A savvy entrepreneur knows that a content strategy is essential for a successful business. Without a smart strategy in place, content won’t grow your brand or generate online leads.
Mediocre content will lower your rank in search results aside from failing to engage your audience. Google prioritises relevant and comprehensive content rather than 400-word articles that were mindlessly created to fill an online void precisely because the former is more likely to satisfy your audience’s concerns.
Studies show that content strategies work and increase the chances of brand success. In 2020, 79% of B2B marketers have a content strategy in place. And 85% of marketers rated the overall content success of their business in the last year as extremely, very, or moderately successful.
This is impressive considering the challenges many businesses faced at the peak of the pandemic last year. It shows that even if marketers had to tweak or revise elements in their content strategy, having one in place factored in their brand growth.
What is a content strategy?
Content strategy shouldn’t be confused with content marketing. The two complement each other, but they’re different concepts.
Content strategy is the guide to everything you create. It is the research and planning required to produce an effective content marketing campaign. Content marketing is the implementation of said strategy. It’s the creation and distribution of compelling content such as blogs, podcasts, and videos.
They fuel each other because content strategy is the foundation of your content marketing, while content marketing shows what’s working and what needs improvement in your strategy.
Because of its scope, content strategy underpins and supports wider marketing goals within a business.
It helps you identify your marketing and content goals. It pinpoints your target audience and the kinds of content ideas you need to develop. And it shows who and how many people you need on the team to carry out your strategy.
An effective strategy involves long-term implementation of specific steps to ensure success.
7 steps to developing a content strategy
Here’s a step-by-step guide to developing your own content strategy.
1. Know your end goals
Defining your goals helps you visualise the direction you need to take in order to achieve them. Without end goals, your content will be incoherent, repetitive, and aimless.
Establishing this involves focusing on three factors:
Marketing goals: Do you want to increase brand awareness and/or generate online leads? Do you want to reach a new audience?
Content goals: How do you want to engage your audience with content? Will it be educational, entertaining, or thought-provoking?
Your products and services: What are the pain points that your products/services solve? What’s the best kind of content to market them?
Knowing your goals will give you clear and cohesive objectives as you move on to making meaningful content.
2. Understand and assess your competitors
The best way to learn from your competitors is finding out what content they’re creating and publishing.
Visit their website and social media then assess which content results in the most engagement and which needs improvement. If your competitor is primarily creating long-form articles, it indicates that their target customer (and by extension, your target customer) prefers engaging with this type of content.
This doesn’t mean you should replicate their content though. It just pushes you towards new opportunities in content creation within your industry. Knowing what your competitors have already done aids you in creating relevant and unique content.
3. Decide what medium to use
After studying the market and your ideal customer, consider the types of content you need to make.
Most content strategies rely on a central medium of content, which can then be shared and repurposed on other channels. Content can only grow a brand and be a lead-generating tool if you know the best medium that will engage with your customers.
Here are some content styles for three popular mediums:
Your Hero’s Journey: This uses inspirational or motivational articles that introduces you as the business owner to your audience. It subtly incorporates the marketing fundamentals into a narrative. Your Hero’s Journey is about great stories that humanise you and your brand to connect with your ideal customer.
SEO Keyword: According to SEO professionals, one of the top trends for online content is focusing on user and search intent. Google is constantly learning how to index high quality content that will most likely satisfy search engine users. Knowing how to write compelling content that balances SEO requirements increases traffic and visibility to your brand.
Branded story: Although this content style focuses more on your brand than your customer, a branded story can be a subtle yet effective tool. A great branded story allows you to control how your ideal customer perceives and engages with your business.
Branded podcasts: Creating podcasts is a long-term strategic commitment that, if done right, will have tremendous impact for a fraction of your marketing budget. It builds your brand authority and your audience reach. While you can subtly mention your brand, each episode focuses on specific subjects that leaves your listeners wanting more.
