Everything You Need to Know About Content Strategy
When you hear that term, you may be thinking of a boring corporate meeting:
Jim, get me that content strategy for our new product line for Q3 by the end of the week.
But content strategy doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, you should be excited about your strategy.
It’s not only about what you create, where you create it, who you market it to — and the (hopefully fantastic) results for your business. But it’s also about why you create it, who you’re trying to help, and how your content can change their lives for the better.
Without a content strategy, you and your team could put in lots of effort that simply doesn’t pay off. Or worse: You might create amazing content that simply gets no attention at all.
You might even have one incredible piece of content that goes viral and no way of capitalizing on it.
With the right content strategy in place, you’ll be able to grow your business by reaching new prospects, turning prospects into customers, getting existing customers to buy more, and even getting customers and fans to spread your message further.
Sounds a bit more interesting now?
We’ll be taking a closer look at how to build a content strategy — but first, let’s dig into the term itself.
What is Content Strategy?
Your content strategy is a plan that explains how you plan to use content (including text, images, videos, and more) to reach your goals as a business.
Your content strategy will cover things like:
- Who your target audience is for your content (hint: this should almost always be the same as your target audience for your products/services)
- The types of content you plan to create
- Where you’ll publish your content
- When you’ll publish your content
The first of these, your target audience, is foundational to your whole content strategy. There’s no point deciding that you’ll create infographics and publish them on Facebook every Monday morning if your target audience is much more likely to see videos published on TikTok on Friday afternoons.
Need help on this point? Check out our post on empathy mapping for understanding who your target audience is and how you can best speak to them.
Your content strategy should be closely aligned with your brand strategy. In fact, if you’ve already created a brand strategy, you’ve done some of the crucial work of developing a content strategy, too — most importantly, you’ve defined your target audience.
How Can Content Strategy Benefit My Business?
Your content strategy is important at every stage of your business.
Let’s say, early on, your goal is to get just 50 people onto your email list. That might be a small goal … but it’s still one you can achieve more quickly with a good plan for your content.
As your business grows and you create online courses to sell, perhaps your goal is to make $5,000 a month. If you double your number of leads, you could double the number of people who sign up for your courses — so your content strategy could be focused on bringing in new leads.
Your content strategy also saves you from spending your time and money on the wrong things.
You don’t want to invest hours in creating an “Ultimate Guide” for your website that’s all wrong for your target audience.
And you definitely don’t want to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for professional-quality video content if no one in your target audience is going to watch it.
Instead, you want to invest your resources in creating content that’s going to resonate with your target audience — and that will get them to take the actions that help you reach your business goals.
How to Create a Content Strategy
Now that we’ve defined the what, let’s dive in to the 6 steps to creating an amazing content strategy.
Your content strategy doesn’t necessarily need to be a handbook of information. It might be a quick set of bullet points, especially when you’re just starting out. Anything is better than nothing!
Here are the steps to follow to create your initial content strategy:
Step 1. Get Clear About Your Target Audience
The first stage of creating your content strategy involves clearly defining your target audience.
You’ll want to consider demographics, like age, gender, and income level.
It’s also important to think about psychographics, like aspirations, values, and interests.
One huge way businesses get this wrong is to have a very broad target audience, like “women aged 20-60 in the U.S.” You need to narrow it down much further.
A great way to do this is to create a customer avatar: an imaginary person who can serve as your “best” customer.
For instance, let’s say you run a business selling eco-friendly household products.
Your customer avatar might be Julia, aged 45, a busy working mom with 2 teenagers who juggles taking care of a large house in the suburbs with excelling at a job and raising her kids. She wants to make more eco-friendly choices but is very short on time.
Can you see how you’ll create very different content for Julia than for 22-year-old Poppy, fresh out of college and not knowing where to begin on keeping her tiny rental clean?
This is why customer avatars matter. The beginner-friendly tips for Poppy (and the way you present them) won’t interest Julia.
Tip: With a narrow target audience, you’re not closing off your business to people who are outside that audience. You’re just aiming all your content squarely at your target audience — so everyone knows what to expect from you. Your company can, and will, get customers who don’t fit your core demographic.
Step 2. Find Out What Types of Content Your Ideal Customer Engages With
Does your ideal customer love to settle down with a coffee to watch an in-depth video? Or do they spend most of their time flicking through Instagram posts to get inspired?
Maybe they enjoy detailed blog posts, or they want quick visual facts in an infographic.
Your content strategy needs to revolve around the types of content that your ideal customer enjoys.
Not sure what they like?
Spend some time hanging out on the social media sites, blogs, or other online areas where you think your ideal customer is most likely to be. See what types of content are getting lots of likes, shares, and comments.
If you’ve already produced plenty of content of your own, dig into your analytics to see what’s performing well.
That doesn’t just mean looking at what’s most popular — it also means seeing what content is converting well. That way, you know it’s bringing in customers.
If you’re still not sure what best to do, plan to create a wide range of types of content, and analyze these carefully as you go along. You can then tweak your content strategy accordingly.
Step 3. Look at Your Business Goals — and See How Your Content Can Help You Achieve Them
You probably already have some business goals for the months, or even years, ahead.
Your content strategy should feed into these goals. If it doesn’t, there’s not much point in having a content strategy at all!
Let’s say your main goal is to grow your newsletter list. Even if your conversion rate doesn’t improve at all, simply getting more people onto your list should grow your sales.
You’ll want to create content that has one clear purpose: getting more people onto your list.
That doesn’t mean just creating one piece, or even one type, of content. Instead, you’ll want a range of content that can work together.
