Everywhere you go, marketers are telling you that you should be creating content for your business. At conferences and seminars, at networking meetings, on social media…there’s no escape.
The thing is, you know they’re right. You’ve written a couple of articles for LinkedIn, but nothing regular. The blog on your website is just a graveyard for press releases. And the only thing on your YouTube channel is that promo video with the cheesy corporate music you had made 5 years ago.
No more dabbling. It’s time to start taking content marketing seriously, or risk being left behind by your competitors. You need a strategy.
But what does a content marketing strategy actually look like?
In my Content Strategy Sessions with clients, I look to answer 6 simple questions. I’m going to walk you through them, step by step, so that you can use them to develop your own template, and get your content strategy off the ground.
I’m not going to lie, it’ll take some considerable time and effort on your part to do this yourself. Is it really necessary? Here are some reasons why it’s important to go through this process…
What happens if you DON’T have a content strategy?
You’ll have an ineffective, scattergun approach
If you don’t take the time to get your strategy right, then you run the risk of having a scattergun content approach, which is unlikely to be effective, as it’s not going to address your overall business objectives. With every article you write, you’re taking a stab in the dark and hoping for the best.
You’ll be disorganised and stressed
It also means you’ll probably end up quite disorganised because you don’t have a plan in place. Ultimately, this is going to lead to stress – and we don’t want that! If you find the creation of content a stressful process, then you’ll quickly become demotivated and not want to continue.
You won’t know what your return on investment is
You need to make sure you’ve got something to measure progress against. If you haven’t thought about your content strategy in the wider context of your business, and the results that you want from it, then how will you know whether it’s making an impact?
You’ll end up wasting time, resources and money
In short, content production without a strategy will lead to wasted company time, resources and funds.
All good reasons to make sure you’ve got a content strategy in place!
What should a content strategy include?
There are 6 key questions that I would look to address with a content marketing strategy:
This is the format I follow for my Content Strategy Sessions with clients, but if you’re developing your own strategy, then you can use these as sections in your own template.
Let’s work through each of them one by one.
Question 1: Why now?
This is all about your business objectives. If you’re thinking about embarking on a content strategy, then some of your reasons might include: increasing sales, increasing leads, increasing web traffic…
But these things are really a given. A more pertinent question might be “why are you doing this now?”.
For example, it may be that you have a particular challenge in your business at the moment, or you’re looking to increase sales of a particular service, or you want to drive traffic by a certain percentage. In other words, you’re working towards some sort of milestone in your business, which means that you need to embark on this now.
Identifying and documenting this will mean your content strategy is much more focused from the outset. When you’re brainstorming your article topics later on, you’ll have a clear idea of what they should be, because you were clear on your objective from the start.
Consider what your current business challenges and goals are, and how your content strategy is going to address these. Try to be as specific as possible, and use this to develop SMART objectives.
Question 2: Who are you targeting?
Many businesses struggle to be specific about who they’re targeting, often relying on generalisations like “B2B companies” or “people in Aberdeen”. This is a good starting point, but the more specific you can get, the more effective your content strategy will be.
Go beyond the business type and size, and go deeper into things like the sector, the niche within that sector, the geographic area and the demographics of the people themselves.
Because the target audience for your content is not “the company” as a whole, but the individuals within that company. Who’s going to make the decision about working with you as a supplier? What are their key characteristics?
Put yourself in their shoes. What is it that’s frustrating them right now? What are their major pain points on a day to day basis? What are they struggling with?
Also, think about the positives; what are their goals? Dig beneath the surface-level need and think about what that person truly wants from the situation. What’s going to have an impact on them personally and emotionally?
All of these things will inform your content plan.
Think about what’s important to them when they’re looking for a service provider. Are they looking for certain levels of experience or qualifications? Are they looking for a brand they can really connect with?
And, on the flip side, what are they not looking for? What are the reasons that they wouldn’t work with you? What objections do people frequently come up with during sales conversations, and what excuses do people make not to buy?
Put all of these things into a profile called a Buyer Persona; this will be a vital tool going forward with your content strategy.
Question 3: What will you publish?
This is the bit that I really enjoy in Content Strategy Sessions with clients because we get to pull out lots of coloured pens and Post-it Notes and start brainstorming!
Choose three to five core themes for your content, and generate topics under each of these themes. What the themes are will depend on your objectives and who you’re targeting, but this is where you can get creative.
And it’s also where you can get a lot off your chest because you can pull out all of the questions that you get asked on a day-to-day basis by your customers and prospects. Each one will become a content topic!
By addressing all these questions and concerns in your content, you’ll hopefully avoid having to answer them in future, because people will be able to find the information themselves.
In addition to FAQs, remember to include some entertaining and personal topics in your content plan too. This will help create an emotional connection with your readers and deepen the relationship so that you can build trust.
Question 4: When will you publish?
Now we’re starting to get into the practicalities of delivering the content. How frequently you publish may depend on your team’s internal capacity, and/or your budget, if you’re working with an external content writer or a blog management service.
But once you’ve got that agreed, you can put the best of the content topics you generated into an editorial calendar. This doesn’t need to be fancy; it can simply be a spreadsheet or table in a Word document.
List the titles of the blog articles that you’re going to focus on for, say, the next 3 or 6 months, and assign dates to them. This will give you a plan to work to, which you can use to hold yourself accountable.
Question 5: Where will you publish?
For most companies, I’d strongly recommend publishing on a blog page which is integrated into their business website, and listed as a main menu item.
However, you might also want to consider publishing on LinkedIn or Medium, as a way to reach new audiences that aren’t yet visiting your website.
You should also consider where you’ll promote your content; this means your social media channels, email lists etc. All of the ways that you’re going to get your content out to the people who want to read it.
Discuss and agree on the various publishing and distribution channels that you’re going to use.
Question 6: How are you going to implement your content strategy?
Once you’ve got your ideas and you know what you want to do, it’s easy to jump in with both feet and get carried away. But you need to think about how you’re going to implement your content strategy.
Who in your team is going to write the content? Who will review and approve it once it’s written? Who’s going to do the promotion to get it out into the world?
And, of course, what budget is going to be required? Depending on whether you’re working with internal or external team members on your content production, the budget could refer to internal staff time or money for outsourced services.
Do your team members have the time to take this on? And if they don’t, then which parts of the process could you outsource to specialist service providers, and how much will that cost?
Then there are resources. Will you need to provide your team with any training? Are you going to use some sort of online tool to collaborate so that you, as the Manager, have visibility of what’s going on at each stage in the process?
Do you have all the knowledge you need to manage the content strategy from the top? How will you supervise it?
Lastly, consider what might prevent you from successfully implementing your new content strategy. What are the issues that you might encounter and how can you mitigate these from the outset?
The biggest thing that companies struggle with when producing content, across the board, is consistency. But it’s consistency that allows you to develop a relationship with readers over time, and which builds momentum in terms of web traffic and social media engagement.
So if you’re not consistent, your time and effort will likely be wasted. Make sure you’ve thought through all the potential obstacles so that might prevent you from a successful implementation of your content strategy to give yourself the best chance of success.
Over to you…
These are the 6 questions you can use to create your own content strategy template.
- What challenges or obstacles are you facing with creating your content marketing strategy?
- What actions can you take now to overcome these challenges and get the process started?
- Got any questions or need some help? Join our Facebook group and ask away!