It’s estimated that close to 40% of businesses who participate in content marketing don’t have any kind of content strategy. It goes without saying that content marketing efforts are more likely to be successful when there’s a strategy governing the decision making. Fortunately, creating a content marketing plan is a relatively easy task. Here are six steps.

Really get to know your target audience

At the heart of any content marketing plan is your audience. You have to know who they are, and not just a rough idea. You cannot know enough about them. What motivates them? What are their media consumption habits? What are their hobbies and interests? You should also create buyer personas where you try to create in as much detail as possible, a description of your ideal customer. It may be helpful to read industry analyst reports or use analytics tools like Facebook’s Audience Insights. You should have a solid understanding of what drives them to purchase the kinds of products or services your company offers and what they expect to get out of those products or services. Which factors are most likely to impact their purchasing decision as they research those products or services? What causes them to go with a competitor’s product or service instead of yours?

Determine the channels you need to target

Now that you have a solid understanding of who you’re trying to reach with your content marketing efforts, you can take the next step and think about the channels you’ll need to use to reach that audience. If your audience is the 65 and up crowd, Facebook is going to be a better social media platform than Instagram. If your audience is millennials or Gen Z, SMS, not email is going to be the text-based channel of choice. Even more important, think about which channels they turn to to learn more about the kinds of products or services that you offer. There are so many potential channels for publishing content and you can’t afford to target them all (and even if you could you would lessen the effectiveness of each). It’s better to carefully target a few select channels that are the most important considering your audience and work to master those.

Decide on what kinds of content to offer

With an understanding of your audience and the platforms you’re going to target, which content formats are going to be the most effective? Platforms like LinkedIn and business-oriented publications like Forbes or the Wall Street Journal are probably going to require more in-depth articles and white papers. YouTube will require a less informal approach. SMS and twitter are limited by the total number of characters so any content disseminated this way will need to be very concise.

Focus on addressing needs

It’s very important to remember than content marketing is not about self-promotion. You shouldn’t be asking them to buy from you. Instead, you should be solving a problem or addressing a need. That need might be a good laugh and a YouTube video may be the perfect solution. The problem might be a question they can’t find a satisfactory answer to and a blog article that address the question in depth is what resolves that issue for them. If your content is valuable to consumers, they’ll keep seeking it out, they’ll becoming followers, fans, and eventually customers without you having to ask.

Decide how you’ll measure effectiveness

Depending on the channels you’re using and what your specific aims are with content marketing, you’ll have to select which analytics tools you’ll rely on to measure effectiveness. If you’re not paying attention to the right performance indicators, you’ll have a hard time determining which aspects of your content strategy are working, and which aspects need to be rethought.

Create a content calendar

Consistency is key in content marketing. If you’re publishing new content very regularly, it will make it easier for followers to see you as dependable. A content calendar helps you visualize your strategy by outlining what kinds of content about which subjects will be published through which channels on which days.