“90% of the most successful content marketers prioritize educating their audience over promoting their company's sales message”
Here’s the thing about content strategy… if it works and is done right it can make an enormous difference to your bottom line, sales leads, marketing efforts and building your brand. Done poorly it will be a lot of work with little impact and probably a lot of time and pain to deliver.
So how do you turn a mediocre content strategy into a great one? How do you get from good to great?
Having delivered content strategies for FTSE 100s as well as small enterprising start-ups we’ve put together our best tips in this article.
With Q4 closing in around us and the new year looming on the horizon, we want to help you to ditch the overwhelm and take control of your organisation’s content. With our handy tips and a free content calendar to get you off to a great start, you’ll be breezing through the new year – booked and busy!
Your content strategy is a detailed plan that defines the where, when, who and how. As part of your wider marketing plan, you’ll be publishing content. This content can take on many different shapes and forms: it can showcase your expertise, attract talent or investors, inform consumers on your products or services or promote your brand and sustainability efforts.
So, let’s learn how to master it!
Start with your business or organisational targets. What is the point of your marketing plan right now? Are you trying to create leads? Promote events? Scale the business? Attract new talent? Improve your brand reputation?
Knowing the why will help to inform the how. Where are the people you’re targeting and are you providing them with the information they need? Thing about your objectives and what it is you want them to do, after they’ve engaged with your content? Make it easy and enjoyable to engage with you rather than sending them places that isn’t helpful to them. Be strategically minded, targeted and methodical about your goals. Use tools such as Google Trends and answerthepublic.com to understand what type of content your audience might be looking for. If you have an agency or use social media listening tools find out what your target audience is talking about and where. Armed with that knowledge you can start planning your keywords and content ideas for the next year.
Before you start throwing ideas around and getting stuck into the juicy bits, you probably already have a lot of activities coming up in your year that will help you create a base for a thorough plan. Start with a calendar (like our free content calendar you can download at the bottom of the page) and map out all of your events, launches, relevant national holidays or #internationaldays. These significant dates will help you to flesh out the content surrounding them. For example, a financial services company might produce specific content tailored around the investment calendar or a stock market news story. A healthcare company that’s looking for new hires might time their recruitment content drive around popular job-hunting seasons.
Make your life a little easier by utilising pre-existing events, seasons and business calendars.
Once you’ve created the framework, it’s time to get creative! Bring your whole team together, grab the coffee jug and your best whiteboard pens! Operate under the ‘no idea is stupid’ mantra and write down every creative brainwave that comes to mind. Ask your team about what customers often ask them, take suggestions from inspirational material (we love Sarah’s Richards Content Design books for #inspo) and check out what thought leaders in the industry are doing well.
Ask probing questions to get the creative juices flowing; why are we unique? What problems do we solve for our clients? What’s our backstory? What are our core values and how do they align with our customer’s?
Create content themes that meet your audience needs and your business objectives that you can spread over the year. For some, it makes sense to change themes frequently (let’s say once a month), for others it might be more appropriate to stick to 2 or 3 themes spread across the year. Each theme should be split further into interesting topics.
Need more inspiration on what sort of content your audience might like? Here’s a tip that works every time especially when you’re dealing with consumers and products. Buy a stack of magazines that fit your target audience (for example for Investors = The Times, The Economist, the FT etc – and it works with online content too) and get your team collaging a picture of content that your audience might like.
You will quickly get a colourful and visual idea of the type of content your audience is used to and the visual language they are accustomed to. After all, you’re learning from some of the world’s finest editors. It may also present you with an opportunity to identify gaps or inspire you to do something radically different.
Of course, not every format or social channel is right for you and your business. Just because you’re creating a content strategy, it does not mean that you need to create content for every single possible channel. If you can, undertake a content audit – look at 2019 and analyse which areas worked for you. Is video providing a huge boost in enquiries? Do blog posts seem to perform really well when shared on Facebook? Where and how are people finding you and what are they consuming when you do?
If you’ve seen a new platform or witnessed similar businesses doing well on a platform you don’t yet have, plan a test run into your content calendar for a quieter time of year. When you come to planning the following year’s content calendar, you can audit your dummy run in the same way.
Your tone of voice is incredibly important. Whilst you probably already have a company tone of voice (if not we really need to have a stern talk) you may want to adjust it depending on the channel you are going to use. For instance, Instagram users tend to be more friendly and happy people that appreciate high-quality imagery. However, when using Twitter you might find that the same people tend to take on a more honest and down to earth tone with a sharp sense of humour, and can often be more critical.
So understand and flex your voice depending on a channel’s unspoken house rules.
Authenticity in communication is key. People don’t like to be preached to by faceless brands who don’t get it.
You wouldn’t build a house without the right tools, delivering on a content strategy well means understanding what tools are available and how to use them well. And more often than not, it can be a matter of tool overkill. Stick to one or two great tools to gather data and try to visualise it one dashboard with clear KPIs where possible. Some tools we often see used by clients are: Geckoboard, Kissmetrics, Google Datastudio
If you have metrics you’ve collected from the previous year, set yourself and your team targets for the new content year. That might be an increase in followers, a climb in website/blog views, a certain percentage in sales – whatever it is, be transparent about it and be realistic and ensure that it can be attributed to your content strategy. Creating huge goals may intimidate and demotivate the team, leaving them feeling deflated when it’s not achieved. Examine the growth you’ve already experienced (with tools such as Content Insight) and apply targets that seem achievable but challenging.
Rather than lots of tools, pick the right ones for you and your team.
Finally, once you’ve got all of your ideas and a content calendar mapped out – you need to consider implementation and delivery. Who is responsible for what? Do you need to hire any further help? Have you got the right software to deliver this content? Who will be creating, who will be editing and does anyone else need to sign off or see the content before it’s published? Is the website functioning well enough for customers to find your new content? Do you need a better CRM, scheduling or content management system? Use a checklist like the StoryCheif checklist to align tasks with roles and timelines. Look into collaborative communication tools like live documents (e.g GoogleDocs or Gathercontent) and marketing or scheduling software (e.g Hubspot) to make your life easier.
By considering all the ways in which you might accidentally scupper your own plan, you’ll be able to prepare for them ahead of time.
Don’t let poor organisation or shoddy delivery get in the way of your cleverly crafted and cultivated message.
If you need to test run a few pieces of software or new team dynamics, try to do it before the end of the year so you can hit the ground running.
As avid content creators ourselves, we appreciate how time-consuming and (at times) stressful it can be to look a whole year’s worth of content in the face. That’s why we’re sharing our tried and tested content calendar with you!
From storing and implementing topic ideas to the frequency of posts and SEO keywords – it’s all perfectly laid out in an easy to understand format, allowing you and your team to get right down to the good stuff! Creating!
If you’re still coming unstuck, or you’re unsure of how you’re going to fill that blank spreadsheet up – get in touch. We’re happy to help and more importantly, love to show you how you can do it yourself.