When it comes to content marketing, you can’t just do it – you must win it. As with most things in business, winning with content marketing requires strategy and focus. Many businesses set their sights on SEO and placing a high quantity of keywords within their content, and that used to work well. But this practice, known as “keyword stuffing,” led to low-quality information and poor strategy. The new approach to content marketing focuses on higher quality content. And to get there, you must have a plan.

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.  –Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

It’s been said if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. But you don’t want just any road, you want the winning road. Not having a direction, not having a goal, and not knowing where you want to end up will lead you nowhere.

This is why strategy matters.

You can spend your time trying “this” or “that” with no real direction, or you can do some research, ask some questions, make a decision, and then act on it.

Knowing who your target audience is, building relationships and trust, and using quality (not quantity) SEO methods to invest in a valued campaign will set your brand apart from the competition. And there’s no better way to do that than with a winning strategy.

Know Your Target Audience

When planning for content marketing, getting to know and understand your target audience is crucial. The writing style, tone, and diction are all based on who your products and services are designed for. Knowing what motivates your potential customer and what drives their decision-making will help you to understand what they really want and value. And knowing that will help you focus on fundamental problems and provide solutions that will work for them.

Most businesses think they know their target market inside and out, backward and forward. But do they really know what they need? Gone are the days of developing a product and then finding a market for it. A winning approach is to first hone in on who your target audience is and then work to solve the problems facing that group of people. Centering your content around the problems and likes and dislikes of your potential customers is a step toward creating a winning campaign strategy.

This is especially important if you’re in a tough niche or a highly competitive market. Keeping a list of effective types of content and continuing to produce that content will build a more intense following of your business. Remember that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Knowing your audience and building product loyalty, even in a small market, can have a significant impact on your marketing efforts.

Build Relationships

It comes down to basic customer service and how your content will add value to the lives of your target audience. Your customers and their needs should always come first, even before you try to sell your products and services.  This no-pressure tactic is best for connecting with your audience, and for building a relationship and establishing trust which helps them to see you as “good people.”

Showing your customers you value their opinion through asking questions and engaging them in dialogue will bring respect for your brand. It will also give you valuable insight into understanding your target market. Helping those who reach out to you through two-way communication is important, both from you to the customer and from the customer to you.

To foster this communication, build a relationship by creating an online presence through social media platforms, live-chat services on your website, and by responding to their comments on your content posts. Don’t forget about more traditional methods of using a basic telephone number for customer service and encouraging communication by standard mail delivery, too.

Use Quality (Not Quantity) SEO

Changes in search engine algorithms have made the (over)use of keywords less relevant. SEO practices are still vital but are taking a back seat when it comes to content marketing strategy. Instead, SEO practices and content marketing should work together to provide a strategy for quality campaigning.

One of the most important aspects of making your company visible to potential customers is the ability to rank high in Internet search results. And this is where keywords come in. Keeping in mind the specific keywords people use to look for your business is always a good strategy. The use of keywords is the same as ever. What’s changed is how they’re used. Keywords will always have a place in content marketing but now more than ever content is king. Lots and lots of content.

Regular updates to your website provide an opportunity for new (and more) content, which search engines love. The good news is customers love it, too. But what’s most important that quantity content is quality, strategic content. There’s little that is more frustrating to a reader than visiting your website and not finding the type of information they were looking for. Having sought out your website to solve a problem or research a solution, they expect to find more than a jumbled list of keywords. They want quality content.

Use Strategy as a Guide

Quality content will build trust in the relationship with your customers. To have quality content, you must invest in a strategically driven campaign utilizing the above tactics.

Although, even a bad strategy is better than no strategy. Having a strategy narrows your focus and allows for analytic tracking of marketing maneuvers. As you go, you can switch gears to see what works and what doesn’t. Not having any strategy gives no starting point and no guidance, and doesn’t offer much in the way of value to you or your readers.

But remember: simply publishing content is not a strategy. Looking at the big picture – your audience, brand positioning, and building relationships – to define your strategy provides a great starting point. And you can build from there, branching out into planning your product, price, placement, and promotion strategy.

This will take a valuable investment of time and money. Evaluating the return on investment (ROI) of such commitment, you’ll quickly realize that knowing how and where to spend those resources to build a strategy for a quality campaign is high on the list of becoming successful with content marketing.

And successful content marketing directly translates into business growth. And wasn’t that the goal all along?