: document how you will add value to that audience with content that is also relevant to your business. To do this, you need to find the sweet spot between what you want to say, what your audience wants to hear and what no one else is saying well.
  3. Create: the doing bit. Work with storytellers to create useful and meaningful, content.
  4. Publish: make that content public.
  5. Distribute: get the content out there to the people you want to see it by targeting the platforms your audience uses.
  6. Amplify: paid promotion strategically targets the people you want to get your content in front of.
  7. Measure: track what is doing well and what isn’t doing as well as expected.
  8. Optimise: use what you have learnt from your measurement to make your content and distribution better, and incorporate it into your future plans.

Strategy in action

It’s easier to understand how to apply the model if you see it in action.

Health insurer HBF wanted to create a content marketing program that reached young families. At the explore stage, HBF did their buyer journey mapping and discovered that starting a family is a major trigger for buying, upgrading or renewing health insurance.

They wanted to reach expecting families or those with new babies. Through audience and competitor analysis, HBF found out that there was a gap in the marketplace of content targeted specifically at those families – content for dads. Dads felt ignored by health professionals, with the focus heavily placed on mums.

The best content marketing strategies identify gaps in the conversation that you can get involved in. Even the oldest examples of content marketing show the importance of looking for the ‘content marketing sweet spot’. The spot between what you want to say, what your audience wants to hear and what no one else is doing well. In the 19th century, John Deere cared about selling tractors and their audience cared about good harvesting. So John Deere created the Furrow.

content marketing strategy - Mahlab's sweet spot
The content marketing sweet spot.

Here in the 21st century, the lack of content for men was a huge opportunity for HBF. HBF could attract and engage dads with content targeted to them, and they would also get the attention of mums, happy to see dads ‘doing their homework’.

Moving on to the ‘plan’ stage, Mahlab looked at how to reach dads with meaningful content. We created focus groups with new dads, expecting dads, planning dads, dads of different backgrounds and ages. There, we asked them the sorts of things they wanted to know. What they were thinking, wondering and feeling. Where they were getting their information from and where they actually wanted to get their information from. It was important to spend time with the audience to understand what men would want from a resource meant to help them through a transformative period in their lives.

That planning lead us to conceive and create the content brand DAD – Direct Advice 4 Dads. We recruited Australian dad bloggers and freelance journalists from publications including Top Gear to nail the ‘ladsy’ style that Aussie dads like. We created articles and videos on topics like Are you an overly overprotective dad?, How to actually feel useful when she’s breastfeeding and Sometimes it doesn’t work out – my story of miscarriage.

As the content was published, distributed and amplified, we used a strategic paid Facebook campaign to build an audience from the ground up and increase engagement. We continually measure and optimise the content on the page to improve our results.

Since its launch in September 2016, the DAD Facebook page has grown to more than 61,000 likes and a large number of subscribers to the email newsletter. The project has won multiple awards both in Australia and overseas. These include Best Content-Driven Website, Best Overall Editorial – Digital, and Content Marketing Launch of the Year at the Content Marketing Awards (US).

To find out how content can help you build brand loyalty and advocacy, get in touch.


Hannah Dixon contributed to the writing of this piece.

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Pharmaceutical Society of Australia