Every brand has a story to tell—a tale that sets them apart and makes them unique. Details of your origin, mission, values, and growth all come together to create a compelling narrative that people can relate to.
Many companies understand the importance of storytelling enough to know that they need to relay theirs using every type of content possible. That may mean videos, podcasts, blog and social media posts, infographics, quizzes, among others.
It also means leveraging what you put on your website and physical marketing materials, too. But you can’t commission and deploy content without some sort of framework. That’s where a content strategy comes into play.
What is a content strategy, anyway?
It's easy to get lost in a sea of content-related buzzwords and acronyms. After a couple seconds of Googling, you're likely to come across terms like ROI, SEO, engagement, click-through rate, impressions, and so on. With so much information available, it can be tough to get to the heart of what it means to have a cohesive content strategy.
Boiled down to simple terms, a content strategy is a vision that guides the creation and delivery of goal-driven content to the right people at the right time.
Think of it as a plan of attack for integrating user needs with your business goals. Having one can help you:
- create meaningful interactions with your audience across multiple channels
- determine the type of content you should create
- decide how much time and energy you should put into that content
- provide a framework to keep your team on the same page
It’s important to know that a content strategy is different from a content marketing strategy.
While the two overlap in many places, a content marketing strategy manages the brass tacks of creating and executing content for marketing purposes.
Compare that with your general content strategy, which is more about the how and why. For example, say you base your content strategy around your brand becoming an industry thought leader. With that goal in mind, your marketing strategy might then entail the curation of authoritative blog posts and helpful explainer videos.
Now that you have an understanding of what a content strategy is in the broader sense, you're probably wondering...
Does my business need a content strategy?
The short answer?
Regardless of whether your business is for-profit or nonprofit, well-established or just starting out, you can benefit from a dialed-in content strategy.
Having one can help you tackle everything from user experience to your brand voice, point of view, and editorial policy. Not only that, but you’ll be able to update your existing content to fit the mold you’ve decided on. This way, you’ll have cohesive, updated content across the board. That signals to your audience that you’re consistent and reliable.
It's also worth mentioning that content marketing is better for your bottom line. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads.
Still not convinced? Putting a strategy in place will help you:
- build trust between your brand and your customers
- become an authority in your industry
- establish a brand identity
- promote your business to new audiences
- increase sales
- discover new ideas
Let's consider that last bullet point for a moment. Remember that as your business grows, your content strategy will, too.
For example, imagine that you run a clothing company focused on empowering women. Part of your Instagram strategy involves posting a photo of a famous icon, such as Marilyn Monroe, every Wednesday under the #womancrushwednesday hashtag. You notice that your followers overwhelmingly compliment the bikini she's wearing. Because of that, you might start toying with the idea of designing a swimsuit line inspired by 1950s starlets.
And that's just one aspect to consider.
It used to be that delivering quality content via various channels was a way to gain an advantage over the competition. These days, that model is the norm, and you'll only hurt your business by not using it.
And if you’re taking the time to craft content for an audience, why wouldn't you have a strategy in place first? That’s like hitting the gym without thinking about what body part you want to target.
Okay, so you’re on board with having a content strategy. The next question is, how should you go about developing one?
4 Tips for Developing Your Content Strategy
An effective content strategy requires a set of clearly defined initiatives. What works best for every business will differ, but you can get started by taking the following steps:
1. Hone your vision
When you’re bogged down in the nitty gritty details of publishing content, it’s easy to lose track of why you’re doing it in the first place. And if you’ve got a team of people working on it, that can make things even harder. This is when having a clear vision becomes a saving grace.
Ask yourself where you want your company to be in the next few years. What are you looking to achieve? Then work toward a content plan that will get you there. This foundation will help you tailor your roadmap, and you’ll never find yourself wondering “why are we doing this?” down the line.
Once you’ve decided on a vision, ensure that it’s actually documented. Verbal agreements among team members are much harder to refer to later. Having something concrete in hand will keep everybody confident and on track.
2. Find out who your audience is
After you’ve got your vision nailed down, you’ll want to figure out who you’re trying to reach. No matter what your business is about, there is an audience out there for you. To discover who they are, do some research. Start with a list of questions to answer, such as:
- Who is my demographic? Are they young or old? Male or female?
- What websites do they frequent?
- What types of content do they respond to? Videos? Infographics?
- What languages do they speak?
- How do they communicate? By social media? Blogger communities?
- Who do they listen to? Influencers or other authority figures?
Unearthing this information is key, and there are plenty of tools available that can help you do it.
Once you've completed your market research, take it one step further and create detailed user personas.
These in-depth profiles represent your ideal customer and can help your business tailor its content to better match the needs and tastes of your target market.
Remember, if you don’t know who you’re talking to, your content plan will quickly unravel.
3. Audit your existing content
This might get tricky, especially if you have a big website. But that fact is, you need to ensure that your existing content is up to snuff and in line with your vision. Otherwise, you risk alienating or confusing your audience.
Start by taking inventory of your current content.
Organize it by length, topic, tone, and relevance. This way, you can weed out pieces that are too long or short, not pertinent to your business, or at odds with your brand voice. Look for outdated content that needs to be modified or replaced.
Once you’ve completed your inventory, you can apply success metrics to your posts. Devise targets for traffic, conversion, and engagement. That way, you can analyze pieces down the line for gaps and patterns, and improve where necessary.
4. Set accessible short-term goals
Having a vision, an audience in mind, and up-to-date content means nothing if none of it is moving the needle. This is where setting relevant, concrete goals comes into play.
Make your goals meaningful and measurable, with none exceeding more than a year. Otherwise, you’ll never know if your strategy is actually paying off. Realistic objectives might include:
- committing to generating three blog posts per week for six months
- breaking into the first page of search engine results by the end of the year
- gaining 150+ followers a month on Instagram
- increasing click-through rate by 20% by the end of Q2
- posting a comprehensive video tutorial that garners over 10,000 views within three months
As you knock each goal out of the park, continue to set your sights higher. Never be afraid to tweak and flex your vision as ambitions scale and change. In the end, your content strategy needs to grow with your business.
Content marketing is here to stay, and it’s up to you to use it to give your business its best chance to thrive. It may not be easy, but putting a content strategy into place will simplify your marketing efforts and help you improve as a company.
If you’re willing to commit to one, you’ll see results over time. After all, you've come this far, haven't you?
This post was written by Compose.ly writer Gianina Vescovi-Chiordi.