Step 4: Who are our competitors and how do we compare to them (positioning)?

The personal coaching industry is extremely competitive. There are not very high barriers to entry here, and while many coaches operate as single-person entities, others may be part of large consulting firms. What Jones will need to do is identify the coaches she is competing with most directly for the attention of her primary and secondary audiences. Then she will want to evaluate what these coaches or consulting firms are offering, how they are currently viewed by these target audiences, and what opportunities may exist to position her services in ways that are different and better.

As part of Jones’ background, while serving as CAO in a healthcare system, she led the process to apply for (and ultimately her organization received) the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a highly coveted distinction in the healthcare industry. She also perfected, and trademarked, a proprietary coaching process that a number of her clients have used to move from clinical to administrative roles, and has many client referrals and testimonials that she can share.

This thorough analysis of her target audiences and competitors allows Jones to come up with key messages that can be used to convince her target audiences that what she has to offer is of value to them-and that it is better than what her competitors have to offer.

 Step 5: How will we measure results (metrics)?

At the outset of the planning process, we worked with Jones to clarify her goals and objectives. These become the benchmark against which to measure progress. If we said, for instance, that we wanted to generate 30 leads per quarter, we need to put metrics in place to determine whether we actually do this. These metrics might be both process-based and outcome-based. Here’s the difference:

  • Process measures give us some early, or leading, indication that we will be able to achieve our objective. For instance, many content marketers use process measures such as number of visits to the website, number of inquiries, and number of white paper requests. These metrics can be useful, but, ultimately, what we are most interested in are outcome measures.
  • Outcome measures are the real bottom-line results we achieve. In this case, our outcome measure is new coaching clients.

It’s critically important that content marketers analyze the data they gather to make changes to their strategies. Avoid the tendency, cautions Orndorff, to “get attached and stuck in box of what you have been doing. Let the data speak for itself. If you are collecting and analyzing results accurately, your audience will tell you all you need to know. A lot of your strategy will be tweaked as you go and collect data.”

Step 6: Don’t forget documentation.

CMI and MarketingProfs’ “B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America” found that among the most effective B2B content marketers, 53% have a documented content marketing strategy; among the least effective, only 13% do. Only 32% of B2B and 37% of B2C content marketers have a documented strategy, though.

“Documentation is the thing I think gets overlooked more than anything else,” says Holmes. In addition, she notes, there is often a great deal of confusion about terminology: the difference between strategies and tactics, for instance, or what it takes to make an objective SMART. “I think that academia and researchers and publishers have very specific definitions for all of those terms, but when you’re in the real world and implementing, there’s a lot of gray area and a lot more overlap.”

Commit your plan to writing, including the inputs you used to make your decisions. These will prove useful as you move forward to review and modify your plan based on the results you attain.

You’ll notice we didn’t say anything about where you are going to find content, what social media channels you will use, creating an editorial calendar, and how many times you should post each week, etc. Why? Because that’s not strategy. These are tactics, and they’re very important, but they need to follow your strategy-and should really not be considered until you’ve gone through the previously mentioned steps.

How will your content marketing strategy help you get from here to there?