6 Steps To Executing A Content Strategy

Content Strategy is a very confusing topic in business and marketing circles.

There are plenty of folks out there trying to define content strategy and differentiate it from traditional marketing, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and search engine optimization.

But exactly how do you execute it once you have defined it, sold it in and been handed the mandate to get it done?

Here are 6 steps that any organization can take to tackle the challenges of executing an enterprise-wide content strategy.

6 Steps To Executing A Content Strategy

  1. Set Content Strategy Objectives – Start by defining exactly what you want to accomplish with your content strategy and most importantly why you want to accomplish it. Your content strategy should include a content marketing mission statement to grab a certain percentage share of the conversations happening online in your topic areas. Or to become a thought leader on a certain topic. Use search, social and web analytics to determine your current share of the conversations in your space. Whatever it is, you need to define that content strategy mission and also how that will translate into business results.
  2. Identify Content Resources and Planning – First, conduct an inventory of the roles and responsibility for creating content in your organization today. Next, measure how much of that content is utilized in any external activity and how well it performs. Map the content to your customer buying cycle. Look at how much content you create that is gated vs un-gated, customer-focused or product-centric. Identify and recruit the influencers, evangelists and subject-matter experts both within your organization and outside. Then deploy resources to fill the content gaps you identified.
  3. Define Your Content Marketing Plan – Identify how far your own resources can take you without having to “buy” content from other sources. Next, look at hiring writers or outsourcing some components of your content creation such as videos and graphics that require specialized skills. Next, you need to identify how to execute a solid content curation strategy. You can help to deliver value to your audience through other people’s content, as long as it is appropriately attributed and transformed to protect their copyright. Request the permission to utilize content from key influencers and thought leaders, or ask if you can interview them.
  4. Build Reach – No matter how great your content is or how much authority your website has, it is not going to reach every possible audience type. This is where paid and unpaid content syndication can help you. The simplest form is to share your content through your own social channels. On the more complex end of the spectrum, you can pay to syndicate your content to other sites through paid content syndication, banners or social advertising. You should seek to build reach in the most efficient manner possible for the lowest possible cost.
  5. Optimize for Engagement and Conversion – Measuring and analyzing all the sources of your traffic isn’t enough. You have to define which content and tactics are driving the highest levels of engagement and conversion to your defined business goals. Identify which authors, evangelists and influencers are helping you reach your goals through their own efforts. Then optimize towards that content and those tactics, authors and influencers. Look at who is regularly commenting on your content and seek to reciprocate. Follow the people who follow you on Twitter. Reward those who are helping you with these kinds of social gifts.
  6. Report and Refine – Share your results widely to build additional support for your programs. Remember that every employee is a possible content producer and seek to recruit as many as you can. Show how your activities are generating real business results and calculate the return on the investment. Then re-visit your objectives and start the process all over again.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

12 thoughts on “6 Steps To Executing A Content Strategy

  1. Michael clearly understands what it takes to do content marketing right.

    I would add it is important to find an integrated marketing platform that fits your specific market/target audience. Of course there are lots of resources on the web to evaluate platforms such as Marketo, LoopFuse, HubSpot, etc. After a year of evaluation we settled on Manticore Technologies (Now Sales Engine International). As a sales & marketing guy (and also one of the owners) I took the time to implement Manticore and integrate into my Salesforce.com account. This has given me an amazing glimpse into the real “guts” of the content marketing hoopla…and great insight into technical aspects of the software that can provide a time-saving “dashboard”. I would encourage any marketing executive to take the time to work with your technical staff and really understand how this stuff works. It will pay big dividends for you.

    1. Thanks Tom, great point about platforms. I think it is also not just integrated marketing platforms, but also content management systems, content production platforms, marketing automation (as you mentioned) and more. There is a whole technology stack discussion that also needs to take place.

  2. Michael. Thanks for a great summary of what it really takes to design and execute a content strategy. As with all new ‘trends’, there’s a ton of hype about this topic — not to mention all of the hoopla about new career paths. Thanks for clearly outlining that success still requires the basics: solid business processes — and the ability to herd a lot of cats.

  3. Great post Michael. I agree with Tom in that you absolutely need a solid marketing automation platform to scale this out. Preferably one with full social nurturing capabilities : )

    The only thing I would add, is to think about the visual elements for each piece. I have had great success here at Marketo focusing on turning our most popular white papers and webinars into visual content pieces such as interactive Slideshare decks and infographics. One case in particular we turned a white paper with 10k view into an interactive visual Slideshare presentation along with a supporting infographic and garnered over 200K additional view while driving more than 100K in pipeline from the repurposing of such content.

    One last note, this post would be a great checklist/ cheat sheet for content marketers to keep on hand.

    Jason Miller – Marketo

  4. It’s important to set goals with each piece of content that you create. Focus on the consumer and what kind of information they want to receive. Don’t forget to include call to actions if appropriate.

  5. Great post Michael as always. I think it very important to really focus on what sorts of mediums your ideal customers want to consume. Videos and white papers don’t always work for some niches. At the same time, they work for many others. Many overlook this notion and spend time creating content that isn’t in the format that their target audience uses/appreciates.

  6. Glad to see you mention content strategy “execution” in point #3. Developing the execution plan is often the role of the marketing operations team. MarketingOps should also refresh any processes in the rest of marketing (outside of the content team) that might be affected by launching a content strategy. For example, will content launch dates be included int he department’s master calendar?

    1. Great point Mayer. We are working very closely with Marketing Ops on editorial calendars and CMS and digital asset management. Technology, process and people all need to be considered.

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