Gini Dietrich

To Have a Content Marketing Strategy or Not…That is the Question

By: Gini Dietrich | January 19, 2016 | 

To Have a Content Marketing Strategy or NotBy Gini Dietrich

Ah, content marketing. The topic everyone loves to hate.

Content is king.


Content is queen.


Content is only prince and the rest of you are morons for thinking it’s anything but.

I fall in between the queen and king categories, if it’s done well.

Sure, there is a ton of crap content out there and, in our quest to dumb it down to appeal to every audience, we’ve lost sight of what made our content unique to begin with.

So the question isn’t:

Will our organization spend time on content marketing this year?

The question is:

How can we improve our content marketing this year?

To Have a Content Marketing Strategy or Not…

If you’re still trying to decide whether or not you should have a content marketing strategy, let me make it easy for you: You should.

Most companies assume content marketing hasn’t worked for them, not because they executed and measured well and it just didn’t work, but because they create really bad content.

It always makes me laugh to hear industry peers complain about the amount of crap they come across on the web and in their inboxes, but then they get behind their computer screens and contribute to it all.

According to this year’s study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 92 percent of marketers use content marketing, but 48 percent still don’t have a documented content strategy.

That’s your first mistake.

How can you expect a successful execution if your strategy isn’t even documented?

Now that we’re halfway through the first month of the new year, it’s time to think about how to improve your content marketing strategy.

Here are seven ways to do just that. Get out a pen and paper so you can do the work as you read.

Ready, set, go!

Have a Clearly Defined Vision and Strategy…and Write it Down

You can’t run an organization without a strategy and a clear vision, and the same is true for content marketing.

Getting back to the study mentioned above, 60 percent of B2B marketers with a documented content marketing strategy say they’re effective, versus 32 percent of those with only a verbal (unwritten) strategy.

To get you started, check out the list of content marketing templates and checklists from Content Marketing Institute.

Leave Room for Experimentation

One of the biggest mistakes most organizations make when it comes to content marketing is lack of flexibility.

They set a very rigid strategy, lock it in place, and call it a day.

The great scholar Ferris Bueller said it best:

The world moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

The same principle applies to your content marketing strategy.

Yes, you should have a set vision and clear guidelines, but you can’t predict what will happen in three months. You have to also take your audience into consideration. It’s possible they won’t respond well to your set strategy…scary, but possible.

This just means your strategy has to be flexible enough to try new things based on their feedback, as long as it’s within your brand’s voice.

Don’t Be Sloppy

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proofreaders.” — Mark Twain

You’ve documented your strategy, it’s fluid, and you’ve created an informative and engaging post. Your thought leadership is showing, and your readers will walk away with new, actionable knowledge to improve their lives. You hit publish and it’s live on the Internet.

Except, the title has a typo. There are too many commas. It is riddled with grammar mistakes.

All of the sudden your content is useless, because you were sloppy.

Don’t let great content go to waste because of avoidable mistakes.

Before hitting publish, have a second, third, and even fourth set of eyes on it to make sure nothing gets missed.

Then read it again after it’s live on the web.

Distribution is Key

“Build it and they will come” won’t work for your content marketing.

Chew on these statistics. Every minute:

  • Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content
  • Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times
  • Email users send more than 200 million messages
  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.

That’s just in one minute.

So, if you write a blog post and expect an audience to just show up without you inviting them, you’ll be waiting for a long time.

Distribution is a key factor in content marketing success. This is where email, social media, and SEO become your best friends.

Optimize Your Content for Success

Think about the last three articles you read online.

What compelled you to click on them?

More than likely, it was the headline that got you there, and hopefully, great content keeping you engaged.

Your headline is prime real estate, and once you’ve drawn in your audience, your form should keep them engaged.

There’s a great article on content structure by Cyrus Shepherd at Moz. In it, he discusses the use of power words, visuals, and different tactics to optimize your content for your audience.

Measure, Measure, Measure

(You know I can’t talk about anything without measurement.)

Your content marketing strategy has to include key metrics to measure its success.

You need to measure what makes sense for your organization and what aligns with your goals.

Content marketing doesn’t convert to dollar signs as easily as other marketing tactics, but it is a lot easier to track effectiveness through things such as increased pageviews, increased downloads, or increased trials and then follow those people through the sales funnel to conversion.

The most important thing to remember is your metrics need to be relevant to your mission and goals.

Shonali Burke is with us on measurement and has three tips:

  • Begin at the end (what you’re trying to achieve);
  • Measure what’s important (not everything is); and
  • Don’t get stuck in measuring tools; make the tools work for you.

Don’t Be Selfish

The 80/20 rule of sales apply directly to content marketing.

Eighty percent of your content should be for and about the customer, with only 20 percent of it about you and your product.

Your customers already know you’re selling something.

The role of content marketing is to create a value proposition for them beyond a single transaction. The content you create should build trust between you and your customer, so when the time comes for you to make an ask of them, the relationship is already solidified.

Now, go ahead and get that content marketing strategy down on paper and let’s talk about where you need help.

A very loose version (I changed quite a bit here and added some snarkiness) of this first appeared on The Wood Street blog.

image credit: shutterstock

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Hey there Gini,

    The irony of this post is that I tend to find some of the sources cited here often contribute to the kind of Tips 101 stuff that clogs up the web.
    Hey ho…

    For me, the biggest issue is the term “content marketing”. It confuses people, still, because so many folks that should know better confuse their clients, their audience and (to a degree) themselves by using a term that was outdated the moment it was coined.

    It’s marketing, pure and simple. The content part is just another spoke in the marketing hub. Tell people “you can market your product, and we’ll use blogs and media to so so”, they’ll get it.

