Plotters vs. Pantsers in Marketing, a.k.a. Why It’s Important to Have a Content Strategy

In fiction writing there’s a concept called, “plotters vs. pantsers.”

In short, you either write by the seat of your pants or you live and die by your roadmap.

I’m a plotter. I love a good map when it comes to getting from A to B.

But I’ll confess, writing by the seat of the pants looks like more fun.

Just grab the first good idea that strikes your fancy and write until you run out of juice.

The thought seems downright romantic.

In the movie version of My Life As a Pantser, I’m probably also wearing a cashmere scarf and letting the wind gently blow through my hair.

But then we cut to commercial break and the reality of writing by the seat of one’s pants comes into view.

What does the audience see?

The writer. Surrounded by reams of paper. Scrambling for any sense of direction. Possibly screaming into the abyss.


Overly dramatic?

Seems that way until the first time you’re staring down the barrel of last year’s content with no way to wrangle it into submission.

So before we go too far with this metaphor, let’s take a look at the real reason content strategy is important from a purely functional, “let’s actually get the writing done and bring in some customers” perspective.

The Real Reason Content Strategy is Important

Without a content strategy, you’re directionless. Your marketing may end up somewhere by sheer force of will, but it won’t be what you expected.

A content strategy is your best bet for attracting ideal prospects and prepping them to buy.

From the reader’s perspective, you’ve created a useful, choose-your-own-adventure experience for them. They get the education they need, and when they’re ready, they buy.

But creating that smooth user experience can be tough on the writer. So, the more you can streamline the content creation process for the writer, while also giving the content the best chance of converting, the better off you are.

Life In the Marketing Department: What It’s Really Like Behind the Scenes

Here’s what life looks like in the marketing department: *cue big conference table, laptops, and copious amounts of coffee*

  1. Buyer’s Journey. A single person, or group of people from the marketing team, get together and map out what the buyer journey will be. This becomes your shining star to aim for.
  2. Strategy. The content strategist maps out what the content will be, based on the buyer’s journey. This may include a linear path from discovery to final sale, but the best content strategies also include contingency paths for how people like to search.
  3. Execution. The content writer dives into the deep end of the swimming pool and starts creating articles, blog posts, pillar pages, landing pages, freebies, etc. At this stage, tracking software or a spreadsheet is your best friend. Lose track of how the content fits together and you’ve become an accidental pantser.
  4. Results. Look at how the readers interact with your content. Which paths lead to a sale? Which ones increased traffic? Which ones look promising but need support and more content? 
  5. Refinement. Use the answers to these questions to refine your strategy and content on an ongoing basis. Look at your results at least monthly. Don’t let this valuable information get away from you.

How to Create a Nimble Content Strategy Process

Here are some tips for how to create a nimble content creation process that grows with your company:

  • Get feedback from readers about your content so you can improve it. You can easily do this by sending article links to your email list or even boosting a post on FB. 
  • Become comfortable with workflows. If there’s a way to improve the connection between the writing and strategy processes, do it. You want your team to gel so you can feed the ever-hungry content machine.
  • Solemnly promise yourself you’ll be consistent about refining the strategy. The bigger your content marketing footprint, the more you’ll need to invest in keeping the whole system up to date and working smoothly.
  • Get the writers to help you create SOPs and “what’s working now” documents. The secret to efficiency isn’t working harder; it’s decreasing gaps between tasks. Strong SOPs that have complete team buy-in are a lifesaver.
  • Keep an eye on the ROI. Nothing in content marketing is actually “free.” Even if you or your in-house team create the content themselves, you still paid for their time (or invested your own). Remember to regularly consider which pieces of your marketing are resulting in conversions, so you can get the most out of your efforts.