Laying out a strategy probably isn’t your favorite thing to do on a Thursday morning. However, it is extremely important to the success and longevity of your company.
If you’re creating content for your business, then this is the perfect article for you!
(If you’re not creating content for your business… it’s 2019. There’s no excuse anymore!)
In this article: How to develop a content marketing strategy, and why it’s important.
Why create a content marketing strategy?
Why you create a strategy around your content should be clear. A good strategy creates clarity!
It ensures you have everything ordered and in the right place. Everyone will know what they need to do and you can follow your business’s goals with more conviction.
It’s hard to get everyone within a company on the same page. Learning how to develop a content strategy helps you achieve this.
On top of this, it will also make the day-to-day work a lot easier to complete, as it gives guidelines on how work should be completed.
How will a content strategy help my business?
This is probably the first question that pops up in your mind.
It’s not directly selling anything; it doesn’t influence my bottom line in the same way that sales does, and it doesn’t save me money either!
In fact, it costs time and money to do it right!
“Why on earth would I want to put so much effort into something that doesn’t influence my sales straight away?
Wouldn’t it be better to put my money into PPC advertising or hiring another sales agent?”
There are a few important (and often overlooked) things that a content marketing strategy does for your business.
A solid content marketing strategy improves the strength of your brand.
“But isn’t branding old school? Isn’t it all about Facebook ads, PPC and social media?”
Of course not!
A solid brand stands the test of time.
As you have probably seen when running your PPC ads… They don’t!
They’re okay to get some initial clients coming in the door, but it’s not something you should build your business on.
A winning content strategy increases your company’s visibility.
Your ideal client’s attention is always aimed at something. You know, those clients who pay you more money for the work you do. Those clients who don’t complain all the time and the ones who appreciate your work.
They are looking at something right now. Their attention is aimed at something other than your business!
There’s a big chance that their attention is pointed to some kind of online channel.
You can’t sell without being seen!
· A solid content marketing strategy gets clients to buy more often and at higher price points
You’re probably wondering how this can be true. Well, it’s easy to explain, really.
Building trust with a client isn’t easy, but it’s easy to break! Once broken, they have to be very desperate to come back to you. Ever.
Pretty much every market is flooded with alternative options. The chances that your target audience is desperate is slim.
A good content strategy will help you gain trust. Trust means clients buy quicker, as the barrier to entry is much lower. It will also lead to an increase in the amount clients are comfortable spending with you.
More important benefits of developing a content marketing strategy are:
- It gives you more of an opportunity to speak to your clients.
- You get more control of the market you operate in and the way it progresses.
- It educates your clients about your product/service and therefore improves churn-rates (the time a client stays on for) and return-rates.
- You receive massive SEO benefits.
- It helps you build new relationships, not only with clients but with suppliers and industry leaders too.
- I could go on for ever….
If you weren’t convinced before reading this, you should be now!
What is a content strategy?
Let’s break it down.
Content is a vague word. Here, it means everything of value you give to your audience. Something that’s not of value could still be classed as content, but let’s not go down that road, too many people already do…
Things included as content are:
- Website content
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Voice recordings
Etc. You get the point.
Strategy isn’t so vague, but many people throw the term about without knowing the meaning of the word.
The Cambridge English Dictionary says that strategy is:
“a detailed plan for achieving success in situations such as war, politics, business, industry, or sport, or the skill of planning for such situations”
I’d say it’s pretty close, but this doesn’t quite cover it (but that’s for a different post).
So, content strategy, or content marketing strategy as it is also called, is the strategy you use to create, deliver and refine your content.
If you do this in an organized fashion, this results in a content marketing plan.
This plan then guides your business on its way to achieving its goals.
Content planning structures
In marketing and business, there are many planning models. It can get very overwhelming if you’re unsure which one to use.
No fear though!
This post covers the most popular strategic planning model for you to use when creating your content strategy.
Why do we use planning models?
Brains are often compared to computers, so we will stick with this analogy. There are a few reasons we use planning models…
- Syntax errors are not uncommon in our minds. “404 – page not found” is an error that is probably all too familiar. In other words, we forget things, and planning structures help us to cover all aspects thoroughly.
- The other is, it saves us time. It’s real-world browser- and server caching in action! If we didn’t use these models, we would have to strategize on the structure of the strategic plan first, and then start implementing the strategy… Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?
Even though this planning structure sounds like a children’s game or a new coffee at Starbucks, we’re using it none the less!
Using the SOSTAC planning structure for developing a content strategy
We use SOSTAC for all types of planning, especially in marketing. However, a content strategy plan will look different than a social media marketing plan or an SEO strategy.
How can the same planning structure lead to different plans?
Each step differs depending on the plan.
SOSTAC stands for:
- Situation analysis
Where are you now? Who are your competitors? Who are you targeting? What are you doing? Who are you…?
- Objectives (and goals)
What do you want to achieve? When do you want to achieve this? How are you going to measure this? Is this realistic?
How will you ensure your long-term goals are met?
How will you ensure your short-term and mid-term goals are met?
What are you going to do day-by-day to make this happen?
When are you going to review your progress? How are you going to review it?
Then, you will learn how to package it all together into a useful document. There’s no use to having a content strategy if it’s just sitting around collecting dust.
We will walk through each step now. By the time you are done with each step, you will have a rock-solid content marketing strategy!
How to develop a content marketing strategy, step-by-step
We will assume that you already have a marketing plan, so I won’t repeat things you can copy from there. If you don’t have a marketing plan, create one before moving on to creating your content marketing strategy!
Step 1: Situation analysis
The first step is to analyze the current situation. Your content marketing strategy needs to support your overall company and marketing goals, so this is where we start.
