Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy (And Why You Need ‘Em)

By Beth Demmon

“Content strategy” is a pretty loaded and often misunderstood phrase. It regularly gets thrown around with other buzzwords like “ROI”, “conversion rate”, and “target segment”, but what does it mean? And what on earth is the difference between content marketing and content strategy?

Defining content

Let’s start by actually defining the word “content”. No, we’re not talking about that fuzzy satisfied feeling. We’re talking marketing content. In a nutshell, content is media (whether it be words or images) that conveys information and is created with the ultimate goal of acquiring a customer. Yes, ultimately it boils down to sales (what doesn’t?!) but it’s selling without a salesman. Content marketing is putting a shiny object in front of you to draw you closer rather than pulling you in obnoxiously (think billboards or other antiquated modes of traditional advertising). At least, that’s the idea.

Content can range from blog posts to press releases, newsletters, social media updates, or even podcasts and videos. Assuming that content is limited just to blogs or websites is a common mistake, but now you know. It’s actually a huge definition that encompasses a lot of media.

And what about strategy?

Now how about defining the word “strategy”? Marketing strategy is when a company concentrates its efforts towards increasing sales into channels that will potentially provide the highest return. This means that either through trial-and-error or ongoing analysis of available channels, companies adjust their marketing efforts to try and be the leader in their respective industry. Nobody can be everywhere all the time – unless you’re Coca-Cola, and if you are, then you’re most likely not reading this because you’re a busy adult with many important things to do. Limited resources and manpower is the reality for most companies, so it’s imperative to get when (and where) the getting is good.

Setting up a strategy means identifying your goals (do you want more customers, or to engage the ones you already have?), isolating demographics (who is and who could be buying what you’re selling?), selecting marketing channels (does your demographic use Facebook, prefer YouTube, or subscribe to blogs?), and executing your plan of attack. It’s imperative to put together a strategy before execution for the best possible outcome. No sense moving forward blindly, unless you’re prepared for an epic fail.


So – what’s the difference between “content marketing” & “content strategy”? 

For starters, “content strategy” and “content marketing” are not synonymous with one another. Did I blow your mind? Content strategy is an analysis of your company’s content needs (think business goals, customer life cycle, etc.) and a plan for the creation and management of content, while content marketing means using the marketing channels available to you to spread the content that was pre-strategized (social media updates, link building, etc.). It’s just good old fashioned marketing, and content just happens to be the currency. Here’s an example of how the two work together:

Content Strategist: “We want to increase our website traffic to sell more of our premium doggles, so let’s consider our options. Based on our website’s sales history, we should be targeting repeat customers and using social media to reach out to potential new customers.”

Content Marketer: “Awesome! We’ll draw up a schedule for Facebook posts and create a monthly theme to follow on the blog as well for continuity. We’re still building our Twitter account, so we’ll focus on Facebook and Instagram for now.”

See the difference? Content strategy is establishing the plan of attack. Content marketing is actually doing it. It’s a beautiful marriage of wuv – ahem, love.

Image: Etsy

Even though it’s clear that content strategy and content marketing are related (with the differences noted above), it’s time to move on to why content strategy in itself matters. You already know you need to need to engage in content marketing to move forward in today’s marketplace (and if you didn’t know that, you do now). Content strategy is simply the next essential step in successfully achieving your company’s goals. You can have a marketing team without a strategy team, but don’t expect the finely tuned results without a well-laid strategy.

Got it. What’s next?

“But how am I supposed to use all of this awesome knowledge I have now?”

THAT is an fantastic question! Luckily for you, this is only Part 1 of a 3-part series about Content Strategy. In the next posts, I’m going to break down implementing content strategy into your marketing plan with actionable steps.

Part 2 will go into depth on the execution side of things, such as how to audit a website, assign blog topics to multiple writers, put together calendars, using project management software, working in WordPress, etc. Part 3 will cover the creative, “left-brain” approach to getting started with content strategy by covering things like how to come up with engaging blog topics, write an informational web page that is still interesting to read, maintain brand voice, alter your approach per sharing channel, and much, much more.

I hope your brain isn’t completely melted. Because there’s plenty more to come.

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