Your business marketing plan must include a content strategy. The days of updating your website content every 6 months are over. Gone too are the days of ‘just posting when I’m inspired’ on your social networks.
A solid, documented content strategy plan is a guide for your business’s content marketing. So if you don’t have one, you’re a ship sailing lost in an open ocean. When your content attracts customers—and truly informs them—those customers turn into sales. Today, your content strategy should be the centerpiece of your marketing.
What Actually Is Content Strategy?
Content strategy. Community management. Content designers.
These buzz terms float around, but what do they actually mean? Is content strategy just the ‘words and images’ part of a website strategy? What’s a content strategist? What do they actually do? Should I hire one?
When people ask what I do, and I explain content strategy, a frequent question is “Oh, is that a fancy term for copywriting?”
Not really. While content strategy (& all content) should be well written, it’s much more than stringing a good line together. The point of a content strategy is to do a lot of things. Put simply, it’s a series of principles, a process, and a tool for maintaining the content—even beyond the website. A content strategy is a marketing tool and an HR tool for onboarding new team members or outsourcing work. Also, content strategy is really important in getting clients to think ‘content first’—not focusing just on what something looks like, since how something looks should depend on the content going there. Besides, things always look better when they’re designed with actual content.
Content strategy is a plan for how content will serve your users’ needs and grow your business. Today, it’s a critical piece of planning for your organization.
Your Content Strategy Should Include:
- Why the information you’re creating is relevant
- Who you want to reach
- What you’re going to publish
- Where you will publish your content
- Where it will have the best impact
- When to distribute & engage to get the best reach
- How you’ll execute your content strategy (include who is responsible for it)
- How you’ll collect and evaluate analytics data & metrics
- A measurement for what constitutes success
- A style guide for your voice
- A plan for which tools you’ll use
The more complicated your business or project, the more guidance, planning, training and documentation you need. Nothing on the list above (and in particularly the style guide) is static. Instead, strategy evolves as content is created, tested and improved. Goals change. Clients change their minds. Alphas fail. Teams shift. Content is alive, and it needs maintaining. It also needs ownership.
Why Content Strategy is a ‘Must Have’ Today
Along with content guidance, a content strategist may be a lead on larger project—since understanding all aspects of the project and taking ownership is often par for the course. (More on ‘content-centric’ principles and the ‘content-first’ approach later.)
A content strategy is a marketing guide that helps you create and distribute valuable, useful and regular content to attract your audience — and, ultimately, drive customers to action.
Content is often one of the biggest risks at the start of a project (& a huge roadblock), especially for larger clients—which might mean thousands of pages needing to be rewritten or migrated late in the game. Have your clients ever panicked because they forgot to allocate resources for the huge task of content upload or migration? Have you seen a beautiful page template look awful once the actual content is included in it? Do you see websites that lack voice, direction, call to action, or a clear sales funnel? Projects suffer because of lack of content strategy.
Why Create a Content Strategy?
Investing in a content strategy gets you where you want to go quicker, with much less anxiety, and with much better results. Need more convincing? Here are six reasons why content strategy should be a priority for your business today.
1. IT’S HARD TO GET ATTENTION
Creating high-quality, informative content captures attention. Translation: it gets liked, shared, and remembered. Sadly, the average attention span in 2015 was 8.25 seconds, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. This means humans now have the attention span 1 second LESS than a goldfish. Getting attention from your customers and keeping it is harder than ever. Marketing research shows relevant content creation is one of ‘the most effective SEO tactics’ to land new customers.
Take away: Use content to grab attention.
2. PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORY
Emotion drives what people share. Today 90% of Americans say they’re more likely to trust and stay loyal to a company actively trying to make a difference. Does your company care about the environment? Do you care about employee happiness? Are you humane to animals? Are you making efforts to show true concern for your customers? This matters to your customers. Explain, share, inform, communicate who you are, what you stand for, why you’re treating people the way you do, and how you’re living by your values. Also, get ready for feedback! 64% of millennials use social media to communicate with companies.
