Content marketing and content strategy are often referred to interchangeably. I even find myself using them incorrectly in conversation sometimes; it’s so easy to slip as they obviously sound so similar, and are very closely related in practice. The issue with using them interchangeably is that they don’t actually refer to the same thing. They're different concepts and processes and require different skills and thinking.
Content strategy refers to the big picture. Content marketing refers to the smaller “how” pieces. Clear as mud?
When I say that content strategy refers to the big picture, I mean that it’s the development of an overall framework to guide the implementation of the marketing. It starts with the “what’s” and “why’s” (what are we trying to accomplish and why are we trying to accomplish it), and develops a plan to accomplish that end goal.
A quality content strategy takes into account data, distribution channels, ROI and performance, content governance and team responsibilities, and specific tactics for hitting targets (typically related to some type of conversion metric).
Content marketing is how the strategy is implemented. It is the creation and promotion of content that is designed according to the overarching strategy. A blog post would be considered content marketing, whereas the reason the blog post was created and promoted, as well as the analysis of the blog post’s effectiveness in contributing to your overall goals, would be considered part of your content strategy.
You may be wondering why making the distinction matters. At the end of the day, as long as you’re producing and promoting content and trying to grow your business, does it really matter? The answer is a definite “yes”.
If you’re going with the “spray and pray” approach to content creation and publishing, you're probably wasting time and energy. If you're also using paid advertising to promote that content then you're also probably wasting money. What exactly do I mean by that? If you’re pumping content out without a clear sense of direction in the hopes that it somehow resonates with someone who may want to pay for your product or service, then how can you truly know if what you're doing is working, and why it is or isn't?
Once you step back and start with the strategy, develop a framework, and use it to guide your marketing efforts, you’ll likely see more success, and you’ll learn a lot more about what works and what doesn’t for your particular business in the process.
Get started on your marketing strategy today and start shaping your business!