“Developing a robust content marketing strategy is essential. Content is now the crucial factor that underpins digital marketing such as SEO, social media, advertising and PR.” – Kathryn Dawson, Digital Marketing Consultant

Over the past decade, content marketing has grown to be the marketing buzzword of the moment. Back in 2014 it was at its peak, every man, woman and their dog was writing blogs, creating videos for YouTube, creating surveys and whitepapers. But just because everyone is doing it, it doesn’t mean they are seeing success.

Whilst content marketing as a concept has been around for hundreds of years, most companies are still in the early stages, and many experts believe it will take years to really squeeze the benefits from content marketing effectively.

So what’s the biggest barrier to doing content marketing well? And not just well, but doing it in a market leading kind of way? Put simply, the lack of a decent plan. Hardly mind blowing or out of reach stuff, but recent research has once again shown us marketers where we are going wrong. In the chapter "How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy" we discuss in detail the steps marketers can take to achieve an effective strategy which you can download, or read on for a quick overview.

Survey shows a lack of confidence in content marketing skills

According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 89% of firms they surveyed were proactively producing content as a key part of their marketing plan in 2016. Despite some experts predicting a slowdown of content marketing’s influence over marketing budgets, the survey points to quite the opposite. CMI founder, Joe Pulizzi, believes that in the next ten years, content marketing will account for up to half of all marketing activity and budget spent by brands, as they build dedicated content teams for its creation, production and distribution.

And recent announcements illustrate this trend has begun: Made, ‘an agency within an agency’, have created a specialised content marketing focus and team for global communications agency M Booth.

But whilst the reach and influence of content grows, it appears marketers are not feeling that confident about their company’s prowess. In the CMI survey just 34% of those using content marketing felt their organisation was effective at doing so. That’s a pretty damning if honest statistic, but not all that surprising in many ways.

Why? Because doing marketing is hard. And doing (great) content marketing is harder still. Looking at the statistics though, it does seem we marketers are guilty of shooting ourselves in the foot. Despite the widely accepted wisdom of having a plan for any aspect of a business, most still don’t have a plan for content marketing.

Too often, a well meaning but rather ineffective back-of-a-cigarette-packet attempt at a plan is what has to suffice for content marketers. We tend to plan content at the point it’s needed rather than taking a longer term and more strategic view.

Planning to fail

So if you don’t have a plan, you are planning to fail, right?

Well yes! Getting content marketing right represents a huge opportunity for brands big and small. It’s no secret that clients and customers are more likely to trust your brand if they feel you are helping or informing them, rather than simply shouting sales messages at them.

In fact 61% of US consumers have made a purchase as a direct result of reading a blog post. And with companies with 50+ blog posts on their website enjoying a 77% uplift in monthly leads, the stakes are high.

Steps to success

Whilst it’s hard to sum up the entire process from the chapter "How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy" in one blog post, there are essentially 5 key steps to take:

Step 1: Conduct an audit of your current content capabilities and resources.

Step 2: Set your targets to measure success.

Step 3: Research your target audience to understand their needs and motivations.

Step 4: Pick your goals to focus on what the content should deliver.

Step 5: Determine your points of interaction defining the prospect’s buying journey.

Next there are a few questions to answer.

Will you use curated or original content? Or a mix of both? How and when?

What will your collective tone of voice be?

What channels will you use to broadcast your content?

What will your prospects want from your content, and similarly what will your existing customers want?

Sounds simple enough. But in reality there’s a lot of work to be done in gauging how your content will best convert a prospect into a loyal customer. Creating killer content is one thing: getting it to the right audience, in the right way and at the right time is entirely another.

But the evidence clearly shows that shooting from the hip creating content on the go just doesn’t cut it. So it’s time to lock yourself away in a coffee shop, or the boardroom and to start planning. There’s no time like the present!

Ready for more?

For detailed advice you can either download the chapter on "How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy", or The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing which includes additional chapters on:

  • 3 quick wins for improving your content marketing right now

  • How to measure ROI

  • Content marketing lessons from Nike, Red Bull, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed

  • Curated versus original content

  • The growth of video content marketing

  • How to keep blogging relevant, driving both brand awareness and leads