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Read this before you create a single piece of content

Having a documented strategy in place is what separates successful content marketers from their less successful peers.

Starting a new project is always exciting.

It’s only natural to want to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in right away. But before you rally the troops, brainstorm new content ideas and begin putting pen to paper – take a step back.

Rushing into these things never pays off. Just as a house built on sand will ultimately collapse, a content campaign without the proper foundations will never stand the test of time.

Not only will taking the time now to refine your strategy save you countless wasted hours further down the line, it will also drastically increase your chances of success in the first place.

The Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI’s) latest benchmarking study reveals that 62 per cent of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy, compared to just 16 per cent of the least successful ones. That means, you’re almost four times more likely to be successful when you have a proper strategy in place.

What’s more, 72 per cent of marketers who have increased their success over the past 12 months cite ‘strategy’ as a key factor driving that improvement.

“[Our] research has consistently found a content marketing strategy to be the one thing that separates successful content marketers from their less successful peers,” says the CMI’s Jodi Harris. “Once you have a documented content marketing strategy, its insights can make all your tactical decisions easier to plan and manage.”

Taking the time to lay these foundations before you embark on a new content initiative will give your campaigns the best chances of success.

An effective, documented content strategy will link your content to clear business objectives, show you where your brand sits in the broader content landscape and help you identify the burning issues that are keeping your prospects up at night.

Once yours is complete, you’ll be in a far better position to ensure the content you create is tailored to your audience’s needs. You’ll know exactly how to make sure you reach them with the right messages, in the right formats and through the right channels at each stage of the marketing funnel.

In short, putting a documented strategy in place before you ever create a single piece of content will make it far easier to achieve your goals. Even if you’re creating some content already, pausing now to refine your strategy will significantly enhance the performance of everything you do in future.

But before you rush off and start creating yours, we should say a brief word about what it really means to have an effective content strategy.

You see, so many B2B marketers aren’t seeing the results they should be from their content campaigns because they think they have a strong content marketing strategy in place, when in fact they don’t.

Why you should put your audience first

The best content marketers take an ‘audience first’ approach. They start by considering who their audience is and the challenges their customers face. Then, they create useful, unique and engaging content tailored to help with those specific and evolving needs.

Take engineering giant GE, for example. In 2008, the company hired business journalist Thomas Kellner to launch GE Reports, an online publication that tells stories about GE’s people and innovations.

But, people don’t generally read GE Reports because they want to become more aware of the GE brand. They do it because they love the content. They want to know more about cutting edge technologies that are pushing the limits of engineering and innovation. They want to see how GE is “making the impossible possible”.

At the same time, it’s important to consider the unique journeys each of your audience members are on and tailor content for each stage as they progress through the marketing funnel.

Someone who’s never heard of your company before will have very different concerns to a customer that’s on the brink of making a purchase. That’s why it’s so important to take an ‘audience first’ approach to the content you create – and that means having a documented strategy to guide your content marketing initiatives .

The simple fact is, you won’t be able to get the most out of your content strategy if it isn’t written down.

It’s not a viable strategy if it isn’t documented

More than three quarters of marketers say they have a content marketing strategy in place. But, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that half of those ‘strategies’ are verbal only.

It seems that most marketers feel there’s no need to document their strategies. After all, everything is in their heads anyway. Wouldn’t writing it down just be a waste of time?

Of course, we already know that’s not the case. If you think you’ll be fine with a verbal content marketing strategy, that’s a sign you haven’t gone into enough depth to accurately guide your tactical decisions and maximise your chances of success.

The insights you’ll uncover while developing your content marketing strategy are far too valuable to keep locked away inside your head.

Imagine you’ve been tasked with rolling out a new content initiative that generates 250 qualified leads for your sales team each quarter.

You might think that goal sounds simple enough. You’ll publish a series of digital reports, use data capture forms to gather the details of everyone who downloads them and hand a spreadsheet containing all that information over to your head of sales.

But, here’s where things get complicated. Which members of your target audience actually influence their companies’ spending decisions? And who else in the business influences them? Which topics will resonate most strongly with these stakeholders? How do they like to consume their content? And what messages will they respond to at each stage of the marketing funnel?

Getting the answers to any of these questions wrong will seriously damage your ability to drive business results with content marketing. So, designing your content campaigns based on gut instinct alone is a huge risk.

Documenting your strategy is also the only way to ensure it’s applied consistently throughout your organisation. This challenge is especially acute at large businesses, where new and junior staff will often misrepresent your brand’s messaging without proper guidance.

What’s more, laying out exactly what you’re trying to achieve and how you will achieve it with content marketing is essential for securing buy‐in for your initiatives from the rest of the business. If you’ve ever had trouble securing the budget you need or getting the sales team to use your content in client conversations, this process will help.

In short, the insights you’ll uncover while developing your content strategy are far too valuable to keep locked away inside your head.

The insights you’ll uncover about your audience and its needs will help you engage your customers and set your content apart from that of your less successful peers. As a result, you’re almost four times more likely to deliver successful campaigns with a proper strategy in place.

So, don’t waste another second: start taking steps to develop and document your content strategy today.

Key takeaways

  • You’re almost four times more likely to be successful when you have a content strategy in place. Laying the right foundations while planning a new campaign makes it far easier to achieve your goals.
  • Take an ‘audience first’ approach. Consider who your audience is, then create useful content that’s tailored to their personal preferences and helps them overcome the challenges they face.
  • It’s not an effective strategy if it isn’t documented. Verbal content strategies don’t provide the depth of insight you need to guide your tactical decisions and maximise your chances of success.

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