8-Step Guide to Developing a Fail-Proof Content Strategy

Content strategy is a blueprint for marketing success. Here’s an eight-step guide to developing a strong content strategy for your business.

Whether you're spearheading operations at a tech startup or managing a bustling downtown coffee shop, content strategy is your blueprint for marketing success.

Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, put it succinctly: “Content marketing is more than a buzzword. It is the hottest trend in marketing because it is the biggest gap between what buyers want and brands produce.”

In recent years, AI has been improving content strategy development, enabling brands to personalize content creation at scale with data-driven insights into audience preferences and engagement patterns.

In this guide, we'll outline a step-by-step approach to developing an effective content strategy, regardless of your business size or level of experience. 

What makes a good content strategy?

A good content strategy is the backbone of effective digital marketing and communication. It comes down to a few things:

  1. Start with clear goals: Know who you're trying to reach
  2. Look at past content: Identify what's been successful. 
  3. Establish a good content mix and formats: Diversify your content types and platforms
  4. Be consistent: Plan your content to ensure consistent publication
  5. SEO and distribution: Keep your content discoverable and expand reach
  6. Monitor performance: Regularly review performance against objectives. 

Content strategy vs. content plan

Content strategy and content plan are closely related concepts in the domain of content marketing, yet they serve specific purposes and operate at different stages of the content lifecycle.

The content strategy addresses the "why" behind creating content—why you're producing content, who it is for, and what you hope to achieve. It's a high-level approach that covers aspects like content ideation, audience segmentation, channel strategy, and governance models. Think of it as the foundation upon which content is created and distributed, ensuring that it’s aligned with business goals.

A content plan, on the other hand, translates the high-level vision of the content strategy into actionable steps. It outlines the specifics of what, when, and how: what type of content will be created, when it should be published, and how it will be promoted and distributed across various platforms. 

How to set content strategy goals that align with overall business goals

Setting content goals that match business goals ensures marketing actions directly contribute to company success. 

Here’s how to do it. 

Start by pinpointing the primary business goals: increasing revenue, expanding the customer base, or enhancing brand recognition. Then, translate these business goals into specific content-related objectives. For example, if the business goal is to enhance brand recognition, your content goal might be to increase brand mentions online by a certain percentage.

Ensure your content strategy goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goals ensure clarity and the ability to track progress effectively.

Next, establish which metrics will serve as KPIs to measure the success of your content. For instance, the number of shares or likes for brand awareness, or conversion rates for sales growth. Outline the actions needed to achieve these goals.

Business goals and direction are constantly changing. Communicate with relevant stakeholders to ensure the content strategy remains in sync with any changes. This also allows you to adapt and optimize your strategy for the best results. Remember to review the performance of your content against the set objectives. 

Step-by-step guide to developing a content strategy

A content strategy helps with planning, creating, delivering, and managing useful content. The components can vary depending on the scope of the project or the organization's goals. Here’s a breakdown of how to create the best content strategy for your brand. 

1. Identify content goals and objectives

Content objectives are clearly defined aims that align with the overall business or project goals. These could include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, driving sales, or improving customer engagement.

For example, an email campaign may be aimed at targeting cart abandoners with personalized discounts to recover lost sales. The goal of a promoted Facebook post highlighting customer testimonials may be to build trust and encourage customer loyalty. 

2. Set target audience and user personas 

Build detailed profiles of the target audience segments or user personas. These should include demographic information, interests, pain points, and content consumption behaviors to tailor the content effectively.

Here’s a hypothetical example: Tech-Savvy Tim, 30-40, urban, high-income tech professional. Interested in the latest tech, struggles with information overload. Consumes tech blogs, podcasts, YouTube reviews. Prefers concise, informative content on new gadgets and trends.

3. Conduct a content audit and analysis

A content audit assesses existing content to identify gaps, redundancies, and opportunities for optimization.

By cataloging content based on performance metrics (e.g., engagement rates, traffic, and conversion rates) and qualitative assessments (e.g., topical relevance, currency, and audience alignment), you can identify successful content to emulate, underperforming content that needs improvement, content gaps indicating unexplored opportunities, and redundant content which can be eliminated.  

4. Decide on content types and formats

Identify the most appropriate types of content (e.g., blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics) and formats based on the goals, audience preferences, and channels through which the content will be distributed.

HubSpot is a prime example. The brand uses various content types to cater to different audience preferences and strengthen its position as a thought leader in the marketing, sales, and service software industry.

HubSpot's blog covers a range of topics pertinent to inbound marketing, sales strategies, and customer service innovations. Recognizing the rising demand for video content, HubSpot produces videos that simplify complex marketing concepts. Tapping into the podcast trend, the brand’s shows provide actionable marketing insights, industry trends, and interviews with thought leaders.

5. Choose your content distribution channels

It's not enough to create quality content—you also need to ensure it reaches the right people in the right places. Your distribution strategy decides how and where content will be shared, including owned platforms (like a website or blog), social media, email marketing, and paid distribution or partnerships. 

