May 31, 2021 - Brittany Garlin

Content Marketing and Content Strategy: Are They The Same?

Content strategy and content marketing are wholly interconnected with each other. However, they are different. As a digital marketing agency, the differences between content marketing and strategy must remain fresh in the background, and you adapt by using them to your benefit. 

Content marketing needs an excellent content strategy. 

Hold up. Wait. What does this even mean? To understand the difference, we must delve deeper into each part and bring them together cohesively. 

It is universally known that all businesses want great content marketing done for their brands, especially great ROI (Return On Investment). We hear things like content is king, quality content, and buzzwords like shares, viral, and memes – taken together, all of it can be daunting. 

Since people consume vast amounts of content daily, it is evident that there is tremendous potential in reaching large audiences. The good news is that digital marketers and agencies can create a niche space for a brand or business. The bad news is that this entire exercise needs meticulous planning, focus, and direction. 

What is Content Marketing?

Simply put, content marketing is creating, publishing, distributing, and analyzing all the content. It is the art and science of creating and publishing content that is insightful to a businesses target audience and finding the right mediums so that they can connect with it.

With people becoming more savvy shoppers, they generally do their research before interacting with a brand. This is why it’s key to understand the 3 types of consumer buying decisions and where the product or service you’re marketing fits. This will allow you to understand how extensive this research process will be and the common concerns that the buyer may have. Businesses need content marketing to create a space for their products and services in the minds of the buyers.

Basically, as a digital marketer, content marketing influences buyer or user behavior or changes the perception of an idea or topic. This change in user perception is achieved by creating and distributing extraordinarily relevant and valuable content. The content can be in the form of guides, industry trends, viral videos, social messages, emotion-triggering written or audio-video content, challenging tasks, entertainment, or any other marketing form. 

What Type Of Content Is Needed? 

As a marketer, it is possible to create fabulous pieces of content – written, audio, video, images, memes, viral clips, GIFs, podcasts, growth solutions, success stories, humorous life experiences, FAQs, documentaries, and so much more. You will start seeing a change in the eyes of the end-users, an increase in interest in the brand, visible sharing and likes increase, and much more.

Here are some examples of content pieces:

  • Case studies
  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Social media posts
  • White papers
  • Newsletters
  • Landing / Web pages
  • PowerPoint slides
  • PR copy and pieces
  • Presentations
  • Brochures
  • Slide shares
  • Pamphlets
  • Product descriptions
  • Pitch decks
  • Investor decks
  • Webinars
  • Annual reports

Even if you have done your research and put together great content, it can fall short if you don’t know what channels your target audience is actively using. All of your content is practically useless without clear strategies and definitions. The content that is created should form the basis for a strong strategy with clear goals. 

What Is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is the plan that is made for each piece of content created. Content strategy is built on goals, analyses, budgets, projected ROIs, and collective vision. It is a map of achieving the goals and visions and a way forward to increase customer interaction and brand awareness.

With the ever-emerging trends in customer interaction, the strategy has to be dynamic and trendy. The content strategy has to the buyer persona/s you are trying to attract and connect with. It is essential to ask yourself a few key questions before starting the planning stage. 

Here are some questions to consider when planning content:

  • Why is the content essential?
  • Whom does the content benefit?
  • Which audiences will benefit the most from the content?
  • How to promote the different pieces of content once they are ready?
  • How will the audience know this content belongs to the business or client?
  • How will the audience find the content – social media/ print media/ radio/ TV?
  • What gaps have to be covered in building audience trust?
  • Where will all this content be published?
  • Should each piece of content be posted across all media simultaneously?
  • When will the content be published (time zones/ dates)?
  • Who is in charge of publishing the different types of content?
  • Is there a flowchart needed for feedback and communication mechanisms?
  • How to maintain brand voice across all the content?
  • Which software is required for CRM and managing publishing timelines?
  • Which tracking metrics does the client need urgently?

The answers to these questions will help you start getting an idea of the type of things to address in the content strategy. The implementation phase should only come after all these questions have been logically answered with tracking systems in place for each. 

While these questions are not exhaustive, they should be enough to help you build a solid base and get you started on the right track to address any other issues and concerns. Once you have successfully integrated the solutions to these issues, you should rely on market research and knowledge to further the strategic planning. 

