How to Build a Stress-Free Content Strategy Roadmap

After years of working with early-stage companies, it became clear that content marketing (and marketing in general) was often a foreign language to most founders. They knew they needed it, but didn’t know how to hire for it and didn’t understand its worth. And what’s worse is that once they found someone to fill this need, they often didn’t know how to hold them accountable.

Expectations weren’t clear. Processes were hidden for fear of criticism. And necessary steps to achieve success together were avoided, leading to a breakdown of trust, unproductive conflict, and hours of time wasted on content that didn’t work.

Navigating the political waters of marketing vs. everyone — it all comes down to exposure and education.

Defining marketing is tough, as is tracking accountability. The rules are always changing, as are the people we are trying to target. Consumer expectations are a tight bullseye to hit, especially in a world where evolving technology defines much of how we build a strategy.

To avoid the conflicts and create more meaningful strategies, I’ve found success in educating non-marketers about the process. The more we educate founders, product teams, and account reps about our jobs, the more value they’ll see in it and the more they’ll leverage our resources. And this is the only way content marketing can be successful — if our teams understand the value of the content we’re creating.

So for those in non-marketing roles (or for those advocating the value of a marketing role), below is a guide that you can fill in for every… single… strategy. This framework will help you make the most of your content initiatives and articulate the value.

 

Start with Your Goals

Goals are overarching visions. They’re non-measurable. They exist to inspire and help contextualize the purpose of your marketing efforts. Don’t over think them. Focus on the big picture and what you want to achieve. They can parallel company goals or be shared across departments.

Here are examples of goals:

  • Become the #1 content marketing consultant for B2B SaaS companies.
  • Build a team of badass content creators who specialize in specific verticals.
  • Become the #1 source for freelance writers who want a career in content marketing.
     

Create Measurable Objectives (BLT w/ a Pickle)

Objectives are calculated measurements of success that help support goals. These are the toughest ones to come up with because it forces your team to commit to something concrete. And if you’re just starting out, it’s hard to understand what’s attainable.

My best advice is to research what is reasonable and do the best you can. Objectives can and will shift as you implement your strategy, but it’s important to commit to something. Without measurable objectives, you have no way of defining success. It’s better to adjust a metric that already exists as opposed to floating through space and time.

When creating objectives, refer to this little hint: BLT w/ a Pickle.
Behavior, Level of change, Time, Person

Behavior: What do you want people to do? Visit your website? Sign up for your newsletter? Sign up for a free trial? Define the behavior you want.

Level of Change: How many people do you want visiting your site or converting to leads? Is this a raw number or a percentage? Calculate the degree of change that needs to happen to support your overarching business objectives.

Time: Over what period do you want this to happen? A particular date? Six weeks? Six months? Document it and avoid vagueness.

Persons (often referred to as “Audience”): Who do you want engaging in this behavior within this time? What’s the demographic? What’s the business type you’re targeting? (Note: This one may be tough depending on how specific you get.)

Example objectives:

  • 500 startup founders and marketing professionals will subscribe to our blog by June 1, 2017.
  • Our overall social following will increase by 20% month-over-month for three consecutive months by May 1, 2017.
  • We will secure a network of 10,000 global freelance writers by the end of 2017.

These objectives can range and be updated based on performance, but it’s important to communicate them and get buy-in early. Use the time upfront to understand why measurable objectives across the funnel need to be tracked. Set check-in dates to adjust them appropriately.

Tip: DO NOT let objectives continue if they are knowingly unattainable. You’re setting yourself up for failure… literally.

 

Define Your Key Audience(s)

Next up is your target audiences. This one is a bit malleable at first. Likely, you have a general vision for who you want to target, so write this down. Later, we’ll get into how to define them and what pieces you need to include. For now, keep it high level.

Also, include more than your customers and prospects. Think of other influential people who may help you get the word out about your company.

Example key audiences:

  • Small businesses with more than $1 million in annual revenue.
  • CEOs and Founders of B2B SaaS companies.
  • Journalists covering beats that include technology and marketing.
  • Consultants in the space, targeting a similar audience but offering different services.

Strategy, Tactics, and Why You Need Them Both

The word “strategy” is thrown around a lot. It’s often confused with tactics and can be admittedly difficult to define. You have your marketing strategy to support your business goals. And then you have your content marketing strategies that help support your marketing goals. All of it quickly starts to feel like an unending loop of Russian nesting dolls.

Think of strategies as abstract ways to connect your goals to your audiences. They’re the squishy part in between that helps you answer the questions of “Why would someone do what I want them to do?” and “How do I get them to do what I want them to do?”

Strategies require a large amount of empathy to understand what motivates people to act. Once you can figure that out, you come up with multiple tactics that provide concrete, executable tasks that support that strategy.
 

A Crude, But Clear Example

What better way to explain everything but to expose a content strategy I’m using for my own business. This is a very high-level breakdown, but use this as a guide to tying your goals, objectives, and strategies together.

Goals:

  • Become the #1 content marketing consultant for B2B SaaS companies.
  • Build a team of badass content creators who specialize in specific verticals.
  • Become the #1 source for freelance writers who want to build their career as content marketers.

Objectives:

  • 500 startup founders and marketing professionals will subscribe to our blog by June 1, 2017.
  • Our overall social following will increase by 20% month-over-month for three consecutive months by May 1, 2017.
  • We will secure a network of 10,000 global freelance writers by the end of 2017.

Key Audiences:

  • Founders and CEOs of B2B SaaS companies
  • Freelance writers
  • Investors with B2B SaaS companies in their portfolios

Strategy #1: Create radically transparent content that exposes my process to build credibility.

Corresponding Tactics:

  • Post a series on how to create a content marketing strategy on Medium. ;)
  • Host a webinar series repurposing that content.
  • Create an editorial calendar with content marketing best practices.
    Publish contributed articles on tech-related outlets.

Strategy #2: Establish a brand that’s aesthetically inspiring and engages young writers.

Corresponding Tactics:

  • Build a website that’s vibrant and visually driven.
  • Contribute content to The Muse, Elite Daily, and other Millennial-driven outlets.
  • Publish Facebook video content that highlights career advice for young writers.
     

Hang On, We’re Not Finished…

This post is a part of a blog series. Why? Because if you want to do content marketing correctly, there are a lot of words I need to share. And I’m told that people don’t like to read, so here we are.

 

Next up?

2.0 Create Buyer Personas Actually You’ll Use
This section will highlight the right way to go about identifying your key audiences and how to make buyer personas work for more than just your marketing team.

Breena Fain