8 Questions To Help You Define Your Content Strategy

Michael Brenner on Jun 6, 2013 in Content Marketing

8 Questions To Define Your Content StrategyAccording to the latest research from IDC, the amount of information we are all creating and sharing has grown 9 times in the last 5 years.

The latest research from the Content Marketing Institute showed us that everyone is creating content and yet only about a third of us have a document content strategy. We’re struggling to rise above the marketplace noise and we need a plan to get there.

So, we have all have a content problem, whether we have accepted it or not. We need to create more of the kind of content our customers are looking for and less of the stuff no one reads, or acts upon.

Are you looking to define your content strategy?

Before you start, it’s important to identify the questions you need to ask before you can really get started? In my latest presentation, I outline the questions you need to ask before you can define your content strategy. I have embedded the slides here and also will provide a high-level overview of the main points.

Defining Your Content Marketing “Why?”

Before you can get started, I suggest defining exactly why you need a content strategy. What gap in your marketing performance is lacking? How much content do you produce along each stage of the buyer journey? How much of your content is used, downloaded, viewed – whatever metrics you can get. Are you ranking on the highest volume keywords used by your customers when it comes to your primary product or solution? And if you’re really good, what is your market “share of conversations” of your solution area?

Define “Content Strategy”

For me content strategy is the combination of an editorial approach and a business strategy: how do you publish content that meets your customer needs, incites them to act and drives additional business for your company.

What is the objective of your content marketing strategy?

Or as Joe Pulizzi calls it, what is your “Content Marketing Mission Statement” that defines your target market and what you want to help them achieve. For example, for the SAP Business Innovation site, I defined our mission as: To become a destination of insights for business professionals looking to understand how technology and innovation can help them grow their business, out-perform their competition and advance their careers.

What is your design objective?

Are there visual standards you want to emulate? Who is already doing content well in your space? What does it look like? It makes a lot of sense to look at the examples of the content marketers who have come before you and look at the different elements of their site. Identify which ones you like and don’t and build those design specifications into your strategy.


How prominent do you want to make your company brand? If this sounds like a crazy question, consider your objectives and how likely you are to achieve them if your readers are aware that ultimately you are trying to sell to them. If you are looking to establish trust with your readers before entering into a deeper relationship, you may want to consider toning down the size of your logo and the amount of promotion.

What Keywords Are Important?

The answer to the question needs to be driven through lots of analytical research. Take the Google Keyword tool out for a spin. Look at your own web analytics and check and see how you rank for the key terms. Once you identify the gaps, you can define a set of targeted keywords to build into your content production efforts.

What is your Editorial Approach?

What topics, authors and content types can best help you deliver on your strategy? Will content curation and syndication play into the mix. There is a budgeting aspect to all this as well and if you are managing your content as an asset, you need to consider what will provide the most editorial bang for the buck. Can you create an editorial board across your key content constituents.

What Will Drive Conversion?

Think about the buyer or customer journey. What is an “appropriate next step” from the articles on your site. Your buyers are probably not going to go from early stage content to a product demo. So think about additional thought leadership offers. Think about subscription.

How Will You Report On Results?

If you’ve defined your mission and objectives, then the next step is to make sure you track the metrics that relate to each objective. Create a report, update it monthly and share it widely.

Here are the slides. Let me know what you think?

8 Steps To Define Your Content Marketing Hub from Michael Brenner

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
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.
Showing 14 comments
  • Kelly

    Hi Michael, fully agree with your words on content marketing. Recently I pay lots of attentions to a new norm, gamification. I think both content marketing you mentioned and gamification are about engaging users. If we could combine these two together, on the one hand, providing really useful and rich contents, on the other hand, using some concepts in gaming to motivate ppl, augmented effects may be generated.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Kelly, I think there is huge opportunity in any content that goes beyond education and entertains our audiuence. Gaming is one great way to do this. It’s not always easy but can be very effective!

  • Pontus Staunstrup

    Michael, it’s great that you highlight the need for a content strategy. As you point out, just starting to create content without a plan will only lead to problems later on. Great read, thanks!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Pontus, too few see content as an asset or a resource that needs to be planned and managed. Hopefully this will help.

  • Michael Cannon

    Great Post Michael Thank you.

    I’d like to suggest one edit. Amended the question “What will drive conversion?” to “What messaging should be embedded in the content in order to get the reader to take the desired actions, as it relates the main phase of the buyer’s journey and smaller calls to action steps too?” For example, from a buyer’s journey perspective, if we want the buyer to consider us, meet with us, agree to change from status quo, and buy from us rather than competitors, then we need messaging that provides a clear, relevant, differentiated, provable, business language answer to:

    • Why should I consider your product?” for demand creation
    • “Why should I meet with you?” for meeting creation
    • “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?” for opportunity creation
    • “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?” for order creation

    It seems like it would be difficult to reduce the “content problem” without this.


    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Michael,

      I completely agree. I think it’s a combination of the content, the message and the offers or calls-to-action that will drive that next step. So all of the factors have to be considered and then the content planned and published on a consistent basis to maximize the business outcome.

  • Steve Faber


    Nice piece. Too many marketers jump into content marketing because it’s yet another buzzword strategy they think needs to be embraced. This leads to several problems, many directly related to not asking the questions you detail here.

    Many have no content marketing plan, even if they do have a solid marketing plan. The two are distinctly different, yet hopelessly intertwined. When they start throwing content at the wall hoping that something sticks, they invariably grab some random success, but are disappointed overall.

    To make matters worse, having no CM plan ironically leads to higher content demands, because when you’re just producing (mostly) directionlerss content, with no goals to hit, you’ll probably hit exactly what you aimed for!

    • Michael Brenner

      That’s it Steve, content is 100% a resource, an asset that needs to be planned, managed and optimized like any asset across the company.

  • SLS

    One key point that is mentioned in this article is that, “we need to create more of the kind of content our customers are looking for and less of the stuff no one reads.” I think this is exceptionally important because businesses should write in the voice of their client to build that level of trust. It is important not to keyword stuff your website, especially since Google is paying more attention to white-hat SEO practices. A good strategy is to have an equal balance between humanizing your business but still having an authoritative voice. This lets your client know that you are personable, but you know what you are talking about.

  • Monique Hodgkinson

    In a nutshell it is all about planning and execution. I fully agree that to be effective you need to determine the objectives of your content marketing strategy, so that you have clear picture about what you are trying to achieve and how to get there. Content marketing is very creative, but in essence it is still marketing. The objective of marketing is to generate leads and gain mindshare that will ultimately contribute to revenue. You addressed this very well in the point you made about thinking about what will drive conversions.

  • Tamar

    Hi Michael, this is a really great post that covers the important issues from content strategy to design. On “What will drive conversion” I would say it’s very dynamic due to the customer decision journey. Our customers find that the ability to personalize content in real-time really drives conversions.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Tamar and great point about conversion. There is no one answer for every buyer journey. We have to constantly test new approaches and drive technology and innovation to bring personalization in real-time to our visitors. It’s a complex landscape today but soon I think this will become the expectation from our customers (Amazon) so we have to figure it out.

  • K.Smith

    I think there should be a master’s program in this type of thinking and the supporting concepts. This gave me plenty to think about, however as Michael Bernner said that it is not always easy but can be very effective. This type of strategy can obviously great agenda for new type of successive planning.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks K! I’d be happy to help teach that course if anyone offers it.