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10-Step Guide to Building a Stellar Content Marketing Strategy

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Do you want to convert more casual shoppers into loyal, lifetime customers?

The power lies within a carefully planned and well-documented content strategy.

According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), only 40% of B2B marketers and 39% of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy.

Stop wasting your time with irrelevant or inconsistent brand messaging that doesn’t match your voice and tone, resonate with your audience, or grow your business. 

Instead, prioritize building a solid, documented blueprint that aligns with your long-term goals and helps you create winning content.

In this guide, I share ten proven steps for building and documenting a content strategy that helps you achieve your business goals.

We've gathered over 20 years of experience and insight into one post. We hope it helps your marketing team develop engaging, informative, relevant, and on-brand content that drives progress toward your big, hairy, audacious (BHAG) goals.

In this post:

CMI defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."

Put simply, creating, curating, and sharing valuable content that’s engaging, relatable, and fun to read helps brands:

  • improve their brand image, 
  • expand their reach,
  • increase website traffic,
  • generate leads,
  • increase sales conversions, 
  • and retain existing customers.

4 Reasons  Your Brand Needs a Content Strategy

  1. Improve brand awareness
    Content marketing shares high-quality, relevant content to inform or entertain potential customers. It also indirectly markets your business.
  2. Grow thought leadership
    Positioning your brand and professionals as subject matter experts on the topics your audience cares about allows you to develop loyalty and build trust with your audience.
  3. Drive digital marketing channels
    Documenting a content marketing strategy allows you to consider all the channels available to your market (e.g., social media, press, influencers, and key opinion leaders or KOLs).
  4. Boost organic traffic
    Pay-per-click and other advertising tactics have their place in the marketing mix. However, Google’s recent Helpful Content Update ensures that websites posting a regular cadence of high-quality, original content get rewarded with higher organic search results.

A steady stream of valuable content also helps your brand rise above the “noise” and keeps your audience engaged.

3 Reasons Why Documentation Matters   

Writing high-quality, original content is essential—but why should you go through the trouble of documenting a strategy? 

CoSchedule's 2022 Trend Report on Marketing Strategy found that marketers with a documented strategy are 414% more likely to report success than those without—this is a 100% increase from 2019.

Here are a few proven reasons why putting having a documented content strategy will help you work smarter, more efficiently, and more effectively:

  1. It keeps everyone involved on the same page.
    Identify and include the right stakeholders in all communications. Documenting your content plan allows your internal and external (3rd party agencies, writers, etc.) teams to better align with the company's BHAGs and core objectives.
  2. It helps you manage and measure success better.
    A documented content strategy allows you to plan and schedule deliverables, monitor results, and measure against expectations.
  3. It helps keep your budget intact.
    Measuring ROI can not be an afterthought. A well-documented content strategy will help earmark resources to keep your budget intact, track KPIs, and retain that much-needed executive buy-in.

Measuring ROI can not be an afterthought. A well-documented content strategy will help earmark resources to keep your budget intact, track KPIs, and retain that much-needed executive buy-in.

3 Phases to Building a Stellar Content Marketing Strategy

To begin the content strategy process, I’ve broken it down into three main phases and ten key steps:

Phase I: Plan

  1. Assess the situation
    Before putting your content strategy in writing, there are a few essential questions to ask:

    1. What are the company’s overarching goals?
    2. Who are the key stakeholders?
    3. What are the challenges we’re trying to solve? 
    4. What are the expected deliverables and cadence? 
    5. How much of the marketing budget will be allocated to content?
  2. Align on business goals
    Identifying the ROI of a stand-alone content marketing program can be challenging. That's why asking the following questions is essential:

    1. What do we want to accomplish with our content marketing initiatives? 
    2. What are we trying to improve? Is it brand awareness, accelerating lead/pipeline conversion, increasing revenue, or a mix of these?
  3. Define the target audience
    To identify your target audience, buyer personas, and ideal buyer journey, as yourself the following questions:

    1. Who are our buyers, and how do you differentiate them? 
    2. Will you segment by individual personas or demographics?
    3. If by personas, would you determine each unique buyer by functional role, role in the purchasing process (economic, technical, end-user, etc.), or some other criteria or use case? 
    4. Are you marketing to B2B, B2D, B2C, or a mix? 
    5. Who are the micro- and macro-influencers in your industry?
      1. What do they care about? 
      2. What are their challenges or pain points? 
      3. What unique value proposition do we provide?

