The Difference Between Content Strategy and Content Marketing – And Why We Need to Avoid Crossing the Streams

Confession, I came across an article on my LinkedIn feed recently entitled, “How B2B Companies Whip Up Content Marketing Strategies,” and my eyes rolled to the back of my head. Whip up strategy? (Yes, it actually said that.) Psh! We, as marketers, need to stop making bogus claims like this to each other. That’s why I’m here to drop some truth on content “strategy” once and for all.

Let’s cut the BS – “Content Strategy” is NOT a tangible thing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been presented with an editorial calendar, the frequency goals for publishing on a blog, or even a mix of content types when I’ve asked someone to show me their content strategy. The truth is when I ask that questions it has a hidden agenda. These things are; content marketing, but they are not a content strategy. Let me illustrate this:

content strategy venn

Content Strategy

A content strategy is a series of governing principles for producing, maintaining and evaluating your content. To sum it up into a straightforward definition, it provides the guidelines for connecting user needs with your organization’s business objectives.

Content Marketing

Often confused for strategy, content marketing is the tactical component represented by the editorial calendar, campaigns, curation, and promotion. It’s tangible and highly visual across the organization.

Content Planning

This is where content strategy and content marketing overlap with one another. Also confused with the content strategy because it contains sets of “guidelines” that control your goals, voice, and tone, it’s a plan to execute against your strategy. It’s where your audience and ideation come into fruit.

Why Do I Need a Content Strategy?

Content marketers spend countless hours producing and promoting content, but without a clear strategy, there are no guidelines for the “who and why,” leaving you exposed to the danger of confusing or alienating your audience or failing to reach them at all.

To accelerate your revenue with effective content marketing, you need to set content strategy BEFORE you starting planning or producing. This strategy defines who your audience is, what they need to solve for, how they want to consume that information, and how that messaging aligns with the problems your offering can solve.

Striking the right definition and prioritization between strategy, planning and tactics is critical for marketers to achieve a return on the content they produce. It’s the difference between content for the sake of content -vs.- content that generates revenue.

So, What Elements Define a Content Strategy?

The best place to begin doing this is by assessing the seven components of strategy within the Revenue Acceleration Framework and adopting those areas as the guidelines within your content strategy.

For example, here are four areas of the strategic pillar and how they relate to content:

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): Why do we produce content in the first place? It goes back to connecting user needs with business objectives. To effectively achieve that goal, you must have your ICP clearly defined. Your ICP will frame your content strategy in the direction of an audience that has a fit/need for your offerings and can see value in what you can provide to the organization.

Buyer Process & Personas: If I asked you to write a love letter to someone you’ve never met, it wouldn’t have the same emotional connection as writing one to your sweetheart. Content marketing acts in the same manner when you’ve set up a content strategy that is aligned with well-developed buyer personas.

Brand Strategy: Your brand defines how you form messaging and ideation around how you communicate your unique value and what sets you apart from your competition.

Go-to-Market Strategy: Content is about coverage and integrating your go-to-market strategy with your content strategy ensures that you are not only creating the right content at the right time – also distributing it to the right place.

User Needs <> Business Objectives

By now the definition and value of a content strategy should be clear, but I can promise that every single one of us will encounter a leader, colleague or peer sometime in our career that will blur the lines between content strategy and content marketing. Don’t get me wrong, the planning and process portion of content is essential, but are tactical and are things you should always do AFTER you’ve determined your strategy. So the next time you see a click-bait headline about “whipping up or hacking together” a content strategy, recognize that it wasn’t written for effective content marketing – scroll on, and leave that garbage in the void.

Need help clearing the weeds and defining a clear content strategy? LeadMD’s experienced consultants are here to help you transform your content into results. Start with a free Revenue Acceleration Assessment, and we’ll help pinpoint the quickest path to ROI.

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