The difference between content marketing vs. a content strategy vs. a content plan

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If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed when it comes to understanding how each part of your marketing strategy fits together, you’re not alone. With the overabundance of marketing terminology, information and advice online, it’s easy to get confused about a) what all of these different concepts actually mean, and b) whether or not each one is something you need to spend your precious time and energy on!

One of the most frequently asked questions: what is the difference between your content marketing vs. content strategy vs. content plan. Aren’t they all basically the same thing? 

Well, these elements of marketing are connected, but they are not the same. We explain the difference between each, and then show you how they integrate together to form just one part of your overarching marketing strategy.

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What is content marketing?

Let’s start with content marketing. This is a type of marketing that forms one part of your overarching marketing strategy. Social media marketing, email marketing, influencer marketing and search engine marketing would be four other distinct types you might incorporate into your marketing strategy, each providing a different way of reaching and communicating with potential customers. 

Content marketing involves creating and sharing relevant, value-based content across your chosen marketing channels. It typically serves three purposes.

Attracting and engaging your target audience: Publishing informative articles, entertaining videos, engaging social media posts, and/or other types of strategic content captures the attention and interest of consumers. If they find value in the information and connect with your messaging, you can build a relationship with them over time.

Building brand awareness: More content published across a variety of content means more eyes on your business. This in turn generates a broader awareness of who you are and what you have to offer someone looking for your services.

Establishing your brand as a trusted expert in your industry: Educating your audience about your area of expertise shows them that you actually know what you’re talking about! This credibility is essential for building trust. When someone knows you and trusts you, they’re more likely to feel safe and secure in buying from you.

What is a content strategy?

While content marketing focuses on the creation and distribution of content as a form of reaching and communicating with potential customers, your content strategy is the tactical framework that guides these efforts. Think of it as the roadmap that outlines how you’ll use content to achieve your marketing and business goals.

We don’t want to just create and post content for the sake of it – that’s a big waste of time and resources! Each piece of content you publish should serve a purpose (ie. it should get your audience one step closer to saying YES to buying from you!). 

Here are the elements of an effective content strategy you need to consider.

Audience research: Understanding your target audience is essential for creating content that resonates with them! By conducting thorough research and getting clear on your audience demographics, interests, pain points, and preferences, you can speak to their needs and publish content where they’ll actually see it.

Goal setting: Clearly defining your objectives is what guides your content strategy. Maybe you want to increase brand awareness, or drive website traffic, or generate new leads. Whatever your goals are will shape the type of content you create and the marketing channels you choose to distribute your content across.

Content planning and creation: This involves determining the types of content that will best serve your audience and support your goals. Content can take various forms, including blog posts, articles, long-form video, short-form video, infographics, podcasts, social media posts, and more. Creating high-quality, valuable content that educates, entertains, or solves problems for your audience is key to engaging them and driving desired actions.

Content distribution: Once you've created content, you need a plan for distributing it so you can reach your target audience! This may involve leveraging various channels such as your website, social media platforms, email newsletters, and paid advertising to maximise visibility and engagement.

Measurement and analysis: We say this all the time, but your marketing efforts are only as effective as your ability to measure them! Tracking the performance of your content helps you to evaluate whether or not it resonates with and engages your audience. Key metrics to monitor include website traffic, engagement metrics (likes, shares, comments), conversion rates, lead generation, and customer retention. Recording and analysing this information will help you identify what's working well and where improvements can be made to refine your content strategy.

Learn and adjust: A content strategy is not static; it should evolve based on insights from the data you gather and the feedback you receive from your audience. Continuously test and refine your approach to ensure that your content remains relevant, resonates with your audience, and aligns with your business objectives.

This might sound like a lot, but don’t forget that a lot of this information forms the basis for the majority of your marketing as a whole. You need to understand your target audience demographics, interests and pain points for effective content marketing, yes, but also for an effective business model and brand strategy.

Get clear on what you want to achieve through your marketing (eg. lead generation), who your audience is (eg. young mums in their late 20s and early 30s), and where they hang out online (eg. Instagram, email inbox, and podcast platforms). Then, decide on the content you’ll create to meet them where they are and position your business as the solution to the challenges they face or results they desire. In this example, focusing your efforts on Instagram posts and reels, personalised email newsletters, and a podcast would be a great start because that’s where you target audience is most likely to find you.

What is a content plan?

To recap, your content marketing is a type of marketing that involves creating and sharing content to reach and attract customers. Your content strategy provides a framework for that content marketing, outlining who your ideal customers are, where they hang out online, and how you will use various types of content to speak to those customers. 

Your content plan, also known as a content calendar or editorial calendar, is how you execute your content strategy. It details the specific content pieces, topics, formats, and publishing timelines. It takes the broader goals and objectives outlined in the content strategy, and translates these into actionable steps and deliverables.

This could look like a simple content calendar that provides a visual overview of when your blog posts, email newsletters and social media posts will be published. Alternatively, a large company with high-volume content production might utilise a more in-depth content plan that includes details such as the title, description, keywords, publication date, visual assets, distribution channels and lead staff member – for each piece of content they produce.

However detailed you want to make your plan, the point of it is to help you organise and schedule both your content creation and its publication. Think of it as the itinerary that guides the day-to-day execution of content marketing activities, providing a structure for implementation and ensuring consistency and strategic alignment. 

We have a great free resource available to help you get started. Click here to download our free content planner.

Integrating your content marketing, content strategy and content plan

As we’ve seen, content marketing, content strategy, and content planning are distinct concepts, but are inherently interconnected and interdependent. A successful content marketing strategy requires a cohesive integration of all three elements:

  • Content marketing relies on a solid content strategy to provide direction, purpose, and focus to your content efforts.
  • Content strategy, in turn, is implemented through a detailed content plan, which outlines the actionable steps required to execute the strategy effectively.
  • A well-executed content plan ensures that your content marketing efforts are organised, consistent, and targeted, ultimately driving meaningful results for your business.

Five by Five is your digital partner, helping you share your magic and scale your business with conversion-focused web design and high-impact digital marketing solutions.

As a business owner, trying to understand all the moving parts of a high-impact digital marketing strategy while also running your business is no small feat. If you need support creating and managing your content strategy, we’re here to take some of the stress off your plate, get you seriously awesome results, and support you with your business growth.

Contact us today to chat with one of our digital strategists about how we can help you achieve your business goals.

About the author
Maddy Edwards
Maddy grew up with a keen interest in all things business, entrepreneurship, psychology, and travel. Completing a Bachelor's degree in Business Management/Arts at the University of Queensland, and spending a semester abroad to study in England, she chose majors in marketing, entrepreneurship and psychology to enhance her understanding of effective business and brand building. After uni, Maddy traded textbooks for palm trees, spending two blissful years teaching yoga on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. Her passion for continued growth then led her to the Gold Coast, where she has spent the last four years honing her marketing skills across health, wellness, and tourism brands. With two years of business ownership and a successful exit under her belt, Maddy deeply understands the challenges our clients face, and is excited to be able to use those insights to help other business owners succeed. Beyond the office, you'll find Maddy lost in a good book, finding her zen at a yoga class, or enjoying an afternoon beach walk while tuning into business and mindset podcasts.
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