Millions of blogs appear online every day. All with the same intent of sharing relevant information to inspire the target group and influence purchasing behavior. How can any company today – with all the competition – still create content that stands out? Everything depends on inspiring content and an even better content strategy.
Research by the Content Marketing Institute shows that companies with a documented content strategy are more successful and are more in ‘control’. However, less than half of the companies appear to actually have a content strategy.
It all starts with accurate buyer personas. By applying the steps in this article, you will go from buyer persona to awesome content in 10 straight-forward steps.
Good Content is Key
What makes content good? Good content does not necessarily have to be the most remarkable or creative content. Content is good when it answers the customer’s question, at exactly the right time during the buyer journey and in exactly the right place.
Good content is right on the cutting edge of where you as an organization can deliver added value and what your target group is looking for. We also call this the ‘sweet spot’.
This can be a blog that makes the visitor aware of their own challenges, but also an email that allows a lead to go from ‘problem aware’ to ‘solution aware’ and thus understands that your organization can solve this challenge.
Here are 10 steps for creating a good content strategy.
1. Formulate a Mission Statement
Formulate your content mission statement, answering the question of who the target group is, what kind of knowledge your organization will offer and how it benefits the target group. Suppose you are a publisher of a magazine, what is the niche of your company and what are the recurring themes? Your mission, the overarching story of your brand, is the foundation of your content strategy.
2. Determine the Content Purpose of the Content Strategy
Make sure to define what you want to achieve with your content in your content strategy. Content objectives are always a derivative of the business objectives. What are the pain points of your organization? Maybe your main emphasis should be on content that helps customers to be more successful with your solution. Or perhaps you want your target group aware of the challenge and your solution. As long as you’ll define a clear purpose that’s in line with your business objectives, you’re good.
3. The Buyer Persona and the Buyer Journey
The buyer persona and buyer journey are the basis for the creation of good content and therefore one of the most important parts of the content strategy. It’s not about what content you can or want to create as a company. It’s about what content you need to create to meet the needs of your target audience.
So you can only create good content by really understanding what information your target audience needs at any time during the buyer journey. Qualitative research (interviews with customers, colleagues, prospects, lost deals) and quantitative research (data) provide insight and direction for your content strategy.
Roughly 3 phases can be distinguished in the overall buyer journey.
Awareness: in this phase a buyer becomes aware of his/her problem or opportunity. In this phase, the buyer tries to gain more insight into the opportunity or challenge by collecting information online.
Consideration: In this phase, the buyer has a better picture of his/her situation and looks at which possible solutions are available.
Decision: In this phase the buyer makes a decision. He compiles a list of providers who may offer the right solution, evaluates these companies with stakeholders based on decision criteria and makes a choice.
By means of qualitative research, i.e. interviews with real customers, an increasingly clear picture is created of the thinking patterns and behavior of the buyer persona in every step of the buying process. Think of answers to questions such as ‘what triggered a customer to look for information’, ‘which selling point was decisive’ or ‘why did a lost opportunity choose the competitor’.
With quantitative research you gain insight into the online behavior of visitors, leads and customers and you will learn what type of content you need at every step in the funnel. For example, keyword research and insights into website behavior through marketing automation.
4. Brainstorming Content and Content Mapping
Now that you have the necessary intel on the customer journey, the fun part begins:
Analyzing what type of content is already available through a gap analysis and where you can achieve quick wins. You will then move forward with brainstorming content and mapping the content to the buyer journey. Work out the buyer journey, write down the needs and behavior per phase and brainstorm what information is appropriate for this. Make sure that there is also sufficient diversity in the ideas and media types, such as a tool, a step-by-step plan, a checklist, a customer case, blogs or an eBook. And vary from content that speaks to their emotions to content that speaks to their logic.
5. Determine Your Brand Voice
When you compare different newspapers, you will immediately notice that they have a different target group. They have a different look and feel, use different photos and have a different way of writing.
The same should apply to companies that create content. The brand voice is what makes your company different from others. And yet, many companies don’t have a brand voice.
Now that you have insight into the profile of your buyer persona and what information he wants at any time, you can decide what tone and appearance suits your target group and your organization.
6. Get Your Priorities Straight
In the beginning of the content journey, the question is often ‘how do I fill a whole year with content’, but if you go through the steps in this article, you are more likely to have too many ideas than too few. That is why you have to set priorities. Do your organization initially want more traffic and reach? Then focus mainly on SEO, PR and social content. Are you mainly focused on increasing conversions? Then give more priority to downloadables, such as eBooks, customer cases or ROI tools. Also look at the gap analysis and where you can achieve quick wins. For example, do you have plenty of blogs already? Then you could turn the blogs into an eBook to get more downloads.
7. Content Distribution
A frequently used quote within content marketing is ‘Content is king, but distribution is the queen and she wears the pants’. In other words, no matter how great your content is, if it is not found it is completely pointless. Decide per content item how you will distribute this via your owned, earned, paid and/or social channels.
8. Resource Planning
Who, in your organization, is best at creating content? Do you have sufficient knowledge within the organization or are external experts or influencers required to level up and increase the reach? Are there sufficient resources to start your own big content projects – such as eBooks – or would it be better to work with an agency? Make a realistic estimate of the content creation you have in mind and call in additional resources if necessary.
9. Create a Content Calender
Now that you know what you are going to make, who is involved and what the distribution looks like, you can start creating a content calendar. In any case, a good content calendar includes:
- The topic or title
- For which buyer persona you are creating the item
- Which phase of the journey the content is targeting
- The purpose of your item
- Content type (eBook, blog, tool, etc,)
- Publication date
- Promotion channels
- A calendar in Excel is an option, but a free tool like Trello can also be useful for day-to-day planning and for the collaboration between colleagues.
Does your organization create a lot of content? Then it might be useful to create a project plan in addition to a content calender. When you collaborate with external or internal experts and designers, or if you want to invest time in the promotion of content, a precise project plan is very useful. The plan should at least contain the different phases of the content items and who does what, such as:
10. How Will You Measure Success?
How do you maintain insight into the success of content marketing? Ultimately, it is important to be able to measure the ROI of content marketing. Before you actually get started on the content creation, make sure you create a content dashboard in which you keep track of your metrics. Preferably, this dashboard is the same as your marketing funnel, for example:
Traffic per channel
At the top of the funnel, it is mainly about awareness for your organization. You measure this, for example, on the basis of organic traffic, or traffic via social media.
Leads and conversion
Measure how many visitors leave their details and want more information before they make a purchase (marketing-qualified lead). And measure the conversion from visitor to call-to-action.
Measure how many of the leads are actually open to a conversation with sales, or how many sales-qualified leads you generate from marketing-qualified leads.
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