Content marketing is a fun and creative way to attract new customers to your business.

Just know — it doesn’t have to be complicated to get the desired results.

Check out these tips for building a solid, simple, content marketing strategy that doesn’t involve any guess work.

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What is a content marketing strategy?

A very important factor to remember when it comes to content marketing is that you have to keep it simple: consistently create content that helps your audience and you can influence their behavior over time. That’s it.

In my experience, people have the tendency to overthink content marketing and building out a strategy. Even I’ve been caught up in what I like to call the “content marketing matrix,” which is just as complicated as it sounds.

In this matrix lives a combination of buyer personas, buyer journeys, types of content, popular content “watering holes,” channels to promote content, topics your audience are searching, and more. Trust me, you do not want to get caught in this unsolvable equation that attempts to marry all of these variables into a picture perfect content marketing strategy – aka the unattainable “Contentopia.”

“If I post an eBook on bug repellent, directed towards middle-aged gardeners that are in the late purchasing stage (already have bug bites), at exactly 3pm every other Thursday on Twitter, I’ll make millions!”

Now, if that’s how you develop a content marketing plan, fantastic. But, I want you to have realistic expectations to keep your marketing efforts from getting nailed down to some tight equation. If that is your goal, I’m here to tell you that you’re missing the point.

Why build a content marketing strategy?

What you want to do is keep things simple, and build out a foundation that guides your content creation. This is why you need a content marketing plan.

Let’s look back at our original direction: consistently create various types of content that helps your audience and influence their behavior over time. This technique is simple and proven. If you provide value, then people are going to notice you and think of you when they need what you’re offering. When you make your customers your primary focus, you win their business.

Tips for building a content marketing strategy

Remember: keep it simple. Here are some tips to keep in mind when building out your content marketing strategy:

Set your goals

What business goals do you want your content marketing to accomplish? Get specific. These goals will help you decide what to create, and how. Want more web traffic? Blog subscribers? Sales? Maybe you want to build your brand and be regarded as a thought leader in your industry. All of these goals can be accomplished with a strategic content marketing campaign.

Let your customers guide you

Find your perfect customer and use them as a model when creating your content. Can you think of someone who you would consider the ideal customer? Call them up. See if they would want to give a testimonial. Ask them why they chose your business. Ask them what questions they had throughout their buying process.

You can use this one customer as the basis to your marketing plan. Chances are, the questions and preferences of this customer are going to be similar to your other potential customers.

Don’t create content just to have more content

I’ve seen, first hand, several companies make this mistake. Creating content just for the sake of having more content is a time-suck for everyone involved, with little to no achieved results.

Remember, the point is to help your customers by creating valuable content. Focus your efforts on quality, not quantity.

Build a content distribution plan to promote your content

You’ve created some really stellar content. Now what? Next, you want to get it in front of your audience. You want to set up a content distribution plan through which you can send all of your content. This plan can include where to publish your content, if you’re going to use paid promotions or social media, and how to repurpose any of your content. Stick with this plan to ensure consistency.

Stay the course

There’s no instant gratification here. One of the most important rules of content marketing is to be consistent. Content marketing is a long-term strategy and results do not happen overnight. You’re trying to influence the behavior of a group of people, which takes time. Staying consistent with your publishing schedule, and content value builds trust with your audience, which eventually leads to a relationship.

Example of building out a content marketing strategy

A few years ago, I was hired by a startup company to build its content marketing strategy from the ground up. They had never used a content strategy before that, and they had no employees dedicated to content. By the end of my time there, we had a well-running content marketing machine, which played a huge role in lead generation and building brand awareness.

Here are the steps we took when building out the strategy for our content marketing efforts:

1. First, we researched. I interviewed several customer-facing employees who worked with customers at different stages of the purchase. My question to them: what are the most common inquiries from our customers and leads?

By the end, we had a long list of valuable questions that we could use in our marketing efforts. We based our content calendar on exactly these questions and answered them with valuable, easily-consumable, and searchable content. This was the base of our content marketing strategy.

2. Next, we built out our content marketing editorial calendar for the year, using those questions to guide the topics we created content around. During this step, we would also map out what format each piece of content will take. Sometimes we would create infographics, sometimes we’d create quizzes, and other times we’d create long-form content or video content for more technical or complicated topics.

3. Then, we established a content distribution plan to promote the high-quality content we were building on a consistent basis. This marketing plan established where the content would be published, and the frequency at which we would publish. This could include but is not limited to, social media channels, email marketing campaigns, website catalogs, blog posts, and more.

4. From here, we kept building, publishing, collecting feedback, and analyzing the performance of our content. I specifically remember the successful results of an email nurture campaign we ran to re-engage old contacts from whom we hadn’t heard in a while. The first email offered a free video, the second email offered a helpful infographic, and the third email in the nurture series of automated emails required readers to fill out a form to get access to a brand new eBook.

Because we had built up trust with valuable content in the first two emails, by the third email, people were ready to restart their relationship with us. The resulting lead conversion rate of this combined email and content marketing campaign was very high.

This is just one example of what a successful content marketing strategy could look like. Remember, this is all variable to your business’ goals, products or services, audience, and the way your audience best consumes content.

It’s all about the customer

Overall, planning out your content marketing strategy with content that you know your target audience finds valuable in is the best way to go. You don’t need to guess here. Help the people you’re serving with valuable content, and they will keep you top of mind when they’re ready to buy. It’s that simple.