Blog / Developing a content strategy: 14 steps to your own content marketing strategy
Developing a content strategy: 14 steps to your own content marketing strategy
Maurice – August 18, 2023 – 10 min read
A content strategy focuses on creating a system that allows your organization to consistently create valuable and relevant content and distribute it. All with the aim of attracting and retaining a clearly defined target group in the long term.
And let’s face it, no other marketing tactic can achieve this goal in such a sustainable way. That’s why in our comprehensive guide, we talk about why a content strategy is so important and how you can formulate your holistic content marketing strategy in 14 steps.
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy or content marketing strategy is the foundation for any successful content marketing campaign. It determines what type of content should be created, who the content should appeal to, and the goals of each post.
But why is it so important for every business to have a good content strategy?
Why your business needs a content marketing strategy
Creating a content marketing strategy is critical for any company that wants to use content to achieve its marketing and business goals. It is also a necessary addition to any social media marketing strategy.
But why should companies use content at all to achieve their goals?
Well, even the last doubter should be convinced by these 3 reasons:
- 70% of people prefer to get information via blogs than via traditional advertising (also B2B companies)
- Content marketing generates over 3x as many leads than outbound marketing and costs 62% less
- 68% of online experiences start with a search engine
These figures alone should be convincing enough.
The 5 goals of a content strategy
Content marketing can have many goals, but here are the five main objectives at the core of a content strategy
- Generate leads and sales.
- Build trust and relationships with customers.
- Increase brand awareness.
- Position the brand as a thought leader.
- Create loyalty and customer retention.
To achieve these goals, however, a content strategy is needed that addresses all aspects holistically, and such a strategy can be developed in 14 steps.
Develop a content strategy in 14 steps
Many companies do not take a structured and strategic approach to their content marketing efforts. They randomly write blog posts whenever they have some time or cobble together a last-minute e-book to attract new customers. Unfortunately, however, one thing is clear:
This irregular approach does not work.
To be effective, content marketing needs to be planned long in advance and then implemented step by step. That’s why we’ve also tried to develop a system that allows you to strategically work out successful content marketing in 14 steps.
Here’s how you can devise an effective content strategy in 14 steps:
- Step 1: Set the content marketing goals
- Step 2: Positioning, target group and planning
- Step 3: Determine the right content mix
- Step 4: Create a content plan
- Step 5: Develop a content style guide
- Step 6: Design a content workflow
- Step 7: Create a system for finding your own ideas
- Step 8: Research and design content
- Step 9: The creation of the content (The writing)
- Step 10: Editing the content
- Step 11: The distribution of the content
- Step 12: Put together a Content Focused Welcome Series
- Step 13: Analyze the results
- Step 14: Adjust the strategy regularly
And now let’s talk a little more specifically about each step:
Step 1: Set the content marketing goals
Before you can start writing blog posts, infographics, and eBooks, you need to know what you’re working towards. Here, content marketing goals should always align with your overall business goals. To do this, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you want to develop a content strategy?
- What are the overall content marketing goals for your business?
- How do content marketing efforts align with overall business goals?
For example, if you want to increase brand awareness, your content strategy could focus on creating and distributing high-quality blog content that informs your customers about your product or service.
However, as with any successful marketing strategy, you must have clearly defined goals before you can even think about anything else. So after you’ve answered the general questions above, it’s time to set specific goals for your content strategy.
Goals should ideally be SMART, that is:
- Specific: Goals should generally be formulated as clearly and specifically as possible. Because then it’s easier to evaluate goal achievement and communicate the goals to the rest of your organization.
- Measurable: only when you know exactly when you have technically achieved a goal can you evaluate your company’s path to getting there. On the other hand, if your goals aren’t measurable or measured, you’ll never have a sense of which path is the more efficient.
- Attractive: Everyone likes goals that go down in history. But failing to achieve a goal for the hundredth time can be bad for morale. Therefore, one should always set ambitious, but attractive and achievable goals.
