It's inevitable that something as intrinsically creative and flexible as content marketing needs to have a strategy behind it to make it effective. Being able to respond to current events and react to the customers you are ultimately engaging with is important, but without some element of structure you're going to be adding to the noise rather than rising above it.
We all know the important foundations of a strategy - SMART goals. I'm not going to go through them all again (after all, Neil Patel does a great job in the post below) but I will focus on one... Relevance.
Take a look at your business goals. Is your content marketing reflecting that? And if not, why not? This all comes down to business alignment, and making sure that you aren't leaving marketing stranded out on the periphery. After all, they're the department who help bring in visitors and convert them to leads - they're pretty crucial for reaching those business aims.
Long term business goals should be sewn into every element of the business, and everyone should be working to those same aims. There is no such thing as an unnecessary department when everyone is accountable for revenue.
So, step one to making sure you've got an effective content marketing strategy in place? Make sure that what you're doing is relevant to the business as a whole. If everyone's on the same page there's still room for the flexibility and creativity that engaging with your customers and keeping them in mind requires.
You'll almost certainly find that this helps with making those goals specific, measurable, attainable and timely, too.
Relevant: Your content marketing strategy doesn’t actually target the business’ goals. Content marketing is such a widespread marketing method that many organizations simply do it without taking the time to integrate it with company-wide goals. Often, a business’ marketing department has a different mindset than the remainder of the company. If content marketing is to be effective, it must be tied to overall business goals. On occasion, I’ve seen businesses that were, for example, in the business of selling SaaS. Their marketing department, however, was in the business of promoting webinars. For those webinars to possess explosive power, they should contain calls to action that drive attendees to sign up for the SaaS. Content marketing is a funnel. The skinny end of the funnel should be the company’s business goal.