Writing a content marketing strategy requires knowledge and skill. A truly great content marketing strategy also requires ignorance. If you’re embarking on a content initiative, you’ll want to know when ignorance is bliss and when it isn’t. You’ll save money and get a better return on your efforts.
We write a lot of content marketing strategies at Lush. I’ve personally been developing content strategies for my own and customers’ businesses for nearly a decade. With experience we’ve been able to refine the strategies, adding more depth and insight into each one.
My early efforts came closer to an implementation plan than a real strategy. Mind you, there wasn’t much to go on a decade ago so a lot of it was trial and error. For my own business, I made the common mistake of not documenting the strategy. That works for a while but eventually comes unraveled.
I’ve learned the more you do, the more you know. The more you implement, the more you realise where the strategy fell down or could be improved. You plug those holes in the next one and move on. Ten years on, I’m confident we’re providing a good product and can prove it in the implementation.
Even when a customer is skeptical, I’m not, because I’ve seen it work too many times across too many industries in all sizes of business. But there are two areas where little or no knowledge is an advantage. If you’re working with an agency, this kind of ignorance in your content strategist is particularly important.
Separate content marketing strategy from content production
Is the person writing your content marketing strategy developing a plan that makes the most sense to your business or to theirs? A lot of content agencies offer free strategies.
They do this because they plan on making money on the production. And what they recommend is usually closely aligned with the kind of content they produce. It might sound like a great deal at the time but beware the free strategy, especially a content marketing strategy done in a flash.
Think of it like the separation of church and state — a great content marketing strategy shouldn’t be influenced by the business demands of your production team. You don’t want your agency to write a content strategy based on the current utilisation of their production staff. You want your strategy to focus on your business goals, not your agency’s goals.
Ignore budget constraints
One of the first things most businesses decide is how much money they have to spend on marketing. Even if you know your budget, the worst thing you can do is let the person developing your strategy know your budget. It takes approximately four to six weeks to write a well-researched, thoughtful strategy aligned to your business goals. You want to ensure it’s delivering the right messages to the right audience in the right times and places. You don’t want to rush the process. And you certainly don’t want to put a budget filter on the exercise.
Here’s the reason.
Developing a content marketing strategy is time consuming. When done properly, it can be an instrumental part of your business operations. When your management team starts to see the results roll in, they can usually find more money to put behind it. If you’ve limited the strategy to include only what you can afford at the moment you’ve commissioned the strategy project, you’re going to miss out on a whole lot of wonderful things you could be doing.
A strategy is not a production order. It’s a road map to achieve business goals. The budget only governs how fast you’ll get there. If you receive additional budget, you’ll want to know immediately what you can do to increase your effectiveness. You don’t want to go back into a strategy cycle. And you don’t want to give it your best guess.
Writing a utopian content marketing strategy
If you’re developing your own content marketing strategy, ignore any budget constraints you have. Don’t consider the implementation during the strategy phase. You want to take a purist approach so you discover what is possible if you had unlimited resources. You want your strategy to work today but also to be looking to the future.
If you’re working with an agency, do a little digging to find out how the content marketing teams are structured. You’ll want to find a strategist who isn’t influenced by production quotas. You certainly don’t want a strategist who earns commission on the back of content creation. You want them ignorant about things like customer budgets and not pressured to make recommendations to keep their business afloat.
It doesn’t hurt to ask your agency these questions:
- Do you have a separate strategy department?
- Do you employ strategists?
- How many strategies have you written?
- How often do you publish strategies for brands?
- Do the people who write the strategies work in the production team?
- How much does a strategy cost?
- Can you provide references and case studies?
Not long ago we delivered a content marketing strategy to a client with a top recommendation of creating a therapy garden. We can’t make a penny on gardens or gardening projects — it’s not our business. The customer was thrilled with the idea and it built trust in us and confidence in the quality of the work that went into the strategy. We weren’t trying to line our own pockets when making recommendations.
It’s gone a long way to building a long-term relationship with the company. Not only did they enter into a monthly content creation agreement, they also call us regularly for ad hoc projects and campaign work. By keeping the focus on our customer and their audience, we enjoy a terrific environment of trust and collaboration. And you can bet I’ll be there for the grand opening of the new therapy garden.
If you want to work with an agency who are experts in content marketing strategy and content creation, visit our website or contact us on (08) 9228 3380. We’ll make sure you get a strategy that’s about your business, not ours.