content marketing

Three Keys to a Strategic Content Marketing Plan

Content marketing made simple: how to develop an effective content strategy.

Content is still king in marketing. The Institute of Content Marketing defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Easily said, but what does it mean when it comes to practical application?

As the adage goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail.” Like any critical business initiative, content marketing requires a strategic plan. Without it, companies risk wasting valuable resources on ineffective initiatives that deliver the wrong message to the wrong audience through the wrong medium. Fortunately, companies are recognizing the importance of having a plan that guides the development and use of their content marketing. In fact, as of 2020, 84 per cent of B2B, B2C, non-profits and other organizations reported having a plan as opposed to 77 per cent in 2019. When creating your strategic marketing plan, consider these three pillars of content marketing: messaging, medium, and contact frequency.

Messaging

Before you start developing content, it’s vital for your marketing team and content developers to understand your business inside and out. There are several important facets to consider that will ensure your content messaging is aligned with the company and the marketplace you serve. Here’s how:

  1. Focus on your organization’s mission and vision. This mindset is the foundation that guides all content and marketing decisions.
  2. Research and get to know your target audience’s needs and challenges and how you can best address them.
  3. Define a clear value proposition. This helps identify your core expertise and describes why people should do business with you.
  4. Pinpoint and capitalize on your corporate differential. This creates a marketplace distinction and communicates clarifies how your solutions are different from the competition.
  5. Articulate the benefits, not the features, of your products and services. Effective messaging that resonates with audiences focuses on the solutions to their pain points.
  6. Create and maintain a brand style guide to consistently reinforce your tone, messaging and the visual display of your brand.

With this information in mind, you can develop brand-aligned messaging that reflects your thought leadership and expertise while effectively addressing the needs and challenges of your target markets.

Mediums and channels

The types of content you can produce might seem endless. Beyond content, look at formats and where and how content is distributed. Make sure you know what platforms your audiences frequent and connect with them on as many as possible. When evaluating mediums and channels, consider external and internal outlets, as well as proprietary and non-proprietary ones. Some of the most popular mediums include:

  • Blogs
  • Bylined articles
  • Case studies, success stories, testimonials
  • Newsletters
  • E-books, guides and white papers
  • Infographics
  • Press releases and press kits
  • Marketing collateral

Some of the channels to tap into are:

  • Videos
  • Website
  • Social media platforms
  • Paid advertising
  • Podcasts and webinars
  • Live speaking engagements
  • Tradeshows, workshops and special events
  • Email
  • SMS marketing

To determine what works best, create a plan that includes a mix of mediums and channels. Then test and measure the results.

Ideal frequency

Once messaging and mediums and channels have been selected, determining an effective frequency is vital. Surprisingly, frequency is often overlooked when developing a communications plan. The right frequency depends on multiple factors, including the size and profile of your target audiences, content type, channel used, marketing budget and team capabilities. Research shows that the frequency with which a company communicates with customers and prospects directly correlates with building trust and customer loyalty. It’s important to understand the recommended frequencies according to the type of content. For example, social media posts need to be communicated more frequently than long-form content, such as bylined articles or white papers. Most importantly, build a consistent schedule that can be maintained while still producing quality content. Just like with mediums and channels, test and measure the results to make sure you have a data-driven plan that capitalizes on the preferences of your audiences.

Review and revise often.

Once you have addressed messaging, mediums and channels, and ideal frequency, you’ll have the foundation for a strategic communications plan. Use each of the pillars to build a content marketing plan that incorporates awareness, relevance, innovation and flexibility. Look for marketplace opportunities and assess your progress regularly. That’s what the experts do, and so can you.