The incredible growth in content marketing taking place today is often attributed to the rise of web ad blockers and TV commercial skipping technologies. If consumers can opt out of viewing an ad, they most likely will, so smart brands are adapting their strategies and moving away from interruptive marketing and towards inbound, permission-based, and opt-in campaigns.
Content strategy is “getting the right content to the right user at the right time through strategic planning of content creation, delivery, and governance.”
In other words, don’t try to force your message on people. Instead, create content that is geared towards their interests, solves their problems, and will be welcomed by them. If audiences won’t watch the commercial, be the show. If they are blind to web banners, be the article.
That’s what content marketing is all about: creating and distributing branded content that is tailored to a particular target market. Plus, just like traditional advertisements, content marketing solves numerous brand goals, including:
- Attracting Attention
- Raising Brand Awareness
- Generating Leads
- Increasing Sales
- Building Credibility
- Engaging Existing and Prospective Customers
Great content attracts prospects and transforms them into customers by proving your expertise and your awareness of their needs. Furthermore, if you do things right and produce content that is genuinely valuable to your audience, you will routinely meet and exceed their expectations, laying the groundwork for sustainably growing brand loyalty.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Content marketing is fundamentally a soft-sell approach. Prospects aren’t pressured to take immediate action (at least not typically). Rather, trust and rapport is fostered slowly over time. That is where content strategy becomes relevant. It’s not enough to anticipate and meet your customer’s need for information once, you have to do it continuously and reliably.
Every worthwhile mission needs a well-thought out plan. A content strategy is just that, a methodology for choosing, creating, curating, scheduling, and testing content.
It has been said that content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design. All websites have a particular information architecture, a framework for how information should be presented and how each component interrelates. Similarly, content strategy decides how best to disseminate your creative output and how all your content should work together to serve a broader business objective.
Or, in the words of the Content Strategy Alliance, an international consortium of content marketers, the goal is: “Getting the right content to the right user at the right time through strategic planning of content creation, delivery, and governance.”
One of the great advantages of marketing in the digital era is the ease with which your audience can share, comment on, and play with your content— all strong indicators of high engagement levels.
A word of caution, however. Once it leaves your hands, content can take on a life of its own. Always consider the possibility for unintended consequences and never release material that could expose your brand to undesirable attention, either by being adopted by groups with values antithetical to your own or because it can be conveniently altered in a manner that distorts its original message.
The tools for modifying and sharing content are virtually limitless, making this a rather difficult proposition, but a little forethought is still the best method of preventing some easily avoidable brand blunders.
Creating a Content Strategy
There’s no debate that content drives brand growth. The consideration then is, what is the most effective means of producing and disseminating it? The process starts by asking five important questions:
1: Who Is Your Audience?
Understanding your target market is essential to most marketing activities, and content marketing is no exception. Develop buyer personas for existing and prospective customers. Look at competitor case studies, conduct surveys, and pore over third party resources like Facebook Audience Insights. Great content is tailored content, so the more you know about your audience the better you can customize your output to their tastes and needs.
2: Where Can You Reach Them?
We’re living in an omnichannel age that is flush with distribution avenues to explore. Video sharing sites, social media networks, online forums, and more are all waiting for you to populate their platforms with your content. But, rather than spread yourself thinly across all of them, pick the one or two channels that you have reason to believe are most popular with your audience and put your focus there to start.
3: What Kind of Content Are they Looking For?
Content comes in countless forms today, some common examples include:
- Blog Articles
- Photos and Graphics
- Email Newsletters
- White Papers
- Case Studies
But, each channel has its own niche, so your choice of where to post will also inform what you are sharing. LinkedIn, for example, trades heavily in B2B content like in-depth articles, white papers, and slide decks. Facebook has a more casual audience that rewards highly digestible content like videos and listicles. Twitter is a 24/7 universe where most content isn’t evergreen and needs to be refreshed constantly.
But, whichever platform you focus on, provide content that your audience is already looking for by solving their problems, informing their decisions, or simply putting a smile on their face.
4: What is Your Primary Objective?
Sharing information and making people happy are worthwhile goals in their own right, but, you can’t have a strategy without a well-defined objective. Perhaps you want to generate leads with an email sign up form at the bottom of your white paper, or maybe you are hoping to increase traffic to your blog with a series of thought-provoking articles.
Whatever the case, also consider the customer’s journey. Every step on that path, from awareness to evaluation to decision and beyond, can be bolstered by a smartly chosen piece of content that reduces friction and moves them assuredly towards a conversion of some kind.
5: How Will You Track Outcomes?
Content strategies don’t live in a vacuum. This isn’t a set it and forget it situation. Be prepared to routinely examine your results and make adjustments if you aren’t hitting your benchmarks. If raising brand awareness and visibility was a primary goal look closely at traffic stats like number of unique visitors, time spent with the content, and click-through rates.
If you have set brand health (the impact of the brand on consumer behavior) as a key performance indicator (KPI) run sentiment surveys and solicit feedback to see if positive brand associations are forming. Also examine share of voice (SOV) metrics, which show how often your brand is mentioned versus its rivals.
Though your brand’s expertise may be in widgets, not content, there is a world of material that stems from what you’re already doing. How-tos, behind the scenes, and sage advice from years of experience are all incredibly valuable and shareable.
In this new era of marketing, that information is digital gold. It spurs excitement, activates your customers, spreads your brand message, and inspires action. Put a smart content strategy in place to ensure your knowledge and message reaches the right audience and does the most good.