Many companies use content marketing tactics, either occasionally or consistently. Fewer, unfortunately, employ a fully shaped content marketing strategy—the “why” behind the whats and hows of creating brand content for customers.
Tactics are useful—they’re action, they’re doing. But content marketing strategy is a purposeful understanding of what you’re trying to get out of the whole endeavor, and how every individual piece of content works together to move you toward your business’ goals.
Content marketing tactics may be a step forward. But content marketing strategy is knowing where you’re going in the first place.
So why do so many marketing departments keep falling into tactical flail without firming up a full content strategy? Two main reasons:
- Content strategy is maddeningly complex, so it’s natural to get drawn in by the immediate gratification of dialing into a single tactic, like digital ads.
- The digital content landscape changes so fast and so consistently, chasing tactical shifts is a full-time job in and of itself.
The ever-changing digital landscape is something brands and marketers at all levels will always have to juggle. The complexity, though: It’s surmountable, with direction and an understanding of why a full content marketing strategy sets you up for focused, sustained success, rather than quick wins with a limited shelf life.
Understanding the Essence of Content Marketing
At the core, content marketing is about telling your brand’s story in a way that attracts, engages, and retains your ideal audience, wherever and whenever they are. It’s the process of knowing your value, then sharing that value through relevant, informative, entertaining, and consistent storytelling.
Modern marketing has a lot less to do with dollar-signing your way into hearts and minds through mass media, more to do with establishing trust, forming meaningful connections, and keeping that conversation going consistently, everywhere your audience wants to be.
Set Your Content Marketing Goals
The first step in developing a strategic content marketing plan: setting clear, measurable content marketing goals. Depending on your business and your audience, it might be related to driving website traffic, generating qualified leads, improving brand awareness, or establishing thought leadership. More likely than not, it’s a mix of several—but as you firm up your goals, you should be able to make a hierarchical list and put a key, overarching aim at the very top. Your North Star.
That guiding-light goal, ultimately, should inform every piece of content you create. Is it pointed toward your North Star? If the answer’s no, it’s probably not worth spending appreciable resources making or distributing.
Understanding Your Audience
Knowing your audience is marketing 101, but integrating that on the ground floor of your content marketing strategy development means getting really granular.
You’ve done the work to know who your audience members are, by and large—what their interests and needs are, and how you, uniquely, solve their problem in the way they need it solved. When you did your brand development, you figured out how to talk to them in a voice that resonates and what aesthetic principles connect your brand to their beliefs.
Content marketing strategy gives you encouragement to dig deeper.
Within those core problems, what sub-problems does your audience think about? When they spend their time consuming media, how much of it is reading periodicals on a tablet and how much of it is scrolling on social media? Are you a fixer they turn to when a specific catastrophe happens—like a roof leak—or are you the coach that inspires them daily? If it’s a catastrophe, where’s the first place they go to find you? Where’s the second place?
This is an exercise that asks you to understand not just what your transactional experience looks like, but what your ongoing relationship with each other looks like now, and whether that’s exactly what you both want it to be.
Crafting and Curating Your Content
Once you’re clear on what success looks like to you and what your ideal ongoing relationship with your audience looks like, content strategies can start. And it will be strategies, plural—because your core content strategy is framed around building and maintaining a relationship with your audience, and you’ll shape sub-strategies around individual initiatives, all of them pointed in the same direction.
For example: Say your audience consists of consumer and business banking customers in a specific area, all with different banking needs, but connected by the desire to work with an organization that provides a personal touch and is committed to education and support. Your overall content strategy points toward providing that friendly education clearly and consistently in a way that makes it clear you’re there to offer more, any time.
In the various formats you’ve pinpointed as relevant, you’ll shape sub-strategies, employed with content tactics. Every one of them will serve the same overall strategy.
- A blogging strategy allows you to share deep expertise, establishes your brand as a thought leader, and provides support to your audience (and drives SEO).
- Social media content strategy places you in the town square, invites you to provide entertainment or inspiration, lets you put your customer service approach on display.
- A podcasting strategy displays your personality, lets you dig into industry trends, and expands thought leadership and connection.
