Content is the Internet’s currency.
The articles that pop up on your web browser when you search for something are content. The addictive dance videos you see on TikTok are content. That ingenious ad for your favorite chocolate pudding is content, too.
But, in many cases, this content is not random. The articles, videos, and ads a brand puts out about its products or offers all tie together to form a moat that generates sales and drives business growth.
But like a house, a content moat has to first be mapped out on paper — physical or digital — before a brand can execute it.
This illustration is a content strategy.
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy is a plan that shows how you’ll use various content forms to achieve your brand objectives.
Crafting a content strategy helps you:
- identify what you want to achieve with content
- determine the kind of content that will help you achieve those goals, and
- create, dispense and measure the performance of the content.
As a brand, you can create content any time you want. But without a content strategy, you’ll likely not see tangible results from your efforts.
Why is it important for brands to have a content strategy?
Studies have shown that about 63% of the most successful businesses have a documented content strategy as opposed to 14% of the least successful. This goes to show how integral a content strategy is to success.
If you plan to use content to promote your brand, here are some reasons why you should have a content strategy:
- Easy content creation
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck while trying to come up with content ideas, then you know how challenging content creation can be.
But a content strategy can lessen, if not eradicate, this burden.
When you understand why you’re creating content, it’ll be much easier to brainstorm content ideas and create content.
- Consistent content production
Producing four content assets in one month, one asset the next month, and eight the month after will not yield good results for your brand.
Your audience expects you to regularly update your website, social media channels, or blog with high-quality, industry-related content that is helpful to them. A content strategy can help you do that.
- Efficient time management
A good content strategy contains your business goals, information about your target audience, the kinds of content you’ll create, and the channels you’ll use, among other things.
When you already have a content strategy, you won’t have to worry about your content not resonating with your audience or driving results every time you want to create. Instead, you’ll just go right ahead and create content for your brand.
- Track progress
As you create and publish content, you’ll need to track your progress to know if your efforts are paying off or not.
When you have a content strategy that clearly states your short-term and long-term goals, you’ll be able to use those goals as the yardstick to measure whether your content marketing efforts are effective or not.
- Identify new opportunities
To be successful at content marketing, you should constantly be on the lookout for new content creation opportunities.
A content strategy should highlight all the ways you can find news and trendy story ideas that relate to your industry. This way, you’ll be able to easily create content on popular topics that can help you reach more of your target audience.
Without a content strategy, the process of discovering new content opportunities will be disorganized — and it will show in the content you create.
6 steps to create a content strategy
The way your content strategy is set up determines the success you’ll get from content marketing.
There is no one-size-fits-all content strategy template you can copy. But there are a few essential tips that will set you on the right path.
- Outline your goals
The first step to making a content strategy is to outline your goals. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve by creating content.
Are you creating content to:
- boost brand awareness?
- generate high-quality leads?
- convert your leads to paying customers?
- attract and retain employees?
- re-attract past customers?
- build customer retention and loyalty?
- improve your search engine rankings?
… or something else completely?
According to HubSpot, the #1 goal of marketers is engagement and growing new audiences. If that fits with your brand, you can make those your goals too.
Once you have outlined your business goals, decide if content is the best way to achieve them.
There are times when content is not enough to achieve business goals. For example, if your product is not good or helpful, content alone cannot help you convert prospects to customers. And even if you do get some customers, they’ll churn and your efforts will go to waste.
If content can help you achieve your business objectives, set SMART goals. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.
For example, instead of simply saying you want to increase website traffic, say: Our goal is to increase our website traffic from 10K pageviews to 50K page views in six months.
- Define your target audience
The only way to succeed at content marketing is to create content specifically for people who are interested in your offer.
These people are your target audience. And to reach them, you’ll need to learn:
- Their demographic (age, location, interests, etc.)
- What challenges they’re facing (as it relates to your industry)
- The solution(s) they desire
- The websites and social channels they visit the most
- The kind of content they engage with the most
Knowing these things about your audience will help you create content that solves their problems and reaches them where they are.
Case in point:
If your company makes cooking spices, you’ll want to reach people that like to cook. Most of these people hang out on places like YouTube and TikTok watching cooking videos. They may also read blogs that break down various cooking recipes.
To reach them, you can write recipe articles for your company’s blog and/or create cooking videos for YouTube and TikTok (that feature your product).