How Does Content Strategy Work?

While making a sound content marketing strategy, always consider timelines for publishing, references, and backlinks, linking to authority sites, creating the content, influencer approvals and sharing, paid promotions, Google Ads, quantifiable metrics, and content guidelines. Once you have these in place, you should start planning the strategy to bring all the different aspects into one workable structure. After you get this together, it is best to make an updated chart and carefully monitor the KPIs to change or adjust the strategy according to client needs. 

As a digital marketing agency, it is crucial to make a successful content strategy. Clients prefer working with agencies and marketers with clearly defined goals and metrics to track progress instead of those who do not. 

Why Do You Need The Content?

Most people randomly start creating content that they can market. Most of this content is based on what other businesses are doing, without any originality. However, you must identify the needs of your customers before you create any content. The content should always align with the marketing goals. If it does not fit within the scope of the plans, you may be dealing with unnecessary material. 

For example, if every one of your competitors has a blog post on why a business should work with a marketing agency, you wouldn’t just copy that post and publish it on your site. First, you would want to do some keyword research and an SEO analysis to understand the complexity for ranking for that topic or keyword — and if it even drives traffic. If that keyword is highly competitive, then your business copying that topic won’t reach as large of an audience because your content won’t rank higher than your competitors. Instead, you will want to look at keywords that drive traffic and also have low complexity to become the ultimate resource for that topic. 

As a digital marketing agency, you should always put yourself in the client’s shoes. Businesses require unique marketing solutions to help with scope and structure. They also have various content needs that only a precise, focused, quantifiable plan can successfully deliver.

If you want to move forward with the creation of the content, you should ask a few questions:

  • What is the purpose of the content – educational/ informative/ descriptive/ and so on?
  • Is the content creating brand authority?
  • Is the content answering doubts and questions that the target audience may have?
  • Is it explaining a product or service fully?
  • Will the content uplift the company’s brand value and create a sense of trust in the minds of the consumers or audience?
  • Is the selling point subtle or direct? 
  • Does the content have a call to action?
  • Are the benefits clearly outlined/ mentioned for users?
  • Are all target audiences included in this content, or do you need further subdivisions?
  • Is the content suitable for the target audience?
  • Does it have any cultural misappropriations or social constructs that can harm the brand in any way? If it does, it needs to be reconsidered or removed.

We are all consumers, so think about the last time you were searching for a similar product. What was important you you? Was it the price? Was it the color? Was it the convienience? If you keep track of your Google search history, this is a great place to see what type of keywords other consumers may be typing in to find a product or service.

Another great spot to find popular keywords similar to the topic you’re covering is to simply Google it and scroll to the bottom where it says ‘related searches’. Here you will find high traffic keywords similar to your original topic. 

Set Measurable Goals

To measure the success of any marketing campaign, it is essential to set realistic and measurable goals. The objectives of the content strategy will help the business achieve its end goals. Every piece of content created should be a valuable asset tailored towards the KPI it is trying to improve.

As a digital marketing agency, the client must see quantitative and qualitative results. Since most clients expect a high ROI, having measurable goals with pre-defined benchmarks will help track the progress of the marketing and content campaign. 

When making a successful content strategy, you and your team must plan the metrics and measurables. A blog post may be insightful and help in one area of the consumer decision process — but, it may not drive the end result of a purchase. This is why it’s important to determine what problem your content solves at whatever point your customer is in the consumer decision process.

These metrics and measures apply to the content also. 

  • Are the emails generating leads to the website?
  • Are people sharing the content on social media sites?
  • Are the blog posts interesting to the audience?
  • Are the case studies or reports generating prospects and inquiries?

Having a good content strategy will help you measure the KPIs you are looking to grow. Successful content planning also helps generate additional leads, which in turn helps increase the conversion rates. These leads or conversions could be in the form of newsletter sign-ups, webinar sign-ups, product trials, lead generation form completion, phone calls, and more! This is where it’s important to know whether your content will be conducted through inbound or outbound marketing — or both!

