What Is a Content Strategy?
A content strategy is a plan that outlines how an organization or an individual will leverage content assets as a way to achieve their goals. The strategy should outline the techniques, tactics, and outcomes that will be utilized to create & distribute content effectively. With a well-defined content strategy, an organization or individual can map their business goals across the various content channels and use it to guide ongoing implementation.
Many marketers use content strategy interchangeably with the term “content marketing strategy.” This is incorrect because while a content strategy and a content marketing strategy are complementary, they aren’t the same.
Content Strategy Vs. Content Marketing Strategy
Your content strategy is your overarching strategy as to how you approach your content. And your content marketing strategy, in contrast, is a “sub strategy” that directs how you create, manage, and leverage your content for marketing purposes.
Here’s an example to put this in perspective.
Suppose the content strategy for a company establishes that it needs to:
- Use content to forge deeper relationships with its partner network (so that the incoming leads grow from that channel)
- Use content to keep the current users engaged (so that the churn rate decreases and the upselling/cross-selling generate more revenue)
- Use content to attract SEO leads (so that the demand generation gets boosted)
And so on…
As you can see, a content strategy only establishes high-level directions. It doesn’t get into the specifics. Here’s where a content marketing strategy comes in.
By creating a content marketing strategy, a company can easily break down each direction from its content strategy into stuff that can be executed with plans.
In this example, the company would need to devise about three content marketing strategies based on the underlying content strategy.
Each of its content marketing strategies will work on its target direction and identify the different types of content assets it would need to produce, the different posting and distribution mediums it would use, the many marketing tactics it will need for each medium and the other logistics for realizing that direction’s key objectives. A good content marketing strategy uses tools like an editorial calendar to bring all of this together.
An effective content marketing strategy is only possible after formulating a thorough content strategy… so remember that the content strategy always comes first.
Also, don’t confuse a business’s content marketing strategy with its content plan, because these are two fundamentally different things.
A content marketing strategy tells you what needs to be done and why whereas a plan tells you how.
For example, your content marketing strategy might — at the high level — direct you to start doing SEO blog posts to build organic leads… whereas your content plan will — at the tactical level — break it down to the needed steps (like performing keyword research, identifying relevant topics with search demand, writing SEO briefs, creating an “SEO” content production process, and so on).
How to Create a Content Strategy
Creating a Content Strategy Step #1: Setting Goals.
When working on your content strategy, the first thing you need to do is document your business goals. Your goals could be anything from the common ones like improving customer acquisition or retention to reducing the load on customer support and attracting the right talent to your company.
When picking your goals for formulating your content strategy, think in terms of quarters. So write down the goals you’d like to realize by the end of the current quarter — your key focus areas!
Creating a Content Strategy Step #2: Performing In-depth Audience Analysis.
Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to identify the audiences your content will need to target for meeting them.
For example, if you strategize using content for improving your retention rate, you need to define who you’re targeting with your content.
Here, you can tap into your company data and analyze the attributes of your customers who leave you and also understand the reasons they do so. You can also study the attributes of your loyal customers, power users, and even evangelists.
And taking all that into account, you need to create a persona that pinpoints your customers’ goals, motivations, and frustrations among other demographic data.
At the end of this content strategy creation step, you should have a bunch of audience personas that you’ll want to target with your content channel for meeting your different business goals.
Suggested Resource: How To Create A Customer Journey Map
Creating a Content Strategy Step #3: Auditing Your Current State of Content.
Once you know your goals and who you’re targeting, it’s time to audit your content and see if you have any current content assets that solve your purpose.
Let’s say that for this will-likely-churn customer persona that you just created in your audience analysis, you find that your users mainly leave you because you’ve got a complex product.
So as part of this step, you should check your content resources and see if you have any that are aimed at helping your users understand your product.
At the end of this content strategy creation step, you should have an actual doc where you’ve inventoried/audited your current content assets and mapped them to your audience personas and goals. This step is important because it tells you where you stand content-wise for the realization of your key business goals.
Creating a Content Strategy Step #4: Doing Competitive Analysis.
As the next step to creating your content strategy, you need to do some competitive analysis and see how your competitors approach their content as it relates to a certain goal.
For our example here, you’d want to check out the “getting started” content hub of your competitors. You’ll want to note down if they do extensive blog posts, webinars, or videos for their customers. The idea is to see how they get their users to get acquainted with their products.
At the end of this content strategy creation step, you should have a spreadsheet that has your observations from the analysis of the content strategies of at least your top five to ten competitors. Such competitive benchmarking will help you design content models that you’ll need for guiding your content team.
Creating a Content Strategy Step #5: Developing Content Models.
At this point, you’re ready to define a high-level content model that will help your team create the content you need.
In our example, you’ll mostly propose a content model that will guide your team when creating the ultimate “Getting started” content hub to help your customers learn their way around your product easily.
So what does a content model mean?
A content model defines how your content will come together for a project. For instance, here, the content model for your “Getting started” hub will define the different content types it would support and their attributes (think: web pages that will have 1) a descriptive title, 2) rich meta description, 3) a multimedia-rich body 2) A CTA ending with an option to chat with a support person and so on…).
Creating a Content Strategy Step #6: Defining What Makes Your Content Yours — Your “content Experience.”
Most industries are saturated with content. You, too, may have realized this when you performed competitive analysis.
So naturally, you wouldn’t want your content to get lost in all the noise.
One way to avoid this and to make your content stand out is to keep it on-brand. Your brand voice and tone(s) help you with just this.
So what’s your brand voice?
Simply put, your brand’s voice is how your writing and communications personify your brand’s top 3-6 personality traits.
One brand, for instance, translated its brand personality traits into its voice using the acronym HELPER (Helpful, Empowering, Light, Professional, Entertaining, Real):
And your tones of voice can be anything from friendly and conservative to funny and sarcastic depending on the message you’re conveying.
At the end of this content strategy creation step, you should have a doc that has all your voice, tone, and other content creation guidelines.
Suggested resource: MailChimp’s Content Style Guide
Creating a Content Strategy Step #7: Setting Up KPIs.
As you get almost ready with your content strategy, it’s time to revisit your goals and choose metrics that will reflect your progress on them and help you measure your strategy’s effectiveness over time (and make optimizations as needed).
The KPIs you choose for your content strategy depends entirely on your goals and will vary greatly. For example:
- A content strategy goal of boosting user retention will translate to metrics like customer churn rate and the LTV (lifetime value) in the long-term.
- A content strategy goal of growing the organic channel will translate to metrics like organic traffic, leads, and conversions via the organic channel among others.
- A content strategy goal of creating a strong employer brand will translate to metrics like time to fill, recruiting conversion rate, average time stay, turnover rate, and others.
And so on…
At the end of this content strategy creation step, you should have a list of KPIs ready to monitor for each of your content strategy goals.
Suggested resource: Four Essential KPIs for Content Strategies
With that, you should be set to create a winning content strategy for your business.