    Tell them “we’re going to use a multi-channel content strategy”, and you’ll start to see blank faces.

    It’s a matter of messaging, more than anything, for a lot of folks that are struggling at the minute.

    • Yes, but the search engines won’t rank us for “marketing” so I have to put some qualifiers in there to get on the first page of Google results. I’m okay with talking to my audience (other PR pros) in their lingo here and then translating it for clients later.

      That said, MANY prospects come to us and say, “I want content marketing” so they at least are hearing it. It’s our job to talk about what that means and how we integrate it into a larger program. And even we struggle with some clients who insist on blogging a certain way, against our recommendations…and then wonder why it’s not working.

      • howiegoldfarb

        Adwords…….and Company Beer Coasters!

  • What I’ve encouraged people to do is to substitute “insight” for the “content” word because it takes it up a level in their heads. One other thought I’d add to the list is to have a clear POV. The easy test for this would be something like this: after reading your insight, is the reader inspired to agree or disagree? If it doesn’t force that sort of reaction, it’s likely a meh piece of content. Sort of the Tips 101 stuff that Danny references above. We don’t need any more of that out there.

    • I LOVE THIS! I’m totally stealing this substitution. I’ll credit you every time I do. Which will be kind of funny in new business meetings.

    • That’s a great distinction, David, I like it. Everyone wants to be seen as insightful, so – if they think their content or whatever media they’re using – will up their perception of being insightful, it makes it easier for them to set tangible goals.

      Nice one, I think I’ll borrow that. 🙂

  • todd L

    I’ll comment, but I dont want Danny Brown in my email!

    And his comment is correct.

    • Haha, too late, dude – as Darth himself would say, “I have you now.”

    • I feel like you should know better. FayBiz.

  • Gini ~ This is the best SIMPLE explanation of that often misunderstood concept of “content marketing” I’ve seen to date. Even I…verifiably not the brightest bulb in the chandelier…get it. I will be using your post to kick off my Social Media Communication class at Curry College next week! Thanks for making my semester easier!!

    • Wait – please tell me Curry College is actually a place you go to learn how to make curry, because that would quite probably be my most favourite college of all time! 🙂

    • WOO HOO!! You made my day! And nice feature on Corina’s blog. I’m sharing it later this week.

  • Love this post. I wrote a post yesterday about why I don’t use an editorial calendar (well, publishing calendar because I was more competitive on that keyword… which I knew thanks to your class!), which would seem to be counterintuitive to this concept but it’s not.

    Yes, having a solid strategy in place is SMART. But like you said, too many people get tied down to one set schedule and rule about when/what to post. It’s dangerous and it loses site of content’s main mission (as I see it) – to connect businesses and customers in a meaningful way. Having a strategy is important but equally vital is staying agile with your plan.

    I also love, love, LOVE the term brand journalism. It’s less hated than content marketing (for now anyway). And it describes better what I think how brands should be using content.

    I’m rambling and all to say, I agree and great post! Glad you’re not afraid to bring up the elephant in the digital marketing room. 🙂

    • I literally laughed out loud at “publishing calendar!” You go, girl!

      I also love brand journalism, but find it’s still way too confusing to clients. But I would love to see it start to catch on. Perhaps I should write some blog posts about it and see if we can move it that way. You too?

  • Content marketing….is that new? 😉 Nice insights on the subject. My own take is that flexibility is the key. Locking yourself down into “500 words 2X daily” monotony is killing things. Mix it up, throw the schedule out and improvise.

    • “Mix it up, throw the schedule out and improvise.”

      Exactly, mate. Exactly. 🙂

      • That sounds like the title for a good book about content marketing. Just need a cover and 1 page 😉

    • Totally, totally agree! After all, without flexibility, you can’t write “What PR Pros Can Learn from David Bowie’s Death.”

      • You could essentially interchange a dead celebrity’s name, and the title would be the same weekly crap we see and call out. Especially when it’s done on the same damn day as the death….

        • howiegoldfarb

          The way David chose his Ziggy Stardust costume with just the right amount of glam is just like the Holistic Marketing approach Edelman is talking about.

      • Exactly!

  • howiegoldfarb

    I think too many of the talking heads have turned content marketing into a cash cow cottage industry.

    I would add to your post that the concept of what content is for each company as part of the strategy. It is way broader than just online and digital. Staff uniforms are part of content. Your logo. Your printed media. Even choosing between ballpoint and gel tip for company pens could impact how a customer perceives your brand. Nothing like a cheap crappy pen from a vendor where the logo rubs off as a way of saying they want your business.

    • Excellent points, mate. We get all too easily sucked into the trap of thinking content relates to text, video, blogs, etc, when – as you rightly say – it’s part of a far bigger picture. Duly noted.

    • Or wine glasses with the company’s logo!

      • howiegoldfarb

        I will never forget when I won the Dietrich Arment Holiday Glass Collection.

  • howiegoldfarb

    I meant to add……Facebook posts. The average Facebook user is posting 1x every 8 hours. This number is up amazingly considering that isn’t much activity 1x per 8 hours.

  • This is fantastic.

    My two cents: Have a strategy. Document it. Don’t make it about you (until the end). Find your customers’ pain points, and do what you can to help them. Be unique. When you start going through the motions of creating content because you have a deadline or you think you *should* be posting something, stop. Get help, or move on to something that inspires you. Because if it doesn’t inspire you, it sure as heck won’t inspire your customers!

    • This is precisely why I asked Corina if we can slot a guest blogger in my morning slot tomorrow. No inspiration!

  • Jennifer Clark

    How can you disagree with anyone who quotes Ferris Bueller??