Content Strategy is a hot topic. Companies of all shapes and sizes want to jump in and create compelling content strategies. The shift to behavioural marketing really does mean you need to get in on the action and compete with rivals for your fair share of customers.So, what is Content Strategy, and why is it so important in digital marketing strategies today? While the official definition, according to Wikipedia, refers to Content Strategy as the planning, development and management of content – written or in other media; executing a content strategy in your business is a whole science of its own. The key to success is in understanding your ideal customers and what you need to have in place to ensure it works for you.
What Is Content Strategy?
At its heart, Content Strategy revolves around content creation and planning, writing and executing corporate and marketing communications materials with a well-planned purpose to meet your objectives. We are talking about content writing for blogs, articles, whitepapers and templates designed to be of value to your customers, along with script writing, animation and live footage for promotional videos - not to mention infographics, motion graphics, surveys, games and other creative ideas to engage with your audience.
Let’s look at how you can organise your thoughts and introduce a good method to the madness that allows you to create your communications with great organisation.
Take The Time To Really Understand Your Customers
The journey for your customers is a complex one. It starts with a problem or need that needs to be solved, and different customers have different needs.
You need to create a persona for each of your customer types (most companies have between 3 and 5) but if you are just getting started with content strategy and content creation, then start with 1 or 2 priority personas, and you can build the others later.
What is a persona you ask?
A persona is the aspects of someone’s character that are presented or perceived by others. In marketing language, HubSpot defines a buyer persona really well as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. This should include demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations and goals.
You see, there are steps and stages involved in your customer’s buying journey, and you need to really think about and identify what each persona needs from you to solve their problem and confirm it is solved. This is where content creation comes in, but before you can work out what you should create, you need to segment your customer's journey as it can be quite convoluted.
Understanding Intent Based Segmentation
Customers hop back and forward through different stages on their buying journey. They might be close to deciding and making a purchase but then look at other products or come across some new information that cartwheels them back to a different stage of the journey. Their journey also involves different devices, many touch points, and many types of channels through which they interact.
Their journey is even more critical after they purchase. You need to consider advocacy, word of mouth and information sharing as your customers now interact with you in tiny increments through the day. Google calls it micro-moments – or the now moments.
Did you know that people look at their smartphone devices, a couple of hundred times a day? This means they are no longer sitting in front of a computer and interacting with a website for more extended periods of time. They are doing glances at many different pieces of information. These are micro-moments.
The concept of intent based segmentation places buyers into different stages based on where they are in their purchasing journey. Many intent based segmentation models are based on the Smart Insights, RACE framework, which progresses the buyer through awareness, consideration, purchase and advocacy.
The type of content creation needed for each of these stages is different as the buyer progresses in their decision-making journey. What does this mean for you? It means you need to be there in the moment of right now, and you need to be useful and quick. This is the fork in the road where your content strategy and content creation collateral need to align with your customer persona and their buying journey.
Create A Content Strategy That Works
Here are six key steps you need to work through to develop and execute a content strategy that works for you:
1. Segmentation and buyer personas
One essential truth in marketing is that your customers are not alike. They look different, they have different priorities and purchasing motivations, and they behave differently. So, you need to appreciate and identify these differences to be able to create marketing offers and marketing communications that are relevant to your specific customers.
Working through this process will enable you to define a persona for each customer segment you identify as ideal for your business. This means profiling groups of customers who display similar behaviour and motivations when it comes to engaging with your product or service.
There are some questions you need to ask yourself with when segmenting your customers to assist with persona development. When asking yourself these questions you need to determine how you will segment your customers – you can either answer the questions by looking at whom your customers are (also known as A priori segmentation) or by determining what your customers want (response-based segmentation).
- What variables should you use for segmentation?
- How narrowly should you segment customers?
- Can you locate your target customers?
- What about multiple decision-makers?
- How actionable is your segmentation?
- How understandable is your segmentation?
- Will your segments remain stable?
- How often should you re-do your segmentation?
Which approach is better? There is no right or wrong. Only what works best for your business. Each technique has pro and cons, which we highlight below:
A Priori Segmentation
This type of segmentation selects a group of customers based on your knowledge/hypothesis of their behavioural characteristics. It also decides segments in advance.
It works when:
- Exploring differences among known segments.
- Leveraging previous segmentation research.
- Using available good external “pre-segmentation” schemes.
Its limitations are:
- Customer behaviour isn’t the starting point, so, therefore, customer insights are not driving the variables.
- Segment profiles are presumed and not evidenced.
- Segments can’t always be adapted to the right business context.
Also known as post-hoc segmentation, response-based segmentation is based on real behaviour. Primary research data is collected about the customer related to their behaviour and preferences and is used as a driver for marketing activities, including content strategy.
It works when:
- Segments are derived from and based on actual customer responses.
