While that may seem to be a bit of an odd construct, it really does make sense. That's because content without a content strategy is ineffective at best.
One of the major failings of any content marketing effort is the lack of a cohesive strategy.
Content Tactics are Not Strategy
Creating and publishing content without a plan is like having a soccer team made up of four year old kids - a great deal of running and kicking and tripping, but no real game play or scoring going on.
So, what does a shogun have to do with content strategy? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
In medieval Shoguns were hereditary military leaders who were technically appointed by the emperor. Among other roles, the shogun was the chief strategist in the kingdom. And, today, the term “shogun” is still used informally, to refer to a powerful behind-the-scenes leader.
Simply put, a strategy incorporates all the elements and components of a brand's marketing resources and efforts to achieve specific goals.
Unfortunately, far too many businesses get caught up in employing tactics without a comprehensive strategy. Again, the results are akin to that soccer game of four year old players. Someone might score on occasion, but it is often more by accident than the result of a well-thought out game plan and strategy.
Tactics are Not Strategy; They're Tools.
Engaging in various content marketing tactics without a guiding strategy and plan is little more than committing random acts of marketing.
Part of the problem is that we tend to conflate these terms and often fall into the trap of thinking that if we are simply "doing something" then that's a strategy.
And this is an age-old problem.
Around 2,500 years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote in his “The Art of War,”
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Here are a handful of definitions offered up to help clarify the distinctions and relationship between these necessary elements of successful content marketing.
"Strategy is overarching plan or set of goals... Tactics are the specific actions or steps you undertake to accomplish your strategy." [Farnam Street]
"Strategy defines your long-term goals and how you’re planning to achieve them... Tactics are much more concrete and are often oriented toward smaller steps and a shorter time frame along the way." [ClearPoint Strategy]"A strategy is a plan (and method) used to achieve a desired future state for the company. Tactics are the activities that take place to achieve the strategy, allowing the strategic plan to progress from milestone to milestone." [Intrafocus]
When applied to content marketing, your strategy should incorporate your goals, objectives, and methods you plan to achieve them with. Your tactics, on the other hand, are the tools or specific actions used to accomplish the goals and objectives.
What Makes for a Good Content Marketing Strategy?
There are multitudes of marketing strategies and most of them work. However, there are also multitudes of businesses, none of which is exactly like any other. Which simply means that a marketing strategy must be developed for the particular business, as there are no "one size fits all" strategies.
However, that being said, there are some fundamentals that should be the beginnings of every marketing strategy. We've adapted these steps from our friends at HubSpot.
1. Define your goal.
What's your aim for developing a content marketing plan? Why do you want to produce content and create a content marketing plan?
2. Conduct persona research.
To develop a successful plan, you need to clearly define your content's target audience — also known as your buyer persona.
3. Run a content audit.
Most people start out with blog posts, but if you want to venture out and try producing other content pieces, consider which ones you want to make. If you've been in business for a while, review your content marketing efforts and the results. Figure out what you can do differently and set new goals to reach.
4. Choose a content management system.
Have a system in place where you can create, manage, and track your content, otherwise known as a content management system (CMS). A few vital parts of content management include content creation, content publication, and content analytics.
When it comes to tactics, keep in mind that these are typically going to be the specific platforms, formats, and tools you use to accomplish your strategy goals.
For example, one content marketing tactic is to write and publish a blog post three times a week. Another tactic might be running a series of contests and surveys on social media channels. And guest posting on other company blogs is a tactic.
The cool thing about tactics is that, unlike your overarching strategy and plan, you can try out tactics and switch things up, drop certain things, and ramp up others if they seem to be promising.
A Word About Metrics
Now there's a word that causes business owners and manager to cringe. But metrics need not be mysterious, intimidating, nor overwhelming. They are simply tools to help you measure and quantify the effectiveness of your strategy - and even tactics.
Another term for these is "key performance indicators." Usually referred to as KPIs, this term is used for a variety of business applications and are simply "quantifiable data points you can use to measure your actual performance against your goals." [HubSpot]
Yes, you can dive into dozens (literally) of different KPIs with content marketing, but there are really just a few that you should track religiously.
HubSpot suggests the following goals and KPIs for those goals:
- Site traffic, social media followers, subscription sign-ups, mentions (by customers and partners)
- Daily sales, site traffic
- Conversion rate, shopping cart abandonment rate, associated shipping rate trends, competitive price trends
- Returning customers, promoters, product reviews, referrals
- Likes, shares, follows, mentions, backlinks
Rapport and trust
- Returning customers, promoters, followers, mentions
By now, the question you may be asking is, "How do I put all this together myself and then see that it's executed properly?"
And, if you aren't asking that question, you should be. But not to worry! The answer is that you don't need to do it yourself. In fact, the best approach to content marketing strategy is to find your own content "Shogun."
Having someone with the right level of expertise and insight to develop an effective strategy and manage the work of proper execution is not the job of a business owner. Remember: wise empires find themselves a Shogun to take care of the strategic tasks.
Your Partners for Your Content Marketing Strategy
As we've shown here, content marketing needs an effective strategy to succeed in growing your business, capturing new customers, and keeping them. But you don't have to do it alone nor master it yourself. You can get professional help.
The reality of content marketing is that achieving your marketing objectives take time.
It won't just happen with some random blog posts, video, or other content you put out there only once in a while. People will need to consume your content for a while before they'll contact you. Yet, even with consistent, great content compelling them to do so, your marketing goals may never be met without good SEO and a solid content marketing strategy.
The good news is that you don't have to figure it all out alone.
In fact, one of the best investments you can make with your marketing budget is to partner with an experienced firm like BroadVision Marketing.
Click this link to get your free Complimentary Inbound Marketing Session so you can make an informed decision, or call BroadVision Marketing at 707-799-1238.