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How to Create an Effective Content Strategy
An effective content marketing strategy is so much more than ad hoc blog posts and some social media activity.
The key is in the word ‘strategy’.
Successful businesses create content based on comprehensive plans that target a clearly defined audience to meet business objectives.
- A comprehensive content marketing strategy should set out how to use content to engage the audience and guide profitable customer action to meet business objectives.
- While the purpose of content marketing, like all marketing, is to increase sales, this shouldn’t direct content creation. Instead, content marketers should focus on providing valuable content that educates, informs, and entertains.
- There are various other purposes of content marketing: to raise brand awareness, develop brand loyalty, educate the audience, and engage with the audience while humanising the brand.
- Follow a general 9-step process for an effective content strategy:
- Ask questions about your business
- define goals
- create buyer personas
- audit existing content
- invest in a CMS
- Focus on content formats
- Brainstorm ideas
- Publish and promote content
- Adapt and adjust
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s focus on defining a content marketing strategy in the first place.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
As laid out by the Content Marketing Institute, a content marketing strategy encompasses your content strategy and content plan.
At their core, content marketing strategies answer the ‘why’ of your content. What is the purpose of putting anything out into the world to consume?
A content strategy is the management of content through various channels to meet business goals over time.
It is a clear blueprint for creating content (audio, visual, written and other content formats) and will dictate where this content appears.
A successful content strategy will attract your target audience at every stage of the buyer’s journey, engaging and informing them even after a purchase.
A content plan looks into the mechanics of how you will execute the strategy and constitutes the breakdown of tasks and responsibilities within a team.
Purposes of Content Marketing Efforts
It’s vital to consider the primary purpose of your content marketing strategy.
The underlying goal of your content production may vary from business to business. Let’s examine a few of the most common content marketing goals.
1. Brand Awareness
High-quality content stands out. Therefore, creating content that provides value to potential customers can showcase your expertise as a business. This expertise establishes your reputation as a knowledge source on industry trends and topics, thereby boosting brand awareness.
2. Brand Loyalty
Build that credibility over time through your consistently valuable content, and you’ll find that your audience keeps you front of mind.
They’ll return to you repeatedly as a go-to source for information and compelling content. A fantastic content strategy will build this loyalty over time.
Much of modern business revolves around providing answers to customer questions.
Therefore, your content strategy’s vital purpose is to educate the audience throughout the customer journey with relevant content. Focus on questions they might have and use this to guide content creation.
Another purpose of your content strategy is to humanise your brand.
Through your various marketing channels, you’ll provide opportunities for engagement with the audience for them to make a connection to your brand. Social media channels are fantastic for facilitating this engagement.
A well-thought-out content strategy will establish a brand personality and voice for all communication. You’ll apply this personality consistently to facilitate relationship-building with the audience through your content.
5. The Bottom Line
The elephant in the room is that all marketing tactics have the underlying purpose of increasing sales.
For instance, a content strategy should improve search engine performance with improved organic search rankings. This increased online visibility through search engine optimisation makes your business more discoverable to consumers.
If we follow the logic, you can then attract more potential customers through your content, leading to more conversions.
While this is the desired outcome of your content marketing efforts, we believe that a sound content strategy should focus on educating and entertaining to connect with the audience.
Use these principles to guide your content creation, and you’ll find that increased sales are a pleasant by-product instead of the founding aim.
Steps to Creating an Effective Marketing Strategy
Developing a content strategy framework and then creating a content plan involves asking a few more questions about your business. Asking these questions is your first step:
1. Ask questions
- Who is the target audience that will be reading/watching/engaging with your content?
- What audience problems are you looking to solve?
- What makes your business special/unique?
- What content formats are you going to prioritise?
- Which channels are you going to prioritise?
- What will the workflow look like for content creation and publication?
Answering these questions may require input from various places, depending on the size of your team/organisation.
Some of these questions deal with top-level concepts like your business’ USP and its strategic position relative to competitors. Others deal with the pragmatic day-to-day process of who does what and when concerning content creation.
Take the time to speak with different stakeholders in the business to establish answers to these questions before progressing with any planning of your content strategy.
2. Define the overarching purpose and goals
After speaking to various stakeholders, nail down the purposes and goals of your content marketing efforts.
Establishing clear aims will help guide further planning. You can make better content decisions based on what’s best for your business with defined goals.
Determining what success might look like will also help measure how well things are going further down the line.
3. Create buyer personas
When answering the question, “Who is the target audience?”, we need to flesh out what the ideal customer looks like.