- Relevant: We all like to impress our boss, our investors, or the supervisors of other teams. Nevertheless, achieving completely nonsensical goals does not advance our organization. Not every goal achieved is worth achieving. Therefore, you should also always make sure that any goal you set is also relevant to your organization.
- Scheduled: Many goals will eventually be achieved. But are they still relevant then? So that you don’t have to answer this question, you should give each goal a time frame, because only then can you check whether your business has really been successful.
Only SMART goals can fulfill the real purpose of your content marketing campaign:
Increase your company’s sales.
To be able to achieve this, you should set your appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) against which you measure the success of your actions, taking into account the SMART rules.
Some common content marketing KPIs are:
- The number of website sessions: The total number of visits to your website.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors to your website who leave shortly after viewing a page instead of viewing additional pages.
- Time spent on page: the time visitors spend on each page of your website.
- Email Open Rate: The percentage of people who open the emails you send.
- Marketing qualified leads (MQLs): The contacts most likely to convert based on various criteria.
- Conversion rate: How many users have performed a desired action (e.g. downloaded a template).
- SERP Rankings: On which position does your content appear in the search results?
- ROI: The overall return on your content marketing efforts.
After you’ve set your KPIs, it’s still a matter of tracking them. The easiest way to do this is with a software solution like Google Analytics.
Step 2: Positioning, target group and planning
After you’ve set your goals, comes what I consider the most important part of any content strategy: planning.
For Abraham Lincoln already coined the following proverb: “If I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I would spend seven hours sharpening my axe.”
So there was one thing that the 16th President of the United States understood:
Every hour spent on structured preparation and planning saves seven hours later spent on unnecessary things.
But what are the most important aspects of planning a social media strategy? Three things:
- The positioning of your brand
- Your target group
- Your competitors
And in this we are confirmed by the great Chinese general Sun Tzu, who said the following: “If you know yourself and the enemy, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles. If you know only yourself, but not the enemy, you will suffer defeat for every victory you win. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will be defeated in every battle.”
Knowing yourself means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, it means knowing how to position yourself in the market and this requires the following:
- You need to know your USP
- You must know your product
- You need to know the market
But it’s not enough to know all this, because all this will only help you if you also know your target audience. You need to know who they are, how they want to be approached, what their fears are, and how you can help them with your products and, most importantly, with the presentation of your products.
In a battle, there may be only two parties, but in content marketing, three parties play a crucial role: your company, your target audience, and your competitors. Because all of these parties, their specifics, strengths and weaknesses will determine what your content marketing ultimately looks like.
Because if you don’t know what your competitors are doing, you’re doomed to repeat their mistakes. If you don’t know enough about your own products, you’ll never be able to build trust, and if you don’t know your own target audience, you’ll never be able to create content that appeals to them.
To get to know the three parties better, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is our target group?
- Who is our ideal customer?
- What are its problems?
- What kind of information does he want or need?
- What kind of content will appeal to our target audience?
- What are our competitors doing?
- What content do we already have?
- How can we repurpose existing content?
- How often will we publish new content?
- Who will create our content?
- How will we promote our content?
All these answers you need to research and how you can do this the easiest way, you will learn in our article on a perfectly executed market analysis in 10 steps.
Step 3: Determine the right content mix
Now that you know exactly what your goals are and who your target audience is, it’s time to start thinking about the content type that will most easily reach your target audience. To do this, you need to know which content formats are most popular with your target audience and which are most likely to help you achieve your business goals.
But what formats are there actually?
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Cheat Sheet
But when should which format be used?
Many marketers like to use a classic awareness funnel to categorize their content formats. However, I consider this one a bit outdated, because as an example, blog posts can be just as good retention tools as any tutorial.
At Growth Marketing Map, we categorize the content types we use using a matrix that can tell us much more about the appropriate content format:
If you want to create content for a product in the high ticket B2B area, i.e. in the high price segment, you have to be aware that emotional content formats are not always the best choice.
