Think you have all your marketing ducks in a row? According to a recent MarketingProfs report, only 30 percent of marketers feel their content marketing is effective. What separates this small group of achievers? A documented content strategy and clear messaging.

Almost all marketers today use some form of content marketing. To engage their target audiences and generate sales-ready leads, they produce everything from case studies, white papers, and videos to infographics, blogs, and social media posts. But unless these assets are built on a solid, effective strategy for delivering the right content to the right people at the right time, they are bound to disappoint.

How can you ensure your content marketing is up to the job? Here are four critical steps:

  • Clarify your objectives by defining your business goals and setting priorities
  • Define your target audiences and pinpoint audience content needs
  • Assess your current efforts against these clarified objectives and defined audience needs
  • Create content strategy and messaging that resonates with key audience personas

Clarifying your objectives
Your organization may or may not have a strategy spelled out. But even if you have one, how long has it been since you reviewed it? And how consistently is it applied to marketing efforts? A strategy that sets out financial objectives for different products, services, or regions is certainly useful, but it can’t stop there. As a marketer, you need to translate this financial strategy into a customized content strategy with recommended tactics and asset types.

It starts with clarifying your company’s goals. Review existing objectives, whether contained in a single strategy document or dispersed across documents ranging from annual reports and investor presentations to your company’s mission statement. Consider interviews with key managers in your organization. Then update objectives based on the most recent data, such as marketing analytics reports.

Defining your target audiences
Developing a content strategy requires identifying your target audiences. Whether yours is a business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) enterprise, your target audiences may vary by product or service. For example, one product may be designed for experienced users and another may be targeted to entry-level customers.

For this reason, it is helpful to segment your target audience by persona. One persona might be a decision-maker whose role enables him or her to authorize significant purchases. Another persona may be someone who doesn’t approve purchases on their own, but still has expertise that makes him or her a key influencer on decisions. These personas often have different content needs. A busy C-suite executive wants communications that are short and to the point. An influencer persona, such as a technician in a high-tech setting, typically requires more detail to be convinced.

Assessing your current efforts
How well does your existing marketing material align with the strategic objectives you have defined and the target personas you have now identified? This step calls for auditing your existing content to determine which assets continue to provide value and identify any gaps. Including your website in this audit is increasingly important.

You may find that many of your current assets can be updated to reflect new strategic realities or product improvements. Other areas will benefit from a new creative approach that better resonates with key personas. Many businesses find it helpful to score content items according to criteria such as:

  • Buyer personas: Does the asset target the right audience segments?
  • Competitive positioning: Does it reinforce your business’s strategic messaging?
  • Relevance: Is the messaging current and the information up to date?
  • Popularity: What are the usage metrics for the particular asset?
  • Effectiveness: Does it attract and hold audience attention?

These findings help fuel the final step in the process.

Creating content strategy and messaging
Armed with the information acquired in previous steps, you are ready to develop a customized content strategy and messaging. Establishing clear messaging before plunging into asset creation is critical; it gives you a foundation to produce consistent content that reinforces your brand.

Your deliverable for this step is a messaging document that incorporates core value propositions, positioning statements, and differentiating proof points. It should also include pre-built sample content you can quickly integrate into your campaigns. You can then establish an editorial calendar to help ensure a continuous supply of engaging material that will resonate with your target personas.

Are you one of the 70 percent of marketers who don’t feel their marketing content is truly effective? At TDA, we have the experience and expertise to help you build a successful, effective content strategy and messaging. Let’s talk.