More than three-quarters (78 percent) of marketers have implemented a content strategy.
The not-so-great news?
Only half (53 percent) of marketers have a documented content marketing plan in place, according to a 2021 study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).
Granted, this number is an improvement from previous years when far fewer marketers reported having a documented strategy, but it’s far short of where it should be considering the clear benefits of having a documented content plan in place.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
- What a documented strategy is,
- Why it’s important, and
- How to document your content strategy.
In the meantime, if you know you need a documented strategy but don’t have the time, knowledge or resources to make it happen, perhaps it’s time to consider bringing in outside experts to help take your marketing to the next level. If so, our skilled team of marketers, copywriters and content strategists are prepared to give your business a voice and make your business an industry leader in search engine rankings.
What is a documented content strategy?
A documented content strategy (DCS) is a comprehensive roadmap of how you plan to meet your business’s goals and objectives through various types of content marketing methods. Creating a detailed editorial calendar is a great step towards putting these goals into action, but it is only a part of a much larger documented strategy.
Why should your content plan be documented?
There’s a TON of scientific research available on the tangible benefits of writing down your personal goals, and this is a practice that many life coaches, psychologists, therapists, and counselors employ regularly with their clients.
Time and time again, neuroscience studies have revealed that documenting your goals is an important step to actually achieving them. In fact, this Forbes article suggests that “people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.”
In another frequently cited study, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California—Dr. Gail Matthews—separated participants into 2 groups: people who wrote down their goals each day, and people who didn’t. The participants included men and women from all around the world between the ages of 23 and 72, from doctors and lawyers to artists and teachers.
When her study concluded, Dr. Matthews found that the group of participants who wrote down their goals had a 42 percent higher success rate than the control group.
Experts believe that the act of writing down your goals regularly helps boost motivation and create focus on what you want to achieve, providing clear purpose and direction.
Unsurprisingly (in light of this information), marketing research also shows that companies that physically write down (document) their marketing goals report better performance and higher ROI.
In fact, the same CMI study that we referenced earlier found that 60 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers said they had a content strategy. Compare this to the fact that only 21 percent of the least successful B2B content marketers have a content strategy and the benefits start to become clear.
Other benefits of having a documented content strategy as ranked by the respondents from the CMI study were as follows:
- Helps align teams around common missions and goals
- Makes it easier to determine what types of content to create
- Keeps the team focused on documented priorities and objectives
- Helps the team properly allocate resources for the best results
- Provide clarity on the target audience(s)
- Creates accountability (who is responsible for what)
- Helps to identify metrics for measuring success
- Yields more accurate budgetary information
How to create a documented content plan in 7 steps
The act of documenting your content strategy is fairly straightforward once you understand what it is and why it’s important—and you can go about it in a number of ways. If you have a dedicated in-house content marketing strategist, assign them the task of developing your organization’s DCS. Pause or reduce regular content production if you have to.
Another option is to bring in outside help by hiring a professional content marketing agency to assist in creating your DCS. This approach is beneficial in a couple of ways:
- You can create a much-needed documented plan without affecting your regular workload or disrupting other important projects.
- The agency can leverage past experience, expertise and knowledge to help you create a comprehensive DCS that will stand the test of time, while also avoiding common pitfalls.
Every business is unique, which is why there is no universal template for documenting your content strategy. So don’t waste your money on marketing packages or companies that promise to automatically generate your DCS cheaply and quickly.
If you’ve chosen to create your own DCS, we recommend the following steps to get started:
- PURPOSE: Figure out your why. Your purpose for creating content is the foundation of your DCS, which is why this step should happen first. What is it, exactly, that you hope content marketing will help you achieve? Why do you think content marketing will be an effective tool to accomplish your goals? Your answer to these questions will determine the entire course of your strategy. Responses like “Well, because I think we are supposed to” or “Because that’s what our competitors do” won’t cut it. Really get to the root of your reason for investing in content as an organization.
- AUDIENCE: Identify your who. After determining your purpose for content creation, it’s time to figure out your target audience. Don’t just consider what groups of the general public might be interested in your content, but also figure out who your ideal consumer is based on your company mission and marketing objectives. Identifying your target audience will take some in-depth research, and don’t be afraid to get super detailed when writing buyer personas.
- METHOD: Create your unique content “recipe.” Now that you’ve figured out your why and who, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty by determining what type of content you should create for your target audience at various stages in the customer “funnel” or journey. The content you create for someone who has never heard of your brand should look a lot different than content for your tried-and-true customers. Consider each stage of your buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, engagement, etc.) and plan which types of content are most effective for each stage. For example, perhaps high-level landing pages and paid ad promos are best for reeling in new customers (the awareness or attract stage), whereas whitepapers and FAQ pages should be considered for your loyal customers (the loyalty or engagement stage).
- EXECUTION: Develop a workflow. While clearly establishing your purpose, target audience and what types of content work best is essential to developing a future-proof DCS, you can still fail miserably unless you set up systems, processes and tools for accomplishing your goals. There are seemingly endless free and low-cost content marketing and SEO tools available online, but be sure to do some research to determine which tools are actually necessary and which are not. If you don’t already have an editorial content calendar, that’s a great place to start to ensure that your content initiatives are regularly scheduled and consistent.
- ANALYTICS: Determine metrics for measuring success. What defines “success”? The answer to this question will be different for each organization, which is why it’s vital to discuss and document how your business measures the performance of your content strategy. Review your purpose and mission to determine which metrics are important and relevant to your organization, and set achievable goals to benchmark your progress. For example, while your main goal might be to rank in the #1 position on Google for a competitive search term, this probably won’t happen overnight—so consider setting milestones along the way to show that you are headed in the right direction (i.e. rank in the first 3 pages, on Page 1, in Top 3, etc.). Identifying and tracking your key performance indicators (KPIs) is an important step that many organizations forget about.
- MAINTENANCE: Update your DCS regularly. Based on the ROI you are seeing (or not seeing) when analyzing the performance and success of your DCS, you may have to adjust and adapt your current strategy. This is okay. Just because your content strategy is documented does not mean that it’s set in stone for all time. On the contrary, your DCS should be optimized and improved regularly as you see what works and what doesn’t, as well as to keep up with ever-changing digital marketing strategies. Some parts of your strategy may stay fairly consistent such as your mission statement (purpose) and target audience, but other elements like your workflow and metrics may need to be tweaked from time to time.
- ACCESSIBILITY: Give everyone access. Lastly, it’s important to make sure that all stakeholders have the ability to see your company’s DCS and the freedom to make suggestions. This includes everyone from copywriters and editors to department heads and executives. Allowing open accessibility improves collaboration and helps keep your entire team focused on the same goals, which is especially important in large organizations where individuals from various departments (sales, marketing, IT, etc.) are working together on content initiatives.
Do you have a documented content strategy?
Share your reason why, along with tips and tricks, below or on Facebook.