The Smart Guide to Content Marketing Strategy

Content strategy is to branding as cover is to a book. And yes, people will judge books by their cover and they will judge your brand by the content you produce. Just like your business needs to have a strategic vision, your content also needs to serve a greater purpose.

Everything starts with the reader.

A common issue when it comes to content strategy is lack of focus – organizations not fully understanding who their readers are, or even worse, not being intentional about who they want to reach.

It’s not enough to say your content is meant for engineers, baby-boomers, HR professionals or any other vaguely defined group. In fact, demographics are probably the worst offenders when it comes to overgeneralization. A baby-boomer male with an above average income that lives in Dallas encompasses a WIDE section of the population. It includes a 50 year old CEO of an oil company as well as a 55 year old yoga instructor and environmental activist. Their hearts, values and opinions are completely different and very far apart – so we have to approach them differently because using the same demographic bucket just won’t do.

Instead, you may want to create target market profiles for your readers that are focused on their values and motivations. You can follow this comprehensive guide for development of target market profiles, or as a shortcut, refer to Dr Pearson’s excellent resource, See if you can find your ideal reader in one of the archetypes and think about what’s important to them. This should be the first cornerstone of your content strategy.

TO DO: Create two or three profiles of your ideal readers. Who exactly would you want to consume your content and who exactly will benefit from it.

Content is not king

Just because an organization is pumping out “content” doesn’t mean it’s effective – which is what “Content is king” would lead you to believe. If you were to take a photo of a chair with Instagram and post it to Facebook and Twitter, you just effectively created three pieces of content. But will anyone really care? Maybe… if they have some weird chair fetish. What you and I really have to focus on is not content, but value.

How does this thing (video, podcast, article, status update) make your reader’s life better?

You can apply the science of small wins as a guideline – answering one question, providing one tip or addressing one issue per piece of content. You also have the option of improving someone’s day by using entertainment or humour as well.

So, how exactly would you measure if your content is considered valuable? What I look at are “considerable actions“, escalating from shares (tweets, likes or similar) to comments and deeper participation such as uploading photos or multiple responses. In case of a blog or a web property, you may also look for time spent on site or pages per visit.

TO DO: When you sit down to plan your content strategy, or even your next blog post – let the guiding question be “How will this make my readers’ life better?

What are your two words?

If you were to pick only two words that would represent your brand – what would they be? Put another way, what do you want to be known for?

Think of content (in any format) as a manifestation of your brand. What you believe in and want your brand to represent, should be clear for anyone on the other side (consuming your content) to reflect in their experience.

Once you have your two word theme – it’s easy to brainstorm content that fits and is on-brand. If we were BMW and our two words were “performance” and “driving” – you could easily come up with a number content ideas:

  • Video describing metal alloys used in construction to increase cornering performance
  • Sponsored blog post featuring one of the “Top Gear” hosts driving a new BMW model
  • Instagram photo contest of best driving roads in your city or state
  • Interviews with automotive engineers working on the new engines

Switching gears (ha) to measurement, here’s a simple temperature check for how well you’re doing: Look at your incoming search terms on your website and blog. Are the words people are using to find your blog / website – the words you want associated with your brand?

TO DO: Brainstorm with your team and pick two words that you feel best describe your brand. Then let these guide all your content planning for the rest of the year.

Focus on Microcontent

I recently came across an article advocating organizations use the C.O.P.E. approach – which stands for Create Once Publish Everywhere. Organizations using this kind of a shotgun approach are the ones who are finding that social media is not working for them.

Each platform is like a country – with its own language, customs, people and structures. Twitter users, for example, are used to many short updates in a day. If you get into a conversation or tweetchat, it’s not hard to breach 100 tweets per day. On the other hand, an average Facebook user or business page would update their page once or twice per day. Furthermore, Twitter language includes hashtags which look completely out of place on Facebook or YouTube for example. Treat each platform separately and give it the respect and time it deserves. Also, check out this Gary Vaynerchuck interview on the Microcontent Revolution.

TO DO: Unbundle. Look at all the platforms you’re using – are you just “promoting” your own content there, or are you engaging in conversation or delivering something of value?

To summarize… when it comes to creating a smart content strategy: know who you are creating content for, manifest your brand through your content (know and live by your two words), always deliver value and participate on each platform on its own terms. Sticking to these principles will give you a strong strategic foundation for your content.

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– Ernest // Follow me on Twitter

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