“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu: The Art of War

He may not have known it at that time, but it was the Canadian ice hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, who best defined strategy when he said …

“I skate where the puck is going to be not where it is.”

You see, he didn’t say he would skate harder and faster than the others or block and tackle more skilfully than the others.

No. Wayne said he would skate in a different direction. He would do something completely different from what the other players would do.

And when it comes to content strategy, business owners and their marketing people have to define the direction in which they want to skate, that is, what they want to do to rise above their competitors in their inbound marketing efforts.

Due to its incredible effectiveness, more and more companies engage in inbound marketing, but very often, those efforts are far too tactical without clear strategy.

Hubspot reports that with proper content strategy, coupled with consistent and high-quality implementation:

  • Businesses can achieve 4-times higher probability of being successful.

Further, 33% of inbound- and 31% of outbound marketers regard many outbound methods as a waste of time and money.

Also, marketers who can calculate ROI are 60% more likely to get higher budgets. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing is 100% measurable and quantifiable.

So, Where Does Content Strategy Start?

A content strategy sets a path to create, distribute and track the usage of content in relation to the buyer’s journey and the marketing touch points in the sales funnel.

Some experts think content strategy should be separate from content marketing strategy, but for the sake of simplicity we can treat them as one whole cohesive strategy.

And content strategy is a subset of the company’s overall marketing strategy.

And all that is under the umbrella of corporate strategy that unites marketing strategy, operations strategy, financial strategy, HR strategy, etc.

What plagues the world of commerce is that many businesses are obsessed with tactics, but ignorant of strategies.

A good example is looking at many companies’ content marketing initiatives.

The define in minute details how many Tweets, blog posts and other content pieces they want to create on a weekly or monthly basis, but they fail to take time to define their overall content strategies in context with…

  • Marketing strategy
  • Organizational values
  • Purpose, mission, vision
  • Organizational goals to allow the company to fulfil its mission and vision by living the pre-set values.
  • Organizational objectives to put the company on the path of reaching the goals.
  • Organizational strategy to accomplish objectives,

In her book, Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud, author Lisa Earle McLeod writes that the more purpose-driven a company is, the more successful it becomes.

But before we go further, we have to clarify…

What’s The Difference Between Strategies and Tactics

I learnt many years ago that both “strategy” and “tactics” are derived from ancient Greek and they are military terms.

Strategy, in Greek, Strategos. means “general.” Originally, strategy was the “art of the general,” or the art of preparing the troops for battle, the “art and science of what”. Strategy is a framework that establishes the direction of the organisation. To “measure” strategy, we use the proverbial compass: Are we going in the right direction?

Tactic, in Greek, Taktihos, means “fit for arranging or maneuvering,” and it referred to the art of moving armed forces in battle, that is the “art and science of how?”. Tactics are the individual decisions that aid a company to make progress in the set direction. To “measure” tactics, we use the proverbial odometer and speedometer: How far we’ve come so far in implementation and how fast we’re moving forward.

For example:

Content Strategy (What?): Build our email database by offering a downloadable special report to our target market.

Tactics (How?): How to achieve your strategy…

  • Social media
  • Guest blogging
  • Guest appearances on podcasts.

At this moment, each tactic becomes a strategy by itself.

Strategy: Social media

Tactics:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Pinterest
  5. Instagram

And now LinkedIn becomes a strategy:

Strategy: LinkedIn

Tactics:

  1. LinkedIn Profile development
    1. Writing headline
    2. Writing summary
    3. Writing the other sections
  2. LinkedIn invitations
  3. LinkedIn groups
  4. Publications in LinkedIn (announcing it on Facebook and Twitter too)
  5. LinkedIn monitoring (setting indicators to monitor)

When you reach, let’s say, LinkedIn monitoring, you define the relevance tactical action steps…

  • Check the number of new incoming connect requests since last report.
  • Check the number of new outgoing connect requests since last report.
  • Check the number of new articles since last report.
  • Check the number of new endorsements since last report.
  • Check the number of new positive comments, get go-ahead on comment and respond.
  • Check the number of new negative comments, get go-ahead on comment and respond.
  • Document your finding and file your report.

As you write down your tactical steps, you may find Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, useful. He goes into the details of how to create step-by-step tactical lists to achieve specific outcomes.

And Process Street has a great cloud-based tool for designing, building and storing workflows, checklists and operating procedures.

And this has taken us to…

Applying Strategy To Content

Now I know this strategy thingy can be a bit overwhelming.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial as you craft your next content strategy, and at the minimum, you can use Rudyard Kipling’s six honest serving men of…

  1. Why do you do what you plan to do? This is the objective that you want to achieve.
  2. Who is going to receive your content? This is the buyer persona you send your content to.
    1. Positive buyer persona: The type of people you want your content to reach.
    2. Negative buyer persona: The type of people you want your content to avoid.
  3. What is your content going to be?
    1. To turn strangers to web visitors, use blogs and social media pieces.
    2. To turn visitors to sales leads, use content pieces with specific calls to action.
    3. To turn leads to customers, use email sequences with calls to action.
    4. To turn customers to advocates, use surveys.

Of course, the range of content is broader.

  1. When do you send out your content? This is the sequencing of your content pieces.
    1. The order of a specific content piece in the content sequence.
    2. The cadence between specific content pieces.
  2. Where do you send out your content? Exact location, address, regularly checked email address.
  3. How do you send it? Snail mail, email, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, etc.?

#1 serves the overall purpose of your company. Whatever you do in inbound marketing, it must support the company’s overall strategy.

#2 is essentially your target market and your buyer persona.

#3 is the types of content you want to send out. In a previous article, What Is A Content Calendar, And How It Can Make You More Irresistible To Your Market, we dug a bit deeper into the types of content you can send out.

Just make sure you match the nature of the content on the anticipated location of your buyer persona in your sales funnel.

#4 is the timing of content. For your market to enjoy your content, people must receive it in slender curls not in rolling tides. In general, people are busy and pretty overwhelmed in life. If your content feeds this already high level of overwhelm, people quit your list and run away very fast and very far.

#5 is the location where you know they can receive your content. It can be a reliable and regularly checked email address or business premises for snail mail.

#6 is the method of how you send out your content.

Summary

Everything we do in life is all about strategies and tactics.

First, we decide what we want to do and then figure out how to do it.

As life in the modern age is getting faster and more complex, although we all have the same 24 hours a day, it becomes more important to carefully design what we want to do and how.

Content marketing is tricky in a sense that certain parts, like ideation, writing and editing, are very labour intensive and some other parts, like distribution, can be highly automated.

Scaling up manual work is very hard and can be very expensive. But saving up automation is relatively easy.

Yes, we want to streamline the whole content marketing initiative, but we have to define during the content strategy setting stage what and how we want to scale up as the company grows.

It may be the perpetual creation of brand new content, but it may also be the multiple repurposing of every content piece. Both are manual tasks, but repurposing is a lot faster.

And hitting several channels with the same content can be more effective than creating new content for one single channel.

And when you feel confident that you see the difference between strategies and tactics, you can go to the next step and discover the 6 Steps to Creating a Lean Content Marketing Strategy.