Content Marketing Strategy: From Planning Through Execution

by Katie

How happy are you with your content marketing efforts thus far?

We’ve all heard about how effective content marketing can be for elevating the visibility of your brand, but for many businesses, there’s a struggle to really see ROI from the content you’re putting out. You know good results are possible, but what’s going on?

For some, they published content but you’re just not sure whether or not it’s “working.” For others, they tried content marketing and it “kinda” worked, but for one reason or another, they had trouble sticking with it.

One of the keys to seeing results from content marketing is that you need a solid strategy for planning your content calendar and a system that will sustain it for the long haul. Your content strategy should include everything from planning to production, along with promotional strategies, such as social media marketing.

Let’s look at an effective content marketing strategy that we use, and how you can build a consistent system to see results:

This is part 4 in our 90-Day Marketing Plan. Download the entire eBook here. Or dive into specific sections:

How to Define Buyer Personas For Your Marketing Plan
Mapping Out Your Customer Journey
Your Marketing Website’s Optimization Checklist
Content Marketing Strategy: From Planning Through Execution
5 Systems to Increase Organic Website Traffic

Strategic content

Your content is at the center of your content marketing strategy and must be executed strategically. This means publishing what makes sense when it comes to catering to your desired audience.

Your target customer personas should be carefully considered, along with the stages of the customer journey. What is each persona interested in? Which stage of the journey are they currently at and what makes sense to engage them at that stage? We discussed in a previous article how you can map the stages of the customer journey to the different levels of the sales funnel – you can do the same when it comes to planning content.

For example, your top-of-funnel content is about attracting candidates who will be a good fit to buy your product or service. You do this by creating content that addresses key problems they are facing that you can help them solve. For those at the very beginning of the journey, you may even create content to explain why the particular problem exists. The goal at this stage is to entice them to go further along the journey with you.

When you are taking a high-level strategic view of your content planning, it’s important to ensure that you have a plan to consistently produce that top-of-funnel content, while also having middle and bottom of funnel content for customers to move on to. Companies often go wrong when they haven’t fine-tuned the rest of the funnel, so their efforts to bring in new customers get wasted.

Types of content

There are many types of content that can come into play for your content strategy, but as this is a 90-Day Marketing Plan, we find that it’s better to keep things simple. Blog posts, video and podcasts are the most common content types in use and we suggest that you get your content established using one of those three over that first 90 days. You can easily add other things later, such as webinars and new lead magnets.

Every piece you create should have a clear purpose. As Social Media Today writer Lucy Rendler-Kaplan says, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Is this necessary?
  2. Is this needed?
  3. Is this helpful?

Furthermore, consider this great point about content marketing strategy from Content Marketing Institute; your strategy needs to outline your key business and customer needs along with how your content will address them. While part of a good content strategy is consistency, “content for content’s sake” will not help and can actually harm your overall position.

We find that it helps to gather all of your topics, along with their “meta” information in one place while you plan your content strategy. A spreadsheet is a good tool for this preliminary planning stage, before you input your topic ideas into your editorial calendar.

Use our spreadsheet, which includes columns for each piece of meta information we like to include in our content planning, such as working titles, meta descriptions, URLs, content upgrade, a brief outline, etc.

For help creating a consistent content plan, download our topic planning spreadsheet here

Hub and spoke strategy

The hub and spoke strategy is a way to organize content so that you can present clear relationships between the pieces. It helps you to flesh out content in a logical manner while adding credibility and weight to your content by teaching the reader the entirety of a topic.

To put this strategy to work, you begin with a “hub” page that provides an overview of the topic and has sections to address subtopics within it. Each of those subtopics link out to a more comprehensive article that you will write for each. For example, this article on content marketing strategy is a “spoke” article for our 90-Day Marketing Plan hub.

This is not only a helpful strategy for organizing your content, but for building your content calendar in a strategic manner. Instead of having a more scattered approach to developing articles, you break up a key topic into manageable subtopics that help take the reader on a journey through your content. The structure of the hub and spoke makes it easy for them to locate what they need.

Content upgrades

One key goal of content marketing is always to be able to capture readers so that you are able to communicate with them later on. A good piece of content goes to waste if you haven’t included a way for fly-by readers to get onto your email list. In fact, we take email list growth as a KPI of content.

This is where content upgrades come in. A content upgrade is a relevant piece of content that has been created specifically for the blog post on which it appears. It adds something to that blog post and is offered to the reader in return for his or her email address. For example, you can see a couple of sections above that we have offered an upgrade of a topic planning spreadsheet. It’s a tool that directly adds to this particular post.

Content upgrades are unlike other “evergreen” lead magnets, such as email courses, because they are specific to the particular blog post. As such, you know you are creating something that is probably of interest to the reader because they are already reading a related post. They don’t have to be huge undertakings, but they do have to deliver some kind of extra value to the reader.

We favor content upgrades simply because they work. Our Ops Calendar founder, Brian Casel, used them on his personal blog and grew his email list from a few hundred to over 7,000 in an 18-month period, a much better rate than lead magnets alone.

Content upgrades offer better results than the average lead magnet by being hyper-targeted Click To Tweet

Content production

The goal of your content production is to have a repeatable process that will work like clockwork. For anyone who has had the experience of “we tried content, but had trouble sticking with it,” lack of consistency is the likely culprit behind mediocre results.

Here at Ops Calendar, we follow a set process that takes us from ideas, to calendar, to content creation, to publishing and promoting the content. Every step is documented to ensure that a consistent procedure is followed every time. Each item is assigned to an appropriate team member within the process so that status is transparent and everyone is accountable for their parts.

We include checklist items that cover things like checking the post setup and ensuring that email newsletters and social posts have been written and setup for every post. Every possible step is included so that the process is easily picked up and repeated by anyone. You can download a copy of our content production checklist below – note that it is also included with your free trial of Ops Calendar

Download our content production checklist here.

Content-based social media marketing strategy

One of the benefits of nailing down a good content strategy is that you can use it as a basis for your social media strategy as well. Why spend a whole lot of extra time and energy trying to come up with separate, consistent social media posts when you can use the content you’ve already created for that purpose?

Of course, the other point here is that social media is good for spreading the word about your content as well. Once you hit “publish” on a blog post, that’s not the end of the work. People aren’t just going to show up to read your post without it having been promoted in some way.

Prior to any of our blog posts being published, we write social posts for them ahead of time and schedule them out for after publication. We use Ops Calendar’s Smart Social Scheduling feature to schedule out social posts from the time of publishing and to get a view of our social schedule that sits with our content calendar.

Following those initial posts, we ensure that “evergreen” posts are setup to recur at dates in the future, meaning that our content continues to get regular promotion. Ops Calendar has a “social loops” feature that we use to set these up. This is a great way to ensure that you are maximizing the effort you’ve put into creating content and continuing to drive traffic to it in the future.

Download your copy of our content production checklist here

Final thoughts

If there is any “secret” to getting results from content marketing it’s creating a comprehensive process that takes your content from idea to promotion and everything in between.

A documented process helps to ensure consistency and that all the key tasks get performed, which results in “quality” content and visibility to your desired audience.

Get your hands on the free downloads we’ve included with this post and start planning out your winning content marketing strategy today.

Once you’ve got your content marketing strategy rolling with a good, strategic plan, be sure to continue to the next step of our 90-Day Marketing Plan, 5 Systems to Increase Organic Website Traffic.