This is called creating a buyer persona or the ideal customer profile (ICP).
By knowing your target audience inside out, you should be able to create relevant content that resonates with them.
This information-gathering goes beyond surface-level characteristics like gender, age, and location.
Marketers should build buyer personas with information concerning their likes and dislikes, their belief systems, their aspirations, and their fears and concerns.
By conducting market research that delves deeper into the intended audience, you can use these insights to write helpful, valuable content that truly speaks to readers.
4. Conduct a content audit
Effective content management often means making the most of what you have available.
Conducting a content audit means reviewing all existing content.
There are a couple of facets to this.
The first is to dive into Google Analytics to check on your highest-performing content. These insights are helpful as they inform you about what is working and what isn’t – what types of content and topics seem to attract and hold your audience’s interest?
It’s not too complicated – by establishing what works, you gain a recommendation for what to create more of.
Another aspect of this is a general assessment of what content marketing assets you have at your disposal. You may find a content gap you’re not addressing, or you may discover that old content can be repurposed in new ways.
If you’re starting from scratch with no previous content, you obviously have no content to review.
However, you can review your competitors’ content to see what they are doing, what seems to engage their audience, and where you think you can gain inspiration.
They’re likely targeting the same audience, so putting your original twist on what others are doing can be a practical piggybacking strategy.
5. Invest in a content management system
Invest in a CMS to create, manage and track content from one convenient hub.
The following are typical valuable features of a CMS:
- easily create and format content
- store content in one easily accessible location
- create workflows for content management with clearly defined roles for authors/editors/admins
- pushes content ‘live’
One of the significant benefits of a content management system is that they are user-friendly.
You can manage a team to publish web content without technical know-how. Creators can format content and upload text, images, and other media without knowing any HTML or CSS (programming languages).
6. Drill down on the type of content you want to produce
Content marketing is more than a blog post. Other content marketing examples include webinars, podcasts, ebooks, and informative videos.
Depending on the size of your team, how much time you have to invest, and how you plan to engage with your audience, you may choose a variety of content formats.
One educational blog post per week in your editorial calendar may be all you can commit to. In other cases, a content plan may involve video production, a comprehensive revamp of a site’s pillar pages, or a separate social media strategy with content tailored to various social media platforms.
You have a lot of content channels and multiple content formats at your disposal, and it’s crucial to meet your audience wherever they are present with content types that they are receptive to.
Respond to any user feedback by creating further content that users like to interact with.
7. Brainstorm content ideas
At this stage, it’s time to get creative and brainstorm content ideas.
Content marketers should remember to ground their ideas with some guiding principles:
- provide value
Generally, content should inform and provide value first and entertain second. That’s because there has to be a reason for your target audience to engage with your content in the first place.
Entice your target audience with the promise of something relevant and useful. It’s a secondary bonus if your original content also entertains.
Also, think about creating evergreen content that isn’t time-sensitive. This need to be evergreen is one of the most logical content strategies, as you want your content to have long-term value.
Evergreen content should continue to drive traffic and boost revenue into the future without the need for updates.
Another dynamic to think about is creating usable content – content that a sales representative may want to share with a prospect, for example.
As a general rule, sticking to the guiding principles of good content should automatically generate useable, shareable content.
8. Publish and promote content
Once you’ve generated a content plan that aligns with your overall content marketing strategy, it’s time to create an editorial calendar populated with your ideas.
Your editorial calendar sets out what you’ll post and when and where you’ll share it.
Alongside your editorial calendar, you should create a social media calendar to plan out promoting content with social media posts.
In short, you need to plan a thorough content distribution strategy to ensure your message gets out in front of your audience.
9. Measure success
You should have set key performance indicators at the very beginning of the process when you set goals.
Measure success as you go along through Google Analytics and other metrics to check engagement levels with your content.
The key to any marketing strategy is the ability to measure success and adapt and adjust accordingly to optimise the reach and effect of your efforts.
1. What are examples of content marketing?
Content marketing examples include media like blog posts, webinars, newsletters, podcasts, social media posts, and videos. All these content formats should provide useful and relevant information that attracts and delights users.
2. What is a good content strategy?
A good content strategy is grounded in clear steps towards a goal. This goal should define the content that you produce.
3. Why is content marketing important?
Content marketing is important because it helps you develop relationships with the audience based on trust to improve conversions. In the modern age of digital marketing, customer satisfaction is the priority as customers expect high-quality, helpful, consistent content from their chosen brands.