You’ve probably noticed that some companies have similar publishing schedules and content workflow processes, yet the results they achieve are significantly different.
This is because there are likely differences in their content marketing strategies.
In addition, the introduction of AI has significantly changed the content marketing landscape, and the content marketing strategies that worked a few years ago simply aren’t as effective in 2023.
In this post, we’ll first define what a content marketing strategy is, and then discuss how you can create an effective content marketing strategy in 2023 and beyond.
Content Marketing Strategy Defined
A content marketing strategy is a plan for building an audience and attracting your ideal customers through publishing and promoting content (e.g., videos, blog posts, social media posts, etc.).
Every decent content marketing strategy clearly defines:
- The content format (e.g., video, blog post, etc.)
- The publishing frequency
- The content ideas or topics
- The content workflow process
However, the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy depends largely on how you optimize each of these four elements. So in this post, we’ll discuss how to design a highly effective content marketing strategy.
Do you need a content marketing strategy?
If you are a small business with a few employees or a one-man or one-woman shop, you may think your content marketing program is so simple that you don’t need a plan.
Won’t a list of things that need to happen written on the back of an envelope get the job done?
While you can create and publish effective content without a comprehensive plan, written documentation ultimately increases the likelihood of your content marketing program’s success for a few different reasons:
- It’s easier to run A/B tests and measure results as you can change variables with more control.
- SEO strategies, such as creating content clusters to build topical authority, require multiple pieces of content, which therefore may require several months to
- Consistency is the key to a successful content marketing strategy, and it’s easier to remain consistent with a defined weekly schedule.
- It reduces confusion as team members know exactly what’s expected of them each week.
- It’s easier to forecast results when you have a set schedule.
Therefore, even though it is possible to achieve content marketing success without a defined strategy, having a strategy will increase your likelihood of success.
Below, we’ll discuss how you can design a highly effective content marketing strategy that still works in 2023.
A Simple Content Marketing Strategy That Works In 2023
Step 1: Execute Audience Research
Similar to how a startup needs to find product-market fit, you need to find content market fit.
Content market fit is identifying the information your audience wants to consume and producing content to meet that need.
To discover what kind of content your audience is craving, start by doing audience research to understand the pain points they’re currently facing.
To do audience research, here are a few different methods:
- Join forums and groups: You can search Slack groups, Facebook groups, or industry forums to learn more about the common pain points your audience discusses. This will also help you keep a pulse on industry trends so that you always create relevant content.
- Attend events and conferences: Conferences and events are excellent because they allow you to talk with your prospects one-on-one, and the keynotes give you a good overview of the general industry pain points and trends.
- Get on the phone with prospects/customers: This is the best audience research method as it allows you to ask follow up questions and go deeper into each pain point.
You can also use a tool like SparkToro to discover publications they currently read, podcasts they listen to, social media accounts they follow, and other information about where they hang out online.
For example, here are a few of the places that people interested in coffee frequently visit:
While you don’t want to copy another brand’s content strategy verbatim, competitor analysis can give you an idea of the type of content that resonates with your audience, and some of these publications may be excellent potential partners.
As you’re researching your target audience, take note of the following things:
- Pain points they frequently discuss and problems they face
- Fears they mention and what success/failure looks like
- Current industry trends they’re interested in
Step 2: Select A Content Medium
Once you have a general idea of your audience’s pain points, selecting a repeatable content format makes it easier to generate content ideas and create a repeatable system to produce quality content.
First, select a single content channel. Here are just a few of the content mediums you can consider:
- Short form video content (YouTube Shorts, TikTok videos, Instagram Reels, etc.)
- Blog posts (SEO content and thought leadership content)
- Social media posts (Twitter threads, LinkedIn written posts, etc.)
- Long form video (Extended YouTube videos)
While it’s tempting to produce multiple types of content at once, you’ll have a much higher chance of success if you invest all of your resources into a single content medium than if you spread your resources across multiple content mediums.
Once you’ve mastered a single content format, then you can add a second content medium to your content marketing plan.
