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Is Your Content Marketing a Message in a Bottle? You Need a Content Strategy

by | Mar 13, 2014 | Brand Management, Business Strategy & Process

You’ve probably heard the marketing chestnut “Content is king.” And indeed, content marketing is a lynchpin to your business’s online success. However, what is becoming increasingly true is that, for successful companies, content marketing by itself isn’t enough. Instead, as recent polls show, more companies than ever are realizing they need effective content strategy to drive their marketing activities.

The Numbers Tell the Tale: Successful Companies Employ Content Strategy

The Content Marketing Institute’s annual marketing polls report marketing trends of the previous year and use that data to predict future trends for the year, and years, ahead. These polls provide some of the best statistics on what companies are doing in the marketing sector. Regarding content marketing and content strategy, the latest numbers are striking:

In the B2B Field:

  • 93 % of respondents use some form of content marketing.
  • 44% of respondents employed a documented content strategy; however…
  • 66% of those who rated themselves “Most Effective” at content marketing followed a documented content strategy.
  • 86% of those who rated themselves “Most Effective” at content marketing employed a specialist who oversaw their content strategy.
  • 73% of responding companies are producing more content than they did one year ago.

In the B2C Sector:

  • 90% of respondents are engaged in content marketing.
  • 39% of responding companies have a documented content strategy.
  • 60% of respondents rating themselves “Most Effective” at content marketing employed a documented content strategy.
  • 85% of those who rated themselves “Most Effective” at content marketing employed a specialist to oversee strategy.
  • 72% are creating more content than they did one year ago.

The takeaway from these numbers? Content marketing is growing, and the need for content strategy to drive those marketing efforts is increasingly vital.

What Is Content Strategy?

So if content strategy is so important, what is it and how does it differ from content marketing? Depending on whom you ask, you may receive many different answers, partly because in practice, content marketing and content strategy overlap to some degree. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute has even admitted that it hasn’t properly distinguished between the two practices in the past. While a number of definitions of content strategy have emerged over the years, one of the best in my opinion, is from Rahel Bailie in her blog The Content Wrangler:

Content strategy deals with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle, and includes aligning content to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance.

Thus, content strategy is the overall plan of how to direct and manage your content marketing. It includes an analysis of your audience as well as an evaluation of your own business goals, takes these into account, and then oversees all of this data to create and drive your content’s message and marketing. It includes SEO, certainly, but it’s more than SEO, or SEM, or SMM. It’s a comprehensive plan that may include all of those elements, and more. If content marketing is, for example, a series of blog posts, content strategy includes analysis leading to the specific messages in the posts, as well as the determination of how many blog posts should be in the series, when they should be released for the best exposure, and what type of content should precede and follow that series. We’ll delve into more details of solid content strategy in future articles. For now, though, you should know that content strategy gives content marketing its “big picture” direction. Without a solid strategy, your content may become nothing more than a series of messages in bottles that you hurl into the virtual sea, relying on good luck to connect with the right audience.

Give Your Content the Direction It Needs to Connect With Your Audience

Content is still king. Content marketing remains vital to growing and keeping your business. However, more competitors than ever are vying for your customers’ attention. Your customers are taking in information in an ever-growing number of ways, from blog posts to podcasts, and they’re doing it from a wider range of devices than ever before. In that expanding virtual universe, it’s critical your content marketing is driven by a plan that only a well-considered content strategy can give it. Otherwise, you’re relying on good luck, rather than good content, to succeed.


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- Abraham Maslow