“The strategy phase usually consists of me telling clients to stop what they are doing and take a couple of steps back and start thinking of things from a little different perspective.”

Not exactly what you’d expect as a first step in strategy planning! Mark Smiciklas, of Intersection Consulting, is a firm believer that goals come before strategy; in fact, goals are the underpinning, the base of any content marketing implementation.

Defining Goals – The Critical First Step

Oftentimes an organization will want to sidestep setting goals and go straight to content production. Three possible reasons are:

  • They don’t have a business culture of measurement
  • They’re too busy “taking care of business” to invest the time in setting goals
  • Content marketing is a new concept and they’re unclear of exactly what to measure

But goal setting is critical to content marketing. Goals set up tangible connections to a business’s objectives, allowing them to measure success, gauge revenue and quantify leads. Moreover, it helps the organization and employees gain focus on why they are even conducting content marketing.

The Iceberg Strategy

Once goals are determined, content strategies can be developed to meet those goals. As an iceberg shows very little of itself above the water line, so will a content marketing strategy have most of its activities “underwater.” The visible part is the final deliverable piece–the ebook, blog, newsletter, podcast, white paper, photo, video or infographic–the content that everyone sees. But the bulk of the iceberg, or content strategy, is what supports that visible result and includes:

  • Audience analysis
  • Information needs assessment
  • Measurement and ROI
  • Governance
  • Content Audit

Content Strategy IcebergAccording to Mark, “There’s so much below the surface that you first need to understand strategically in order to get to that point. The two biggest things are understanding who your audiences are and understanding their informational needs. A big mistake a lot of organizations make is they assume that they know what the customer wants because it’s what they want…the two are not necessarily congruent.”

A content audit can help get companies started on content creation strategies. Many organizations have existing content assets that they don’t even recognize: training videos, email newsletters, customer testimonials, and service FAQs that can be repurposed into new content. It’s all about becoming creative by first looking inward at what’s already available. Additionally, activities such as speaking engagements, trade shows, awards dinners, or donation programs are all content assets, providing material for blog posts, videos, SlideShares, and infographics.

A Culture of Commitment

Creating an “executable play book,” summarizing the strategy and planning decisions will lay the foundation to launch a content marketing strategy. This is basically a written declaration of business objectives (goals) and the tactical list of things that need to be accomplished, including the editorial calendar and the content audit. This strategic deliverable lays out all aspects of the plan, helping to launch the campaign, and keep everyone on the same page and on target.

But the biggest success factor of any strategic planning effort is the level of commitment within the organization. Ideally, this commitment starts at the top and trickles down. Commitment to budget, pledge to understanding target audiences and their needs, creating high-quality, targeted content and finally, measuring and evaluating data to monitor effectiveness, all contribute to a greater likelihood of success with a content marketing initiative.

Join the Conversation:

  • What activities in your organization that you haven’t considered could be possible content sources?
  • What kind of “play book” or strategic plan do you use for your content marketing?
  • How many target audiences do you have and how does that impact content creation?
This article highlights selected excerpts from CMX’s interview with Mark Smiciklas of Intersection Consulting, and Martin van der Roest of the Examiner on the topic of Strategy: The Bridge Between Goals and Content Marketing – August 28, 2013.