- A solid content strategy will assist your marketing strategy to help you build your business.
- This starts with knowing your goals, understanding what your efforts are measured against, and digging deep into information about your target audience.
- You should then create a flywheel to keep your audience engaged, research your competitors, perform a site audit, and select themes that will speak to your audience’s wants and needs.
- If you need help getting your content strategy off the ground, consider working with trained content experts.
A solid content marketing plan engages your audience and drives conversions, but it can be tricky to know where to start or what to include when creating one – especially when you’re new to the process. If you’ve been struggling, we’ve got you covered. Our VP of Sizzle, Jason Etter, recently shared his insights on the topic at Rutgers Business School’s MSDM Speaker Series, and we’re here to break it all down for you.
We’ll start by explaining the difference between content and marketing strategies, then dive into defining your company’s mission, target audience, and business objectives. We’ll also review the basics of creating a content flywheel that attracts talented professionals and generates leads through storytelling.
This article will cover everything you need to know to build an effective content marketing strategy. Let’s get into it.
Content strategy vs. marketing strategy
When you want to be seen online, you have to know the difference between a content strategy and a marketing strategy. Both are important for your business, but they’re not the same thing.
- A content strategy focuses on creating content that your audience wants to see or hear, like blog posts, videos, and social media posts. The goal is to keep viewers interested by giving them helpful or fun information that addresses a question or eases a pain point.
- A marketing strategy involves implementing different tactics to get people to notice your business. ads on social media, email marketing campaigns, and other ways to show off what you do, why your company is in business, and how your products or solutions can make their lives easier.
You need a marketing strategy as well as a content strategy to boost your business and increase your customer base. Knowing the difference between them is key to creating a plan that works, but there are a few things to do before diving into your content strategy.
7 steps to create an effective content strategy
If you’ve been struggling to get your company’s content strategy off the ground, here are seven key steps to make sure yours is as effective as possible:
1. Know your company’s goals
You need to know your company’s mission and goals if your content strategy is going to be effective. This means working with your leadership team to understand what you’re trying to accomplish in the short- and long-term, then mapping your content strategy to those overarching objectives.
Your organization might be looking to increase its sales pipeline by 30% year over year, for example. You need metrics like these at the forefront of your thinking to be successful in marketing and in your content strategy. Everything you do should contribute toward reaching that goal.
It’s important to note that content is just one piece of the overall marketing puzzle, albeit a substantial one. Your responsibility as a strategist is to ensure your content initiatives play an effective role in hitting your company’s business goals.
2. Understand what your efforts are measured against
You also need to track specific metrics to measure your progress. Understanding what you’re measured against will help your team build a content strategy that aligns with those goals and drives results.
For example, you might report directly to the CEO, and her expectation might be to increase inbound lead flow by 35% over the next six months. A content strategist will then start with the end in mind and work backward toward an increase in leads.
Another example might involve the return on investment (ROI) of an event strategy. An organization that spends heavily on live events but must have a clear understanding of the assets, deliverables, and other elements that go into such events to track the ROI. Even if the answer is “zero,” setting these baseline numbers is the only way to begin measuring what success looks like.
You want to avoid spending too much time on vanity metrics that are easy to focus on but that don’t necessarily move the business-goals needle, however. You won’t see much progress if you're looking to increase lead flow but are only measuring site traffic, for example.
Instead, decide what you want to achieve, then work backward to uncover the journey that a user visiting your digital presence must take to go from zero to lead. This will make it easier to identify the metrics you should be tracking to gauge success.
3. Dig deep into your target audience
You need to know your audience if you’re going to create content it will like and want to consume. This means:
- Researching your audience through surveys, interviews, and focus groups to find out what your viewers need, want, and desire
- Identifying key demographics such as age, gender, location, education level, and job title to create a persona that represents your audience
- Determining important psychographics such as personality traits, values, interests, and hobbies to create a persona that reflects your audience’s motivations and preferences
- Identifying behavior and lifestyle patterns, including your audience’s habits, what they do, and where they spend your time
You can use this information to create a persona that represents your ideal customer. This should then guide your efforts to make sure your content resonates with your audience and meets their needs.
4. Create a flywheel
A flywheel is an important tool in your content strategy because it’s designed to generate traffic, engagement, leads, and ultimately drives business results. Creating a flywheel is thus an invaluable exercise.
