I tutored student writing at two different universities across five years of my college and graduate school career. My favorite assignment to tutor was a portfolio where students compiled their homework assignments for a course throughout the semester and then had to argue — based on their body of work — that they’d met the course outcomes. This meta-level examination of their learning process put many students off at first, I won’t lie. But once it clicked that they were connecting specific passages of their work to concrete course goals, students were able to grasp tangible outcomes that solidified their learning.

And as content marketers, we need to develop the same concrete connections between the content we create and the business’s strategic goals. Ruthie Bowles of Defy the Status Quo explains how in her phenomenally informative Managing Editor Live 2020 session on content marketing goals. Here’s what we learned.

Why You Need Concrete Content Marketing Goals

It’s easy to get caught up spending time and money on creating content just for the sake of putting it out there. But producing content in a vacuum doesn’t necessarily serve the business. For example, many brands are jumping on TikTok without considering how it fits into their business strategy. Taking such actions without a concrete business justification can result in wasted time and resources. Ruthie uses TikTok to promote her brand, but it was a conscious decision to reach a target audience on the platform, and her content there reflects that specific audience.

Tying content initiatives to business goals also gives you a benchmark for measuring your success or failure. You can’t move forward without a baseline to measure growth against, and tying your content marketing efforts to strategic business goals forces you to be more specific. For example, say your goal in adopting TikTok is to drive brand engagement among local users by 10% in the next three months. You can measure user engagement by location over that period of time to determine whether you’ve met your goal and whether that channel is worth pursuing further. Using content to pursue a specific business goal lets you track your success over time and see whether your campaign moves the needle.

Define Good Business Goals

Your business probably has an annual strategic planning process, and marketing definitely has a pivotal place in supporting the strategic goals that come out of that meeting. You’ve probably heard of creating SMART goals. In your marketing goal-setting process, develop goals that support strategic objectives and are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Using the SMART goals activity as a guideline helps you cascade broader strategic objectives into specific and concrete marketing actions.

Once you’ve set strategic SMART goals, it’s much easier to measure how your content initiatives are concretely supporting your business goals. Marketing goals like “Increase email subscribers by 5% monthly” are specific, measurable and bound by time. This helps you demonstrate exactly how you’re using your budget and resources to support strategic business goals, which helps make the business case for maintaining or increasing your annual marketing budget.

Base Your Content Strategy on Strategic Goals

The other side of this goal-setting process is that, to create achievable goals, you have to know your audience well: You need to know what their specific needs are and how your product can help them. You’re ultimately selling some kind of transformation, and your content has to reflect that.

To get you started, here’s a quick primer on how different types of content support different goals and markets:

  • Blogging and SEO: Written, website-based content is a long-term investment that ultimately builds brand authority.
  • Video: Creating video content is more accessible than ever, and it offers a way to communicate human energies and emotions directly with your audience.
  • Email: Email campaigns remain one of the most lucrative marketing channels, and they are a vehicle for creating and distributing new content or promoting existing content.
  • Gated content: Content that requires an email address to access drives your leads, but to provide the most value, your gated content (white papers, guides, webinars) should be incredibly targeted.
  • Social media: Like email, your social channels can either host new content or promote existing work.
  • Podcasts: Podcast spots build brand awareness, and being a guest on podcasts builds your brand as a trusted thought leader.

Find the channels where your targeted demographic spends most of its time, and move all of these pieces around with a purpose to meet your business’ goals.

Watch Ruthie’s Managing Editor Live 2020 session on-demand now!