- A video content strategy puts your expertise in a shareable context and connects with people in visually driven spaces.
- And on and on.
Which formats make the most sense with your ideal audience? How can you shape sub-strategies for each to harmonize with your overall content marketing strategy?
Testing Content Marketing Tactics
Within each of these individual sub-strategies, you’ll start to break down a structure—content pillars built on overarching topics that matter to your audience, a cadence that keeps you focused and organized.
That structure gives you a framework to build content calendars on, all pointing toward the goals you set at the start.
When the content itself starts coming together, it’s time for tools and tactics.
Tactics might include content distribution specifics, like which social media platforms you prioritize and how often you create distinct content for each. (Each digital platform has its unique audience and content preferences, so tailoring your content for different platforms—from LinkedIn and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok—can significantly increase its effectiveness. This means adapting the tone, format, and style to suit each platform’s user behavior and preferences.)
Other content tactics might include collaborations with influencers, inviting user-generated content, participating in forums for community-building, developing interactive content (like quizzes or polls) that keeps users engaged, or guest posting on relevant websites.
Your content tactics should absolutely include SEO, which, at this stage of digital media development, is inextricably linked with content marketing. Integrating SEO with content marketing, on whatever platform you’re using, involves threading relevant keywords within quality content, ensuring that your content is discoverable by search engines so it hits your intended audience. (Your website content needs to be optimized for search, yes, but your social media and video content should be too.)
An oft-overlooked content marketing tactic: repurposing content. It’s not a shortcut or a cheat—it’s smart marketing. By repurposing existing content (especially content that’s already performed well), you can extend its lifespan and reach new audiences. This might mean turning a blog post into a video series, an infographic, or a podcast episode, or it might be re-editing and redeploying a social media video that got great traction six months ago.
One thing to keep in mind about all of these tactics: They will and should change as you go. You’re trying things, testing, and adapting.
The tactics that serve your content marketing strategy may shift quarterly. That strategy should hold firm for longer.
Measuring Content Marketing Success and the Role of Analytics in Refining Strategy
To track the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts, you’ll measure various content marketing KPIs, analyzing website traffic, engagement rates, lead conversion, and overall ROI.
Watching these metrics will tell you whether your strategy is working, but more than that, it’ll help you refine your strategy for better results.
Analytics are key to content marketing—they provide insights into what content performs well, whether you’re reaching your intended audience, and how the people you’re reaching respond to your content. Regularly reviewing these analytics will allow you to adjust your tactics and, if needed, your strategy, ensuring your aim remains aligned with your goals and what your audience wants.
Leveraging the Right Content Marketing Tools
Content marketing tools can’t build a strategy or make it work (no matter how many times LinkedInfluencers claim AI can actually really truly do it for you in 30 seconds). But there are plenty of solid digital marketing tools that can make your ideation, creation, distribution, and analysis more efficient and effective.
These include social media scheduling tools, content calendar tools, video editing tools, and yes, generative AI.
What works for someone else’s team, unfortunately, may not work for yours. The important thing to think about, when you’re wondering about content marketing tools: Your goal is to set a strategy, firm up your tactics, stay organized, stay consistent, and track your progress. Where are you stumbling?
There are tools designed to make every step in the process more streamlined. Many include free trials. Test and explore.
Staying Ahead: Future Trends in Content Marketing
The only constant in digital marketing, as in the world at large: change. So your plans will certainly shift as the content marketing landscape evolves.
Staying updated with the latest trends is key, including embracing new technologies (like AI) in content creation, understanding the impact of voice search on SEO, and exploring new content formats and platforms.
Again, though, we’re talking tactics. Keeping abreast of trends keeps you tactically nimble.
Your content marketing strategy is rooted in something deeper: who you are and who (and why) you’re trying to help. That doesn’t have to get tossed out when the next TikTok takes hold.
Looking for a Strategic Content Marketing Partner?
From strategy to execution, content marketing in all its forms and all its formats is Snapshot’s sweet spot. Need help shaping a content marketing strategy, deploying it, and tracking its progress? We’d love to share your story. Connect with the Snapshot team and tell us more.