Imagine you’re Tom Brady suiting up in the locker room on Super Bowl Sunday. You wouldn’t walk out onto the field without a plan – that would be crazy!  Instead, you’d feel prepared and confident with a solid playbook and defined strategy for defeating the Seahawks.

If Deflate-Gate taught us anything, it’s that the best teams – forthright or not – definitely come to the game with a strategy to win.

You should approach content creation the same way – prepared with a strategy instead of just winging it.

In fact the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs reported on the small business content marketing trends, budgets and benchmarks for 2015.

The report shows that 39% of companies who have a documented strategy are “more effective in nearly all aspects of content marketing than their peers who either have a verbal-only strategy or no strategy at all.”

How To Build Your Content Marketing Playbook

So how do you get your content strategy on paper?  Start by tackling these steps:

1. Identify and Segment Your Audience

You wouldn’t just slap together a bunch of plays and hope they work against your opponent – that would be crazy!  Instead, you’d study game tape like a boss and uncover each specific rival’s weaknesses to prepare for game day.

It’s the same in content marketing.  Know who you are trying to attract, then pin-point their greatest challenges so you can serve up content that engages and appeals to your ideal buyer.

According to CMI’s report, small businesses that have seen success with content marketing segment their audience.  In fact, the average small business content strategy targets four segments.

Don’t know where to begin when it comes to zeroing in on your ideal buyer segments?   Check out:

2. Generate Topic Ideas

The great teams have great leaders who do more than just write up game-winning strategies.  The best coaches are able to inspire their teams to victory with an emotional battle cry.  We all know that “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”

58% of small businesses surveyed say that creating engaging content is the most challenging aspect of content marketing.  It’s one thing to present the facts, but to build trust in your brand, you need to tap into your ideal buyer’s emotions.

Now that you know who you’re targeting, it’s easier to determine the hot-button topics that hit an emotional chord with each segment of your audience.

Brainstorming topics that appeal to your ideal buyer can also help you build your SEO keyword strategy, giving you ideas for new keywords to target throughout your website as well as any ad campaigns you may be running online.

3. Decide How to Deliver

Every team has their own strengths.  A hall-of fame quarterback and wide receiver combo.  A defense that creates turnovers.  An unstoppable running back.  Successful execution means drawing-up plays that involve your core abilities.

The same is true for the content tactics your team chooses to employ. According to the report, the average number of tactics small businesses use to create content is 12, including:

  • Social Media Content (outside of blogs)
  • Blogs
  • eNewsletters
  • Articles on Your Website
  • Case Studies
  • Videos
  • In-person events
  • Illustrations or Photos
  • Online Presentations
  • White Papers
  • Infographics
  • Webinars/Webcasts

You don’t have to tackle each of these content avenues, but pick the ones that align most closely with your talent as well as with your ideal buyer.

4. Create Content

You’ve identified your audience, uncovered engaging topics, and have decided how to deliver your content.  Now it’s time to put your strategy to work on the field.  Create content based on the topics you’ve outlined, tweaking pieces for each of your distribution channels.

5. Evaluate Success

Did your content get the job done?  In football, it’s simple to track points and declare a winner at the end of the game.

You may not have a scoreboard, but determining upfront how you’ll score your content can make it just as easy to track the success of your content strategy.

According to CMI, 87% of small businesses surveyed said that lead generation was a priority for their content strategy.  If that’s the case for your business, you can track the lead source for each of your content channels to measure your success.  Or, if brand awareness is a goal, track social media activity and web traffic.

Set an end goal so you can measure and adjust your content strategy against it.

Like a championship Super Bowl team, you’d never come to the game without a plan. So don’t try to just wing your content strategy. Identify your audience, brainstorm compelling topics, pin-point the right content channels, create your content and measure and repeat your way to content marketing success.