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How To Think About Content Marketing Strategy

Stephanie asks, "Which comes first, content or the distribution strategy?"

Neither comes first. What comes first is your goal, your objective. If you’re not clear on the objective, then you’ll create content poorly aligned to your goal, and then you’ll distribute content in the wrong places. Goals are everything for marketing, but in any situation where there’s substantial risk of wasting time, money, and resources, goals are doubly important.

Content Marketing Goals

What are some of the different content marketing goals you might be trying to achieve? One look at the average customer journey shows you multiple locations where content could have an impact.

  • Awareness. You need content to help people to become aware of a problem.
  • Consideration. You need content to help people to know you can solve the general problem.
  • Evaluation. You need content to show people to explictly understand how you solve their problem.
  • Purchase. You need content to convince or enable people to buy your product or service.
  • Ownership. You need content to make ownership easier.
  • Loyalty. You need content to reinforce brand loyalty.
  • Evangelism. You need content for evangelists to share with friends and colleagues.

What are you creating content for? Which of these problems along the customer journey will you be using content marketing for?

Bear in mind, of course, that content is inherently heterogenous. You can make content to fit different goals; one blog post could be explicitly a customer support piece, reinforcing ownership and encouraging loyalty. One YouTube video could be on problem awareness.

Thus, you probably won’t have a singular content creation strategy or a singular content distribution strategy. Instead, you’re likely to have multiple, simultaneous content marketing strategies at work, all along your customer journey. That also means different owners of the different types of content and different parts of the journey. How do you keep it all straight?

Content Marketing Strategy

Given the disparate goals you could be working to achieve, you’ll have three layers of content marketing strategies.

  • Organizational strategy. What role does content marketing play in your overall organizational marketing strategy? For example, if your company is struggling with demand generation, then a good chunk of your content marketing focus will be on awareness and consideration.
  • Campaign strategy. In any given campaign, what role does content marketing play? For example, if you’re running Facebook ads, where do those ads go?
  • Discrete strategy. For any given piece of content marketing, apply Bob Stone’s direct marketing framework to it. Who is the audience? What’s the importance of that particular piece to the audience, the reason they’d consume it? What’s the creative, the contents?

When we think about our content marketing this way, the question of content or distribution coming first fades away; both questions are part of a larger series of questions about our overall content marketing governance.

If this sounds overwhelming, it’s only because it’s abstract and difficult to visualize. Let’s put it into concrete terms that make logical sense.

  • Organizational strategy is like having a restaurant. What’s the theme of the restaurant? Italian? Sushi? High-end steakhouse? This is where the big questions are asked and answered, like marketing budget and the overall audience you serve.
  • Campaign strategy is like the menu at a restaurant. What dishes go on the menu, and in what order? Tirimisu might be nice, but not as an appetizer. If you think about the customer journey as the courses of a meal, you’re going to have some campaigns for each – or you should.
  • Discrete strategy is like the individual dishes and recipes at a restaurant. How do you cook the dish? How quickly? With what ingredients? If scallops take four minutes to cook and bacon takes seventeen, you’d better time it right to have both done at the same time. With content marketing, this is where you assemble your content, as well as the timing, distribution, and placement.

Like a restaurant’s theme, you rarely change the organizational strategy.

You might change the campaign strategy infrequently, but like a restaurant’s menu, there can be substantial costs to doing so.

And like a restaurant’s dishes, you’ll make frequent changes to how you cook a dish as you work ever harder to be more efficient and effective, while still delivering what’s promised on the menu.

Content marketing strategy is much more than just cranking out content and hoping someone consumes it. When you do it right, you’re building an entire product line, because content marketing is a product. Treat it as such.


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