Phase II: Build

  1. Build a roadmap
    Once you’ve assessed your situation, aligned your goals, and defined your target audience, you can begin building a content and messaging roadmap. This roadmap will guide the buyer's journey.

    Note: If you have existing content, conducting a thorough assessment to determine the content gaps and whether to keep, revise, or archive it is essential.

    Here are a few things to consider when building your roadmap:

    1. Identify your key message for each persona as they move through the sales funnel.
    2. Identify the keywords, phrases, and brand story for those who do not know your brand.
    3. Identify the keywords, phrases, and brand story for those who do know your brand—and compare you to other marketplace options.
  2. Identify the right channels
    When you understand your buyer personas and their behaviors, you’re better equipped to determine and prioritize the best channels to leverage. Here are a few things to ask when selecting the best channels for your audience:

    1. Where is your audience currently seeking information?
    2. How do they "consume" this information (e.g., in person, online, on billboards)?
    3. What types of content do they consume (e.g., infographics, eBooks, video)?
    4. Which publications do they read?
    5. What social platforms do they use?
  3. Set your cadence
    Plot a macro view of your business milestones, product launches, and seasonal events. Doing so will help you quickly identify your biggest priorities and help you build high-quality foundational content that supports these major initiatives.Don’t forget to leave enough flexibility in your content calendar for sudden media events or topical, trending topics.
  4. Outline a content creation process
    Building a content process helps a team align on roles and responsibilities, no matter the size. A creative brief helps scope and align the deliverable and approval process at the pre-production stage. Brand and writing guidelines (AMA, NLM, etc.) can help enable 3rd party agencies to ramp up quickly.

    By mapping out the steps ahead of time, you'll be on your way to building a well-oiled content marketing machine.
  5. Create an editorial calendar
    An organized editorial or content calendar is essential for maintaining a steady publishing cadence and sticking to your pre-determined budget, project scope, and deadlines.

    Define your publishing cadence at least one quarter out or as determined in your content process, and leave enough runway to brainstorm ideas for the upcoming quarter.

Phase III: Refine

  1. Publish and repurpose
    If the idea of creating a content marketing program sounds overwhelming, I’ve got some good news. It's not about making loads of content. It’s about creating high-value content consistently. It’s also an opportunity to revise, refresh, and repurpose high-performing content. For example:

    Can your latest podcast, webinar, or video be transcribed or summarized for an article or blog
    Can a report or survey's key findings be illustrated in an infographic?
    Can you refresh or localize this data for another demographic?

    Also, keep in mind content marketing is not limited to your website. Leverage content from your digital channels, social media platforms, and influencers your audiences subscribe to.

  2. Manage and measure
    There are three basic components to measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing program. They include:
    1. Cost: By taking inventory of the content you produce over time and the costs to produce each type of content, you can benchmark costs and apply some averages. 
    2. Utilization: The more you use a single asset, the higher the return on its investment (ROI).
    3. Performance: A common temptation for many marketers is to focus on the "vanity" metrics, for example, the number of page views, social shares, or click rates.

      But, when tying your content marketing strategy to the business's goals, anyone can buy traffic. Measuring engagement is much more challenging but more relevant to assessing value. 

Building and maintaining a content marketing strategy is a continuous process of refining and evolving to adapt to changes in the market and your brand’s goals. The more you test your message and evaluate results, the better your chances for success.

Build Your Content Marketing Strategy with Aria Agency

Aria Agency is a big advocate for content marketing, but it requires an ongoing investment of time and effort. 

Do you want to outpace your competitors with high-value content that appeals to the emotions of your target audience but are worried you don't have the time, resources, or focus on doing it alone?

Contact Aria Agency and explore how our experienced marketing professionals can help elevate your organic search rankings, build brand awareness, and grow thought leadership with our content marketing services.

Ready to explore a partnership?

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