Let’s Get Strategic: Creating A Content Strategy That Works
To keep up online, it’s standard to churn out content just to tread water. All this published content reflects the core message of your business, whether you’re steering that story or not. If you want to start swimming you need to create a content strategy. So what is involved in creating a content strategy, exactly?
You’ve probably heard the ambiguous term before: content strategy. Is it a top secret plan kept under lock-and-key? Is it a mythical creature that brings your business good luck if you rub it three times? Not quite.
Your content strategy is a step-by-step plan for owning your digital channels and steering clear from distractions. It’s a vehicle for your brand story, giving all this content purpose and direction, so you can enjoy a smile-worthy ROI. Not only will your content strategy strengthen your social media and email marketing game, but you will also develop optimal methods for increasing brand awareness, turn more loyal followers into lifelong customers, and ensure all your content creators are speaking the same language.
Okay cool. Now how are you creating a content strategy? Knowing how to develop a content marketing plan can transform your content from directionless noise to a strategic sales funnel. All you need is a bit of strategy. Start with these 5 steps.
How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Before you dive into strategic execution, screw the lid off your imagination and let that magic roam free. Collaborate with your team to create new, brilliant, bold and borderline terrible strategizing ideas. The broader your brainstorming session, the more you have to work with when it’s time to narrow things down. Some tips:
Refer back to specific details about your persona
If you’re backed against the wall, think about your audience persona. Maybe they’re soccer moms who would get a kick out of a granola bar that looks like Brad Pitt. Maybe they are college boys who’d love a shampoo that makes their girlfriend’s dad love them. See the though line here? Your content strategy should consider your target market’s key behaviors, purchase motivations and desires.
Study the competition
Let’s say you own a hair salon in a busy area of downtown, but your walk-in rate is lower than you expected. What gives? It’s possible you have been relying on the location rather than generating content that attracts new customers. If you’re unsure what types of content work for you, research your competition’s approaches, what’s working and what’s missing the mark.
A great strategy is tp study successful salons out of town that exist in similar locations relative to their city. Are they pushing client appreciation, styled photoshoots, newest salon products, philanthropy work, or DIY hairstyles? Gauge the success of their posts and note anything that could work for your brand. In this research process, make sure to keep in mind that the demographics for those salons may be different than yours, so you won’t want to copy and paste their strategies.
Try a different angle
Testing different ways to reach your audience can go a long way. Maybe that’s with brand tone, visual communication techniques, or UX technology. Say you own a cold pressed juice company and you’re struggling to create original, engaging content to differentiates you from your competition.
Let’s say your audience is mostly 20 to 30 years-old, holistic health enthusiasts who work part-time jobs in customer service and shop at Trader Joe’s. Your audience already knows about the healthy ingredients and benefits in your juice, and they’re hungry for something different. New plan of action: double down on inspiration. Look at what your target market cares about and guide them to envision how your product lines up with those goals in specific ways. Some ideas:
- Position your green juice as a healthy alternative to energy drinks, a wonder beverage that supports them as they write a 30-page term paper in one night.
- Position your green juice as a brain booster, helping students mediate awkward politics conversations with the in-laws.
The more specific you can get with authentic desires and motivations, the easier it will be to resonate with your audience.
Pro tip: DISCOVER
Discover what would be original by learning about personas, don’t INVENT, meaning thinking of outlandish things that aren’t relatable. The only company that has gotten away with that is Skittles, and even their weird stuff was grounded ins strategy–they doubled down on being absurd (remember the skittle pox commercial?), which is an attractive, relatable thing to their audience.
Clear goals mark deadlines on your strategy and encourage some real growth. Maybe think about using a content strategy template like the one from MOZ.
USE THOSE BUYER PERSONAS!
Once you have an idea of what content represents your business, you can start narrowing in on what your audience wants to see from you. A buyer persona is an in-depth, generalized ideas of your audience. Creating specific buyer personas (yes, you have more than one!) helps you tailor valuable content to all subcultures of your target audience.
Buyer personas are born through interviews with customers, surveys, and in-depth research that studies who is following you and who you think SHOULD be following you.
Let’s say you already own Trace Hardware Store in Somewhereville, Nevada and your audience is dads. Your buyer persona will answer important questions like:
- Are they first-time dads?
- Dads from within a 50 mile radius of Somewhereville?
- Baseball dads or soccer dads? Are they on Facebook or Twitter?
Be where your audience is and deliver relevant and rich content for THEM.
There’s a blurry line between delivering relevant information and just telling your audience what they want to hear, (if your hardware store is not kid-friendly, don’t boast about how safe and kid-friendly it is on social media). Your personas should include:
- Names (Garrett, or some other soccer dad name)
- Demographics (age 30-45, male, income: $70,000)
- Identifiers (prints out information, subscribed to Somewhereville Dad’s Blog)
- Interests (BBQ, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, walking the dog)
- Barriers to connection (owns a smartphone but only uses the ESPN app and Facebook app, doesn’t have an Instagram)
BUILD YOUR KEYWORD LIST SUPPORT CREATIVE WITH DATA
The key to content strategy is knowing what your audience is looking for, so you can support your creative work with relevant information. A solid SEO keyword list will go a long way in that venture. This is how you can target your audience more effectively and track their behavior online. Together, keywords and data analytics give you a clearer picture of your audience, so you can make more informed content decisions. Keywords and data analytics are no longer an option, so if that kind of work doesn’t light you up, hire an SEO specialist.
ANALYZE. ADAPT. REPEAT.
Now you have an idea of what content you’re going to be posting. You’re next step is making sure you are tracking and aware of when your audience is evolving. One way to do this could be meeting with your team and creating a new content strategy every two months or so. Talk about what new fitness class is being hyped, what diet plan they’re dropping $250 for, what campaign for helping homeless dogs in China in trending on Facebook, get specific. This helps to ensure your content is consistently relevant, timely and adapting as your audience adapts. Use your buyer personas to know when and how your audience is evolving and what they need from you. Set clear, number driven goals for social media. You can’t argue with numbers. Some examples:
- Gain 50 Instagram followers a month.
- Increase weekly sharing on posts by 40%
- Turn 5 your DIY hairdo posts into blogs and send to email list.
To your audience, consistency is everything. They don’t want to see you taking a stab at 6 different personalities, they want to be able to trust you. Be consistent with your content, posting schedule, brand voice,and the stance your brand takes on certain topics. If you find yourself crawling to find something new to post, remember who your audience is and what they’d want to see. If social media is too big a monster to take on by yourself, hire a social media manager to tackle your social media full time. You’re still bootstrapping it, so use social media management platforms like Tweetdeck and Planoly, which will help you stay afloat for now.
Ready to take the big branding plunge of creating a content strategy? Buy us a beer, we’ll chat.