- Decide on the content formats you want to use
Content comes in many formats. But you can’t cover them all in your content strategy. So you’ll have to pick the content formats that will serve your audience well in each stage of your sales funnel.
A typical sales funnel contains three key segments: Top, Middle, and Bottom.
- Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content boosts brand awareness and educates visitors about your brand, product, or offer. The best content types for people at this stage are blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, checklists, worksheets, how-to videos, and educational webinars/podcasts.
- Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) content helps prospects see the value of your product and how it can help them. Content types like case studies, infographics, samples, FAQs, demo videos, data sheets, and product webinars should do the trick for this stage.
- Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content is what influences customers to buy or subscribe to your product/offer. At this stage, provide content like sales pages and live demos (videos) where you pitch your product as the solution to your audience’s problem.
Some content formats like emails and social media posts can satisfy all stages of the sales funnel — depending on the actual content of the email and posts.
- Brainstorm content ideas
Next, think about your offer and your target audience and try to come up with content ideas that will benefit both your audience and your brand.
For example, if you own a skincare brand, you could write articles or film short videos breaking down certain skincare ingredients. These posts will help your readers understand which skincare ingredients are best for the skin problems they may be dealing with.
If your brand has products that have these ingredients, you could link to the sales pages in your articles or video description/caption. This way, you can generate sales and revenue for your business.
As a rule of thumb, come up with ideas for evergreen content — content that will remain relevant for months (or even years) to come — as well as time-bound/seasonal content. Seasonal content is content that is tailored to holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or even Halloween. If it aligns well with your brand, you can also create content for special days like Women’s Day and World Environment Day.
- Identify the best channels to distribute your content
It is not enough to create amazing content. You also want that content to be seen by the right people at the right time. What better way to achieve this than to publish your content in the channel your target audience spends most of their time on?
If you haven’t already, do some research into where your audience gets their information from and what social media platforms they use the most. It is through these channels that you will distribute and promote your content.
That being said, some channels are better suited for certain types of businesses:
- If your brand is visual — a skincare brand or a boutique — Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are great, as the majority of content on those platforms are images and videos (long and short).
- If your brand is a digital marketing agency, LinkedIn might be better for expanding your professional network and advertising your business. Facebook is also great for advertising.
- If your brand offers consulting services, Instagram and Twitter are very good, too. You can also upload industry-related videos on YouTube to grow your customers.
Your company’s blog is also a great place to upload brand-centric articles, case studies, infographics, and whitepapers.
- Use an editorial calendar to organize your work
The next step is to create an editorial calendar that shows when and where you’ll publish your content. This will help you keep track of your content and ensure you publish high-quality content on the right platforms consistently.
If you’re just starting out and you’re not publishing a lot of content, you can use Google calendar and input the due dates for each content piece. If your content is bulky and you have a content team, you may have to use some editorial calendar or project management tools that will allow you to schedule all the different parts of your content creation process, including the people responsible for each stage from ideation to promotion.
To keep things streamlined, create a social media content calendar where you organize all the content you’ll post on social media platforms and when you’ll post them.
While these six steps are pretty standard for creating a content strategy, there are a few extra things you can do if you have a huge reservoir of content.
In this case, you should also factor in your existing content pieces and see how you can make them work for you. Here’s how to do that:
- Run a content audit
A content audit is a document that contains all the URLs on your website and shows important metrics like the owner of the content, how the content performs, URLs that should not exist, URLs that should redirect to other locations, etc.
If you have many articles on your company website, you should run a content audit to assess your content efforts and their results in the past year. This will help you figure out which pieces you should dump, which ones you should keep as is, which ones you can update, and the ones you can merge with other content.
- Repurpose your content
Repurposing existing content is a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and it is something every content strategist should make a priority.
Many brands are so focused on publishing one content piece after the other that they forget that they can recycle existing pieces and use them in a different way.
For example, if you have been posting one article each week on your blog for the past year, you could collate all 52 blog posts and make them into an eBook.
Or you publish a round-up article of your most popular blog posts on your website and turn that article into 3-6 thread tweets or a long LinkedIn post. You could also turn a long article into a short video or infographic, publish old posts on Medium, or do a good ole content upgrade.
You’ve got many plays here.
For inspiration, here’s the formula that the team at Foundation Inc, uses:
Build a Winning Content Strategy
Having (and using) a solid content strategy can help you achieve more business goals because you’ll know which ideas work for your audience and which don’t. Creating a content strategy, however, isn’t a piece of cake. So here are some templates to help you (free downloads):