Owned platforms are channels you control and are essential for building brand authority. These can include your website, blog, mobile app, and email newsletters. When considering social channels, LinkedIn is ideal for B2B content, while Instagram is great for visual storytelling.

Paid distribution, including pay-per-click (PPC) ads, social media ads, and influencer collaborations, enables you to target specific audiences or demographics. It also helps broaden your reach and drive immediate traffic and engagement. 

6. Maintain a content calendar 

The importance of maintaining a consistent content production and publishing cadence cannot be emphasized enough. A content calendar helps to achieve consistency: it’s a plan that outlines when and where content will be published.

This forward-looking approach ensures that all content is aligned with upcoming events, product launches, or promotional campaigns. It also prevents last-minute rushes to create content, reducing stress and potential errors.

7. Create an SEO strategy

Content does not magically rank on search engines - it requires a deliberate and strategic approach. Think keyword research, on-page SEO techniques (like meta tags and URL structure), and link-building strategies. All of these work together to enhance brand visibility and ensure your content ranks higher in search engine results, translating to more organic traffic, engagement, and potential conversions.

Remember that SEO is a long-term investment, and consistency is key to seeing sustained improvements in rankings and traffic. 

8. Regularly measure performance 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics are necessary to evaluate your content strategy’s success. This might include web traffic, engagement rates, conversion rates, and social shares, among other metrics. 

To identify the right KPIs and metrics, first define what success is for your brand, whether it's increasing revenue, enhancing customer satisfaction, or expanding market share. Next, consider which aspects of your business directly influence these outcomes.

For example, if your goal is to increase revenue, relevant KPIs might include sales growth, customer acquisition costs, and average order value.

Ensure that your chosen KPIs are measurable, directly correlated with your objectives, and actionable, providing insights that can lead to informed decisions and strategies for improvement.    

How should AI tools fit into content strategies today?

AI marketing tools are instrumental in refining marketing content strategies in today’s digital landscape. They should be integrated into content strategies in several key ways. AI can analyze huge amounts of data faster than any human, so it’s useful in identifying trends and preferences that inform content creation. This means content can be more precisely tailored to audience needs and market demands. 

AI-powered content creation tools can assist in generating ideas, outlines, and even whole pieces of content. This helps teams streamline production and allow creators to focus on strategy and storytelling. 

Incorporating AI into content strategies is not about replacing human insight, but rather to enhance human creativity with powerful analytics, efficiency, and personalization capabilities. 

Which team stakeholders should be included in setting your content strategy?

While setting your content strategy, it's crucial to involve a variety of stakeholders across different teams to ensure the strategy is comprehensive, aligns with broader company goals, and meets the needs of your audience. Key stakeholders often include:

Marketing & Sales Team: They play a central role as they understand the market, audience demographics, and how to communicate effectively with potential and existing customers. The sales team’s insights on customer pain points, the sales cycle, and feedback from prospects are invaluable for creating content that converts.

Product Managers: They provide deep insights into the features and benefits of your products, ensuring your content accurately reflects what you offer.

Customer Support Representatives: Their direct interaction with customers gives them a unique perspective on common issues and questions that can be addressed through your content.

Executive Leadership: Their involvement ensures the content strategy aligns with the company's vision, goals, and priorities.

IT/Web Development Team: Especially when your content strategy involves a heavy digital component, their expertise is crucial in ensuring your content is delivered effectively and efficiently. 

How to measure content strategy performance

To measure how well your content strategy is performing, you must understand whether your content is resonating with your audience and contributing to your business goals. Here's how to measure it:

  • Traffic Metrics: Examine web analytics tools like Google Analytics to measure unique visitors, pageviews, and the time spent on each page. This helps to gauge the reach of your content.

  • Engagement Metrics: Evaluate likes, shares, comments, and time spent on your content to understand how engaging it is for your audience.
  • SEO Performance: Track keyword rankings, inbound links, and organic search traffic to measure how effectively your content is contributing to search engine visibility.
  • Conversion Metrics: Determine how your content moves users through the sales funnel by tracking conversion rates, click-through rates (CTRs), and the number of leads or sales generated.
  • Bounce Rate: Analyze what percentage of visitors leave after viewing only one page as an indicator of content relevance and quality.
  • Content Reach: Use social analytics to track the spread of your content across social platforms.
  • Brand Awareness: Evaluate brand mentions and the sentiment of user comments and feedback to measure the impact on brand perception.
  • Customer Retention: Monitor repeat visits and content consumed by existing customers to understand content's role in customer loyalty and retention. 

Supercharge your content strategy in 2024 with Jasper 

The right content marketing tools can save marketers time, enhance collaboration, and optimize content for success. Jasper is a writing assistant powered by natural language processing (NLP) technology. Using over 50 templates, marketing teams can brainstorm and create fresh content for various platforms.

It can create content assets for cross-functional marketing campaigns, repurpose content into other formats for wider content distribution, analyze your content against SERP competitors using the SurferSEO add-on, and much more.  

Want to learn more about how to use Jasper for content strategy? Check out How Jasper Uses Jasper: Content Strategy & SEO.

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