A flywheel typically consists of several stages that match up with a buyer’s journey:
- Awareness: when a potential customer is made aware of your brand and its offerings, typically through an internet search or word-of-mouth referral
- Consideration: when the potential customer begins researching your company and digging deeper into how you operate, and might also include comparing your offerings to those from your competitors
- Decision-making: when the potential customer decides to buy from you and makes the transition from potential customer to customer
- Customer advocacy: when your new customer is proud to share about their good experience and promotes your brand through testimonials, product reviews, referrals, and repeat business
The flywheel should map to your business goals, which requires identifying the specific actions your audience must take to move from one stage to the next. You should plan to create different types of content for each goal and to engage your audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Here are some examples to add to your content strategy:
- To generate awareness: Create high-quality blog posts, social media posts, videos, or podcasts that are informative, interesting, and shareable to attract and engage your audience. This helps generate awareness by addressing the specific pain points the audience is experiencing and searching for.
- To build consideration: Create content that helps your audience evaluate your brand and products. This could include product demos, case studies, or comparison guides that showcase the unique value of your offerings.
- To drive a decision: Create content such as calls to action, testimonials, or limited-time offers that encourage your audience to take action, such as signing up for a trial, making a purchase, or booking a consultation.
- To create customer advocacy: Create content that fosters a sense of community and encourages customers to share their positive experiences with others. This could include user-generated content, social media campaigns, or referral programs.
To create a flywheel that works with your company goals and target audiences:
- Identify your company’s mission and goals.
- Define your target audience by creating buyer personas.
- Map your flywheel by determining how you will convert your target audience into customers through the four stages.
- Identify the channels, conversations, and assets needed to facilitate each phase of the flywheel and achieve your company’s goals.
- Use your understanding of your target audience and flywheel to identify the products or services that will best meet their needs and drive them to purchase or become customers.
- Measure success against your company’s goals, use analytics and track data to monitor overall effectiveness, and adjust your content strategy as needed.
Take your time when setting up your flywheel. You can always make adjustments to make it more effective, but be sure you’re setting it up for success from the start.
5. Research your competitors
You need to understand your audience to create a successful content strategy, but you also need to know what your competitors are doing – even if you think your organization is unique. Looking into what similar organizations are doing can give you ideas for your own content and better help you understand your market.
You can use tools like SimilarWeb to analyze other brands’ digital presence, including their website traffic and overall online activity. Free tools like Ubersuggest and Google Trends can also help you research popular keywords and topics among your competitors.
Pay attention to your competitors’ websites, messaging, and the actions they want their audiences to take. Make notes on what you like and think about how to use similar ideas for your company’s content strategy.
6. Perform a website audit
You should also check your website’s performance with a site audit. This means comparing it to your competitors’ sites, checking how easy yours is to use, and making improvements. Here’s why:
- Doing this can help you get more attention online and show up higher in search results.
- Your site audit might uncover that your website doesn’t have the right keywords, making it harder for people to find you.
- You might also realize that your website doesn’t speak to the right audience. Understanding what your audience wants and needs allows you to give them what they’re looking for.
Your website also needs to work well. If you’re promoting an event or asking people to sign up for something, it has to be easy for them to take the necessary actions. Testing your website can help you find problems – such as broken buttons or mistakes – that might stop people from using it.
7. Develop themes
Once you know your goals, measurements, target audience, and position within the flywheel, it’s time to develop your content themes. Here are a few things to know:
- Several tools can help you develop content themes, such as ChatGPT and Jasper.ai.
- You should also do keyword research. Identify the keywords your competitors rank high for and strategize how to create your own content around them.
- Determine which content topics are missing and which you already have in place, then use this information to develop a comprehensive campaign.
Keep in mind that it’s crucial to engage with your actual customers. Take the opportunity to talk to them and ask why they signed up, how they discovered you, and their experience so far. This feedback can be valuable for generating case studies and testimonials, as well as fostering customer advocacy.
Analyze, optimize, repeat
Combining insights from competitor research, keyword analysis, and customer conversations allows you to develop content themes that align with your goals and resonate with your target audience. This will provide a solid foundation for creating engaging content that drives your content strategy forward.
The tips above can help you create a comprehensive content marketing plan that resonates with your audience and meets your company's goals. A successful content strategy requires ongoing review, optimization, and evolution, though. Your content’s value lies in the relationships it creates. Using data and analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of your approach can help you adjust your content marketing efforts and drive better results.
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