Unlock the Power of Digital Storytelling With a Content Marketing Strategy

Power of Digital Storytelling

You can use various types of content to draw audiences to your business — helpful blog posts, insightful webinars, and clever social media posts. But all these bits and pieces of content simply scatter in the wind unless you ground them in a content marketing strategy.

A content strategy is a detailed plan laying out how your business plans to engage customers using digital assets, such as online articles, videos, case studies, or podcasts. Think of it like a professional map pinpointing destinations from the top to the bottom of the funnel — a guide that delivers value, creates brand awareness, and carries your customer through every stage of the buyer’s journey. 

Core Elements of a Content Marketing Strategy

Just like you can’t make grilled cheese without bread, a content marketing strategy has nonnegotiable ingredients that pull everything together. You need to know who you’re targeting, the channels you’re using to reach them, and the goals you need to hit.

Identifying and understanding the target audience

Good content marketing revolves around your customers. You must know your audience and empathize with their needs to create content that resonates. After all, you can create a fascinating article or slick video. But if your customers shrug their collective shoulders and scroll past it, your message tumbles into the internet equivalent of a black hole.

Man looking at a computer screen with a data vortex coming out, symbolizing data transfer.

That’s why your strategy must be customer-centric. Conduct in-depth research and analysis to learn about your browsers’ demographics, interests, behaviors, preferences, and frustrations. Use this information to determine the type of content to produce, topics to cover, and tone to adopt. 

Choosing content distribution channels

The next part of your strategy focuses on distributing content so audiences discover your brand. Choose channels that align with their preferences and behaviors, which you ideally established during your audience research. Consider the channels’ reach, engagement potential, and cost-effectiveness when finalizing your choices.

To maximize reach, we recommend a mix of channels for diversity.

  • Owned channels, such as your website, blog, app, and email newsletter, are fully under your control.
  • Paid channels can give you a significant lift in exposure, but they have a price tag. PPC ads, influencer partnerships, and sponsored content fall into this category.
  • Earned channels include media mentions, user-generated content, and guest blogs. They require a third-party endorsement of your brand, which makes them feel more authentic to customers.

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy: Step-by-Step

As you can tell, it takes time to develop a content marketing strategy that grows your business. It might seem daunting, but if you break the process into steps, your strategy slowly and surely comes together.

Define your audience

Start by defining your target audience. Buyer personas are useful for seeing your customers as people rather than a demographic. 

  • Talk to your product team. Your colleagues likely performed audience research when designing and branding the product.
  • Review website analytics. Google Analytics, for example, offers insights into audience demographics, location, interests, and their favored devices.
  • Conduct surveys and focus groups. Ask questions about preferences, challenges, and where customers get information from.
  • Monitor social media conversations. Listen to what audiences say about your industry, brand, and competitors.

Research keywords

SEO goes hand in hand with a content strategy. Perform keyword research using tools such as Semrush to ensure your content appears in the SERPs when your audience searches for your product or service. Lean on different keyword research tools to generate and analyze search terms so you can prioritize the ones with the most potential for your business. 

SEO tool screenshot showing keyword overview and difficulty for honey.

We recommend using keywords to guide your content — they’re not meant to be stuffed onto each page. Organize keywords into themes, and don’t forget long-tail keywords that reach customers with specific search intent. 

Set goals and choose KPIs

Remember that a content marketing plan needs a clear purpose to drive results. Your content goals might be to boost brand awareness, traffic, engagement, leads, conversions, or sales. Pair your goals with quantifiable metrics. These benchmarks are reference points for your progress, telling you which parts of your strategy might need a little TLC.  Over time, some metrics may spike, plateau, or drop. Use this data to keep your strategy on track and refine your tactics. Track key performance indicators regularly, especially after specific campaign rollouts. 

Determine content types and channels

Most content strategies rely heavily on blog posts because they easily adapt to your messaging. But you can (and should) draw on various content types to make your strategy more dynamic. Always keep your audience in mind, and match content to the buyer’s journey.

