Looking to develop your content strategy? You’re not alone. According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 40% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. Around a third have a loose, undocumented strategy, and 27% have no strategy at all. Why does this matter?
Since the pandemic, content usage has increased by 207%. People are searching online every minute to find the answers to questions that your business can answer! Providing quality content to assist them is a key tactic to drive business. But you have to be intentional about what content you create, where you post it, and how you create it.
To help develop your content strategy, answer these 14 questions:
Identifying Your Target Audience
- Who is my ideal client? Hopefully you have a current client who is just a dream to work with. But if you don’t, imagine what they would be like. Picture the field they work in and what their daily responsibilities include. Do some sleuthing online to see what these people likely care about when it comes to their work. (Or if you’re a B2C business, figure out the circumstances that would lead to them buying your product or service for their personal use.) You need to know as much as you can about your ideal client so that you know you are speaking their language.
- Which of their pain points can I speak to? I separated this out from the above because it’s critical to understand how your business can solve your clients’ problems. A pain point is a problem that they are currently having, without an obvious solution. (Or maybe it is obvious and they just haven’t done it?) Once you know who you’re talking to and what problems you’re solving for them, you’ve got a path to start creating content.
- How do I want my audience to view me? This should be an easy question to answer if you have been faithful to The 10 Commandments of Branding. If you have an established brand mission, vision, values, and voice, then you know how you want to be viewed. If you don’t… time to do some homework!
Planning and Creating Content
- Why do I want to post about this? When you start creating content, this is a crucial question to ask yourself. Is this content really helpful, or do you just like talking about it? I mean, I’m a huge fan of pop punk music, but that doesn’t relate to marketing (or does it?) so I won’t be blogging about it. Make sure your content falls into one of these categories:
- Educate—teaches your audience something new
- Inspire—encourages your audience
- Entertain—evokes emotion in your audience
- Does this help position me as an expert? Continuing the above example, my love of My Chemical Romance isn’t going to paint me as an expert in marketing. Evaluate your content ideas and be sure that they relate to your business offerings. Showcase your expertise in your field, which you’ve gained over years of education and experience.
- What pain point is this solving for my idea client? Not every piece of content have to solve one of your clients’ problems. But 80% of your content should fall in the “educate” category, so most of it should relate to something specific that they are struggling with. Consider those pain points you established above and think of content you can provide that eases the pain. A good tip I like to remember is to tell people WHAT they should do, but not always HOW they should do it. You should be providing value and helpful answers, but if you give away all your secrets they won’t need your business!
- How can my content usher my audience through the sales funnel? You should create a wide variety of content that helps people at all the various stages of your sales funnel, including those who are already clients. Here’s a quirky little secret: instead of a funnel, I like to picture an onion. The outer layer is a little flaky, like the people who are just skimming to see what’s out there. They don’t really know what they’re doing, so you need to tell them what’s up. The next layer is a little bit thicker, for people who know what’s going on but aren’t ready to buy. They might have specific questions but aren’t in a position to engage with you directly. Even thicker is the next layer, for the people who know exactly what they need and are trying to identify the best option. This group needs proof of your expertise and signals that you are the right choice (case studies, testimonials, etc.). The thickest, innermost layer is for your current clients. Even though they are already buying from you, they can still learn new things and be inspired and entertained by your content.
- What’s the best format for this content? If I tried to make this blog post as an Instagram reel instead, it would never work. There’s way too much detail. Conversely, if I tried to make a blog post out of an inspirational quote (which I typically post on Insta), it would be ridiculous. Take some time to flesh out your idea a bit and visualize what format fits best.
Choosing Publishing Platforms
- Where does my audience spend their time online? Back to your ideal client—where do they hang out? Are they reading about the best fishing spots in North America? Are they watching makeup tutorials on YouTube? Are they scrolling through TikTok at 1am? The more you can find out about your audience’s habits and preferences, the better you can serve up your content in the way and location they want. (Not to mention that if they are searching for you, their go-to sources will be able to find you too.)
- What platforms am I comfortable learning and using? It doesn’t matter if your audience spends all their time on TikTok if you’re not comfortable using it! (Can TikTok even be used for a business? Short answer: YES!) If you’re not already on the platforms that your audience prefers, check them out and see if you can understand them and get behind using them. If not, don’t include them in your strategy. (Or outsource… more on that below.) It’s also not important to be on every social media channel plus a blog plus a podcast… If you spread yourself too thin, it’s pointless anyway. Find out where your audience is, evaluate your comfort in using that format, and choose where you’re going to be.
Establishing Your Process
- Where can I look for inspiration? Before you can create valuable content, you have to consume valuable content. This doesn’t mean you should look at your competitors’ blogs and rip them off. Great ideas can come from anywhere, especially other industries and entertainment sources. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, research fine art sources for inspiration. Or look within your industry at other vendors. Maybe a wedding cakery will inspire your next great Instagram post.
- How much effort am I willing to put into my content strategy? Not gonna lie, this all takes a lot of time. If you’re new to creating graphics or writing blogs, there’s also a learning curve you’ll have to experience. How much time are you willing to invest in developing your content strategy and the tactical execution of your plan? Be realistic, because the best laid plans mean nothing if you can’t get the content published.
- What tools can I afford to use? There’s a wide range of tools available for creating graphics, scheduling social media, posting blogs, even drafting content. Some are free, while others cost big bucks. How much can you invest in these tools to bring your strategy to life? Or can you outsource as a “tool” instead?
- Should I consider outsourcing to a pro? According to the Content Marketing Institute, half of all marketers outsource at least some of their content creation. If this list is overwhelming to you and you don’t know where to begin, consider finding a marketer to partner with. Even if you can answer some of these questions but don’t have the time or resources to activate your strategy, reach out. You may find that it’s more cost effective (whether in terms of money or time) to outsource.