By Syed Balkhi, co-founder of OptinMonster.

Did you know that only 40 percent of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy? That number lowers to 37 percent among B2B marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute's 2017 benchmarks. And yet, according to those same benchmarks, lack of strategy is one of the major reasons content initiatives fail.

Without a strategy, companies are less effective at content marketing, and may even experience significant challenges in implementing content marketing tactics. Here are four tips that will help you create your own content strategy so your business can be more connected to your customers.

Define Concrete SMART Goals

Define concrete goals for your content marketing strategy. If your goals aren't well-defined and measurable, it'll be impossible to measure your progress. When you do so, make sure they meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria:

  • Specific: Goals like "grow our audience" or "increase brand awareness" are vague. Instead, set a goal like "grow our email list by 100 percent this year or increase our blog traffic by 25 percent this quarter."
  • Measurable: By setting measurable goals with specific numbers, you can easily track your progress.
  • Achievable: Make sure you're not setting unattainable goals for your team.
  • Relevant: Evaluate your goals to ensure they're relevant to your mission statement.
  • Timely: Set a time frame for achieving your goals, and then break it down into short-term objectives. This way you can identify your progress and build on your momentum.

While you're at it, make a note of the resources and time you'll need to invest in carrying out your strategy.

Target Data-Based Personas

Many businesses just assume they know their customers, so they think there is no need to create a document explaining user personas. Having documented personas will not only help you to crystallize your ideas, but will also allow you to use your target audience's language when planning and creating content.

To create personas, start by looking at your existing customers and followers. Creating user personas is more than just gathering demographic data about your audience like age, gender, location, etc. It includes picturing your ideal customer by considering specific roles your user might have in relation to your business's buying cycle.

Make sure each piece of content you create is targeted to a specific persona. During the content creation process, refer to the target persona to guide you on the shape, tone and voice of your content. I recommend templates such as Xtensio's User Persona Creator to get started.

Streamline Your Content Creation Process ?

The best way to streamline your content creation process is to create an editorial calendar. Plan out your calendar in advance with new content ideas on a regular basis, such as yearly or quarterly. Your exact process will depend on a variety of factors, including your team and the resources you have available. No matter what process you're using, there are always ways to streamline it for efficiency. Evaluate your content planning and creation process and identify any bottlenecks.

For example, you might find that your content approval process is taking too long and preventing you from publishing timely content. Appoint one person to be the final decision-maker, or only accept revision requests for a limited time before the content goes live by default. You can also repurpose your old content with a fresh spin. Seek ideas from colleagues and leverage your staff's collective knowledge.

Measure Your Progress

Measuring your progress and the results of your content strategy allows you to clearly identify how well your content is performing. If most of your content is web-based, the backbone of tracking your progress should revolve around your web analytics tool.

Evaluate key performance indicators (KPIs) on a regular basis that provide insight into whether your marketing efforts are effective or you need to create a new content strategy. These include the amount of traffic, the sources of that traffic, and how long people are sticking around to read your content (time on page). There are many other metrics available, so make sure to measure key KPIs related to the concrete goals you set, and take this data into account when planning your content strategy.

Follow the four steps outlined above, and you'll soon have a documented content strategy to guide your content marketing success.

Syed is the co-founder of OptinMonster, a conversion rate optimization software that helps you recover abandoning website visitors and turn them into subscribers and customers.