Whether it’s writing the Great American Novel or crafting witty social media posts, everybody wants to tell a story. But in content marketing, none of your supreme storytelling skills will accomplish anything unless you’ve got them underpinned by some sort of strategic thought. Strategy makes the difference between a summer beach read and a manifesto that compels people to act. You want the manifesto. That’s how to reach your audience and convert them.
Don’t Let Content Come Before Strategy
More Than Words
The best strategy helps your brand find its target audience, connect with them on a deeper level, and lead them to the desired action. We highly recommend hiring a content strategist (especially me!), but if you’re trying to design your own strategy, here are some things you’ll want to cover.
- Buyer Personas: How much do you know about your audience? It might be less than you think. You can start by simply talking to your customers and understanding their needs through in depth interviews — but we also like using quantitative figures through third-party or original research. If you don’t have a large budget to do your own study, you can try something like SurveyMonkey.com. Comb through all of this information to develop detailed buyer personas. They enable you to align your messages with key decision makers.
- Channel Identification and Post Frequency: So now you know who your audience is; how, exactly, do you reach them? For example, millennials may be most receptive on Snapchat or Instagram, while an older demographic may prefer Facebook or your website. Some might be looking for blog updates multiple times a day, while others just want an email once in a while. This part should also include an idea of how you’re going to amplify and promote your content. Whether it’s through paid ads, email marketing or something more organic, pull people to your witty blog posts with some sort of plan — don’t expect people to just happen upon your content while wandering around the web.
- Voice and Tone, and Message Ladder: To really connect with someone, you have to speak in the way they normally communicate. In content marketing, it’s no different. Hint: Normally this means communicating casually and friendly, but exceptions do exist. You’ll also want to create a brand-related messaging ladder before anything is produced. That should ensure your content validates your brand in the eyes of the reader. It also creates a true-north or top-line message you want your audience to hear. Everything created should align with this overarching ladder and support the message.
- Content Buckets and Editorial Calendar: Between the buyer personas and your message ladder, you’re ready to brainstorm ideas for content your target audience wants to consume that also deepens your relationship with them and moves them through the buying cycle. Remember here that quality matters over quantity, and customers want to hear about things that interest them and solve their problems — not necessarily your products or services. Organize these ideas into content buckets that will intuitively make sense to your target audience. From here you can plan out your editorial calendar, which allows you to align messaging across channels and ensure you’re hitting content that interests every persona at every stage of the buying cycle. Plan it so that it aligns with the content strategy by supporting the overarching message you want to get out into the marketplace.
- Defined KPIs, Regular Reporting and a Plan for Optimization: Make sure you have well-defined goals for your content, along with an analytics program that measures your performance against those goals. When optimizing your content, compare it with industry standards and determine where you need to improve. Be flexible and ready to make changes if needed.
So what are you waiting for? Start on that must-read strategy today, and your content will get the audience it deserves. I’ve got plenty more strategy tips to share if you contact me, or read more about how the buying cycle affects content strategy on our blog.