The 5 Stage Content Marketing Process

The content marketing process is the cycle marketers use to execute on their content strategy and achieve their content marketing goals.

5 Stage Content Marketing Process

It is a process made up of 5 distinct stages: Research, Ideation/Planning, Creation, Connection, and Measurement.

Let’s take a closer look at the phases of the content process:

Content Marketing Process - Research Stage Icon1. Research

The purpose of the research stage is to understand your audience.

This is where you outline the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How of your content.

Research for content marketing comes in two parts: foundational, and ongoing.

Foundational research is the work you do to build some founding documents for your content marketing work. Core tasks include:

  • Audience & User Research
  • Building Personas and User Journeys.

Ultimately, foundational research is essentially a set of hypotheses.  Based on our research we are creating hypotheses about who our audience is, what they are interested in, and how they like to get their information.

The rest of the content marketing process moving forward is build on these hypotheses.  That is why this process is a cycle.

Our hypotheses, laid out in the research stage, are either validated or refined based on feedback received throughout the process.

Ongoing research is the day-to-day research needed to stay on top of changes in the industry.

Core tasks include:

  • Reviewing the latest trends & topics
  • Being aware of new technology and content platforms.
  • Updating foundational research to reflect new information

Content Marketing Process - Ideation:Planning Stage Icon2. Ideation/Planning

Ideation is the process of turning the findings of your research into content pillars.

This stage is a critical bridge between forming hypotheses in the research stage and translating those hypotheses into content.

This stage includes the following tasks:

  • Using your foundational research to build content topic pillars and titles
  • Building targeted keyword lists and creating optimization recommendations that will allow users to find content more effectively
  • Building content calendars including high-level theme calendars and editorial calendars.

Content Marketing Process Creation Stage Icon3. Creation

The creation of content involves two different phases: storytelling and execution.

During the storytelling phase, you outline the story behind your content.  Your outline should answer these questions:

  • What is the message of your content?
  • What data/information are you using to support your message?
  • What is the call to action of your message?

Once you have outlined the story you are telling with your content, now you actually have to build the content.  This is the execution phase.

The tasks involved with execution vary depending upon the type of content you are creating.  If you are recording a video, you will have video-specific tasks like production and editing.  If your content is an infographic, your tasks will be associated with the design work.

No matter what format your content, this phase includes building the content and optimizing it based on recommendations outlined in the Ideation/Planning stage.

The core tasks associated with execution include:

  • Building content
  • Optimizing content

Content Marketing Process Connection Stage Icon4. Connection

During this stage you are working to connect your content with your audience.

This is more than just publishing blog posts or updating statuses.  It is about sharing content, and having a conversation.

The core tasks for this stage are:

  • Schedule publication across all platforms
  • Write associated communication copy (Tweets, statuses etc.)
  • Publish all content across channels
  • Listen and interact with audience members

Based on the information outlined in the Research phase, you should have an idea of where you audience gets their information.  This stage is where you make sure your content shows up in those places, at the right time, optimized to perfection.

Often this stage is a great way to gather feedback from audience members on your content, and you can use that feedback to validate or refine the hypotheses laid out in the Research phase.

Content Marketing Process Measurement Stage Icon5. Measurement

Finally we have the measurement stage.  This is where you measure and analyze response to your content.

The core tasks for this stage are:

  • Measuring all relevant data and progress
  • Analyzing data and generating reports
  • Refining hypotheses and making recommendations based on analysis

You should be measuring progress towards your content marketing goal, and determining whether there are ways to improve progress.

As part of this analysis review whether the hypotheses from the Research stage been validated.  If not, how do we need to refine our assumptions to be more effective?

Example: Perhaps we believed that because our audience is active on Twitter that Twitter would be a great channel to share our content. But our data shows that click-through rates are low.

Now is the time to approach this strategically and determine whether our hypothesis (Twitter is a good channel to share our content) is wrong, or our execution is wrong.

One way to determine where the issue lies is by comparing our tweets to tweets with successful click-through rates.  During comparison we should ask:

- What are the differences between tweets with high click-through rates and our tweets?

- Are those differences things we can change?

If we don’t see a major difference between successful tweets and ours, then we can hypothesize that our execution is not the problem, that in fact the original hypothesis is the issue.

That means it is time to re-evaluate whether Twitter is the right platform for us to communicate with our audience.  Perhaps our audience likes the channel, but it isn’t one in which they want to connect with our brand.

Bring this analysis to your research team and allow them to refine their recommendations.

This 5 stage content marketing process is the distillation of a huge amount of work.

Come back next week when we will take a look at what roles are associated with this process and how you can make sure you have the right team to be effective in your content marketing efforts.


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