What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing?

  • Categories:

    Content Marketing, Digital Platforms

  • Date:

    April 26, 2018

What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing?

Content Marketing Digital Platforms

It’s no secret that the business of content is booming. In fact, 90 percent of organizations include content in their marketing efforts (Demand Metric). But even though most of us now engage in some form of content for marketing purposes, many industry pros still (incorrectly) use terms like “content marketing” and “content strategy” interchangeably. So, what makes these words different, what makes them similar, and how do they work together?

Content strategy forms your foundation and frames your structure.

Imagine you’re building a house. You’re eager to get started, but this isn’t the Stone Age, and you can’t just find an empty cave and stock it with furs and firewood and paint stick figures on the walls and call it home. Instead, you need drawings or digital images that serve as your construction plan. You need to pour the home’s foundation and frame its structure before you can pick the furniture to decorate the rooms.

Content strategy determines what content you need and how it will be organized. It’s a set of internal guidelines to help you manage your content as a single asset across your organization. A content strategist can determine the need — maybe you want to educate a trade audience on an important topic, like the best wall sheathing system for moisture management or how to install skylights — and establish guiding principles to help satisfy that need.

Digital content strategy tools may include the following:

  • Content and search audits
  • Competitive research
  • Site map
  • Workflow charts
  • Other foundational planning devices

Here at Wray Ward, digital content strategy encompasses all upfront work, beginning with establishing a clear understanding of goals and ways to achieve those goals. This discussion usually covers target audiences and interests, key messages, functional requirements, conversions and potential user flows. Following this discussion, our digital team creates a sitemap (blueprint) for a high-level overview of the project, followed by a content outline that provides page-level organization.

Content marketing helps decide everything else — from your cabinetry and flooring to furniture and paint colors.

If content strategy is the blueprint, foundation and framing, content marketing is the drywall, finish work and interior decorating. Content marketers work with stakeholders and subject matter experts to choose the home’s countertops, flooring, furniture, lighting fixtures and paint colors. Collectively, these elements are often considered thought leadership — tactics that can elevate a brand in the eyes of its target audience and ultimately generate downstream revenue without explicitly promoting the brand or its products.

Content marketers do things like:

  • Develop editorial guidelines, voice and tone
  • Brainstorm content topics that benefit audiences
  • Develop editorial calendars
  • Interview subject matter experts
  • Conduct keyword research
  • Write articles, film videos and record podcasts
  • Promote content via email marketing, social media and paid media

Examples of content deliverables may include:

  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • E-books
  • Image galleries
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • White papers
  • Infographics

Boiled down, content marketing is about plugging content into the model developed during content strategy. It’s the process of using content to move people from point A to point B, from education to conversion. It’s arming audiences with the information they need to make a purchase decision and to choose your brand.

You need both for your marketing to be successful.

The marketing landscape still contains a massive amount of poorly organized content that fails to meet user needs. This, of course, is where content strategists and content marketing specialists can help save the day. Together, we’re here to help make sure you create the right content in the right formats and share it with the right people, in the right places, at all the right times.

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