What Makes a Kickass Content Strategy?
You have posted a ton of information online in the form of blogs, whitepapers, e-books, and infographics. And you are doing it every day without fail. That is what most businesses with online presence do. Your social media channels are continuously connecting with customers using images, videos and the like.
And yet, you DO NOT see much activity and response from your customers. Your sales have not increased. You have not gained new customers. There are only some random shares and “likes” of your posts but nothing much beyond that.
Are you one of those who feel that your content marketing efforts are not bearing any fruits?
The most likely reason is the lack of a hard-coded content strategy! It is reported that 45% of content creation is not specific and is rather unplanned. You might be one of them.
Don’t worry you are not the only one. I will help you get your mojo on.
(Source: Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs)
What you need to know is how to craft that kickass content strategy and draw the prospects and customers towards you like moths to flames? And I am going to teach you just that!
In this post, we will discuss:
- What is a content strategy?
- How do you identify the different customer profiles of your business?
- What are your business goals and objectives?
- How to connect your business goals and your customer profiles with your content strategy?
Let’s get started.
What is a content strategy?
Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic defines content strategy as:
“Planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”
In the simplest terms, content strategy refers to a well-defined plan of leveraging content throughout the buyer journey to achieve your business goals.
It has been observed that companies often fail to understand the content strategy and its components and that is why it fails.
Here are the key reasons why a content strategy fails:
There you have it.
How will you know if your content is effective? Definitely not by the number of shares, likes, and retweets on social media.
How will you create engaging content? Only if you know who is your customer.
Create your customer avatar and then directly speak to them about things they WANT to hear which is related to your business.
Therefore, to have a kickass content strategy, you must know:
- Who is your customer?
- What are your business mission and goals?
How do you identify the different customer profiles of your business?
Or simply – Who is your customer?
- Are you guilty of producing and publishing content which YOU think is important for your business?
- Or your customers (whoever they might be) SHOULD read about?
- In the form that YOU think they SHOULD read?
- At a frequency that YOU have decided?
- On the platforms where YOU think they congregate or prefer?
- Do you see where I am going? It is all about YOU. Where is the customer in all this?
Whether it is your product or service offering or your content to engage them and draw them towards your offering, it is an absolute no-brainer that you must know your customers “better than they know themselves”.
Let us take the example of a fictitious TV company called ICTV. They manufacture and sell 4K Smart TV in 5 sizes and Full HD Smart TV in 3 sizes. All of the TVs retail at different price points and have varying tech specs.
Question is – Does ICTV sell all of them to everyone or anyone? No!
The TVs have been made to cater to different segments of the customer in different markets – US, Europe, Australia… There are TVs for single people, families, elderly people, gamers, movie buffs and even for companies to install in their offices and board rooms or at the pub or restaurant.
Every buyer is different. They go through different stages of buying at a different pace. They have different needs.
- What are those needs? What are their problems or challenges that they hope to resolve using your product? What do they like or dislike or are skeptical about?
- What do they want to know about your company or products?
- What would they gain by using your product/service?
- What do they think and see about your products? What do they say about it (in social media, comments on blogs)?
- What do they hear about you and your company either directly from you and indirectly in the form of opinion, feedback, etc? A Nielsen study found that 84% trust recommendations from people they know compared to 68% who trust consumer opinion posted online.
- How can you connect with the various customer avatars to initiate a meaningful conversation? According to CMI, “Only 42% of B-to-B marketers have conversations with customers as part of their audience research.” Who are those customers and prospects whom you want to attract, convert and retain?
Meanwhile, answering all of the above questions will help you develop your customer avatars or buyer persona. I will do a separate blog post to deep dive into Customer Avatar/ Buyer Persona and help you make your content strategy razor-sharp.
You must interact with your customers both formally and informally to get an insight into their customer experience. A Gartner study recently found that 89% of businesses compete on the basis of customer experience.
It is by knowing your customers in and out would you know how to engage them, how often, where and in what form – to make the interaction meaningful. Fruitful for both him and you.
What are your business goals and objectives?
Industries and businesses within industries go through three types of cycles:
- The business cycle phase is a macro-economic phenomenon comprising expansion, peak, contraction, recession, and recovery.
- The company life cycle of initiation, growth, maturity, decline or resurgence giving rise to another phase of growth.
- Within every company, the products go through a life cycle of their own comprising of introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Thus, within a company, different products or services might be at a different stage of their life cycle.
If your company is a multi-national or even a small business in the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu, you will be facing the impact of the economy and therefore, your market too will be affected.
You need to know:
- What is the state of your industry in the current economic climate? Are you on a growth path trying to gain more market share or aiming to maintain your current position?
- What is your business vision? Earning revenue of X dollars is not a vision! Serving 4,320 customers in your market is not a vision! Becoming a preferred employer by adopting diversity and inclusiveness or creating an environment of continuous innovation could be your vision.
- What is your business’s SWOT analysis?
- Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How are they competing in the market?
- What is your unique selling proposition or a competitive advantage? Is it service? Is it price?
- Which markets are you trying to compete in? Which segments are you targeting? Circle back to your customer avatar (discussed earlier) based on the targeted segment and voila – you have something actionable and measurable.
- How strong is your brand? Doing a brand assessment would give you useful insight on how to steer ahead.
- Who are your stakeholders – government, creditors, employees? What are their concerns? How can you alleviate them without being apparent? How can you influence their “we experience” about your business?
- How is your business integrated within the overarching community? This is important. Because they are the pool of prospects who can become your customers. And they affect your brand image through their interaction.
The company goals and objectives will vary depending on multiple variables either within your control or beyond. But the above assessment will place you on a stronger footing to integrate your content strategy with your business and customer avatars.
How to connect your business goals and customer profiles with your content strategy?
The goal of your content strategy should be to closely engage with your various customer profiles as they go through the phases of buying and beyond.
There is ample data to prove that it is cheaper to serve existing paying customers for repeat sales than to ceaselessly acquire more customers. Which means that the role of content strategy extends to retaining the customer engagement after-sales and motivate them to purchase more and become the business’s evangelist.
It not only costs more to acquire new customers but we often fail to monitor basic economics which states that once marginal revenue and marginal cost are equal the production (or customer acquisition) should cease. Why? Because beyond this point, we start losing profits.
The content strategy of the business should now focus on:
- Communicating benefits (don’t sell!) rather than justifying features and cost. Instead of competing on price (which everyone does), focus on educating your customers about the company, its journey, importance of quality, product benefits, and let them justify the price. Use different types of content to create an all-encompassing experience. They will feel happy to pay a premium or buy a superior model if they are convinced through effective content.
- Making content effective for engagement by employing different types of content for different stages of buying. For example: Let us consider the previous ICTV case. What will be more effective to influence an average customer? A banner ad? A blog post? A video with a product demonstration? Customer testimonials? Email whitepaper? Product datasheet? The correct answer is all of them but at different stages of the buying process. When to use which content type and channel or how frequently are tactical decisions and not a strategy.
- Measurable content objectives for each stage of the buying process to empower and enable customers. What do you measure as the content success for each stage? For example X numbers of inquiries, Y numbers of sales or Z numbers of social shares after a new product launch. If you can measure, only then you can improve.
The objective of content strategy is to amplify positive customer experience and engagement to achieve the business goals.
But don’t forget the cardinal rule – document your content strategy and you will be on a roll. If you need a template, go for Moz.