Jun 29, 2018

Get Real Results – Creating an Effective Content Strategy

Written by Dan Hughes

At this point in your digital journey, you’ll know just how important content is and how, if efficiently leveraged, it can yield real results – boosting brand awareness, enhancing conversion rates and driving sales.

With that said, to get the most from your content and strike a genuine chord with your target audience, creating an effective content strategy is essential. However, even when you know the fundamental elements of creating engaging content and placing it in front of your audience, getting the results you crave can prove easier said than done.

Currently, a mere 7% of B2B marketers don’t use content marketing as a critical part of their overall digital strategy. Of course, these businesses have most likely already fallen way behind the rest of the pack. With the vast majority of modern brands looking to ramp up their content marketing strategy, the competition is fierce. To win on today's commercial battlefield, your campaigns must cut through the noise to make a genuine impact.

On the flipside, if you know how to create a content marketing strategy that gets results, your prospects as a digital marketer will increase exponentially: today’s brands need content innovation and savvy content marketers are in hot demand.

According to Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently, this year and beyond, the savviest of brands will reduce the amount of content they produce, using their respective budgets to improve the production value of all they create.

And that’s where you come in. Knowing how to create high-quality content that speaks to your desired customer base on a personal level is the key to success, and here we’re going to show you how to build a strategy that sings. 

Let’s begin.

Set Your Golden Circle

Your Golden Circle will form the very foundations of your content marketing strategy, so it’s important that you get it right. Essentially, your Golden Circle is a clear definition of why your brand exists, what it’s all about and what it’s looking to achieve. It’s your brand story.

To map out your Golden Circle correctly, you must dig as deep as possible, asking yourself (and other key stakeholders within the company) the right questions, in the right order.

Many people get this wrong, rendering their content strategy useless before it’s even got off the ground, but don’t fret, we’re here to steer you in the right direction. Consider these questions:

Why: Why does the company exist?

How: How will this enhance the existence of your audience, and how will you reach your goals?

What: What are you offering to your target audience, in a literal sense?

Take the time to answer these questions until you are 100% satisfied, arrange your thoughts methodically and before you know it you’ll have a brand story that will help you steer your strategy to success.

Build Your Buyer Personas

A notable study from Mark W. Schaefer suggests that three to four buyer personas generally account for over 90% of a brand’s sales.

Buyer personas are essential as they provide an effective means of getting under the skin of your target audience and making sure you get the maximum results for all of your content marketing efforts.

We’re certain you’ve already been acquainted with buyer personas and for a full recap on how to create valuable consumer profiles, here is a definitive guide.

“Too often, buyer profiles are nothing more than an attractive way to display obvious or demographic data. Defining markets based on demographics – data such as a person’s age, income, marital status and education – is the legacy of 60 years of selling to the mass market.” Adele Revella

With this in mind, to create the best buyer personas for your content strategy, you should dig into your site analytics to gain as much data as possible, defining the consumer attributes that you feel will be most valuable to your strategy or campaign.

To do this via Google Analytics, these two custom reports are essential:

User Demographics and Interests: By enabling and tailoring a User Demographics and Interest report and gathering the data over an agreed period, you will be able to gain more profound insights into the age and gender of your users, along with the interests they express during their online travel and purchasing journey. These metrics are essential to building the foundations of a buyer persona for your content strategy.

Source and Medium: By creating a Source/Medium report via Google Analytics, you'll gain the power to understand the origin of your traffic over a set period as well as the medium used, such as organic search, cost-per-click (CPC) paid search, and web referral. These insights will help you decide which attributes are most important to focus on regarding your buyer persona in a big way.

Research is absolutely crucial when building buyer personas to help create a content strategy, and this digital data will prove priceless.

Define Your Brand Voice

Now that you’ve crafted your brand story, taken the time to understand your target audience inside out, and built your buyer personas – the next step is to develop your brand’s tone.

Why? Well, because your brand voice or tone will form the basis of all of your content and will also set you apart from your competitors. Stop and think about the brands or even publications you love for a moment. Do they have a particular way of communicating their message? Do they structure their sentences or format their blog posts differently from their competitors? Perhaps that’s one of the reasons you fell for them in the first place.

