March 23, 2015

Why Strategic Thinking Is Crucial in Content Marketing, Part I

If you spend hours every week trying to figure out how to get your marketing department thinking more strategically and producing more strategically positioned content, you have plenty of company. Executives and managers are searching—in many cases desperately—for employees with the ability to examine every angle of a problem or opportunity and make decisions that will drive positive business outcomes in both the long and short term.

Let our advance worrying become our advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill  

In fact, a recent poll of 1,320 MBA recruiters conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek found that strategic thinking was the most difficult skill to find among job applicants. Strategic thinking is difficult to find and harness for several distinct reasons:

  • It does not come naturally to many people
  • Looking at the “big picture” is challenging in any deadline-driven environment
  • Creative dissonance is crucial, which can be uncomfortable for employees and managers
  • It requires risk-taking and a willingness to fail

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”Albert Einstein  

Despite its relevant scarcity, strategic thinking is a critical component of quality content marketing. A content marketing strategy is an integrated, ongoing approach—rather than an isolated campaign or singular effort—so macro thinking is a perquisite for creating material that drives successful business outcomes. No single piece of content should ever be created in a vacuum; every blog, social media post, white paper or case study should be crafted with a specific audience and goal in mind, even if the objective is simply to educate the reader.

Each piece of content should also be tied to a larger, overarching strategy. Even as you write a white paper that you plan to gate on your website for lead capture, for instance, you should be thinking about key phrases or statistics in the document to use in a social post to drive prospects to download the asset. You should also make mental notes of topics within the white paper that you could turn into a blog post that would, of course, include a call to action to download the white paper. 

In other words, strategic content creation is about seeing two and three steps ahead and taking a broad view of your work without losing focus on the task at hand. For many professionals, marketers included, achieving that kind of 360-degree perspective can be difficult to establish. Like any skill or talent, strategic thinking comes more easily to some people than others. So the question for managers and employees then becomes, can strategic thinking be taught? Stay tuned—we will examine that question in Part II of this piece. 


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