Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Content strategy is a broad topic, and thinking about it might leave you bamboozled. Let's make it simple.
Grab some paper and a few post-it notes and we'll take things step by step.
Before you start
A content strategy is only as valuable as the decisions that frame it. There’s no point in investing effort in a bells and whistles content strategy before you have:
a product or service to direct people towards
a clear idea of the business goal you want your content to support
What a content strategy CAN do:
build awareness and educate people
keep you top of mind
allow people to get to know, like and trust you
direct people to the next natural step
build an audience
move people from social channels into your email list
What a content strategy CAN’T do:
fix a crappy service or product
Help you avoid 1:1 interaction with clients
take away a need for audience insight
Watch out for spending hours creating content for and speaking to peers in your market (e.g. other copywriters or coaches) rather than your target audience.
Define the GOAL: Ask yourself WHY?
What’s the business goal?
How can content support that?
What metrics would indicate the strategy is working?
There are many possible answers, but let’s imagine Susan wants more clients for her coaching business. Her goal is more clients. Her content directs people to a 30-minute free consult.
Her metric could be how many new direct messages she gets because of her content. If she's not getting new DMs on the platform, then her content isn't doing what it's supposed to.
AUDIENCE: Who is it for?
This is probably the most important question of all. If you don’t know who your content is for, you have an audience problem, not a strategy problem.
How can you find out who your audience is?
*interview customers or prospective customers (so many marketers seem afraid of picking up the phone and asking questions – don’t be one of those people. A survey is not the same.)
*mine reviews or social media groups that contain customers or prospective ones
Define your audience according to:
Demographics: Where they live, their age, gender, income
Psychographics: What are their beliefs desires or fears
Triggers: What would lead them to look for your service?
Pain points: What problems do you solve for them?
Big picture principles; Generosity, empathy & service.
“Ask yourself, ‘What are the challenges my customers are facing each day?’ and then provide content that provides specific solutions to those challenges. This builds trust and positions you as a thought leader in your industry rather than a vendor.” - Holly Tate, Vanderbloemen Search Group
Serve your customers:
Find out what questions your customers have and use those questions to create content. This could take the form of a blog or a substantial, frequently asked questions section. The core principle should be one of HELPFULNESS.
On social media, work from a principle of GENEROSITY. Give more than you take. ‘Taking’ would include all sales-y posts. A general rule is to offer value four times before requesting something.
Think about the customer journey
Customers engage with brands in many ways. As Seth Godin says, there are many doors into your mall. The traditional concept of the funnel is that you have at the top of funnel people who are just discovering you and the bottom of the funnel those who’ve taken action: bought your product, engaged in your community.
In the online world, people want information about us on demand. They’ll buy from us when they’re ready. The traditional funnel may not exist in the way it used to, but it’s still helpful to think about the journey and what questions they are likely to have at each stage:
> Awareness: who are you? What do you offer?
> Consideration: How do you normally work with people? How expensive is it? What’s your philosophy? What have other people said about your work in the past?
> Engagement: How do I go through with the sale? What are your terms and conditions?
> Re-engagement: What will I get if I buy this new product or service?
> Advocacy: Give people a reason to talk about you to other people? Ask them for a testimonial?
You may need to build a substantial audience to convert people to action. An average conversion to sales is around 1-2%.
POSITIONING: Know your position and stick to it
Positioning: verbal/ visual/ values
Your positioning represents the internal parameters you set for the way you want to be thought of in the world. You don’t need to tell the customer this part.
*Where do you want people to store you in their ‘memory slot’ in their brain?
For example, I’d like creatives, consultants and coaches to think of me when they need support building a sustainable content strategy or refining their brand messaging.
*VOICE: develop a consistent brand voice; your voice includes your personality and the type of communication you use. This includes your vocabulary and the length of words and sentences.
*VALUES: know what you stand for and stick to it.
*VISUAL: your visual image should align with voice and values. For example, you don’t want formal photos if your brand is informal.
STORYTELLING: Tell great stories
In the age of information overload, nothing is more memorable than an effective story. Communicate your message in story form when possible. Focus on a character with a problem to overcome and how this was reconciled with your help.
Each story needs a hook that draws people in, whether that’s a blog headline or the first line of a social post. After the hook, we have to create tension and resolve it through the story we tell.