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Why you need a documented content marketing strategy

Marketers with a documented content marketing strategy consider their companies more effective.

It’s been shown time and again: marketers with a documented content marketing strategy consider their companies more effective than those without one. So, asks Chelsea Wallis, where’s yours?

Australian companies are increasingly embracing a multi-faceted approach to communicating with their potential and existing customers, leveraging multiple content channels and platforms to provide relevant brand experiences. But while these conversations are becoming more meaningful, this approach is putting pressure on marketing teams to keep up with the task of effectively managing numerous content mediums at once.

The volume and quality of content that consumers have come to expect is overwhelming at the best of times, and many companies are making it even harder on themselves by neglecting to create a solid plan of attack.

The Content Marketing Institute reported in their 2014 survey that while 89 per cent of Australian marketers are using content marketing, only 37 per cent have a documented content marketing strategy. Of those, only 40 per cent follow the strategy closely.

For those of you in possession of a well-used and regularly referenced content marketing strategy, these numbers suggest that your infinitely-less organised contemporaries are facing bleak futures (something you’re probably feeling pretty smug about). After all, the same research shows 44 per cent of marketers with a documented content marketing strategy consider their companies more effective at content marketing than those who do not have a strategy.

So why do these smug, stunningly organised marketing professionals consider themselves to be content marketing poster children? Because a documented and well-communicated strategy ensures that everyone who is involved in your business’s overarching communications strategy – not just the marketing team but also the board and CEO – is on the same page and is working towards the same goals.

To ensure your documented strategy is pointedly purposeful, you’re going to need a few things…

This is what you’re going to need to get your documented strategy off the ground:

Clearly defined goals for what you want your strategy to achieve

Whether you’re working to bolster traffic to your website, raise awareness of your products and services, or boost your customer conversion rate, it’s important to clearly state your intentions before beginning the documentation process. This will ensure that your strategy maintains a solid focus on your overarching objectives.

An understanding of the ways in which you are useful to your customers – these insights will act as fuel for your marketing department’s content creation efforts

We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: all successful businesses thrive because they’re offering a product or service that aids customers in reaching their own personal goals. Note that success in this instance stems from the customer, not the business. With this in mind, your content should be helpful. It should address the challenges your customers come up against in the pursuit of their goals and it most certainly shouldn’t shout about how fantastic your business is.

Imagine: you’re a car dealer. You want to attract new visitors to your dealership. Do you create a long list detailing the make and model of each and every one of your cars and publish it on your website? Or do you write an article detailing the tips, tricks and particulars every new-car buyer needs to know to get the best deal? Focus on helping, not selling.

Agreement on where you want to distribute your content. Note: make your choice wisely

Here is where it’s tempting to go completely over the top. You decide you want to set up a blog, Facebook page, Twitter handle, LinkedIn Company Page (accompanied by an array of Showcase Pages), Instagram profile, Google+ Business Page, a Slideshare account – you get the idea. Tempting as it may be, to be truly effective in your content marketing efforts, you must focus on quality over quantity. This means keeping your content channels and platforms to a minimum.

And another thing: if you build it, they’ll come, right? Wrong. They won’t – you have to go to them. Answer me this: where do your customers spend time online? If, say, LinkedIn’s many nooks and crannies are teeming with your potential and existing customers, should you bother with Facebook posts or Instagram updates? No, of course you shouldn’t. Find your customers and scatter your content in their backyard. Then, and only then, will they come.

A structured process that allows you to extend the reach of your content

If you’ve one brilliant idea, don’t simply blast it out haphazardly across the web. Structure your process. Create one foundational piece of content – say, an ebook or a report – and build three to five different iterations of this idea across your chosen channels and platforms. By crafting and, of course, documenting how you plan to amplify the message, you ensure each and every piece of content has a definitive purpose. You’ll also save yourself a hell of a lot of time and energy, too.

A workplace culture that encourages experimentation and analytical thinking

When it comes to content marketing, content is just one part of a two-bit equation. The other part is measurement and analysis – proving the success of your content in light of those clearly defined goals I mentioned earlier. In order for your documented strategy to command the company-wide attention it deserves, you need to include in it room for structured and scalable experimentation, testing and strategic iteration. Not just for the sake of the quality and usefulness of future content, but for your board and your boss. Think of it this way: your CEO is highly unlikely to approve your next budget if all you’ve got to show her is a series of ebooks. But say you’ve got the metrics to prove that the ebook series drove an impressive number of potential customers to give you their details, or stats to show that those very ebooks prompted website visitors to purchase your products or services – she’ll be scrambling to sign on the dotted line.

Curiosity is paramount here. Your marketing team needs to be forever questioning their work and its results. They should be asking questions like, ‘Why did a greater number of enewsletter subscribers click on this story as opposed to that one?’ and ‘My website’s traffic peaks during the last week of every month. How come?’. Questions like these prompt investigation. Investigation leads to the identification of audience trends and tastes. Trends and tastes can be used as insights to strengthen future content.

Your documented strategy needs attention. Every. Single. Day.

Content marketing demands vigilance and patience. Success doesn’t come overnight – it can take months to see results – so to be in possession of a documented strategy is a privileged position indeed. With it, you can not only be sure that every action taken in the pursuit of success is done with structured and measurable intent, but also you’ll sleep well each night knowing that the day’s efforts, executed across a variety of platforms and mediums, were both meaningful and purposeful.

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The most successful content marketers know their audience like they know themselves.
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