This is simply because we make different decisions and choices in the private context and in the business context. Privately, we may be strongly persuaded by reviews from people we respect, but in a business context we make decisions much more rationally. Here we want to see a price list, calculate our ROI and additionally study a case study.
Choosing the right content types is an art and that’s why I recommend four things to beginners:
- Analyze what works for your competitors
- Get inspired by our matrix
- Know your target audience and ask them, if possible
- Tests, tests and tests
Step 4: Create a content plan
Now that you’re clear on your goals, how your business is positioned, who your target audience is, who your competitors are, and what content mix you prefer, it’s time to move into more concrete content creation. A content plan is a good way to do this.
This is because it helps you keep track of everything and also ensures that your company publishes new content on a regular basis. Because in addition to a certain speed, staying power is crucial for any kind of content marketing.
When you create a content plan, here are some things to keep in mind:
- News cycles
- Industry trends
Likewise, however, you have to worry about these things sporadically:
- A list of possible topics for each content piece
- The format of each piece of content (e.g., blog post, infographic, eBook).
- The target audience for each content
- The publication date for each content
- Other relevant information (e.g. keywords, internal links, etc.)
In general, you should ask yourself the following questions when creating your first content plan:
- At what regularity we can create and publish content
- Which formats should be made available to our target group and when
- What goals do we want to achieve first (brand awareness, maximize conversion rate)?
Ultimately, it’s about having a plan that tells you when, where, and how to create, publish, and promote your content. What the goals of each content piece are and who they should appeal to.
But also always remember that a content plan should support you, not constrict you; it should be a support, not a crutch. Therefore, you must be flexible enough, but not too flexible with him. Stick to the plan most of the time, but never be too afraid to change anything.
Step 5: Develop a content style guide
Now it’s time to start creating content. But before you start writing content, you should take the time to create one last magic tool: Your content style guide.
And trust me on this point. Nothing allows you to better scale your content marketing and grow your team later on.
Still, there are a few things you need to keep in mind in the course of creating a content style guide. The following aspects should therefore be present in this guide:
- Tone and language
- Writing Standards
- Rules for grammar and usage
- Content formats
- Content templates
I’m a big fan of the template area in particular. Because these allow you to onboard writers faster and include them in your content process, plus you can ensure a certain quality by using templates and templates.
But the best guide is worth nothing without a functioning process that can implement it.
Step 6: Design a content workflow
Now that you have a style guide, it’s time to dive into the second major phase of your content strategy. From now on, it’s all about content creation. And to make this work easily, you should first develop a process that allows you to create quality content on a regular basis.
Such a process should include the following:
- Idea generation for your content
- The research and conception of your content
- The creation of the content
- Editing the content
- The distribution of the content
Because when you have a process like this, you never run out of ideas, you know what to write about, how to write about it, what keywords to focus on, how to create the content, edit it and ultimately publish and distribute it.
When this process is complete, working, and building on the insights from steps 1-5, there’s nothing standing in the way of creating top-notch content that your audience will love.
So let’s start developing that content workflow.
Step 7: Create a system for finding your own ideas
Once you’ve set up a content workflow, it’s time to get down to business. But before you start the actual writing, you should come up with a system for brainstorming. That way, you can make sure you’re always creating new, relevant content.
Some methods for brainstorming are:
- Keeping a running list of ideas
- Brainstorming with colleagues
- Use of a content curation tool
- Browse social media
- Intensive keyword research
- Ahrefs Content Explorer
- Check competitor content
- Reading industry news
- Google search suggestions
- Industry newsletter
- Reddit trends
- Watch Google Trends
- Search Case Studies for Pain Points
- Ask customers for feedback
- Use our list of suitable templates and ideas
- Use our list of popular headlines
In the course of brainstorming, however, attention should always be paid to the correct division of ideas and thus of content. For Growth Marketing Map, we recommend a 70-20-10 split to our clients, which is as follows:
- 70% Fundamentals: We like to call fundamentals everything that supports your SEO strategy and pushes your customers further through the funnel. Your bread and butter, if you will.
