We all know content marketers are working on too much, but some research puts this challenge into perspective.

When presented with a list of 28 initiatives, B2C marketers indicated they are working on an average of 13 initiatives now, and they’ll be working on an additional nine initiatives on average in the next 12 months. And, these initiatives aren’t easily achieved (i.e., better converting website visitors, creating higher-quality content, developing a better mobile strategy).

While there is validity in every single one of these initiatives, is tackling so much all at once really the best thing to do if you want to do it successfully? And, if you can’t do everything, what do you prioritize?

Of course, every organization will have different priorities based on what their goals are. However, these four things should be on your list. We take a look at those priorities and some common questions, then offer some answers, share tips, and discuss how Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is tackling the initiative.

1. Understand your audience better

Spending time to understand your audience isn’t a nice-to-do, it’s a necessity. It’s core to everything.

Common question: How many different audiences should I have?

Answer: Our research shows that B2C marketers target four audiences or personas on average. To decide if you need a new persona, ask yourself if that audience’s informational needs differ from what you already support. If not, no need to segment your audience further. If yes, evaluate how critical this new persona is to your business goals.

One more idea: Does your editorial team support brands or personas? If your staff is not organized by audience, chances are you aren’t as focused on truly trying to understand your audience as much as you think you may be.

2. Develop a documented content marketing strategy

If you have followed our research this year at all, one thing is clear: a documented content marketing strategy separates effective marketers from their less effective peers. And, having a verbal strategy doesn’t do nearly enough. Before trying to tackle more, stop and get your strategy in writing so you can figure out what you even need.

Common question: What are the key elements in a documented content marketing strategy?

Answer: There is no “template” for a content marketing strategy, because how much and in what format you need to document your strategy is unique to your business. However, here are some key questions to think about before embarking on your content marketing journey.

What challenges are we trying to solve? What is our dream outcome? What is the risk if we fail? Whose perspective do we want to involve? What is our budget? How often do we want to produce deliverables?

One more idea: Once your strategy is developed, your work doesn’t end. While some things like your goals and mission should be “sticky”, have a plan to re-evaluate regularly other aspects such as your channel plan, topics, and process. And, if you develop your strategy with the knowledge that you’ll revisit it, you won’t feel so paralyzed to create the perfect strategy.

3. Create a subscription model

Chances are, you want to build an audience, right? What’s surprising is that only 40% of B2C marketers are actively working to build a subscriber base. This is the one initiative that many of the roundtable participants focused their attention on during the conversation.

Common question: Why do I need to build a subscriber base when I have Facebook fans and Twitter followers?

Answer: An audience is worth much more to you if it’s on your platform (i.e. owned) – and you can reach out directly better than you could on another platform (i.e. rented). Of course, social platforms are a great way to find a new audience – and nurture ones you have – but think about how they can support your subscription goals.

One more idea: If you use SlideShare, you can secure subscribers by providing open access to your presentations but asking for contact information when someone downloads the PDF.

4. Understand what is effective

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Are you doing this with your content marketing? If you want to move the needle at your company, you need to know what’s working – and what isn’t. If you don’t have a way to do this, chances are you won’t even know if new initiatives you implement, such as creating visual content or marketing in real time, are helping the cause.

Common question: I have my KPIs mapped out. Is that all I need to do?

Answer: No. While understanding what specific impact you want your content to have is the first step, tracking won’t likely give you the insight you need to understand why the numbers are the way they are. You need to understand how each piece of content is impacting your goals so you can better decide what you need to create more (or less) of.

One more idea: If you are feeling overwhelmed with data, think about the one KPI that means the most to your business and track every piece of content against that.

Written by Michelle Linn, Content Marketing Institute