- Segmentation schemes are adapted to the context of the research study.
Its limitations are:
- It involves higher costs and more time.
- Often resources are not available.
- It requires sophisticated statistical analysis.
Response-based segmentation is preferred when it comes to content strategy as it is the basis of behavioural marketing and the purpose of content strategy is to provide informational value to your customers, to influence their behaviour in considering and purchasing your product or service.
Creating your buyer personas
To create your buyer personas, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your customers.
- Think about who they are as people – are they male or female, what is their age, where do you they live, what is their job role, do they have children, are they married or single, what do they like to do in their spare time, what are their interests, how do they interact with others and what are their preferred channels.
- Depending on whether your product or service is B2B or B2C, define their personal or job goals. This could be their KPI’s at work, such as to generate sales or on a personal level, getting fit or saving for the future.
- Give each persona a name and build their profile with the following variables to help you visualise them
- Give them an Avatar, which helps you think about and relate to them.
- How old are they?
- What is their highest level of education?
- What industry do they work in?
- What size company employs them?
- What is their job title?
- What are their likely job objectives or KPIs?
- Whom do they report to?
- What are their goals?
- What are their most significant challenges and frustrations?
- Where are their primary job responsibilities?
- How do they prefer to communicate with clients, suppliers and other stakeholders?
- What type of professional development activities do they engage in?
- What social media networks do they prefer?
2. Understand your customer's pain points and frustrations
After you have worked through the steps above and created your personas, have a look what you listed for their most significant challenges or frustrations, also referred to as pain points. Getting these right and understanding how they affect your persona will now help you to work out your content creation plan.
Think about what value in your area of expertise that you can provide that addresses each specific personas challenges or frustrations, what would be the best content to present to them – for example, video, webinar, article, blog, whitepaper etc.
Then identify a central topic and sub-topic for this information. Do some research to make sure you incorporate SEO strategies into your content; there are some outstanding online services which offer premium content writing and content editing services like fileroom who really understand how the bigger picture works when it comes to content creation for your potential and existing customers.
You then need to map out the journey into the intent-based segmentation flow discussed above and brainstorm your topic content, which will lead your persona through their buying journey from awareness through to purchase.
You then need to repeat this process for every persona you have identified.
3. Consider what makes you stand out from your competitors
Before you start creating content, you also need to understand what makes your company and its products and services stand out from your competitors. A useful way to do this is to complete a VRIO analysis to help you understand your competitive advantage – whether it be temporary or sustainable – it is a great way to identify your strengths and advantages over your competitors.
It is these strengths you want to use when writing your content. Make sure you don’t hard sell your offering in your awareness building content, but rather mention your company, products or services in passing as one of the solutions to the problem. You can then build on this as your customer’s journey progresses into the consideration stage.
4. What content types you want to create
There is a wide range of different content formats you can create as part of your content strategy. According to research conducted by HubSpot, 32% of marketers say visual images are the essential form of content for their business, with blogging in second (27%). 80% of marketers now use visual assets in their social media marketing, and video alone (63%) has surpassed blogging (60%) in usage as a social media marketing asset. That is some real food for thought.
Use our content creation ideas infographic below to brainstorm some content formats that best suit your business.
Remember when you create content, you always need to make sure you can add value to your persona, and you need to be able to mention yourself in passing. Otherwise, you are not letting your persona know you are their solution.
5. In which marketing channels do you want to publish your content
Earlier in the process, you identified the preferred social and marketing channels for your persona. Use the following infographic as a guide to which channels tend to work best at each of the intent segmentation stages in each of your persona’s buying journeys.
6. How you will manage content creation and publication
Finally, you need to think about how you will manage content creation and publication. You will need resources (people and technology) to do this successfully. Creating content is an ongoing process, and it takes time and organisation. Generally, it is more work (as you will find your content needs can multiply exponentially with each persona as you get started), but as you build your content library and set up your workflows, it will settle a little.
Many companies work with freelance sites like fiverr and upwork as they need extra resources for creating different types of content such as video, infographics, whitepapers etc. If you choose to work with a freelance site, you need to be a little careful. Just because someone charge you $20, it doesn’t mean the outcome will provide value for your customers. While you can find good people on these sites, often you end up with generic content without thought leadership, keywords or SEO optimisation, and you don’t really know the calibre of people you are engaging.
There are some other alternatives. Online platforms like fileroom have their own reliable team who deliver content writing, graphic design, promotional video, proofreading and editing services for you. Their team has extensive marketing and management backgrounds, they understand SEO and you get your own content room and brand room, where you can effectively build and manage your content library and assets.
They also provide a great online calculator you can use to get an immediate quote, which is perfect when you are in a hurry. The fileroom platform is definitely worth a look – as a company, they offer the perfect balance of resources when you need them, this really solves your problem of being time poor and allays concerns about executing your content strategy properly.
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