For instance, you might create:
- An eBook or other lead magnet to offer as a sign-up incentive. This is a big, valuable piece of content that you’re going to give away in exchange for potential customers’ email addresses.
- Guest posts on popular blogs in your niche to promote your lead magnet. You might write about topics related to your lead magnet, then link to it in the body of your guest post or in your bio.
- Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, and so on about your lead magnet. These could include short excerpts, key tips, or anything else that might encourage your ideal customers to sign up to receive it. You could also take screenshots or create a very short video showing off your lead magnet.
- A landing page for your newsletter where you include short testimonials from people who are finding it useful, or who liked your lead magnet.
- A Facebook Live or other live video where you share some information from your lead magnet or from your email newsletter content, and let people know where they can sign up.
All these — very different — types of content have one aim. They’re all designed to get more people onto your newsletter list.
Step 4. Decide Where — and When — to Best Publish Your Content
Where should you publish your content?
You’ve probably already started thinking about this when deciding what types of content to create or when thinking about your goals.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll want to publish all your content in one place. Instead, you’ll spread it out across different locations, to meet your ideal customers wherever they are.
You’ll want to include:
- Your own website. This is where you’ll publish landing pages and sales pages, as well as content like blog posts or company news.
- Your social media pages. These are great for shorter pieces of content, especially content that you’re hoping will get shared a lot.
- YouTube, if you’re creating any video content at all. Even if you’re going to publish the videos on your website as well, you’ll want to host them on YouTube then embed them on your website. This also prevents you from running up a huge bill with your web host, if your videos take off and use up a lot of bandwidth.
- Posting on third-party websites. Look for large websites or blogs in your niche, where you can reach a larger audience than on your own site. Another good option is Medium, where you may find your content gets readers much more easily than on your own website.
As well as thinking about where to publish content, you want to consider when best to publish it.
When is your ideal customer online? When are they most likely to not only see your content but have the time and inclination to interact with it?
If you’re not sure, experiment with publishing content at different times of the day and week.
Look for any patterns or trends — e.g. perhaps your content does much better on weekends than weekdays, or vice versa.
When figuring out what time of day to publish, think when your ideal customer is most likely to be looking at their phone or sitting in front of their computer with the time to browse your content.
For students, that might be 4 p.m., after school or college. For busy parents, it might be 8 p.m., after the kids are in bed.
Step 5. Pin Down the Tone and Style That Will Work Best for Your Content
Some brands produce breezy, irreverent content that does brilliantly on social media.
Other brands are known for their thoughtful, well-researched content that attracts lots of links from blogs and news sites in their niche.
You need to figure out the right tone and style for your content. This is especially important if you’ll have a team working on content, or if you’ll be outsourcing it to freelancers.
If you’re not sure about tone and style, it’s a good idea to start by thinking about what you don’t want.
Take a look at other content from brands in your niche. Is there anything that definitely doesn’t feel like a good fit for your brand? Is there anything you’d do differently or offer a unique twist on?
Collect examples of different content to showcase the type of tone and style you want. Try to include different mediums, such as short tweets, longer articles or blog posts, images, and video content.
Your tone and style will also be strongly influenced by your brand strategy and your positioning in the market. You’ll want to make sure they’re consistent across different areas of your brand — not just in your content, but in your media appearances, customer service interactions, and so on.
Step 6. Put All This Together Into a Basic Content Strategy
Now that you’ve gone through the previous 4 steps, it’s time to bring everything together.
Create a content strategy framework (also called a content strategy document) that outlines:
- What your key goal is with your content, during the next quarter.
- Who your “ideal customer” is, with lots of details and/or examples.
- What major pieces of content you plan to create to support this, such as a lead magnet or in-depth blog post.
- A publication schedule for smaller pieces of content, including when and where they’ll be going out.
- Examples of the tone/style of your content, both written and visual — and examples of what not to do.
This doesn’t need to be a long or complicated document, especially when you’re just getting started with creating a content strategy. It might be a single-page Google Doc or a simple slideshow.
As you try out new things and develop your content strategy, you can add more detail. Be careful not to make it so complex that people end up ignoring it or skimming over key information.
You’ll also want to get real-world feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. This means carefully analyzing your results from different types of content — not simply looking at the number of likes or shares your content received, but digging into the content that has moved you demonstrably closer to your goals.
FAQs About Content Strategy
Still got questions about content strategy? Here are the answers you need.
What’s the Difference Between Content Strategy and Brand Strategy?
Your content strategy will be closely linked to your brand strategy, but with a different scope and focus.
Your content strategy is all about the content you put out there. But your brand strategy encompasses other elements of your business, like your website design, your approach to customer service, and even things as fundamental as your company name.
What is the Role of a Content Strategist?
Not confident creating a content strategy? You could bring in a content strategist to help out. They’ll do all the tasks we’ve discussed in this article and make recommendations on types of content, times and days to post, platforms to use, and so on.
Ultimately, of course, the final say over your business’ content strategy belongs with you.
What is a Content Roadmap?
A content roadmap is designed to help you implement your content strategy, normally by assigning the creation of different pieces of content to different dates.
It lets you stay on track and juggle the creation and promotion of lots of different blog posts, social media posts, videos, and more.
Going Further With Your Content Strategy
Hopefully, you’re now clear on what content strategy is and why you need it.
Your content strategy should be closely linked to your brand strategy — so if you don’t have a brand strategy yet, make sure you check out our guide on creating an effective brand strategy.
What if you’ve figured out who your target audience is and your brand is definitely off-course? Or what if the broader market has changed, and you feel that your brand isn’t keeping up?
You can always rebrand — and we have lots of tips on how to do that (plus what not to do!) in our ultimate guide to rebranding.
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