Updated: Nov 11, 2020
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.
What’s the best way to get your message across? Fresh content on your website or blog? A direct post on a social platform like Instagram or LinkedIn? A paid or free newsletter? The channel should align with your target audience and goal.
A general rule is that you should work out what’s happening on one channel and get that working rather than spread yourself too thinly over multiple channels.
The point of social media is to be social, not purely to send your message out to the masses. If you don’t have time to participate in the community or respond to client inquiries on the channel, maybe you shouldn't be there.
Ensure your website is SEO optimised, that it loads at a decent rate.
Use keywords that align with the solution you offer. There are lots of free tools that can help with this – play about with Google, Answer the Public, Spark Toro and others.
Your metadata is especially important, make sure it describes your offer clearly.
A clear, simple call to action
Tell your followers what to do next. Read another blog? Follow you on social media? Book a free consult? Download a lead magnet? Sign up for a webinar?
A simple three-word sense check for each piece of content is: Know, Feel, Do.
What do you want people to:
KNOW – what information do you want to convey?
FEEL – how do you hope they will feel after your content?
DO – what’s the next natural step?
Metrics: Remember the metrics you set at the start? Be clear how you’ll measure success, and when by? Is this a monthly or quarterly target? Then review it and refine and you go.
Make the most of your existing content by telling people it’s there. The best content to amplify is content that’s already working. Don’t leave effective content on the table.
For example, you can publish first on your website, then on social media, and then put a version of this in your eNewsletter. Or you might prefer to start on the channel where you have a large audience and see which posts resonate most there and then use that to guide what you post next.
Feeling ready? Or do you need someone to hold your hand?
You might start with some post-it notes with key ideas to guide your content, and over time your strategy can become more intentional and evolved.
Setting a quarterly target and a finite amount of time to create content each week is a good way to start.
Would you like to be part of a weekly content creation club that meets to hold each other accountable for working on content for your business? Please email me to let me know.
Or, to sign up to my next content strategy webinar, email me sara [at] saratiefenbrun.com