After 15 years working in corporate marketing departments, there is one request I’ve been on the receiving end of time and again: The (usually urgent) ask for a new piece of collateral or a full-blown campaign.
It’s almost always a knee-jerk reaction to bad news coming from outside our four walls–a big prospective client passes, a competitor launches a hot new product.
These scenarios can shake even the most seasoned leader’s sense of agency. A leap to action feels like wresting back control. But an impulsive decision is rarely (if ever) a good one. That’s why my response to these requests is and always will be, “What’s the [content] strategy?”
Most times there isn’t one. But new projects that launch without a strategy are destined to fail.
Why content needs strategy
Strategy is all about defining an objective and setting a roadmap to reach it. That’s why these off-the-cuff marketing requests so often come without a strategy attached–because the driving force behind them is reactive (“We need to make up for this lost deal!” “We must outshine our competitor!”).
But strategy starts with you. What is your business striving for, proactively, and independent of what others out there are doing? In the case of content strategy, specifically, how does each campaign you create tie in with broader business objectives?
Strategy is about asking the big questions, and that’s why it’s so risky to move ahead without one. When you don’t have an underlying reason for what you’re doing, you risk wasting time and money, eroding the support of your team and clients, and–in the most dire scenarios–endangering your business.
With a strategy, however, you carve a path forward that is:
- Efficient and logic-driven. A strategy defines the most direct path from your starting point to your goal, then helps you traverse it.
- More productive and profitable. Logic and efficiency breed productivity and profitability. No time or money is wasted lost in the weeds.
- Satisfying for your team. Everyone goes in with a sense of purpose, which makes the work more meaningful and fun.
Strategy is about asking the big questions, and that’s why it’s so risky to move ahead without one. When you don’t have an underlying reason for what you’re doing, you risk wasting time and money, eroding the support of your team and clients, and–in the most dire scenarios–you endanger your business.
The components of a strong content strategy
An airtight content strategy begins with defining your goals and objectives. What are you trying to achieve with this content? You’ll want to get specific–”more leads” isn’t helpful, but “increasing our inbound demo requests by 10%” is something you can work with and measure.
Setting your goals will help you establish your target audience. If you want to generate more leads, your audience is prospects. But you can get more granular than that–is there a particular segment of the prospect population you’d like to reach? Creating a clear picture of your target audience will help you craft messaging and find the right place for your content.
All strong content strategies also include some competitive analysis. I know I said this was about you–and it is–but there’s still value in understanding what’s happening out in the world. Content is inherently a public-facing, attention-grabbing medium. Reviewing how other brands and campaigns have behaved–and how the public has responded–can provide you with valuable insights.
Of course, you can’t have a content strategy without the content itself! Here, you’ll merge strategy, insights, and creativity to create something great.
Once your content is out in the world, you should keep an eye on it. Measurement is the only way to know if your content is achieving your goals.
Putting it together: The steps of strategy-driven content creation
Given all the information I’ve just shared, it may not surprise you to hear that creating strategy-driven content is a multi-step process.
It starts with discovery, to lay the crucial groundwork for your campaign. This is the time to develop a full and nuanced picture of your target audience (consumer research can help), identify any potential roadblocks, and generate buy-in from your team.
With the foundational work complete, you can move on to planning and execution. Here’s where you start to move from big picture to nitty-gritty. There will be logistical questions to answer (like, how long will we run this campaign for?), and creative questions (like, what do we want these ads to look and feel like?). The planning and execution phase covers everything from the earliest creative meetings up to content launch.
Once your new content is out in the world, it’s time to track results. Based on the goals you defined earlier, you should have clear benchmarks to work toward. Today’s digital marketing tools offer countless opportunities for you to collect and analyze data. From web traffic to social engagement to email and advertising statistics, you’ve got numbers galore to help you understand what’s happening with your campaign.
Most marketers choose to identify a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help them understand success. If you’re looking to increase the number of demo requests you receive, then your demo form completion rate is an obvious metric to track. But you can also look to other stats that might point to a general uptick in prospect engagement, which could eventually lead to more demo requests with some additional nurturing.
I understand the impulse to shoot right into a new content campaign. The digital marketing world moves fast, and when you’re reacting to something that’s just happened, time can feel of the essence. But, in the end, slowing down, lining up your strategy, and acting only when you have your end goal in sight is actually the most effective and efficient way to work.
Need help pausing and strategizing before you cannonball into your next marketing project? Let’s talk.