- 20% Trends: By trends, we mean all the topics that are hot in your industry right now. Such topics lend themselves to a lead magnet, which is then delivered to your target audience through ads later on.
- 10 % Viral: Viral and trends are close together, but not identical. By viral we mean anything that brings traffic and creates brand awareness, but does not convert directly. So it’s all about controversial topics that get you into the minds of your potential customers, but don’t come with a direct selling point.
If you follow this breakdown, you should have no problem gathering more than 200 ideas and topics within a few weeks, about which you can make a wide variety of content pieces.
Step 8: Research and design content
Again we keep it with Lincoln and sharpen the ax seven hours to be able to chop one hour. Even when it comes to content creation itself, planning, preparation and conception are everything.
Therefore, you should also think about the following things in advance:
- Who should the content address?
- What is the goal of the content
- Which keywords are targeted?
- Which CTA should be present in it?
- What structure should the content piece have?
- What are the competitors for this content?
- Where can I find information on these topics?
- What questions should the content answer?
- What problems should the content solve?
- What statement should the content make?
From all these questions, you should then create a brief that will enable your writers to write incredible content. The more information you add to this briefing, the easier it will be for them to meet your requests.
Here you can download our briefing template to get a better overview.
Step 9: The creation of the content (The writing)
With a good idea, a working style guide, and a top-notch brief, content writing really isn’t that hard anymore.
So how do you start the actual writing?
Before starting, an outline should be created. This ensures that the text is well organized and to the point. To do this, use the information from your briefing and do some research on your competitors’ content.
Your outline should include the following:
- A catchy headline
- An introduction
- A list of the most important points
- Supporting details for each main point
- A conclusion
- A CTA
And after you have finished your outline, you know what you want to write about, to whom your text should be addressed, what the search intent is and what goal you want to achieve with it. This way, the content piece writes itself as if by itself.
In short, all you have to do is fill the empty space under each headline with some text and you will quickly notice how your article takes shape.
Writing is an art, I don’t debate that either! But content creation can be turned into a science, a replicable process that delivers working and reliable results over and over again.
If you still want to learn how best to write an SEO article, we have an article for you here.
Excursus Content Repurposing
Reusing or repurposing content allows it to reach its full potential. Namely, only when you regularly reuse your content can you present ideas in all their facets, and occasionally you don’t know in advance which content format or presentation will resonate best with your target audience.
But there is one golden rule when repurposing any content: Copy and paste does not work. You need to recycle your content.
But what’s the smartest way to reuse content?
By reusing matching formats in other formats. The following methods are suitable for this purpose:
- Create a blog post from a comprehensive whitepaper or report
- Turn a blog article into a LinkedIn post
- Turn a blog article into a Twitter thread
- Create infographics from blog posts
- Turn your blog posts into a podcast
- Turn multiple similar blog posts into one EBook
- Turn blog posts into PDFs
- Turn your blog posts into a Content Focused Welcome Series
Step 10: Editing the content
Nobody can really write well, in my opinion we are wandering towards the best possible result and hoping that somebody understands us.
However, we can change this fact by editing everything we write separately and, preferably, in a time-delimited manner. Because only when we take the time for a thorough revision can we be sure that our texts are error-free and polished.
When you edit a content piece, you should keep the following in mind:
- Check for spelling and grammatical errors
- Check facts and figures
- Remove unnecessary words or phrases (delete 10%)
- Simplify complex ideas
- Clarify confusing passages
- Make sure your tone and voice are consistent
- Make sure the language is consistent
- Let a program read the text to you
Especially the last point is very important, because when we listen to a text, we discover many things that we would miss if we read it. In general, the quality of a text can be improved by listening to it, making it more fluent and understandable.
Optimally, you should have another person doing the editing later on, because four eyes always see more than two.
