written by
Tanguy Verbelen

Content Marketing Strategy in 2021: the Ultimate Guide

Content Marketing 8 min read

Having a solid content marketing strategy in place is a must-have for a great content marketing execution.

For some reason, only 42% of B2B marketers think their content marketing strategy is actually working.

That’s why we’ve decided to deep-dive into what good content marketing actually is. The result of that deep-dive can be found in our latest ebook: Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for 2021.

In this blog post, we’ll go over the importance of an effective content marketing strategy and how you can create one yourself.

What is content marketing?

Before digging into how to create a great content marketing strategy, we need to get over the basics: what is content marketing exactly?

Let’s start with an example. Let’s say that someone bumps into one of your blog articles on your website. They find your article valuable and decide to subscribe to your newsletter to receive more valuable articles every week. Then one day, they decide to buy your product or to ask about your service. Why? Because they know that you know what you’re talking about.

Content marketing is the practice of producing and distributing content and media that doesn’t directly promote a business’s products or services but instead seeks to drive interest in those products or services.

That’s content marketing at its finest: instead of selling your product or service directly, you provide value to your prospects so that they come to you when they’re ready to buy.

Research shows that companies with a strong content marketing strategy outperform companies that don’t with 54%.

That’s mainly because you’re building a strong relationship with your potential customer by constantly giving them valuable insights. As your relationship with your potential customer grows, they will be very likely to become a lead and/or a customer.

And it’s exactly the difference between driving interest vs. directly promoting your products or services which separates a good content marketing strategy from a bad one.

Why having a content marketing strategy matters

Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics you might ask yourself: ‘So what? My current marketing strategy works just fine!’.

Well, as we said in the beginning, more than 50% of B2B marketers don’t think that their marketing strategy works.

There are actually a lot of statistics that prove the value of having a content marketing strategy over a more traditional marketing strategy:

And there’s another big reason why marketing leaders choose a content marketing strategy over a traditional marketing strategy: return on investment or ROI.

Marketing leaders from top B2B and B2C brands keep finding that content marketing has a far better ROI than paid advertisement for example.

That in itself should be reason enough to prioritize it. But there are many other reasons. A few of them being that content marketing:

  • Builds trust and loyalty
  • Works at every stage of the buying cycle
  • Assists the sales team and process
  • Compounds over time
  • Drives evergreen traffic
  • Is more affordable over time
  • Offers sharing and referral potential
  • Builds relationships with partner brands

In many ways, content marketing is the future of marketing. Thanks to social media and online publications, we have direct access to our customers. This allows us to build a long-lasting relationship with them without needing to pay for traditional media channels.

Create a content marketing strategy that works for your business

So, how do you create a content marketing strategy that works for your business? There are four essential elements of your content marketing strategy:

  • Audience insights— Start with in-depth knowledge about your target audience(s).
  • Format decisions— Choose which content formats your team can execute on.
  • Content topics— Decide your topical authority as a brand.
  • Goal setting and tracking — Determine goals and KPIs to measure as a team.
Content Marketing Strategy in 2021: the Ultimate Guide - Content Canvas
Photographer: Daria Nepriakhina | Source: Unsplash

Audience insights

Begin your content marketing strategy by researching your audience. Spend a couple of days diving into their needs and what makes them tick.

This way, you remove all assumptions you have about your audience. For example, let’s say your target audience is property management companies. After doing audience research, you might be able to narrow that down to property management companies that employ leasing agents or property management companies with at least 200 doors.

Here are some ways to get a deeper insight into your audience:

1. Join communities

Communities can be a big inspiration for understanding your audience better, as people often share their tips and insights in these environments.

No matter what professional audience you serve, there is undoubtedly a community designed just for them. For example, if your target audience consists of sales professionals, join Sales Hacker. Are they content marketers? Then Growth Trough Content is your go-to community.

Especially in forums, you can find out very detailed information about your audience’s priorities and challenges. If you can’t find a private community, you can always start your own Facebook group instead.

Content Marketing Strategy in 2021: the Ultimate Guide - Growth Through Content Facebook Group
Join the Growth Through Content Facebook group for the latest news on content marketing & growth!

2. Read industry publications

Industry blogs and publications are a great way to learn what your target audience cares about. The biggest benefit of expert content is that it’s very in-depth and data-driven.

