This post was originally published in May, 2018 and updated in July, 2020.
Were you born knowing the difference between pasta and noodles? I bet you weren’t. In fact, I bet most of you reading that sentence didn’t even realize there is a difference.
(Pasta is created from durum wheat and water and is stronger and more elastic than noodles. It’s usually topped with sauces. Meanwhile, the more delicate noodle is made from eggs, flour, and salt and served in broths. 🍝 Now you know!)
This same confusion happens in the content world. Eager marketers often confuse content marketing vs. content strategy.
These two concepts are similar, but they’re absolutely not the same thing. And, as anyone who’s ever put spaghetti sauce over egg noodles in a pinch knows, when you don’t use quite the right ingredients things don’t turn out as well.
So, if you’ve been using the terms content marketing and content strategy interchangeably for a while, don’t panic. You’re not alone.
But the secret sauce to using these techniques effectively is to understand their differences, their nuances, and their applications.
To make it easy for you, we’ve put together a great lesson + infographic that will show you, step-by-step, the exact recipe for understanding how content marketing and content strategy can work for your business.
If you’re one of the diminishing group of B2B marketers that have yet to adopt a documented content marketing strategy, use our guide to get started on that (important) road.
CMI 2020 report

Via CMI’s Benchmark Report

Content marketing vs. content strategy: What's the difference? 🤔 They're similar, but not the same. Learn why on the Write Blog via @JuliaEMcCoy with a fun cooking analogy 👩‍🍳 Click To Tweet
content marketing vs content strategy infographic

Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy — How to Cook Up Great Content: Your Recipe for Success (Infographic)

content marketing vs content strategy infographic

content strategy vs content marketing infographic

Download the PDFs: How to Explain Content Strategy, and, How to Explain Content Marketing.

Cooking Up Great Content: Behind the Scenes at Our Content Marketing Restaurant

Content is like delicious morsels of goodness to your customers, and you – the brand or marketer behind the brand — are the one that has to cook it up.
That makes your favorite restaurant a great analogy for our explanation.
So, let’s sneak into the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. (For me, that’s a toss-up between Salt Traders or Greenhouse Craft, two amazing restaurants here in Austin.)

Step One: Start with Content Strategy

All of the inner workings of the kitchen – the food preparation, reservations, staff schedule – that’s the content strategy. The content strategy of the restaurant = meetings between chefs, waiters, restaurant owners and staff to strategize and guide how they plan to successfully deliver content — in this case, food — to their customers.
If your #contentmarketing is a restaurant, all the inner workings of the kitchen – the food preparation, reservations, staff schedule – that’s the #contentstrategy. 👩‍🍳🔪🍳 Click To Tweet
In developing their strategy, they may ask questions like:

  • How many waiters need to cover the floor?
  • What type of ingredients should we use?
  • What will attract new customers to our restaurant?

When you develop content strategy for your business, you may ask questions such as:

  • What is our Content Differentiation Factor?
  • What type of content does our target audience crave?
  • How many times per week should we post new content?

In other words, content strategy is the framework you put in place to deliver the content to readers.
It is the planning, preparation and methods you come up with to deliver the ultimate customer experience through content.
Simple, right? So, let’s move on.

Step Two: Add Content Marketing

In a restaurant, you cater to hungry customers by serving up delicious meals, prepared just the way they like them.
In the world of content, you implement your strategy to bring fresh, tasty content to your customers’ inboxes by using content marketing.
Content marketing is the execution of your content strategy. 
It’s the planning coming to life, encompassing each and every component. In this case, the “food” is the content your audience consumes.
Content marketing is the execution of your content strategy. It’s the planning coming to life. If your #contentmarketing is a restaurant, the 'food' is the content your audience consumes. 🍕🌮🥗 Click To Tweet
Your job is to cook up valuable, consistent and relatable content to build a relationship with a targeted audience, which in turn, increases your profits. Because you’re serving up exactly what they crave, this audience comes back to you again and again.

