Here at Suite Seven we see content strategy as the orchestration of your brand story for different audiences across time and place.
At a deeper level, content strategy has many different facets — from messaging and editorial management, to information architecture and content modeling. Within each of these resides a core purpose of engaging with your audience and making their experience as seamless and fruitful as possible.
This is especially important with any content marketing effort you’re planning to launch or improve. You need to give your audience a reason to engage with you. The best way to do this is to deliver the right message at the right time to the right people — and through the right channels.
Achieving this isn’t as tricky as it may sound. Follow these key steps to create content that’s more relevant to your audience.
Know who you’re talking to
Audience research is a critical piece of the discovery work you should undertake as a part of any content strategy effort. Ideally, you should have fully fleshed-out user personas for the main types of people you’re trying to reach with your content. At the very least, you need to know (and document) a few things about each subset of your audience. What’s the common experience and expertise level? Challenges and needs, motivations and goals?
By understanding what drives each audience subset or persona you can more easily determine what content topics will resonate with them, and you’ll have a better chance at capturing their attention and engagement. You’ll also see that content needs will vary by persona — and by what phase they’re at in the sales cycle. More on that under planning.
Make use of available channels – but not all at once and in the same way
Maybe you’ve already jumped on the content marketing bandwagon and know all the channels at your disposal, but are having a hard time trying to “do it all.” Or maybe, at a more granular level, you’re still wondering whether tweeting is really the right way to reach your particular audience.
From ebooks and white papers to blog posts and infographics to videos and social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being the Big Three), marketers today have numerous outlets for reaching out to — and engaging with — audiences. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can send out the same content through each of these channels and call it a day, or even that you need to use them all. Specific channels can serve specific purposes.
For example, many companies promote recruiting and company news through Facebook but keep their Twitter feed alive with news of upcoming trade show appearances, bylined articles and reports recently published, and relevant industry news. Blog posts should be timely and relevant, and can either stand alone or tease a larger ebook or white paper. Infographics are a great way to reach busy executives with at-a-glance information. Ideally these should also tease a larger text piece (a blog post or something bigger like an ebook or report).
Think of it as an intricate web. Each piece of content you create and distribute should be unique and ideal for its form, should be able to stand alone, and should cross-promote related content.
Have a plan
As you can see, things start to get a little complex when you consider different audience personas and different content forms and delivery channels. There are a lot of pieces to track. Which means you need to develop a smart, organized way to deliver the right content to the right people — at the right time and through the right channels.
Start with a content strategy that documents your target audience and sales cycle, your ideal content mix, and also your key messaging and brand voice. Make sure your content strategy supports the goals of your overall marketing strategy.
Then create a tactical editorial calendar (i.e., a big spreadsheet!) that tracks what content will be created at what time and in what form, and who it will be delivered to, through what channel and when. Taken as a whole, the editorial calendar should play directly into your overarching strategy, and will tell a unified story of your brand — both in its parts and as a whole.
Tell a cohesive story
All this segmentation is great for effectively engaging different audiences, but keep in mind that at the end of the day you want to weave a common thread through everything: across channels and audiences. Your brand’s core value proposition, tone of voice and key messaging points will play a large role in making this happen.
Measure your success
Quality, relevant content will increase your brand’s credibility and prevalence, keeping it top of mind with prospects when they’re ready to purchase. This is a critical benefit — especially for lead generation — but it isn’t always easily measured.
While some key benefits of effective content marketing are intangible, you should still develop a system for measuring success where you can. This will serve to justify your program’s existence, and it will also provide crucial information to help you evaluate and improve what you’re doing. Here’s how:
- Benchmark where you are today
- Evaluate the key performance indicators (KPIs) you chose to focus on for the first few months
- Interpret your findings and decide where to optimize your content going forward
- Share your data and findings with the larger team to keep them excited about your effort
Today’s vast array of channels through which to reach different audiences presents a huge opportunity for marketers. The key is to use these channels strategically, and to effectively engage with targeted audiences by making content as relevant to them as possible.