These insights can help you to understand your target audience better as you dive deeper into the research from industry blogs and publications.

3. Read your competitors’ blogs

Another great way to get inspiration for your content marketing strategy is by analyzing what your competitors write about.

By looking at their content marketing strategy, you get to know which problems they’re trying to solve for their target audience. And more precisely: how they’re making these problems aware for that audience.

Now, don’t get us wrong: don’t simply copy what your competitor is doing. But rather, ask yourself ‘How can I make this content 10x better?’. If you want actionable insights on how to create 10x content, here’s a great article by Sujan Patel for Forbes Magazine on how to get started.

Content Marketing Strategy in 2021: the Ultimate Guide - Blogging
Photographer: NeONBRAND | Source: Unsplash

4. Attend virtual events

With most events becoming virtual nowadays, it’s a lot easier to jump into a conference or attend a summit than in the past. You don’t have to physically be there and they always send a video recap in case you missed it.

By attending virtual conferences, summits, workshops, and other online events, you get to dive deep into industry challenges and solutions. These types of events are especially great for inspiration if you already have some knowledge in the field. This way, you can use the insights and trends to get inspired to create some new content and adjust your content marketing strategy.

5. Follow popular social media accounts

We all have smartphones and social media apps downloaded on them. Now, most people are using these apps to keep up with their friends’ and family’s lives. But you can also use social media to get inspired for your own content marketing strategy.

By following industry leaders, you learn what they’re talking about with their audience and which posts get the most engagement. A great way to get started is by finding social media accounts in your industry through key phrase searches and hashtags.

Content Marketing Strategy in 2021: the Ultimate Guide - Follow popular social media accounts

A great example is Dave Gerhardt, who is the CMO of Privy (and previously VP Marketing at Drift). He has a big social media following and posts a lot of valuable content on his LinkedIn page. Not only can you get inspired by his posts for new content ideas, but you can also connect with like-minded professionals in the comment section.

Format Decisions

Now that you’ve been inspired by which content your audience wants to see, you need
to determine the two or three content formats you’ll use. The smartest way to make these kinds of decisions is to use the ICE Method, which stands for:

  • Impact — How impactful the format is likely to be.
  • Confidence — Your confidence in executing on it well.
  • Ease — How easy it will be to run.

For each content format you are considering, give a score of 1 - 10 for Impact, Confidence, and Ease. Then add up the scores to produce a total score for each format. Choose your top 2 and only add additional formats after you’ve launched these successfully into your content marketing strategy and seen results.

Content Marketing Strategy in 2021: the Ultimate Guide - ICE method

Content Topics

Before you start ideating individual content pieces and headlines, you should first determine your topical authority. Aim for 2 to 5 content buckets that every piece
of content you later create could reasonably fit into.

For example, the majority of our content is about the following topics:

  • Content marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media
  • Marketing automation
  • Content collaboration
  • Lead generation
StoryChief Blog

These content buckets are so crucial because they can convert your content consumers into paying customers. Your topical authority is the bridge between your audience and your products or services. If your content buckets are relevant to your audience but not your product, you run the risk of creating content that doesn't turn into revenue.

Goal Setting and Tracking

Once you're clear on your audience, content formats, and overarching content topics, it's time to set goals that will guide your teams' effort. While doing research for our ebook, we found these to be the top types of goals for a content marketing strategy:

  • Content production goals - How many pieces of content should you produce in a given period.
    For example, one blog per week, one webinar per quarter, and one ebook per quarter.
  • Lead generation goals - How many marketing qualified leads should you generate from content in a given time.
    For example, 150 MQLs per month.
  • Brand awareness goals - How many impressions, views, or reads your content should receive in a given period.
    For example, 50,000 impressions and 20,000 reads per month for all content combined.

It's typically useful to have all 3 of the above goals because they keep your team on track and help you troubleshoot.

By setting your goals, communicating them to your team, and tracking them regularly, you’ll quickly start seeing improvements in your content marketing strategy. But your job doesn’t stop there. Make sure to revisit them on a quarterly basis and adjust the metrics based on your insights and results.

Would you like to have a step-by-step guide on creating, distributing, and promoting content, including some templates? Then make sure to download our free ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing 2021.

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