  • E-books and white papers let you dive deep into a topic and provide thought leadership.
  • Case studies draw on real-life examples to demonstrate a solution to a problem.
  • How-to guides and instructional resources help readers accomplish a task.
  • FAQs provide quick answers to common customer concerns.
  • Webinars and podcasts are interactive workshops, presentations, and discussions that share expertise. 

Here’s a content strategy example. If you want to use content to generate leads, and your customer is a B2B decision-maker, consider a gated white paper on your website. If they frequent LinkedIn, create a video as a teaser to capture their interest, and link to your landing page in the post.

Conduct a content audit

You don’t need to start your content production from scratch. See what assets you already have by auditing your content and creating an inventory of previously published assets. List each item in a spreadsheet and track title, URL, content type, category or theme, buyer stage, and target keywords. Then, you can determine what content you need to complete your strategy.

Pro tip: At the same time, evaluate each page to ensure it contains high-quality content that meets Google’s excellence standards. Add any necessary content refreshes into your strategy.

Build a content calendar

A content calendar helps you visualize how the pieces of your plan should roll out. Plan it at least 6 months in advance, scheduling each piece with a publication date and working backward to determine writing, editing, and design deadlines. You can also use the calendar to assign your team specific roles, especially if you have a pool of writers. Editorial calendars are essential for staying organized and keeping things going after ideation. 

Executing Your Content Marketing Strategy

While a documented content marketing plan can lead you to your goals, you unlock its potential once it’s implemented and brought to life. Create an organized content production process to ensure what you publish strikes a chord with your audience. Then, promote your content diligently so they can discover it.

Content creation best practices

Audiences quickly decide if a piece of content is relevant or interesting. Use our content creation tips to produce stellar blog posts, articles, landing pages, and web content.

  • Understand search intent. Users have a specific query in mind when they plug keywords into a search engine. If you’re targeting the search term “hatha yoga,” for example, determine if someone wants to know the history of hatha yoga, how to do it, or where to take classes. SEO tools can help with this, or you can look into the types of content currently ranking for the search term.
  • Create content briefs. Use our content brief template, and give your writers guidelines for crafting each piece. A brief covers keywords, search intent, target audience, People Also Ask questions, tone, style, word count, and deadlines. 
  • Make your content exceptional. Follow the basics of good content creation, such as writing concisely and proofreading before publishing. Every piece should provide value, such as original research and real-life examples.
  • Incorporate multimedia. Perk up written text with graphics, slide shows, or video to help tell your story in a visually appealing way. 
  • Optimize for SEO. It can seem like Google’s algorithms are random and mysterious, but there’s a method to the madness. Improve your chances of ranking by helping search engines understand the content. Add meta titles and descriptions, organize content with headers, use descriptive anchor text and URLs, and optimize for featured snippets. Videos should include transcripts for those who prefer to read, and images should have alt-text for accessibility.
  • Include CTAs. Help readers navigate your website and get to the next stage of their journey with strong, clear calls to action. You can incorporate these as links within your copy or as more prominent buttons.
  • Stay true to your brand. To build loyalty, each piece of content should reflect the essence of your brand so audiences know what to expect. Marketing specialist Ann Handley describes this as “artisanal content.” In a recent Crowd Content webinar about the future of content marketing, Handley explained, “[It’s] content that can only come from you … that’s really infused with your voice, with your point of view, or with your face, in some situations. It can’t come from anyone else; it won’t sound the same. [It] feels almost handcrafted for us specifically.” 

Effective distribution channels

Search engines, newsletters, social media, and paid ads all help distribute your content to a broad audience. To get the most impact, ensure the format suits the channel. Buffer, for example, promotes articles on LinkedIn as carousels. As users have to swipe through the content, it’s more engaging than simply posting a text summary. 

LinkedIn post by Buffer discussing engagement rates of carousel posts.

