You might publish blog posts, send emails and publish social media posts. But do you have a content strategy that supports it?
A content marketing practice without a strategy is reduced to a stream of individual pieces that fail to capitalize on their greater potential to help generate results for your business.
But with so many channels, content types, and customers your company might serve, where do you begin in creating a strategy that actually works?
There are many components to a content strategy, which is why it can seem intimidating at first. But we’re going to break it down into the three essential parts to ensure that your content strategy booms, but never bombs.
1. Know your audience
Successful content marketing campaigns connect with their audience, and successful strategies take the time to know and understand this influential group. Not all companies have well-defined buyer personas for their businesses. This is especially true of many small and medium-sized businesses with a marketing team of one or none.
If buyer personas aren’t available, don’t worry; that information can be discovered through conversations between you and your sales team, who communicate with clients every day. They know your customers’ biggest pain points and concerns, which you can address in the content created as part of the strategy.
This insight gathered about your audience will also help you determine what channels your audience is on and what kind of content they consume. Ask, does my audience…
- use LinkedIn or Facebook more often?
- look at Instagram stories?
- want in-depth, how-to content?
- like visual content with brief copy?
These types of questions will help determine the type of content to focus on for your strategy.
2. Conduct a competitive analysis
Once your target audience has been identified, take a look at the content your competitors are publishing so you can see how your company compares.
From an organic search perspective, there are many tools you can use to see what competitors are ranking for certain keywords (like SEMrush or SpyFu). This information will show you what keywords competitors are already ranking for, and the ones that present opportunities for your brand.
Look at all their content assets, too — everything from blog posts to social media posts, to gated resources and email campaigns (you’ll have to sign up to receive this content!). Determine what they do with their content that your brand doesn’t. Should you cover new topics or provide more comprehensive guides? Should you dabble more in paid promotion? Or maybe your competitors are missing out on an important piece, like publishing videos or infographics.
Whatever you discover, don’t forget to maintain your own brand image and personality. Even if your competitors serve similar customers in the same industry, your brand’s identity may be completely different. Stay true to who you are — but competitor research is an important part of the content strategy process to form a baseline and make your content meaningful.
3. Outline the tactics
Once the audience has been identified and the competitive analysis is completed, it’s time to lay out the tactics for your content strategy. The goal is to deliver high-quality, relevant content in the format your audience wants to engage with, via the channels they use, and at the level they expect. How does that work for your team? Outline the key responsibilities of each team member and what tactics they will work on to execute all of your content.
Keeping a master editorial calendar that contains due dates and publish dates for all of your content marketing projects will provide transparency for your team and help them meet deadlines. This will also give you a bird’s-eye-view of your entire content marketing practice to see how each piece relates and supports the overall strategy.
[Related: How to Use a Digital Content Strategy]
Creating a robust content strategy
A content strategy can be as detailed as outlining an action plan for every single channel and type of content your team publishes. But a content strategy doesn’t look the same for every company. With just these three components, you will develop a greater focus for your content marketing practice. It’ll become easier to explain why each piece of content you create is meaningful to the overall strategy, and your time will be better spent on projects that truly matter to your business.
To learn more about developing a comprehensive content strategy, check out our proven process.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for relevancy and clarity.