There’s no shortage of clichés in the world of content marketing: Content is King. You’ve got to pick the low hanging fruit. If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it... You’ve likely heard them strewn across the conference room table, splashed on a sales and marketing Powerpoint presentation, or woven into the fabric of content marketing posts across the web. Heck, we can’t lie, we’ve been guilty of them ourselves. Everyone seems to know that content is important, but according to research, marketing folk seldom actually plan how they release it to the world.
Show me the numbers, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked. According to Altimeter, 70% of brands don’t have an integrated content strategy. Coincidentally, or not, another 71% aren’t systematically reusing or repurposing existing content. In our humble – or not so humble – opinion, this is where the emphasis on content for content’s sake goes completely awry. Work smarter, not harder, amiright?
I get it: I’ve been flailing in the dark and publishing my content willy-nilly.
But now what do I do?
Step One: Understanding.
First, really understand why you’re building a content strategy in the first place. It goes beyond not wanting to blindly produce content until your fingers bleed, and it’s certainly not about spending every waking moment discussing prose and appropriate verb tense – though you should definitely be discussing that. It’s about thinking strategically about the impact of your content; it’s about releasing the right content, at exactly the right moment, to a receptive audience you know. Just as a talented cook knows how to turn a roasted turkey into a dozen variations of soup, sandwiches, pot pies and broth, a talented content strategist allows you to eke out every last drop of effectiveness and value from the content you create.
So it’s time to find out where you’ve been investing your time and attention, and whether you can bolster impact and visibility by being more strategic. Because sure, your current approach to content marketing may have gotten you to where you are, thank you very much – but is it going to scale and get you where you want to go?
5 key questions behind a solid strategy document
Here’s a quick list of the questions every smart content strategy should seek to clarify from day one:
1.Who will you be talking to?
If you haven’t already developed your customer personas, now would be a good time to start. Think about who you’d be really excited to get your product or service in front of. Who can you imagine has the biggest need for what you’re offering? Are there other people and demographics that might make unexpected use of your product? Think about how that person sees the world, what their buying habits might be, and whether they’re likelier to pick up a Triple-caramel, sea salt latte or an Americano. The clearer of an image you can paint of the person sitting on the other side of that table, billboard or computer screen, the likelier you’ll be to connect with them directly.
2.What do you want to say?
Once you know your audience, start thinking about how you’re going to get and maintain their attention. If you’ve ever had to go through the whole dating thing, you know what we’re talking about: after a sizzling first date, you have your dreamboat out at that lovely Italian place with the savage creme brulee. You’re craving that initial first-date barrage of anecdotes and witty repartee, but it seems to have fizzled out; the limited repertoire of clever jokes has been exhausted and the impressive tales have dried up. That’s what happens when a person, or a message, ring hollow and disingenuous. And we can all tell it’s happening. Find your core message, the stuff that truly matters to you and the information you’re most uniquely positioned to impart, and make that your jumping off point for any piece of content.
Or as Rumi so aptly put it...
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is it true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
Before you hit publish, ask yourself: is this actually helpful and am I adding something to the conversation that wasn’t already there? If the answer is yes, your audiences are more likely to give you a minute of their time. Or better yet, to part with their hard-earned cash.
3.How are you going to say it?
Just as everything shouldn’t be said in a text message, it’s important to think of the channels and delivery for each of your messages. Are you going to tell them everything they need to know in one massive prosaic soliloquy? Or are you going to impart little bits of digestible information about your industry, products, or services until they choose to take a deep dive into your content and provide their email address to receive your exhaustive guide? Look at that: you just earned yourself a new warm lead.
When thinking of implementation, consider once again who it is you’ll be talking to. Does your highly technical audience want to dive right into the brick of granular data and research, or are they slightly intimidated by the topic and need to be eased in? Different strategies and delivery methodologies work for different target demographics. Spend some time getting to know yours, and it will more than pay off.
4.Where are you going to find your people?
Much like new moms intuitively know they’re likely to find some of their people at parks, splash pads, local attractions and on online buy/sell/trade groups, building connections starts with knowing where your people hang out.
Take a step back and figure out where your community goes to engage with one another, find advice or gather trusted information.
Here’s a quick list of possible platforms to explore courtesy of chapter 3 of our Ultimate Startup Guide to Brand Awareness. We think you’d like it!
Knowing the spaces towards which your audiences gravitate not only allows you to make the most out of every advertising dollar or minute of human creativity, but it provides valuable insight into their preferences when it comes to more subtle things like tone, level of technical formality, article length, aesthetic, and more.
Want some help finding your brand’s tone and voice? Download this great list of 15 questions to find your tone!
Because let’s face it: putting yourself out there is scary and costly. There’s no point shouting yourself hoarse at a crowd uninterested in listening to you in the first place.
5.How will you know when you’ve been successful?
While in many ways it can feel like the most intimidating or abstract step yet, defining success is the most important part of any plan. It’s what lets you know whether you’re smashing it, improving steadily, getting a passing grade or taking a nose-dive? So figure out what success means to you, and work backwards from there to find the right metrics and tools.
- Want to grow your user base?
- Looking to increase the size of your email list?
- Need to boost your website traffic?
- Looking to bump up conversion rates?
- Would more interactions on your social media posts make you light up like a kid on Christmas?
There are appropriate metrics to keep tabs on all of those goals in order to build momentum and iterate. We also recommend checking out this great little guide by SEMrush on finding the right content marketing metrics. Take a second to think about what you want to achieve out of this plan in the first place, then lay the numbers down in a short and medium-term projections and KPIs document that allows your whole team to easily track what’s working, and what’s definitely not.
Next week, we’ll be back with Part 2: The How, where we’ll show you how to turn your strategy into a real life, actual action plan. Because if we’re going with clichés here, we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Trying to launch a content strategy without a solid game plan? Now that, my marketing friends, is your one-way ticket to content purgatory.