At Crowd Content, we use multiple channels to distribute content more widely. Our blog post about whether AI content can rank in Google doubled as a jumping-off point for a podcast discussion.  

“There’s no one size fits all recipe when it comes to determining what channels you should use for your business as far as what’s going to work well for you — not just the mix, but the weighting,” our VP of Content Operations, Rick Leach, recently explained. “I encourage you to try, measure, adjust … then increase or decrease the percentage of resources that go toward that channel as the data tells you.” 

Measuring the Success of Your Content Marketing Strategy

Once you have your strategy in motion, monitor your progress across your distribution channels. Platforms such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Semrush, and Ahrefs capture website analytics and integrate with social networking and email platforms to consolidate data into a single dashboard. 

Key performance indicators in content marketing

Choose KPIs related to your content marketing goals so you can make data-informed decisions and fine-tune your tactics. 

Infographic detailing common content marketing KPIs like traffic and engagement.

Analytics for strategy optimization 

You might feel like you’re swimming in numbers once the data starts rolling in. Tackle your analytics in the same way you put together your content strategy: methodically.

Colorful fish in goggles with numbers in a pool indicating caution in swimming.

Search for patterns, trends, and possible issues with your content performance. For example, begin investigating if your engagement metrics show audiences aren’t interacting. Look at individual pieces of content that are drop-off points in the funnel, or segment audiences by demographics, device, or behavior to see if a particular group isn’t engaging.

Based on the findings, you might improve navigation, design, or CTAs. You could also experiment with formats, topics, and storytelling techniques that better resonate with audience preferences. Using your data and analysis, make incremental adjustments to your content to optimize it, and continue monitoring and adjusting.

Future Trends in Content Marketing Strategy

When you think you’ve got your content marketing strategies nailed down, things shift. It’s one of the realities of our chaotic, digital world. You can expect audience preferences to change, new competitors and technologies to pop up, and algorithm updates to steer content in new directions. Adopt a proactive approach so you can prepare for these inevitable shifts.

Emerging technologies in content marketing

Businesses are already exploring how artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can support content marketing. Be open to experimentation and innovation that can refine your strategies and set you apart from competitors. For example:

  • Content intelligence platforms identify topics for different stages of the buyer’s journey and predict the best distribution channels.
  • AI writing tools can help with research and outlining. (But make sure your final content has a human touch.)
  • AI-powered web analytics tools quickly process data to detect trends and patterns and anticipate future behavior.
  • Augmented and virtual reality offer new formats for storytelling.
Google AR & VR Twitter post about #AR guided tour in Singapore.

Changing consumer behaviors

No matter what technology you leverage, don’t lose sight of your audience. Keep a pulse on your customers. Continue to talk to them through focus groups and surveys to understand their priorities. Employ social media monitoring to listen in on real-time concerns. When you understand what’s driving audience behaviors, you can provide better content solutions to meet their needs.

LinkedIn post by Stephanie Shirley about customer demographics with a city street photo.

Crafting a Successful Content Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Once you build a solid framework for your content marketing, it’s easier to create pieces that appeal to your audience and inspire them toward desired goals. Spend some time laying the groundwork by getting to know your customers, establishing objectives, and choosing relevant distribution channels. Stay on track by monitoring KPIs and audience behaviors, and refine tactics with your sights set firmly on your goals. 

Maximize your content potential

Ready to revolutionize your brand’s digital presence? Discover how Crowd Content’s content strategy services can elevate your business. Our team of experts is dedicated to crafting bespoke strategies that resonate with your audience and drive results.

Carlos Meza

Article by

President and Chief Executive Officer at Crowd Content.

Carlos is a guiding voice in an SEO and content creation industry brimming with turbulent growth. He has leveraged his past experience as a technology executive, engineer, and corporate financier to bring innovative end-to-end content creation solutions to SMBs and enterprise clients around the globe — delivering high-quality, scalable products through the marriage of human talent, technology, automation, and artificial intelligence.

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