If you haven’t heard the word “content marketing” around the office lately, you’ve most likely been on vacation.
In the world of online business, content marketing is quickly becoming one of the most overused terms in the industry. Now there is no refuting that it is crucial, and I don’t want to take any power away from all that content marketing can do for a business, but there is another term just as important (if not more) that I don’t hear nearly as much. The term of which I am referring to is “Content Strategy.”
But aren’t content marketing strategy and content strategy the same thing, you might ask? The simple answer is… no! Content strategy is all-inclusive while content marketing refers to a single part of an overall content strategy.
In fact, understanding the differences between content marketing and content strategy, as well as planning how they can both work together, is one of the most important things you can do fundamentally for your business to succeed online and beyond.
With that said, let’s delve a little deeper into how these two terms differ as well as how they complement each other.
What is Content Strategy?
A simple definition from Wikipedia defines content strategy as “… the planning, development, and management of content – written or in other media”. Or, in other words, your master plan for using content in every single aspect of your business.
To help get us in the right mindset to understand the totality of what content strategy is, let’s first think about the building plans for a house, aka the blueprints. Blueprints are extremely detailed and plan out every aspect of a home build before the foundation is ever poured. These little blue maps detail precise measurements, where to run electrical wires and plumbing, where your support beams will go and even where to put appliances, doors, and shrubbery.
A content strategy is essentially a business’s blueprint that lays out exactly how its onsite/offsite content will be used to accomplish business goals. A good content strategy answers any and all content usage questions such as:
- Why should the content be published?
- Where are we going to publish this content?
- When should we roll out this content to viewers?
- Who do we want to see it?
- What reaction are we hoping to receive from the content?
- What in the world do we do with the content after we’ve published it?
When you have tackled a few of these broader questions, it’s time to dive into some more nitty-gritty questions like:
- What types of content do your multiple audiences need or want?
- How should you organize and structure your content?
- Who is posting and maintaining your content?
- How often is content being published?
- How does your audience find and interact with your content?
What is listed is a sliver of what should be gone over when creating a content strategy. This process requires time, research, thought, and strategic planning. By coming up with a great content strategy, you will know exactly what, why, and how your business is planning on using content to better accomplish your goals.
If you have never created a content strategy, here is a great template guide by Moz to at least get you started in the right direction.
It’s also very important to note that the content strategy you used last year shouldn’t just be reused for this year. While it may save you time to not have to tweak or change the all-knowing content strategy, not changing it basically moves your content efforts into a thick patch of fog when it comes to adapting to meet your audiences ever-changing needs. Rework your content strategy every year, and make adjustments when necessary – NO EXCEPTIONS!
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
Content marketing, on the other hand, is typically a soft-sell sales approach to attract customers and retain them through creating and delivering relevant, meaningful content. It’s essentially a combination of sales techniques and organic marketing, all in one. The trick is disguising your efforts well enough that your customers don’t know they’re being sold, but rather feel like they are becoming better informed. In content marketing, you designate specific audiences that you want to “pitch” content to, and once they bite you work to drive profitable customer action through consistently curating content you feel will help shape their behavior to result in conversion.
Content marketing pieces are often found in the form of blog posts, white papers, case studies, PR, social media marketing, inbound marketing, PPC, SEO, and more.
So what’s the difference between this and content strategy? A content marketing strategy is simply an appendage to your overall content strategy as it focuses solely on creating, measuring, and publishing content marketing pieces for specific audiences. It accurately addresses the “Why” of your overall strategy and what motivates customers to engage.
A good content marketing strategy can only live up to its fullest potential if there is a strong content strategy foundation holding it up. In other words, your content strategy addresses the “How” of using your content, as well as the “Where” and the “What”.
Going back to my blueprint/house building analogy, you would never build the walls and roof of a house without building a foundation first. This is the same with a content marketing strategy, it only works if you have a strong content strategy foundation. This foundation helps to align branding, messaging, and pretty much all aspects of content marketing to the overall content goals of your company before you begin to actively market it.
Beware the Temptation of Laziness
Sadly, due to how much time creating a good content strategy can take, too many people completely skip it and focus solely on content marketing (the fun stuff). While focusing on content marketing can bring you some isolated success, it will likely fall short of the overall impact you could’ve made, had you assessed how your content was going to be used and implemented on every level of your business. In essence, you are relying on your creative side without taking into account your strategic side.
I know it’s tempting to publish content on your website to get it out to the masses and feel like you’re doing something content-wise, but don’t just create content for the sake of creating content. Create content that has purpose, that aligns with your company goals and that has been designed to produce a calculated response – all of the things you would map out beforehand with a good content strategy. This is the way to truly maximize your content marketing efforts.
A solid content strategy (paired with a valuable content marketing strategy) is one of the biggest tools your business can utilize in maximizing your reach online. Make sure your content strategy foundation has been well planned out before rolling out your content marketing strategy.
Make the most of this year by hammering out that content strategy ASAP. By doing this your content will have more purpose and produce more measurable results. You’ll be surprised what your content marketing can actually accomplish when it has a robust content strategy backing it up.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!