To select the content format you want to produce, consider these factors:
- Do you enjoy producing this content format? If you’re personally creating the content, it’s critical you enjoy it as you’ll otherwise likely give up. Consistency is the key to success with content, so selecting any content format you enjoy producing will significantly increase your chances of success.
- Is this content format proven with your audience? If a particular content format has already proven to work for your competitors, it will probably also work for you. For example, if all of your competitors are doing SEO blog posts, that same format will probably help your brand grow. In contrast, an unproven content format, like TikTok for personal injury lawyers, may or may not work.
- Do you have the resources required to invest in this channel? If you’re not personally producing the content, you’ll have to hire someone to help you create content. Some channels, like long-form video content, tend to be much more expensive than other forms of content, like written social media posts.
It’s also worth noting that while there are plenty of trending new content formats, like short form TikTok videos, that doesn’t mean that older forms of content, like SEO blog posts, don’t work.
In fact, SEO content is still likely the most effective form of content marketing for B2B companies, as people actively researching a pain point are much more likely to make a purchase than someone scrolling TikTok who pauses on your video because they find it entertaining.
Step 3: Generate Content Ideas
Now that you’ve identified the content format, define what you will say in your content.
This is arguably the most important step in the process because if you don’t discuss anything your audience finds interesting or helpful, people won’t follow your brand, and your content marketing efforts will ultimately fail to build an audience.
Start by looking at your customer research notes. What are the most common pain points that people face? Make a list of these pain points and then write content topics based on each one.
If you choose to create SEO content, use these topics to create content clusters. A content cluster is a group of blog posts that discuss various subtopics of a broader topic. For example, we have a content cluster around becoming a freelance writer.
The main blog post is a guide to becoming a freelance writer. Then we link to various other blog posts discussing more specific subtopics on freelance writing, like freelance writing rates, and finding a freelance writing job.
Content clusters are excellent for building your website’s topical authority (which ultimately helps you rank higher on Google), and they keep readers engaged with your brand by providing answers to all of their questions on a specific topic.
Another strategy you can try is creating curated lists of examples or trends. For example, Exploding Topics built its blog traffic to over 200,000 visitors by creating list posts of the latest trends across various industries.
These content curations also tied well into their product, as the product itself is a trend discovery platform, and they used the product to identify the trends mentioned in the blog posts.
The curated list posts also generated a lot of traffic and backlinks for Exploding Topics, which helped the website increase its authority in search engines. Best of all, they also don’t require outstanding writing expertise to produce, as the writer just needs to add a few notes on the trends found by the tool.
In addition to trends, you could also do curated example lists. For example, if you have a real estate company, you could create list posts of the top ten properties for sale in every state.
Step 4: Create A Content Creation And Publishing Workflow
Consistency is the key to success with content marketing, and systems and processes make it easy to consistently produce high quality content.
To get started, establish a workflow process to complete a single piece of content and then assign the tasks involved in that workflow to each person on your content team.
For example, this is what the publishing schedule might look like for producing a blog post:
You can use project management software like Monday or Asana to assign specific tasks to your team. These platforms also usually offer pre-made content workflow templates that you can use to get started.
From there, you can assign due dates for each task.
Once you’ve broken down each piece of content into various tasks, you can see approximately how involved it is to create a single piece of content. This will help you accurately gauge how many pieces of content you can produce each month based on your resource capacity.
Then, you can create a content calendar and assign due dates for each task to each content team member.
Here’s an example of what your editorial calendar might look like in a project management software like Trello:
Step 5: Identify Content Promotion Partners
It takes a long time to see results with content marketing because when you first publish content, you don’t have an audience to view it, meaning you won’t have anyone to share it.
The good news is that once you have built an audience, it becomes easier to grow because you’ll have more people sharing your content.
Even if you publish SEO content and rely on search engines to get the content in front of your ideal audience, you’ll need backlinks and positive user engagement to rank in the search results.
To earn initial engagement and boost your content, consider doing content collaborations with people who already have an audience.
A few examples of content collaborations include:
- Joint webinars: You can collaborate with either executives at parallel brands or individual influencers to do joint webinars.