Step 11: The distribution of the content
Finally we are ready! Your content piece was created and is really awesome. But just because you’ve published great content doesn’t mean people will see it.
Now comes the hard part. The part that is criminally neglected by most marketers: Distribution.
After all, you can try as hard as you want, if the result of all the work no one sees, it was all for nothing. Therefore, you should also take all measures available to you to promote your content.
As an example, you can use the following methods to ensure that as many members of your target audience as possible get to see your content:
- Share your content on social media
- Publish it as an article on LinkedIn
- Share it in a LinkedIn or Facebook group
- Share it by DM
- Publish articles on other websites like Medium
- Share a short article/summary
- Write a thread on Twitter
- Share your content on Reddit
- Answer related questions on Quora
- Produce 30-60 second short video about your topic
- Place Quora ads on questions your content answers
- Write to people with large mailing lists and ask if they are interested in sharing your content.
- Sponsor an industry newsletter to have your content published in it.
- Request access to very active and engaged Pinterest boards and pin your content there
- Participate in relevant podcasts.
- Join industry-related Slack channels
- Send mails to your own list
Occasionally, however, it doesn’t just depend on the right distribution, from time to time the mouse just doesn’t want to bite off a thread. It seems like no one is interested in your content.
But what could it be if you didn’t actually make a mistake in your research?
Well, occasionally the content format isn’t right or your audience doesn’t understand the nature of your presentation. In this case, you need to think about how to reuse your content.
Step 12: Put together a Content Focused Welcome Series for new leads.
People like to buy from other people. We all know this, yet it is occasionally difficult to use this law of nature for one’s own business. Because unfortunately, not every lead can be serviced by a human contact. There are not always enough sales people available or it is simply not worth qualifying most leads through conversations and phone calls due to the high bounce rate.
For such cases, however, there is something that works almost as well:
The Content Focused Welcome Series.
The Content Focused Welcome Series is an email flow that leverages owned content to qualify leads as much as possible right at first contact. Therefore, this flow must be made as individual as possible and this is most easily achieved through different content choices.
Ultimately, it comes down to getting customers used to the company and its products through the right content at the right time. And if your content and presentation are good within your email flow, a Content Focused Welcome Series can convert almost as well as a series of phone calls.
Therefore, feel free to try it out. To do this, consider the following points:
- Why did this lead submit their contact information?
- What did the lead want to know, what concerns might they have?
- What other information does the lead need?
- What is the easiest way to upskill the lead?
- How do you succeed in writing the mails as authentically and personally as possible?
- Which CTAs are best in which location?
If you think about all these questions and test a wide variety of answers, you will succeed in developing a powerful tool for your content marketing.
Step 13: Analyze the results
At the very beginning, we set ourselves goals, but these can only be met if we also measure them, and preferably as regularly as possible.
Only in this way can you find out what works and what doesn’t, so that you can make the necessary adjustments. All with the aim of improving results in the long term.
The best way to do this is to ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of content performs best?
- When does the published content perform best?
- Which channel brings in the most leads?
- How quickly are leads qualified?
- How long do leads need to be genutered before the first purchase?
This selection of questions should give you enough ideas for your own analyses. First and foremost, it is important that you have the data. How you then analyze them and what you change depends on your goals.
Step 14: Adjust the strategy regularly
Content marketing thrives on flexibility, and that’s why you should always adjust your strategy if you don’t like something or if a development goes in the wrong direction for a longer period of time.
Basically, every change should be given a chance, so always test a new idea and let it perform for at least 3 months if the results are positive. Because only then can you really assess whether the idea was rather good or bad.
Once a year, you should also repeat the 14 steps or at least take a look at your documents and check whether all information and assessments still correspond to reality and the current status.
Why Content Marketing – A Conclusion
Content marketing should be an essential part of any effective online marketing strategy. In fact, when done right, it can help you achieve your business goals like no other marketing tactic, while adding real value to your customers.
The above 14 steps should ensure that your business has a good content strategy that you can use to best engage your target audience.