Download the PDFs: How to Explain Content Strategy, and, How to Explain Content Marketing.

Some of the most popular ways to feed your audience their favorite content include:

  • Blogs
  • Emails/newsletters
  • Infographics
  • E-books
  • Case studies
  • Long-form content
  • Web pages
  • Webinars

The content you serve strengthens your brand image while also whetting the appetite of your ideal customer. Win-win!

Step Three: Mix Well

So, let’s outline an example of how you combine content strategy with content marketing for outstanding results.
Going back to our restaurant analogy, let’s say your target audience is 20-year-old yoga enthusiasts. 
During planning, you found that natural and unprocessed ingredients were of the highest importance to your customers (planning = content strategy).
You put this plan (content strategy) into action by designing a menu that informs your customers of the origins of their food (how you deliver the content = content marketing). Then you serve a vegetarian lentil soup made from locally sourced ingredients (what you deliver = content).
Because you’ve pinpointed what they crave and delivered it, your customers feel a connection to your brand.
You planned your content strategy, so you knew how to build a relationship with your audience, the methods in which to reach them, and the product that would best suit their needs.
These customers are receiving valuable and useful information about a health-conscious lifestyle directly through the menu you’ve created to serve them the content they want. They will keep coming back. They will purchase more.
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That is your content strategy and content marketing at work. Together, they’re your content marketing strategy.

An Example of a Perfect Content Marketing “Meal”

Think of the content that your audience consumes as that perfect “meal.”
Did you know? Conductor performed the first-known scientific study investigating educational content impact with customers. The results showed incredible findings. First, survey takers were found 131% more likely to purchase from a brand immediately after reading content from that brand, while 78% of respondents found a brand more “helpful” and an entire 64% found it “trustworthy,” immediately after reading content from that brand. These numbers increased by 8-9% one week later.
The right approach to effective content marketing, and the right content (the food you serve), will build and establish a real relationship and connection with your audience. Not only that, but you have the opportunity to delight them, make it memorable each and every time, and keep them coming back for more. And, grow your bottom line and your business while you’re at it. Win, win!
Let’s say your target audience is 20-year-old yoga enthusiasts.
During your planning stages, you found that natural and unprocessed ingredients were of the highest importance to your customers (compare this to a baseline finding for a content strategy). You put this plan into action by designing a customized menu that informs your customers of the origins of their food (this is your content marketing in action). Then you served a vegetarian lentil soup made from locally sourced ingredients (this is your content).
Now, your customers feel a connection to your brand.
content marketing vs content strategy infographic
Because you were strategic about what your customers liked, and you created an experience just for them, the end result was a customized campaign (if content is our tasty meal) that they found delightful. Your customers are receiving valuable and useful information about a health-conscious lifestyle directly through you. They will keep coming back. They will purchase more.
That is your content marketing strategy at work.

How to Cook Up Your Own Content Strategy and Content Marketing

Now it’s time to put on your apron and take the first steps toward creating your own delectable profit-driving, audience-growing content.
And, any great chef knows you’ve got to start with the fundamentals before you can create a culinary masterpiece. The world of content is no different. Starting with the fundamentals of content strategy will set the pace for the rest of your marketing.
While there will undoubtedly be bumps along the road to successful content marketing, we’re here to guide you through it, step-by-step.
In fact, we’ve developed the precise recipe you need for guaranteed success.
That’s right. I’ll guide you in creating and implementing an effective content marketing strategy through my personal mentorship and teaching when you sign up for my Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
If you’ve got a strategy and marketing in place and want done-for-you content, we offer that option, too. You can get premium access to outstanding content created just for your audience by requesting a client account.
Whichever you choose, you’ll be setting your brand apart from the crowd, growing loyal customers, and increasing revenue by leaps and bounds.
Cheers to that!
content marketing vs content strategy infographic