Storytelling podcasts: Delivering a meaningful story through this medium builds a following and allows your content to thrive. It features a narrative with storytelling elements (e.g. characters, setting, conflict, conclusion, etc.) using impactful scripting, clean editing, and music and effects.
Interview/panel discussions: This type of podcast encourages conversation about specific topics within your industry. It invites your listeners to ask questions or contribute new ideas regarding the subject, which then builds a deeper connection to your brand.
Branded storytelling videos: This content style doesn’t directly advertise your brand or your products/services. Rather, it captures your audience’s attention and motivates them to follow your brand with powerful visuals and great storytelling.
Customer case studies and testimonials: Potential customers are more likely to choose your brand if there’s social proof that you’re the best at what you do. Case studies and testimonials allow you to control who to feature on the videos and how to showcase their positive reviews.
Social media videos and scripting: Brands gain the best ROI for video content by consistently using videos across social media platforms. Creating content for your social media feed generates shares to a wider audience and drives traffic back to your website.
Which medium fits the needs of your brand? Is it one or a targeted combination of all three? Knowing your medium will keep your content strategy focused.
4. Repurpose content for other opportunities
Repurposing content maximises the life of your published content. Because a published piece already contains the core data and research materials, you can rework it for different platforms and different purposes. This includes reaching a wider audience through social media, capitalising an article that’s already performing well, or revamping outdated content.
There are numerous ways to repurpose content. You can republish your best articles on your website to find a new audience or feature it on guest posting spots to spread brand awareness and establish backlinks. You can transform articles into podcasts or videos to engage a bigger audience. You can also use social media graphics to highlight the main points of your published content via infographics.
5. Build a backlog of engaging or educational ideas you can create content around
A content backlog is a list of ideas you and your team draw content from. While the best marketing decisions are rarely impulsive, it’s best to keep your backlog for a maximum of six months. Unexpected events or situations (just think COVID-19) can cause you to revise or completely overhaul a line-up of ideas. A six-month strategy ensures your content is relevant and updated.
There are four factors to consider when creating a backlog of ideas. First, review your SEO keywords and assess how that can increase traffic to your brand. Second, study your customers and the kind of content they prefer engaging with. Third, talk to key figures within your industry and draw inspiration from their stories. And lastly, identify the pain points your products or services solve.
Having a backlog of content gives you an overview of the themes, stories, and content styles to focus on and tie in together. This makes your content engaging and easy to read.
6. Create a content strategy calendar to keep everybody on the same timeline and goals
A content strategy calendar is the plan of action for all the work you did in the previous steps. Having a content management board and editorial deadlines assist you in posting content consistently.
There are several ways to create a calendar. But these five steps ensure that yours is efficient and organised.
- Itemise the content that needs to be created into a project management platform.
- Include important details per theme, topic, and style (e.g. links, to-do lists, etc.).
- Include guides on content creation and recommendations so that your content meets Google and social media requirements.
- Schedule posts from concept to delivery (content creation to publication).
- Arrange content by status (ideas being developed, in progress, content review, approval, and completion).
The calendar makes it easier for you and your team to review and update content and align goals and deadlines for the ideas you develop.
7. Monitor and review posts to judge what works best
Lastly, evaluate the success of your strategy. Go back to your end goals—see if you’re achieving them, or if you’ve changed any of your objectives in the course of creating content.
Tools like Google Analytics and SEMrush also identify how your content is performing in search engines. Social media analytic tools like BuzzSumo show the social sharing activity of your content in different platforms.
Monitoring your progress allows you to assess which areas are high-performing and which need improvement. Regularly reviewing your content strategy and revising it as needed ensures that your content is always updated.
A content strategy is like a business plan. It’s the foundation to your brand’s success. It’s a guide to creating relevant and focused content that ultimately helps achieve your brand’s business goals.
Content without strategy just fills online space and doesn’t benefit your audience. But a business owner who wants their content to be a lead-generating machine understands the importance of creating a content strategy first.