Two examples that spring to mind (primarily for their striking originality) are Innocent and BuzzFeed. Innocent’s quirky use of language and dreamy use of imagery has always set their content campaigns apart from the competition, and BuzzFeed’s snappy yet humorous listicles have also proven effective. The point is, developing a consistent and individual voice for your content is critical to long-term success.

Start by creating or redefining an in-house editorial style guide with others in your team. Will you write out numbers in full from one to nine and numerically from 10 onwards? Will you use the Oxford comma or not? Will you capitalize your subheadings? Consider all of these points, create your style guide and you’ll ensure consistency reigns supreme across all of your content.

The next thing to consider is that your tone will differ slightly for each persona at which you’re aiming your content.

Sticking to your in-house style guide, use this chart, courtesy of Neil Patel, to design a brand voice that connects with different segments of your audience:

Neil Patel Brand Voice Table
Neil Patel Brand Voice Table

Use the SMART Goal Method to Give Your Content Direction

Having specific goals for your content is of vital importance, as without aims for everything you produce and every campaign you structure, it will lack the critical direction it needs.

To help you define clear goals for your content, you should use the ‘SMART’ method for each segment of content within your strategy, a performance acronym spearheaded by Peter Drucker:

Specific: Leads, visits or customers? Do you want your content to generate leads, drive more traffic or convert existing leads?

Measurable: Deciding on a number. Come to a particular number or metric to help give your content ambition and measure its success.

Attainable: Understanding your benchmarks. Look at the performance of similar content you’ve created in the past and consult your site analytics to ensure the goals you’ve set for your content are realistic.

Relevant: Relating back to the overall end goal. Ensure that each goal you set relates back to the overall end goal of your strategy.

Timely: Setting a timeframe. Choose creation, publication and amplification dates for your content to remain on track and give yourself the best possible chance of achieving your goals.

Using this as a guide for each main component within your content strategy will give you the best chance of yielding the results you deserve.

Plan Your Content

This is crucial to consider for your content strategy, as this can chop, change, morph and evolve over time – so anything you settle on initially won’t necessarily be set in stone. Nonetheless, it will serve as an essential guide and give your strategy the creative direction it needs.

Planning innovative, engaging and valuable content is a creative and collaborative pursuit, so really the sky is the limit.

There is a process to content planning and it goes something like this:

  • Get together with your team and brainstorm ideas.
  • Look at the calendar and note down specific dates and events that you can leverage.
  • Decide on definitive campaigns to help segment your content (these can be mini campaigns that last a few days or big campaigns for the likes of Christmas).
  • Refine your ideas and decide which mediums you’ll use to create your content e.g. standard blog post, eBook, white paper, video, infographic, email, etc.
  • Build a spreadsheet or calendar on Google Docs, adding your content ideas, key dates for creation and distribution and the person responsible for each task.
  • Give all the relevant parties access to your content planning calendar.
  • Hold regular meetings to check progress and redefine any ideas you feel need changing or improving.

Make Distribution Plans

Your channel plan can be integrated into your content planning document, although this is optional (but strongly advised).

First, you should sit down and look at the current distribution channels you use and which work best. You should also consider which emerging social platforms you could potentially use to your advantage.

Once you’ve made a definitive list and prioritized each channel in terms of value and focus, you should consult your content planning document, noting down the platforms or social channels you’re going to use to distribute and amplify each piece of scheduled content.

A solid content marketing channel plan frees you from the shackles of any one distribution platform or outlet. With that said, planning distribution methodically is an essential component of any successful and sustainable content strategy.

Some Key Points

  • There is no magic template for a successful content strategy – it must be tailored to the goals of your brand and its audience.
  • Your content mission and goals are crucial to success. Never forget that and always communicate them transparently with the rest of your company.
  • Your content strategy will evolve with your customers and the new insights you gain. Always be ready to tweak and update your strategy as time rolls on.
  • Content marketing leaders enjoy 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders – just a little something to keep you motivated!

Dan Hughes
Dan Hughes

Dan is a content writer specializing in digital marketing, emerging tech, music and looking after a toddler. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his Catchy Space.

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