These days most businesses know that brands can get free or relatively low-cost exposure to an online audience of potential clients or customers by publishing engaging content. This is content marketing in a nutshell.
What is a content strategy?
If the destination is getting more highly qualified leads (ready to buy customers) to come to your site without forking out on pay-per-click ads, then content strategy answers the question, “how do I get there?”
What are the benefits of a content strategy?
Having a well thought-out content strategy helps you get more traffic to your site and convert more leads in the most efficient way possible.
Here’s how it helps you…
Search queries are called “queries” for a reason; people are looking for answers to their questions.
Whether those questions are “how can I buy a decent budget stereo?”, “how do I dye my own hair?”, or “how do I get started with content marketing?”, success lies with one essential element…
You need to answer those questions to the user’s satisfaction. If you can do that your content will start to rise up the search engine results pages, known as “SERP” in SEO parlance.
With that said, there are other factors that go into mastering SEO, but this is the foundation on which all successful SEO techniques are built.
Know your brand identity
An effective content strategy helps you discover the USPs that you can leverage to create content that really resonates with your audience. It helps you understand how you brand is “positioned” in the market, and puts you in touch with the genuine value that you can bring to people.
Understand your audience
Content marketing is not just about attracting an audience. It’s about attracting an audience who are likely to buy-in to your brand. There are billions of internet users, but only a miniscule fraction of them are going to be the “right people” for your brand.
Marketing expert Seth Godin has a very useful approach to help people create effective marketing; he calls it starting with the minimum viable audience. This is how he describes it:
“Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.” – Seth Godin
Convert your audience into paying customers
It’s one thing to get your content in front of a viable audience, but you still need to help them make an informed purchasing decision… ideally with you!
Your content strategy will help you understand how to convert your new found audience into paying customers. This is usually by collecting leads by offering some additional value; like a weekly email newsletter packed full of helpful insights, or a social media group where users can get access to expert knowledge.
Not everyone who visits your site will be in the same place in their “customer journey” with you. Some will never have heard from you and will be heading straight to your About Page, others will be familiar with you and will be looking for contact details or for specific content. Some will be in an in-between stage.
For each piece of content you produce you should have an understanding of where in their buying journey users are likely to be and you should place appropriate “lead capture” points, like email signups or meeting calendars, that relate to where your visitors are at in their journey with your brand.
Win customer loyalty
So far we’ve seen how a content strategy can get your content in front of the right audience. But there’s another hurdle: you have to deliver on your promise to these people.
Even if you haven’t explicitly stated a promise to your audience, the very fact that you have taken the time to create content implies that you have something of value to offer. If you can consistently deliver on this you will start to win your customers over and build customer loyalty.
To do that you have to know what you’re doing. Every element of your content marketing needs to be done with deliberate intent. You need to have a clear understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing each step of the way. This is much easier if you’ve planned it out in advance.
Measure your success
A content strategy is the map that gets you to your destination. Part of this process is measuring your progess. Imagine if you went for a walk to a destination you’d never visited before but you only looked at your map once before you set off. You’d probably get lost pretty quickly.
You need a way to measure your progress and make sure you’re always progressing forwards, not backwards. To get the most out of your content strategy you need to measure how much success you have been getting and have the ability to change your strategy if it’s not generating the results you desire.
What does a content strategy look like?
Each brand should create a content strategy that is built around their own business needs and objectives.
Here is a basic outline of what your content strategy might cover:
Brand and positioning
What are our main USPs?
Who are our audience?
How do our audience consume content online?
What do we want our content to achieve?
What existing content are we competing with?
How will we differentiate our content from the content of our competitors?
Scope and delivery
- What scale and volume of content do we want to create?
- Who is going to create the content?
- How regularly will the content be published?
- Who will edit and upload the content?
- Who will have oversight of the whole process?
- Which channels will we promote our content through?
- Who will promote our content?
- Are we going to reach out to “influencers” to help reach new audiences?
- How will we know if our content strategy is working?
- Over what timeframe do we expect to see results?
- What tools will we use to measure success?
- How will we adapt our content strategy if things don’t go to plan?
If you can answer most of these questions you will have a very solid foundation for your content strategy.
Having a plan in place is important, but equally important is understanding that things rarely work in the way you expect them to. You may find you need to adapt your strategy once you start implementing it. But don’t despair if this happens, it’s a sign that you are paying close attention to your content strategy and are willing to adapt as you get a better picture of what works and what doesn’t.
Do you have a plan in place for your content marketing? How has it helped you? Let me know in the comments.