- List all your strategic business and marketing goals
- Your brand’s USP
- Your business’s mission and vision statements
This should be simple copy-paste work.
Once you have this listed, there are three things you still need to do. You should have most of the information already, but I’ll cover each one briefly, focussed on your content marketing strategy.
A few things to think about with your customer research are:
- Where are your clients currently consuming content?
- What kind of content do they find interesting?
- What problems do they have related to your product/service?
- Does your target audience favor a certain voice or tone? Which brand voices and tones do they prefer?
- What social media channels does your target audience use?
- What is your target audience searching for on Google?
- What kind of content do competitors create?
- What content performs well and what doesn’t perform as well?
- Is there anything that your competitors aren’t doing that you could be?
- How strong is the competition on different channels?
- What channels are they using?
- What content do we currently have?
- What channels do we use to push our content out?
- How is this content performing?
- Where can we improve?
- What are our opportunities?
- What are our strengths?
Now that you have a decent knowledge of your current position, it’s time to move on to the next part of developing your content marketing strategy plan.
Step 2: Goals and Objectives
You need specific goals that you want your content marketing efforts to achieve. We should base these around your current position and where you want to be in the future.
Try to think of some channel-specific goals, as well as overall goals.
Think of quantitative goals and qualitative goals.
Make sure your content marketing goals support your overall marketing goals and strategy well. It all has to line up.
This is also the reason it’s best to keep your plans and strategies simple.
If there’s one thing worse than a huge 30-page marketing plan, it’s five of them!
***************More on goal setting in marketing in this post****************
Step 3: Strategy
Next is your content marketing strategy. Here it gets a little more specific, so I will go into a little more detail.
Your content strategy answers the question of what road you need to take to reach your content marketing goals.
Some things included are:
- Brand tone and brand voice
- Brand Persona
- Content style guide
Developing your content marketing strategy focuses on the higher level. You cover the channels and channel-specific actions in the tactics and actions section of this content marketing plan.
Luckily, I’ve already covered most of the important parts of this level of your content marketing plan in other blog posts. If they’re not on this site, then there’s sure to be an article on each topic on Google!
This guide would get far too long if I were to go into detail on each subtopic.
Step 4: Tactics
Now we get into the more specific and shorter-term content marketing plan. In the tactics section, we specify what channels we use to push content out on, and what kind of content we’ll be creating.
The first part of this is deciding which channels you will use to communicate with your target audience. This could be social media channels, but also things like email marketing and flyer distribution.
It should include everything that includes communication between your company and the outside world.
Using your research, you specify what kind of content to create for each channel. Make sure each channel has a clear purpose and goal. Without clarity on why you are using a specific communication channel, you may waste your company’s resources.
Tip: Make sure you plan the content and channels out using your buyer personas and your target audience’s buying cycles.
If you know the content on social media tailors to the earlier steps in the buying cycle, then there’s no point in filling it with sales messages!
Step 5: Actions
Now we come to the actions. Personally, I find it easiest to work with 90-day plans. These 90-day plans merge into your 90-day social media plans or email marketing plans. You shouldn’t be creating two 90-day plans for the same topic!
Your 90-day content marketing plans ARE your 90-day plans for each marketing channel.
This makes the “actions” part of your content marketing plan easy and quick to complete. You simply add your content style guide, as well as the other information you have in this document, and incorporate it into your normal day-to-day action plans.
- Narrowing down the content you post on your social media channels
- Cutting out or adding onto the communication channels you use
- Sending your brand style guide out to the people responsible for email marketing
Step 6: Control
This part is very important in developing your content marketing strategy. Since your content marketing strategy merges into your channel-specific strategies, regular review and measuring is even more vital.
Establishing solid KPIs is really important too. Without KPIs being clear, you can lose sight of how you are progressing.
Make sure you plan a date every month or every three months (whatever you feel is best) to review how your content marketing is doing.
This is vital to ensure you aren’t wasting your company’s resources on the wrong parts of your content marketing strategy.
The KPIs you set when creating this content marketing plan are covered here. Do you have all the tools in place to measure your results? Are you measuring the right things?
You will review these things during your regular review.
This review will help you adapt your content marketing strategy as you see trends developing. If certain channels lack behind, it may be time to cut them off. On the contrary, if there are channels performing well, it may be time to double down on them!
Now that you have your content marketing strategy neatly stored in a content marketing plan, you are ready to implement it!
For the implementation, make sure the document you use is easy to read and now too long. Cut out anything that you’ve planned twice, as we discussed with the 90-day plans. This will prevent information overload or confusion.
Your content marketing strategy should be clear, yet the implementation of it should be channel-specific, and thus, planned accordingly.
Some content marketing strategy tips:
- If you’re not a large organization, keep it simple!
If you’re a one-man-band, or you only have limited employees, keep your strategy simple. This isn’t only regarding your content marketing plan, but your other strategy plans, too!
- Be clear and concise
Write in easy-to-understand language and cut your sentences down to the bare minimum when writing your content marketing plan or edit it after writing.
Doing this can turn your 4-page long strategy guide into a 1-page leaflet. The leaflet will be a lot more effective!
- Let the questions flow
When creating your content marketing strategy, make sure you question everything as much as you can.
The more questions you ask, the clearer your plan will become. On top of this, asking the right (critical) questions can be the difference between a clear, concise and thorough content strategy, and a book that confuses you more than it clarifies anything.
Developing a content marketing strategy and content plan can be tough; this is especially true for creating a clear brand tone and voice. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’re in a much better position to create a winning content marketing strategy for your organization.
Content is king, make sure you serve the crown!