Let’s talk about your content creation strategy.
The pandemic forced a lot of brands to venture online where they faced fierce competition.
To stand out, companies had to put their customers first and give them what they want. Without a content creation strategy, this is incredibly difficult.
But putting together a content strategy that works – that is, it gets you new leads, new customers, and brand awareness – is easier said than done.
In fact, the 2021 State of Content Strategy Report shows that there are many obstacles that brands are up against when it comes to a content creation strategy:
However, the results are well worth the blood, sweat, and tears. A successful content strategy can help you rank well on Google, increase brand visibility, and reach new customers.
For Christine McLean, the results have been great:
But what goes into a good content creation strategy and where do you even start? Here is a step-by-step process that includes the key elements of a successful content strategy.
1. Customer Journey Map
We’ll talk a bit about getting to know your customers later on, but first let’s discuss their journey with your brand.
How do they come to find you? What actions do they take when they land on your site? And, ultimately, what’s the path to sale?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you map out the journey each customer takes with your brand before they buy. It’ll be different for everyone.
For example, one brand might find that customers often arrive on their website via an Instagram ad, from there, they’ll have a look around at some product guides before adding their chosen items to their cart.
When you know exactly what steps people take when interacting with your brand, you’re in a better position to provide the right information at exactly the right time.
As Allie Decker of Omniscient Digital says:
This is the first step in your content strategy process as it fuels many of the other stages, like keyword research and content format.
Freelancer Laura Bosco agrees:
How to create a customer journey map:
- Analyse Google Analytics to find out where customers come from
- Map site stats to determine the most popular route to sale
- Explore what types of content bring people to your site in the first place
- Create a loose map using all of this data
2. Customer Personas
Once you know how customers interact with your brand, you can find out more about them. Customer personas are a set of details about your best customers (or those who you want to target the most).
They dig deeper than the standard “age, location, job” information and instead go into psychographic information, like the biggest challenges, fears, and goals your audience has.
You can get to know your customers by sending out surveys, interviewing your best customers, researching common questions on Q&A forums and, most importantly, listening:
Knowing what problems your audience face helps you create content that provides a solution and that positions your brand in the best light at the same time.
How to create customer personas:
- Identify 2-3 different segments of your audience you most want to target
- Carry out customer research using surveys, interviews, and social listening
- Create 2-3 different personas that highlight the challenges, problems, and goals your target audiences have
3. Goals and Objectives
You won’t know how well your content creation strategy is performing if you have nothing to measure it against. This is where goals and objectives come into play. They help you determine whether you’re on the right track with your content strategy and identify areas for improvement.
Use SMART goals here:
For example, “gain 100 new leads in 6 months” is better than “increase leads” because you’re able to measure your results against something tangible.
Make sure you regularly check in with your goals and objectives to see where you’re at and determine what’s working and what’s not.
How to create goals and objectives:
- Identify 3-5 key objectives you want to achieve with your content (more leads, increase your social following, get featured in a large online publication, for example)
- Create actionable, measurable goals that align with those objectives
- Measure the results after a certain timeframe
- Tweak your content strategy and optimise the parts that are underperforming
4. Value and Expertise
Your expertise and experience is what makes you different from your competitors. A content creation strategy without this will be boring and cookie-cutter – avoid this by weaving your industry knowledge and customer stories into your strategy to show you know what you’re talking about.
As Jason Vana says:
While this isn’t necessarily a “tangible” element of a content creation strategy, it’s an important part if you want to stand out.
How to give value and expertise:
- Identify your main areas of expertise
- Plot a couple of stories that show your expertise in your industry
- Have these stories and your areas of expertise at the front of your mind when coming up with content ideas
5. Content Calendar
Your content calendar brings your strategy together in one place so you can see what needs to be published and when. This can include your on-site content as well as your off-site content and social posts.
Not only does having a calendar hold you accountable, but it allows your entire team to get a snapshot of what’s going on content-wise at any given time.
And, as Vicki O’Neill Carroll puts it, a content calendar helps you stay relevant, timely, and consistent.
Start by mapping out the key dates in your industry’s calendar and then filling in from there. Remember to include content creation dates as well as publishing dates, and incorporate your distribution strategy into the mix to make sure your content is getting seen by the right people.
How to create a content calendar:
- Brainstorm a list of content ideas that help your target audiences solve a specific problem
- Map these out on a calendar around important annual dates in your industry
- Plot when you will create, edit, and publish the content
- Add distribution dates to your calendar
- Assign tasks to the relevant people within your team
6. Editorial Guidelines
Once you know what your audience needs, the journey they take with your brand, and have a content calendar in place, it’s time to polish up your editorial guidelines. These will indicate what your content should look like and how it should read so that it reflects your brand in the right way.
For example, you might decide that all content needs to have a casual, informal tone, and that blog posts should be structured in the same way each time.
By doing this, you can streamline the content creation process, make sure every piece is consistent with your brand’s needs, and help external sources that you bring on board get up to speed quickly.
MailChimp has an in-depth Content Style Guide that lays out things like their tone of voice, how to write technical content, and a list of words that writers can and can’t use.
How to create editorial guidelines:
- Write down what you want your brand to be known for (fun, informal, sophisticated, etc)
- Create a document that outlines the tone of voice you want to aim for with all your content
- Identify how you want content to be structured to make sure it stays consistent
- Create a guide that encompasses all this information that anyone involved in the content strategy process can access
Keep Your Content Creation Strategy Simple
The thought of creating an entire content strategy from start to finish can be incredibly overwhelming. But, if you break it down into smaller steps and only create the assets you really need.
Keeping things simple means you’re more likely to be consistent with your content efforts which, in turn, will lead to better results.
Adrienn Tordai puts it “simply”:
Start by identifying who your audience is and what exactly it is they need. Then you can use this information to come up with content ideas that target their main problems. From there, it’s a case of building out a content calendar and making sure you track your content efforts regularly.