It’s the time of year where we’re all looking at 2019 and starting to make plans and set goals. But here’s what you don’t want to do in that process — create a content marketing plan that doesn’t include a true strategy. You need a content strategy to ensure that all of your content gets results, and now’s the time to commit to developing a content strategy for 2019.
Whether you’ve created a content strategy in the past or you’ve never ever created one, it doesn’t matter. With each new set of goals, you need a new content strategy that helps map out how to make them happen. Otherwise, you’re going to be like me and my husband bickering on the Interstate in Orlando at 11 p.m. because you only sort of know where you’re going.
What’s a Content Strategy?
A content strategy is a framework for your content. It’s not an editorial calendar, list of blog posts, or a social media schedule — it goes much deeper.
Ultimately, a content strategy is a way to guide your content development and do it in a way that matches up with your company’s mission and business goals. Most importantly, your content strategy helps ensure your content is actually useful to your audience.
If you’re relying on content marketing to attract customers and to nurture them into doing business with you, you can’t afford not to have a content strategy. If you’re not convinced you, your team, or your company need a content strategy, consider this list of signs that a content strategy is needed:
- You’re not really sure how your content supports the overall marketing and sales plan, let alone the company’s overall goals.
- The customer journey and experience is unclear, and you’re not really sure how your content drives them to purchase. You’re not confident as to what the top of funnel, middle of funnel, or bottom of funnel looks like with your content and how that impacts the customer journey.
- You constantly feel like you and your team are trying on new ideas, concepts, voices, tones, and styles in an effort to find one that fits well. As a result, your content marketing lacks consistency and cohesion.
- Blogging, social, email and other content marketing initiatives feel like they’re last minute and the quality of what you’re creating suffers as a result. You know you can do better to serve your audience.
If any of these are true for you, don’t worry! Each and every one of these challenges can be fixed by having a content strategy, so you’ve got a clear game plan for all of your content marketing efforts.
A Content Marketing Institute study found that 62% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 16% of the least successful.
Without a plan, you’re selling your content marketing program short and wasting valuable time on strategies and tactics that don’t serve your customers or the bottom line.
The 5 Essentials Elements of a Content Strategy
To develop a content strategy so there’s a master plan on what content to create, what you’re going to say, and most importantly, how it connects back to overall marketing, sales, and company goals, here’s how to get started.
A content strategy should include these five essential elements:
#1. Establish Your Goals
When creating goals for your content strategy, you need to take the time to define, in detail, what your goals are. Start by asking why you want to create content and what bigger goals that content is designed to support.
Many times, content strategy is designed in a way that the goal is to increase sales without considering what that really means. Are you looking to create awareness and be found by the right people? Do you need to build an engaged audience who will consider your products? Or maybe you need to increase loyalty with your existing customers?
By drilling down into these goals, you’ll be better able to align the rest of your content strategy to support specific outcomes and be in a position to define how you’ll measure success. To determine awareness, you’d want to measure traffic or social shares while for sales you may look at a metric such as lead to conversion rate.
#2. Create Buyer Personas and Map the Customer’s Journey
Now that you know what the exact goals are of the content strategy, you can focus on determining your audience. With these buyer personas, you’ll be able to create the content that’s relevant to their needs and drive them into action.
In creating buyer personas, learn directly from your existing customers and conduct market research. Avoid making assumptions about what your audience is thinking, feeling, experiencing, or desiring, as you’ll miss critical insights that can make or break your content marketing.
If you have existing buyer personas, as you create your 2019 content strategy, take some time to dust off what you have and make updates based on what you’ve learned in the last year. You may find that you need to focus on a new audience or adjust your strategy to reach an existing one.
With a deeper understanding of who your buyers are, you can then map the customer’s journey, which are the steps they take from the time they discover your brand to when they do business with you.
Typically, you want to understand what’s happening at these three stages in the customer journey:
- Awareness: The customer isn’t aware of their problem or the solution.
- Consideration: The customer knows their problem but needs information to identify a solution.
- Decision: The customer has a number of potential solutions and now needs to make a decision.
For each stage of the customer journey, you want to dive into what motivates the customer, the questions they have, their pain points, what actions they take, and how they’re feeling. From there you have the information necessary to create the content required to position your company as the solution at each stage of their journey.
#3. Conduct a Content Analysis and Audit
Unless you’re starting from zero with your content strategy, you’ll have months — or even years — of content that’s already been created. Before everyone gets excited about new content opportunities, take some time to review all existing content.
This content audit can be done by taking an inventory of all existing content, including blog posts, videos, whitepapers, case studies, webinars, emails and any additional content. It may take some time to pull this together, but in my years of experience doing these audits for clients, I’ve learned this stage is always worth it as we identify content that can be repurposed and repackaged.
While doing the audit, some analysis should also be done to look at what content has performed well, what has underperformed and any other intelligence you may have. Get curious about why one blog post outperforms another or why the content idea you had that everyone was sure was a winner turned out to be a flop. Your past successes and failures can help determine where the best ROI is for your content in 2019.
#4. Determine Your Format and Channels
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to content marketing, so it’s important to ensure that you carefully assess what content formats and channels are best for your brand and your buyer personas. Instead of jumping on the latest trends because it seems like a good idea, look at what works best for your brand, and more importantly, what serves your buyer personas at various stages of the customer journey.
For example, for awareness content, blog posts, ebooks, and whitepapers are ideal content formats. However, you need to then look at the needs of your buyer personas. Are they likely to download an ebook, or will they quickly skim a blog post? Do they want to read a whitepaper or listen to a podcast? The needs and wants of your audience — as well as their content consumption preferences — are critical to your content strategy.
As you look at all of the options for content, avoid the temptation to try to be everywhere. Choose a few key content formats for each stage of the customer journey and focus on doing them really well. Many times companies will take a “more is better” approach and end up with content that’s positioned at the wrong stage in the journey or simply have so much content that customers are overwhelmed.
Finally, when mapping out your content strategy, pay special attention to social media as it provides the opportunity to promote your content. Creating the best content in the world doesn’t matter if not enough potential customers see it, so assess social networks based on where your customers are — not based on what’s most exciting or fun for your content marketing team.
#5. Content Management: Production, Workflow, and Scheduling
Content management is all about getting organized and making decisions about what content will be created and then how it will be developed and published. Start by creating a content schedule or editorial calendar that covers all elements of your content from blogging to social media.
If you’ve not already documented your content marketing processes, you can also do this as part of your content strategy. With our clients, we recommend creating a standard operating procedure for each type of content you create as well as templates that can easily be shared. The more systematized things are, the easier it’ll be to ensure all steps are completed which leads to more consistency and higher quality content.
With your content marketing processes, ensure there’s clear ownership of the entire process by one individual as well as individual owners of each step in the process. (Depending on the size of your team, this may be one person who owns everything or multiple people executing the steps and one person who’s ultimately responsible.)
Keep in mind that when content marketing processes are documented, it’s easier to have other contributors involved in the content process, including other members of the marketing team or even consultants or freelancers.
When it comes to creating your 2019 content strategy, you may have parts already done that just need a quick update while others may require more research and consideration. While creating your content strategy will take time, it’ll pay off in the long run as you publish content that’s valuable to your potential customers and helps turn them into paying customers.
Need assistance with creating your content strategy for your small business or corporate content marketing team? The Scoop Studios team can help. You can learn more about our services and request a content strategy consult call here.
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