Two colleagues work together on building their company’s content marketing strategy framework
June 20, 2023

Developing Your Content Marketing Strategy Framework

by Michael Brenner

Are you launching a new content strategy? Struggling to see results from your current content marketing efforts? Looking to improve upon existing progress? In any case, a content marketing strategy framework can be the key to unlocking new content ROI potential.

By centralizing the key components of your strategy, you’ll have a one-stop-shop reference for monitoring content marketing KPIs, making adjustments, and ensuring your execution plan is on track at all times.

In this guide, we’ll cover 7 key steps to putting a content marketing strategy framework in place to earn more traffic and leads for your business.

Quick Takeaways

  • A content marketing strategy framework is the formalized structure around your content strategy — a blueprint that connects vision and execution.
  • The first key steps to creating your framework are to know your purpose, define your audience, and set goals.
  • Frameworks like ideal customer profiles, buyer personas, and SMART goals can help you be clear and thorough in each of the above steps.
  • Topic pillars are the core topics around which all of your content ideas are built.
  • The best content strategies use multiple content types and channels. Evaluate your options and choose the ones best aligned with your audience.
  • Document your plan in a spreadsheet format to keep it visible and trackable across all contributing teams and individuals.

What Is a Content Marketing Strategy Framework?

Your content marketing strategy framework is the formalized structure of your strategy — one you put in place to keep your efforts focused, targeted, and actionable.

Your framework serves as a guide for company leadership, your marketing team, and anyone else (like an agency or your sales team, for example) who plays a role in executing your content strategy. It’s also a huge factor in determining the likelihood that your strategy will succeed.

Consider this: Today, 80% of companies who consider their content marketing strategy to be “very successful” have a documented plan supporting it, compared to only about 50% of those who consider their strategy minimally successful or totally unsuccessful.

Survey results showing that 80% of companies with “very successful” content marketing have a documented content marketing strategy.

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In other words: Without a content marketing strategy framework, your likelihood of success is the same as your chances of winning a coin flip.

With a well-documented framework, you stay in control of your strategy’s success and have a reference to help you continually refine and improve your approach. Let’s look at 7 proven steps for building an effective content marketing strategy framework for your business.

7 Steps to Build Your Content Marketing Strategy Framework

Know Your Purpose

Knowing your purpose really just means answering one key question about your content: Why are you creating it?

Sure — we know that content drives traffic and new leads, something every business wants to accomplish through content marketing. But why are you creating the specific content you create for your specific audiences?

Is it to educate them? Entertain them? Showcase your brand personality? Tell stories? Showcase the value of your solutions?

You don’t need to choose a single answer. In fact, most companies create content for a variety of reasons. The key is to know which ones apply to your unique business. Later in the process, you’ll be able to map out =specific types of content you’ll create to fulfill each purpose behind your strategy.

Define Your Audience

Who are you creating your content for? It’s tempting to cast a wide net and publish content for anyone who might want to read it, but this approach is unlikely to yield results. Instead, you want to create highly targeted content meant specifically for your highest-potential customers — those who can benefit from it most and are most likely to convert to leads.

There are two frameworks-within-your-framework to use for this step: ideal customer profiles (ICP) and buyer personas. ICPs are mainly for B2B companies as they describe the types of organizations best fit to purchase your solutions. Buyer personas describe individual purchase decision makers, whether that’s a person within a company or an individual consumer in the B2C world.

Here’s a good visual for understanding how the two are related:

Graphic demonstrating the relationship between ideal customer profiles and buyer personas in a content marketing strategy framework.

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Here’s the secret sauce for using ICPs and buyer personas most effectively: In addition to knowing the traits that describe your target customers, aim to also understand the motivations that drive them to seek your solutions.

Ask questions like:

  • What pain points do our customers experience?
  • What problems do they need to solve?
  • Which features of our solution benefit them most?
  • Which communication channels do they use?
  • Why would they choose our solutions over others?

Knowing the answers to these (and similar) questions for each of your ICPs and personas allows you to design targeted content that helps them see your value even before making a purchase.

Set Goals

What do you want to accomplish through your content marketing strategy? This question is different from identifying your content’s purpose because it identifies the particular goals and results to indicate how well your strategy performed.

To do this, you can use another framework-within-your-framework, called SMART. 

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They should be accompanied by key performance indicators (KPIs) which are metrics you can measure over time to benchmark your progress.

Graphic showing the SMART goal framework: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

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Important KPIs to use in your content marketing strategy framework include: rankings, organic traffic, bounce rate, visibility, and lead conversions.

Once you know your goals, create processes for reporting on and reviewing them periodically to understand so you always know how your strategy is performing.

Choose Content Pillars

Your content pillars are like tree trunks out of which your content branches will grow. They should represent the topics most central to your larger brand strategy and important to your target audiences. The magic number of topics is generally around 3-6 — any more, and your content marketing strategy will likely become unfocused. 

Here are three helpful questions to help you identify the right pillars for your strategy:

  • What do you want your brand to be most known for?
  • What topics do you need to rank highly for to reach your target audience?
  • Which specific keywords do you most want to own?

These questions will get you moving in the right direction. Brainstorm them openly with your team, then narrow down to your 3-6 pillars. From there, you can get more specific about article titles and subtopics you might want to cover.

Be sure your topics are backed by solid keyword research that informs you about what your target audience is searching for and what topics are most relevant in your industry.

Choose Content Types

The best content marketing strategies include several content types to engage users in different ways. An active blog, of course, is the cornerstone of every content strategy and should be on your list. Other types to consider: video (the most in-demand content type right now), webinars, social media posts and stories, ebooks, whitepapers, and infographics.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to use every content type — choose the ones that align best with your audiences’ preferences and your own capabilities. Start with one or two content types (ideally your blog and one other), and once you’ve successfully implemented those, expand to include other types.

Outline Your Publishing Channels

As with content types, the best strategies encompass multiple channels that are aligned with audience preferences and industry norms. Common channels include search engines, websites, social media, email, online events, content syndication, PPC ads and more.

If you’re just starting out, choose one or two channels you know you can handle first. Expand gradually as you build upon success. Leverage marketing automation tools like social media schedulers, automated email platforms, and your website’s CMS system to run a multichannel strategy without a heavily manual workload.

Create a Plan

Last but perhaps most importantly of all — make your content marketing strategy framework a documented plan that can be accessed and shared by the members of your team. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, a simple spreadsheet can be your best friend. Create a tab for each component of your plan (i.e. audiences, goals, pillars, etc.) to keep it centralized.

Then, create a separate tab where you outline your execution plan. Include publishing titles, deadlines, and persons responsible for deliverables. Keep your sheet shareable and updated in real-time so you always know the status of your content.

Final Thoughts

Remember: Your content marketing strategy framework is all about structure. When it comes to identifying purpose, audience, goals, pillars, content types, channels, and more, there are no single right answers. The key is to know your own company and audiences, establish what you want to achieve with your strategy, and document everything.

You likely won’t get everything perfect on the first (or second, or third) try, but with a framework in place, you’ll have insight into what’s working and what isn’t, and a guide for continually improving your plan for better results.

Michael Brenner is a keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian and he speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology and business strategy.