Content has become so important that 73% of organisations have someone in place to oversee their content strategy. If executed well, it’s one of the most critical marketing components that can determine success.
And while there’s no one-size-fits all, content strategy essentially begins by combining three key elements — brand focus, user experience, and content distribution — that will serve the requirements of a business and its customers.
What is content strategy?
A content strategy is a content creation and deployment plan to achieve business goals. It outlines the decision-making process behind whom your material will impact, how it will cut through all of the noise, and what you hope to achieve in smaller, more measurable metrics – defining content success.
A good strategy sets a roadmap to plan, create, and manage content. It guides all of your marketing assets and supports ongoing content lifecycle management to meet your critical business initiatives. Organising, scheduling, generating, publishing, and promoting content pieces all fall under the content strategy umbrella.
Content marketing brings in three times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62% less (Demand Metric).
What's the difference between marketing strategy & content strategy?
Content strategy is a more advanced business activity than a marketing strategy. While a marketing strategy outlines the marketing steps you'll take towards your ultimate goals, like growth and increasing revenue, a content strategy focuses on defining which content is created to support this marketing strategy, as well as how you'll promote it.
Every business should set marketing goals, but a company could still see success even in their absence. However, without a well-defined content strategy, you'll waste time writing, designing, and publishing content, which is likely to have a negative impact on both your audience and budget.
Think of marketing strategies as a starting point and a destination. Measuring current performance, and setting long-term goals. A content strategy identifies the journey, and maps the route to connect the two points.
The 3 components of content strategy
Industry experts will tell you that an effective content strategy must have three core elements to be successful: brand focus, user experience, and content distribution. However, there's a fourth element some people overlook – content creation.
A brand focus is an essential guideline that keeps deployed content on-topic and in-tone. It considers brand positioning, a business's outward-facing voice and creates a streamlined and well-defined plan to ensure consistent content. Let's say a small bakery would like to release several blogs and social media posts to promote their freshly-made local produce. They'd need to cover topics like the source of their organic ingredients or the heritage and training of their master bakers – not the increase in fuel and transportation prices. What's relevant to both the business and the customer.
A brand focus will also compel actions and drive content strategy, so build goals around outcomes and achievements. Develop a complete understanding of the business model and brand, and set realistic goals that meet two types of targets. Stretch goals should be aspirational. Usually, stretch goals consist of major milestones designed to push your team to achieve ambitious outcomes. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-constrained. They'll ensure that you carry out the necessary smaller tasks to achieve your more significant stretch goals.
Goals influence strategy. And, to create a successful plan, everyone needs to be on board, not just the executives. Study how the company's organisation and structure could affect the success of marketing efforts – like the alignment of marketing and sales teams.
To create a successful content strategy, you need to ensure that your material engages with your target audience. This includes developing ideal customer profiles so that your teams can write and design highly-targeted content.
- What makes your target audience tick?
- What keeps their attention?
- What do they care about most when evaluating a brand or product?
For example, B2B content isn't necessarily the same as B2C, and even then, you need to know whether you're addressing a CEO, manager, or an operations-level team member. You need to create content that addresses problems within their sector, build trust by displaying knowledge of their industry, and solve problems with a product or service. Consider which content formats – videos, lead magnets, and thought-leadership articles – are most suited to your prospects, and develop a narrative that will connect with their needs.
Consider how visitors arrived at your site – like intent. What were they hoping to find, and how did you meet those needs? If they're at the early stages of their research, the content they are exposed to should differentiate from someone already registered for a trial or newsletter. Try creating a customer journey map, and avoid some of the most significant customer journey mistakes.
Content is critical to any strategy, but distribution drives it towards success. When you publish, where, and how will impact how likely your audience is to engage with your brand.
Making the most of all media types is the only way to ensure your brand reaches as many qualified leads as possible. Make sure to select marketing channels that align with goals and audience profiles – like earned media, paid media, and owned media.
Frequency is another consideration and can sometimes be a double-edged sword: too little, and people won't engage with your brand; too much, and visitors may get fatigued. You need to find that sweet spot where quality and engagement meet quantity.
Bonus component: Content creation
If brand focus, user experience, and content distribution are the three pillars of a successful content strategy, content creation is the ever-evolving element that drives them. Content creation is the process of generating topic ideas that appeal to your ideal customer personas and creating the written or visual content around those ideas. To ensure content distribution is consistent, try creating a publishing schedule known as a content calendar. Content calendars usually include upcoming pieces, status updates, planned promotional activity, partnerships, and updates to existing content.
While content is unique to each business, the creation process is relatively linear and applies to everyone. Start with ideation and topic research, identifying the subjects that most engage users while keeping SMART goals in mind. Create the content assets that ranked highest in research and submit them for editing and review. Once they're ready, publish and promote the content to drive viewership and generate leads. Monitor performance and analyse reports to inform content edits and future topics. Finally, maintain assets over time. Blogs, for example, can be edited to remain current, and adding internal links over time will increase SEO value.
Developing a winning content strategy
Online content is at an all-time high, and the only way to get ahead of the competition is by developing winning strategies. And, while there's no one size fits all solution, identifying and including the three key elements — brand focus, user experience, and content distribution — will help develop a plan for business' success.
Building a strategy won't happen overnight. Remember, messaging should be unique and always on-topic. Content must meet customers' needs at different stages of the sales funnel. And, effective distribution is essential for exposure to high-quality content. If you're looking for expert help in building your first content strategy or have ambitious goals and require an equally ambitious business partner, we're here to help you.
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