A killer content strategy starts with your audience—understanding their needs, their pain, and their desires. Here’s how to craft a strategy that works.
By Laurie Hileman
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….
“We should start a blog!”
Yeah? I thought so.
For many organizations, this is where their content marketing strategy begins and ends. They publish a few blog posts, maybe even a tweet or two, and hope for the best. A few months later they start questioning its effectiveness.
In all fairness, the buzz about content marketing is at a fever pitch—and for good reason. A recent study found content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing but costs 62 percent less.*
Granted, “Everybody’s doing it!” is not a sound business approach (just ask your mom). However, a carefully planned and well-executed strategy can drive profitable action and develop long-term relationships with your desired audiences.
Read on, and we’ll give you a clear understanding of content marketing and how it feeds into a content strategy. Plus, we’ll show you how profiling different audiences can help you tailor your content to meet their needs, address their pains, and satisfy their desires—all while smashing your own business goals.
Understand content marketing
In a land of a thousand choices, your customers need a reason to choose you. Price, product, location—all of the staples of traditional marketing become overshadowed as relationships take center stage. And that’s where content marketing—when deployed correctly—dominates.
According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI), a leading authority on all things related to the field, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer interaction.”
It goes on to explain that it’s “an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it. Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing.” **
It’s not easy (although some brands that have mastered the craft can make it seem so), but it’s far from impossible. With the right strategy in place, organizations of all sizes can leverage content to achieve their desired goals.
Define a content strategy
Back up. What’s the difference between a content marketing strategy and a content strategy?
In his article, “How Content Strategy and Content Marketing Are Separate But Connected,” Robert Rose, chief strategy officer for CMI, looks at it this way: “Content marketers draw on the wall with magic markers, while content strategists use fine pens.”
Rose goes on to explain, “The content marketer addresses the ‘whys’ and the content strategist addresses the ‘hows’—and together they work out the ‘whats’ and ‘wheres.’”
Clearly defining how your content is created, structured, governed, and maintained lies at the heart of a good content strategy. Understanding who is doing what and when helps you identify gaps that may require help from agencies or freelancers and can help you smoothly transition staff members as they come and go.
Another benefit of having a content strategy? It gives you the power to say no. You’ll waste much less time, money, and other resources developing content that is not relevant to your goals.
Know your audience
At the heart of both the content marketing strategy and content strategy lies your audience. Without a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach, there’s no sense in starting.
In the content arena, different audiences are often referred to as buyer personas. Depending on the scope of your project, personas may be simple demographics such as age, industry, or income level. Think about the challenges and pain points your different personas are experiencing. What successes are they trying to achieve? The more focused your personas, the more targeted—and effective—your content will be.
As content ideas form, sort the pieces into virtual “buckets” for each persona. Remember to create content that appeals to your personas through every stage of the customer journey—as they discover, learn, try, and buy—with your organization. You’ll want to craft content that helps retain customers, too, and turn them into potential advocates.
“Your content and your content buckets should be focused enough to appeal to the audience you want to reach, while being broad enough to appeal to a few subsets within that audience. Don’t cast the net too wide—it’ll dilute your message and potentially confuse people,” writes Lauren B. Mangiaforte in her NewsCred blog post “10 Unbreakable Rules for Content Marketing in 2015.”
Avoid confusion and watered-down content with a clear content strategy. A good direction will take six to 12 months to gain traction, so commit to it and give it time. With a strong commitment and willingness to measure and tweak content as you move along, your audiences will choose you every time.