Take away: Tell stories about your business—people want to hear about you!
3. WHY YOU POST IS CRITICAL
If you don’t know WHY your content is valuable, you’re in trouble. One of the major roadblocks for organizations is dreaming up the content. To start, you really need to understand the WHY behind your business. The WHY establishes your value. WHY are you different? WHY do you matter? When customers understand the WHY, they are inspired to hire you; they’re inspired to use your product; and they understand that you have something unique to offer.
If you dive into content marketing without understanding the WHY, you’re swimming around blind. The process of isolating and defining the WHY in your content strategy is beneficial for understanding your organization and for crafting your content.
Take away: Understand & communicate the WHY about your organization’s value.
4. YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE ALREADY TALKING
Customers are social beings. They socialize while they use your products or services. Likely they’re already talking about you—and if they’re on social media, they are probably already looking for the ‘buy’ button that’s coming out on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram soon. A solid content strategy will include managing your brand’s community. This means responding to chatter about you and managing your voice in the community. Your content strategy includes a plan to guide customers on where to click on social networks. It demonstrates that you’re available to respond to their needs.
Take away: People talk about you, so manage the conversation with your chosen voice.
5. YOU’RE IN BUSINESS TO MAKE A PROFIT
Without a documented content strategy, you won’t know what your goals are, or how to reach them. Your sales process likely looks something like this:
- AWARENESS: Customer learns who you are
- EVALUATION: Customer tries to decide if you’re a good pick
- BUY: Customer is ready to buy something
As you look at each step in the sales process, ask ‘Which content is most effective for reaching my objective at this stage of the journey?’ Focus on the needs of your customers in every individual step. Also, addressing your customers’ concerns in the sales process helps customers get them where they want to go with much better results. Ask ‘What need can I fulfill at this point?’ and ‘What questions should I answer to provide reassurance?’
Take away: A clearly defined content strategy focuses on achieving your business objectives.
6. TEST IT & REFINE IT
Continual analysis of your content strategy helps you see how your users are benefiting (or not benefiting) from your content. A/B testing content, learning about your demographics, and other user data gives you valuable insight on who you need to target, what types of content connect with your users, and how to better address their specific concerns.
Take away: Use ongoing analytics to understand your audience and refine your content strategy
Content Marketing Tactics
While implementing your content strategy can take on a variety of forms, the most successful tactics for your organization’s content strategy depend on your audience and your goals. Truthfully, there is not a cookie cutter formula, rather you need to own and develop your strategy.
Tactics for implementing content strategy may include:
- User polling, heat mapping and testing
- Website planning
- Keyword research
- Website copywriting
- SEO optimization
- Sending emails
- Purchasing targeted ads
- Posting regularly to your social networks
- Responding to community conversation
- Distributing related videos
- Sharing your message via partners and affiliates
- Getting third-party sites to link to you
- Content distribution via a content network
- Managing blog post writing, editing & scheduling
- Direct mail, flyer, banners, signage & other advertising communication
- A/B testing layout, copy and imagery
The list can go on forever. If you’re after exceptional growth, you need a custom strategy. Really, this is much more effective than overused industry trends.
Your Next Steps: Audit Content & Craft Strategy
To get started, analyze what types of content you already have. An initial content audit helps you take an overview of your existing content. So, using heat maps and analytics, collect data to understand how your visitors are already interacting with what you have.
Crafting Your Strategy:
Once you’re aware of your existing content and its effect on your customers, craft a detailed plan for your ongoing strategic efforts. The earlier in the project the better for including content strategy in your plans.
If you’re new to digital marketing, if don’t have the resources, or if you just aren’t sure what’s best for your business, reach out to us. We guide clients’ content strategy every day to increase customers. We’ll help you determine what specific types of content you need and how to best create it.