According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers surveyed say they are creating more content this year than they did in 2016. Content isn’t new. It’s just there’s more of it around today.
Content is a catchall for everything from video, social sharing, images, presentations, white papers, books, emails to the literature your company creates. If you stopped to audit what you do in your company that falls under the content banner you might be surprised at how active you really are.
Before you create content it’s best to do some content planning and have a content strategy in place. A content strategy is very similar to a brand strategy. It is actually a subset of your brand strategy and you’ll see that if you have a solid brand strategy in place your content strategy will be much easier to develop. Don’t make it more complicated than it need be as your effort is better spent in the doing rather than too much in the thinking. That’s not to discount time planning, I totally support a solid strategy as the direction it provides is invaluable. It’s just there’s a point where you have to dip your toe in and get started and use your experience as a teacher to help you redirect effort or do more of the same. Only with testing and measurement can you do this properly.
Be aware that your content strategy will vary in complexity according to the complexity of your market and your customers and how many products/services you offer. Like any strategy, a content strategy should be tailored to suit your specific situation. To help you get started I’ve read a number of guides on content strategy and present this summary to cover the main areas in the simplest way possible.
Content Strategy – What to include
The ‘why’ of your content strategy is your purpose. Why are you doing it? What do you hope to get out of it?
Some reasons might be to:
- connect with current clients and future prospects
- increase brand awareness
- have influence within your industry
- improve your SEO and drive traffic to your website
- support your sales funnel and process.
Once you are clear on your purpose, then develop some goals around that aim. What do you want to achieve? Give thought to how you will measure your achievement and in what timeframe. To better understand how your purpose and objectives fit within your overall strategy I’d recommend creating an editorial mission which goes in more detail and parts of which are covered by your strategy too so it’s not a wasted effort.
Then you want to be clear on who you’re targeting. Who is the end consumer of your content? Why would they want to consume it? What’s it in for them? How does it address what they want to know? How does it help them address their challenges?
A smart way to define your target audience is to develop personas for each type of customer you have. The better you understand them, the better your content will resonate if you are truly preparing material for them.
Be aware that personas can change if you change your target audience. Always check your understanding of your target and update the persona you create when necessary. You might want to conduct your own research or participate in social listening to get closer to what your audience truly cares about.
It makes sense to do an audit at the start of your content journey and it’s a key input into your content strategy. Assess where you are and where you’ve been content wise to inform where you go next. You’ll have to ask questions right across your business to unearth pieces of content you might have missed. The content that a company produces is not limited to the content driven by the marketing department. You’ll find the other client facing departments will be content producers, especially HR. It’s best to work together if you’re not already doing so. It comes back to your brand strategy, as your brand touchpoints are reflective of your content.
What role do you want your content to occupy in the mind of your audience? How do you want to be known? You might check your competitors and see what their positioning is and decide yours once you understand how they fit in the market unless you plan to go head to head. The clearer you are on your positioning the easier the content production phase will be.
This should link to your brand. The more you link your content to your brand voice and personality the more recognisable you make your content as your own. Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute talks about content ‘tilt’. You derive your tilt by injecting your brand personality and creating an angle for your content that is different from your competitors. If you value differentiation, and I think it’s worth valuing, the more you want to give time to figure out what makes your content recognisable as your content.
Is your business formal? Or informal? Either way, reflect this in your approach. Decide if you’re sharing content in a conversational, factual or humorous manner. Tell your content stories in a way that reflects your brand’s personality consistently whilst also respecting the different mediums you share content through. This is especially true for social media where each medium has unique nuances.
Content types refers to the actual content you produce. What you intend to produce is up to you and your resourcing capability. It’s not uncommon to outsource elements of content production to be able to produce more than you can in-house.
It pays to think critically about the different content options you have and then, assuming you can’t or don’t want to do everything, go through a process of prioritising them. What content are you best at producing in-house? What content types do you need to outsource? Based on your understanding of your market, what type of content do they want to consume? Will they digest what you offer if they can listen to it or are they more likely to want to read it and share it with others? It’s better to commit to some key content activities and do them well than stretch yourself too widely and not give any content category the effort it demands to make a difference to anyone.
Content types can be any of the below and so much more:
- Website pages
- Product descriptions
- Social media
- Invoices and other client facing administrative paperwork
- Voicemail messages
- Image library
How you source your content is another question to answer. You might mix it up and use your internal resources, that is, your employees or engage a team of writers to create new material and conduct interviews. You might also engage production houses or agencies to come up with ideas for you and deliver on these. The options are only limited by your creativity and financial purse. I’m increasingly finding companies are looking for outside assistance to supplement what they can do in-house.
Distribution and Promotion
Once it’s created, how will it be shared? For instance, if it’s a video will you share it on your website, YouTube, make it available on USBs to hand out at your events, incorporate in your webinars, etc….? As you can tell, imagination is key. Where you disseminate your content is just as important as creating it. In fact, you’ll probably spend more time distributing it than you do creating it if you want to make it work for you. It’s your job to get your content out of your company and in front of your target audience. You have to check back to your understanding of the personas to know where your audience hangs out and to develop a plan for distribution that makes the most sense.
The more evergreen your content is the more possibilities you’ll have for distribution. Content that can withstand changes in the market will have more longevity. However it might suit you to have a mix of content with evergreen and topical pieces to be able to respond to happenings on social media as they occur.
For a great list of promotion ideas check out: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/05/favorite-tools-content-promotion/#.WSLw2BgvnXg.twitter
This covers your content timetable. How often are you going to commit to producing the content? What frequency will you produce certain content versus others. Work out all your content types, where they’ll be distributed and if this is ongoing, and how often you plan to service those distribution channels. The more consistent you can be with your content production the better results you’re likely to experience. Something like a brochure doesn’t have to be created with short frequency as it may be fine to update it every two years or when a new service is added. Other things like your blog will require higher maintenance and need to be serviced as often as you can manage, like weekly. If we look at blogging for example, some people blog daily, some every month. There’s a lot of scope to do what you want and what you think will work best for you. Again test and check to be sure. However, you might want to commit to lessening the frequency of a piece of content and increasing the quality. Everything is a trade-off if you’re resource constrained.
On the measurement front, once you’ve distributed your content sufficiently it’s necessary to check how the content strategy is coming together via measurement. For each piece, ask, how has it performed? What have you learned? What worked? What didn’t? Is it too soon to tell? How much longer is needed? The statistics you use will depend on what the content is and where you shared it. Fortunately we have a lot of online statistics available to us via social media, Google Analytics and countless third party apps. You’ll find the best content is the content that can be measured. Statistics will support your internal argument to show how content is making a difference to your marketing effort and supporting your sales process. With the offline mediums, you can collect feedback from your sales team about how certain material was received and how it helped them progress the sale.
How will you manage the content? Who will take responsibility for the production and be kept accountable? Make sure your content strategy and execution conforms to your governance model no matter if you are managing it internally or outsourcing externally. You can use social apps like Trello to help with the workflow and communicate your governance process that way.
That covers the basics for your content strategy. Using this framework as your start is better than not considering any of the above. Aside from that, the most important thing to keep in mind is to always make sure your content is centred on the addressing the needs of your users/audience and the rest should fall into place.