Ocho Wealth is a retirement investment company, and they do plenty of joint webinars with industry influencers. In fact, they even recorded full video courses with various industry influencers on topics like angel investing and tax strategies.
Even if your main content format is written content, you can still do an occasional joint webinar around one of your content cluster topics and then repurpose it into your main content format. Then, when you publish the main content format, ask the guest to share it with their email list or audience.
- Guest quotes: You can reach out to any industry influencer to contribute an expert quote to your content or use a source like Help a B2B Writer to source expert quotes. Then, when you publish the content, they’re more likely to share it with their audience because it features them and elevates their image as an industry expert.
A pro tip is to prioritize asking experts who have previously shared content featuring them in the past. For example, this expert might be a great person to reach out to as he regularly shares the content he contributes quotes to:
You can see the full blog post he contributed to on the CoHost blog.
- Interviews: If you’ve already chosen podcasting as your main content marketing strategy, this is an easy one, though if not, you can still interview experts and then repurpose the interview as a guest post. A great example of a company that does this is Hampton.
The company is a community of eight and nine figure entrepreneurs, and they interview their members (so basically, their customers) and then repurpose their stories as blog posts. When they publish the blog posts, many of these members share the content with their audience.
- Guest blogging: Writing for large industry publications on the topic your company is an expert on can help you build your own following, which in turn can help your own content gain traction. For example, if you offer an audience research tool, write guest posts about how to do audience research for various industry publications.
- Joint Research: If you have access to unique data (e.g., from within your SaaS tool), you can clean the data, extract insights, and then offer it to an industry influencer to publish in collaboration with your brand. Influencers love providing unique original insights, so this is an easy win. Here’s a great example of how QuestionPro partnered with Andy Crestodina on an original research project:
- Paid promotion: Finally, you can always run ads to your best content. Relying on ad traffic entirely isn’t a great long-term strategy, but it can be a great content promotion tool to win loyal readers who organically return to your brand for more content.
Finally, collect email addresses from your audience, as email marketing is the only channel you can truly own. Relying entirely on search engines (SEO) or a social media platform to show your content to your audience is risky as an algorithm change could prevent you from reaching your audience.
In addition, email marketing is an excellent organic content promotion channel, and you can send out an email blast each time you publish a new piece of content to earn initial engagement, which is a positive sign to algorithms.
Step 6: Measure Results, Test, And Iterate
The ROI of content marketing isn’t immediate, but once you gain traction, you will see compounding results.
Before starting your content marketing strategy, be sure to communicate this concept to stakeholders. If they don’t realize that content marketing doesn’t produce immediate results, you’ll likely lose buy-in from key executives.
However, you should immediately set up Google Analytics and any other analytics tools to start gathering data and measuring initial results.
Here are just a few of the KPIs you can begin tracking:
- Organic traffic
- Brand searches
- Press mentions
In addition to these metrics, be sure to also track leads and conversions.
While traffic and engagement metrics can help you identify if your content strategy is moving in the right direction, the end goal of any content marketing program is to attract potential customers and ultimately turn them into paying customers.
If you’re driving the wrong kind of traffic (e.g., marketing interns rather than your ideal prospects who are CMOs), your content marketing strategy won’t support broader business goals regardless of how much website traffic it drives.
Once you’ve gathered data for several months, identify the specific campaigns that were most successful and double down on producing more content that’s similar to those campaigns.
A common mistake many marketers make is adding more channels and complexity to their content marketing strategy, when the most successful content marketers actually eliminate most campaigns and instead test and iterate on only the most successful marketing campaigns.
Get More Help With Your Content Marketing Strategy
While this is an overview of the basics you need to start a content marketing program, there’s plenty of nuance to the process.
If you want access to one-on-one coaching, a network of other content marketing peers, and access to premium content marketing courses, consider joining the Copyblogger Academy.
Alternatively, if you want a digital marketing agency with plenty of experience to execute the entire content marketing process for you, the Digital Commerce Partners can create and deliver an effective content strategy to help you reach your marketing goals.