Integrate Brand Personality

The brand voice and brand personality should be integrated into the content strategy. Each piece of content should convey the message in the same tone to the audiences to maintain uniformity and avoid unnecessary confusion. The content elements should all tell the brand story, either with life experiences, images, videos, audio, and so on. The more personality and substance you add to the content strategy, the better the content marketing will be received. The content and its execution should be so compelling and alluring to the audience that they keep sharing it again and again. 

Provoking an emotion in your target audience is a great way to increase engagement on your post. Out of 1,400 successful advertising campaigns, those with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content.

As a marketing agency, you have to frame the personality and style of the brand. The brand voice and style guidelines have to be included during the content creation process. To connect with the audience repeatedly, it is essential to convey the brand message over different channels. It is also crucial to ensure that the message is transmitted to audiences of the target demographics. 

Many times, agencies create content for businesses but are unable to connect with the target audiences. For example, Wendy’s Twitter account has a certain sense of humor and tone compare to other fast food companies. 

The target and focus of the strategy should be only on the target audience. It is also essential to use age-appropriate and culture-appropriate language while connecting with audiences. 

Determine What The Audience Needs

Content strategy is an excellent way to determine what the target audience needs. Most passive customers and consumers can be attracted by giving them the content they need. To understand this successfully, you need to ask a few questions:

  • What stage is this consumer in the decision process?
    • Problem or need recognition
    • Information search
    • Evaluation of alternatives
    • Purchase
    • Post-purchase behavior
  • What is holding this consumer back from completing the desired action?
    • Is it price?
    • Is it the design/style?
  • What is the target audience’s current perception of this business?
    • Selective exposure
    • Selective distortion 
    • Selective retention
  • What influence’s are there on my target audience?
    • Personal influence 
    • Psychological influence
    • Social influences
  • What need is this solution solving of the target audiences?
    • Self Actulization
      • Desire to become the most one can be
      • Achieving full potential
    • Esteem Needs
      • Status
      • Respect 
      • Pristege
    • Social Needs
      • Friendship
      • Belonging
      • Love
    • Safety Needs
      • Freedom from harm
      • Financial security 
    • Physiological Needs
      • Food 
      • Water

Each piece of content should add value to the ideal audience and create a favorable impression about the brand. Creating content for the target audience will help in better conversion rates. If the customers/ consumers can connect with the brand and the content resonates with them, they will continue their journey through your sales cycle. 

It is helpful to create audience personas and write or create content to address the personas each time. This method of creation and capturing the needs of the audience helps create a fabulous story that resonates in the minds of the people for a long time. You should always address the buyer’s journey. Always remember that the education of the audience is as important as the final stage. 

The potential customers or consumers will be in the awareness, contemplation, or decision phase while reading or connecting with the content. It is helpful to create several pieces of content that add value to each of these stages and push the consumers forward towards a call to action. 

Have Defined Promotion And Distribution Channels

As a digital marketing agency, you should know where to publish and promote the content. It is crucial to have the sites and distribution channels planned out per post. With so many options available to print and promote content, pressing a button and republishing the same content on all the social networks is no use. 

You need to identify the most relevant promotion and distribution sites for each piece of content to maximize the reach of your target audience. If you can convert the target audience, you will help the brand website gain more traffic and convert passive to active customers. 

You should also select the most suitable social networks and online communities to promote the content. Community members will engage with the content only if it is valuable or relevant. If the content does not hold value, it will get ignored and will not generate any interest towards the brand. 

Have A Defined Editorial Calendar

The content strategy and marketing need to come together promptly. Editorial calendars included in the strategy help keep the entire project on track. It is easy to lose track of time, overshoot deliverables, and forget critical tasks without an editorial calendar. 

The calendar should work as a task board, memory board, and strategy outline with all the information about content types, schedules, publishing times and dates, and distribution channels. While scheduling posts in advance, you should ensure that they are published during active times (like midday, lunchtimes, tea breaks) and not passive (middle of the night, early mornings).

Final Thoughts

As we are sure you’ve noticed, there is a lot of overlap between content marketing and content strategy. You cannot have one without the other, but both are equally important for a successful marketing campaign. When you can bring together the strategy and marketing together seamlessly, you can create and market excellent content that will help clients achieve their goals and visions. 

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