Four key steps to building and executing a royally successful content strategy
Over 20 years ago, Bill Gates published his now-famous essay, “Content is King”. As well as foreseeing that content would be where much of the “real money” would be made online, he predicted: “One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC can publish whatever content they can create”. In democracy lies the downfall.
Content marketing has become a foundation for businesses to drive growth, deliver value and increase engagement. But we’re now finding ourselves in a position of quantity over quality: a glut of weak, rhetorical or repetitive content that achieves none of those aims. So how do you develop a fresh, relevant and compelling approach to content that will work its socks off for your brand?
Step #1: document your content strategy
Yawn. Can’t we just get creating blogs and videos, and skip the formalities? No. As content has evolved from being a mere marketing tactic to part of the business model, you need a clear sense of your goals, objectives and metrics, whether that’s increasing exposure, building your email list, converting prospects or improving search engine rankings (but don’t forget, the emphasis here is on engagement, not link-building). You also need a thorough grasp of the latest online techniques and trends to deliver the right content at the right time in the right format. Gather, interpret and act on your data to make sure your content will resonate with what matters at every stage of the buyer journey.
Step #2: put your audience first
Many brands fall into the trap of trumpeting what they want to say, rather than what their audience wants to hear. If your content is too broad or generic, at best, you’ll generate visitors who don’t convert into customers; at worst, by trying to reach everyone, you’ll appeal to no-one. What do you know already about your audience and their pain points or ambitions? What stories can you tell or what proof points can you offer that will demonstrate your understanding and capacity to help? Developing a set of personas is a great way to humanise your audience and create content with real people, rather than clicks, in mind. Don’t be afraid of making bold or provocative statements – buyers are looking to learn something new or have their preconceptions challenged, so write like a thought leader.
Step #3: plan according to your resources
Recency and frequency is key to getting traction, especially when it comes to a blog. But a common pitfall is to quickly drain the creative fountain dry and run out of stuff to talk about. Treat your content programme like a campaign: use a content matrix to plan your topic coverage at least three months out, and create a bank of quality content that you can publish at regular intervals or call off at a moment’s notice. It can be overwhelming for subject matter experts and thought leaders within your business to juggle content creation with day-to-day responsibilities, so it pays to ally yourself with an arsenal of experts beyond your four walls to help you sustain momentum, whether that’s writers, speakers, conference attendees or influencers in your professional orbit.
Step #4: promote your content
There’s no point creating great content and expecting people to stumble over it. Think about where your target personas hang out and meet them in those spaces. Social listening can yield real-time insight into what audiences are talking about, consuming or sharing. Develop or distil various assets from your core content, such as posts, images, trailer videos or even GIFs, to tease or promote the main piece. Make your content easy to engage with and share, so decision-influencers can pass it on to like-minded colleagues. And don’t forget email: despite continued speculation that the newsletter is a dying breed of communications, it’s still a valid way to cultivate and grow audiences if you elevate your content from merely educational to relevant, thought-provoking and even entertaining.
We’re all busy people. Consuming content takes time, and there’s no shortage of it pouring into our social media feeds and inboxes. So while developing content demands creative skills, the smart brands are organising content production into a deliberate, managed process to deliver superior output and get heard above the noise.