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Content forms a vital component of your company’s online marketing approach. But to truly excel at delivering content that aligns with your business goals, you must do more to stand out from the crowd. You need a content-marketing strategy that enables you to have a strategic, long-term vision of what you are trying to achieve.“Content marketing” is a well-established term that describes a strategic approach to the use of content, whether that be articles and blogs, video, imagery or otherwise. A written, clearly defined strategy is key if you are to be successful in your content-marketing endeavors.Equally, with so much competition online, you often need to develop something fresh and unique to set yourself apart from your competitors. Many content-marketing approaches fail early on, or businesses simply give up because of a lack of ideas or ambition. This is why careful planning is necessary for long-term success.Related: 7 Content-Marketing Tips for New EntrepreneursTake Evernote, the popular note-taking app, for example. This company makes clever use of customer stories as a means to engage with potential customers and showcase the benefits of using its product. The content is insightful and clearly demonstrates the business advantages of a modern note-taking app.Another example is L’Oréal and its Signature Faces Virtual Makeup campaign. The innovative and fun tool allows users to experiment with different makeup looks virtually. Users can share their favorite styles with friends, post impressions on sites like YouTube and effectively become brand ambassadors for L’Oréal.When creating a content-marketing strategy for your own business, begin with your goals. What do you want to achieve? Below, we outline key steps that you can take to develop an ironclad content strategy for 2021.1. The mission: what are your goals?Clearly establishing your goals at the outset will help you to judge the effectiveness of your campaign in the future. There may be many reasons for your content strategy: capturing new search-engine traffic, demonstrating you are an expert in your field, showcasing your products and more. By clearly setting down what you aim to achieve at the beginning of the process, you will have a solid framework to build on.2. Pinpoint your target audienceThe next step is to pinpoint who the content should be geared towards. Who is your ideal customer? Think about demographics, including age groups, education and interests. Try to delve deep and really understand your core customer base. This will also help you assess the types of content that will (hopefully) deliver the best results.3. Set out your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)Without a way to determine how successful your content is, you cannot truly measure the statistical data in a meaningful way. Set out your KPIs early on in the process. Typical examples of KPIs could be a percentage increase in website traffic, enhanced search-engine rankings or a consistent boost in enquiries.Related: Serious Mistakes in Content Marketing That Cost Companies4. Select your content approachWill you deploy one type of content or a mixture? And which platforms will you use? This largely depends on your business goals. The work you conduct in establishing your core target audience will help in this decision. Consider articles, blog content, video tutorials, social-media content, photography or a combination of all.5. Nominate your individual or teamNext, be sure to establish who is ultimately in charge of implementing the strategy. You may consider internal or external resources — or both. Nominating an individual or team will help to keep the strategy on target and ensure workflow consistency. Also, consider if you require any software or tools to help you facilitate the approach.6. Establish a content calendarCreating a content calendar is vital for ensuring the consistency of your business messaging. It is typically best to do this digitally and provide shared access to all relevant stakeholders. Set out what content you want to release on what days. Continually assess and update the schedule as business developments require.7. Develop a content-creation and editing processThen comes the development part of the process. This is the point where content ideas turn into reality. Be sure to look for ways to improve the workflow of your content-creation process, either by use of software or other organizational changes. Separating content writing from editing can help iron out any accidental errors.Related: Here’s How to Improve Your Business’s Content Marketing8. Analyze statistics to determine successThe final step is to set a procedure in place to analyze the effectiveness of your KPIs (as set out earlier in the process). This will enable you to measure the success of your content strategy. Having statistical data to analyze is vital, but it must be interpreted accurately and in the correct context. Regular reporting and informal meetings can help all stakeholders better understand the true picture.Content can boost the visibility and reach of your business and help you connect with your target audience, but a clear strategy must be in place. Without a clearly defined content-marketing strategy, your approach will be disjointed and lack vision. So try to align your content to meet your strategic business goals as much as possible. By doing so, you will have a greater chance of success in what is often a highly competitive marketplace.