I remember when I started my first blog, waaaay back in *mumblemumble year that started with 2 and ended with three 0s mumblemumble*. I whipped up a post and posted it whenever inspiration struck. I wrote about all kinds of random things. I updated when I felt like it. I had a blast.
But I didn’t have much of a following.
Of course, this was back when Yahoo! was still the first word in search, blogs were just beginning to be a thing, and SEO hadn’t even been invented yet. I didn’t have a large following, but I did have a following. Fast forward to when Google pretty much took over the internet, and now that kind of approach to serving up content will get you no following, outside of your mom, your best friend and maybe a handful of your Twitter peeps.
Which may be fine, if the point of your online presence is to have fun and keep in touch with your besties. But I’m guessing you wouldn’t be on this website if that was your goal.
More likely, you’re here because you have a product or service you need to sell, and you need to know how to get eyes on that product or service. You know, or at least have an inkling, that SEO-driven content can draw potential buyers to your website, where you can eventually get around to making your pitch. For that, you need to approach your content with more deliberation and care.
You need a content marketing strategy.
What is a content marketing strategy?
A content strategy is… well, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. A strategy for your content.
You’re welcome. We can all go home now.
No, but seriously, a content strategy thoughtfully answers a few questions you may — you should – be asking:
What kind of marketing content are you going to serve?
Who are you going to serve it to?
Where are you going to serve it?
How are you going to produce it?
When or how often are you going to post it?
Why are you posting it? In other words, what purpose does your content serve? What outcome are you hoping it will achieve?
Take time to answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to developing an effective content strategy to help bolster your online presence.
Start with Why
I always find it helpful to start with the desired outcome and work back from there, reverse engineering the steps I need to take to achieve that outcome. Not only should you know the overall purpose of your content, but what purpose should each spoke of your platform serve? What’s the desired outcome for each post?
I also write fiction. I have an author website. You would think that the purpose of that website would be to promote my books – and I do have info about each of my books there, along with links to buy them – but my primary purpose for that website is to convert readers into fans and get them to join my mailing list. My books direct readers to my website, where they can do just that. My blog serves as a place for readers to learn more about me and my life and stay up to date on what I’m working on next, and to connect with me in the comments. My author Instagram profile and Facebook page are both there to hook new fans and point them toward my blog. My mailing list, on the other hand, is there to promote my books and get sales.
Effective content marketing isn’t about the hard sell. It’s about connection and brand awareness, and building curiosity and trust. Save the sales pitch for content that gets served up later on in your audience’s buyer journey, like when they subscribe to your mailing list or venture off of your blog to explore your product or service pages.
With that in mind, what purpose does your website serve? What about your blog? Your social media? Keep that purpose in mind as you plan and create your content.
Who is Just as Important as Why
For a truly effective content strategy, you need to know your intended audience inside and out. What stage of life are they in? What questions or challenges are they struggling with? What answers or solutions can you offer? What kind of content do they like best? What kind of tone attracts them? Where do they hang out online?
Take time to answer these questions and develop a profile of your ideal client or customer. This is your target audience, and knowing this can help answer the questions of what kind of content you’ll create and where you’ll serve it, as well as direct which topics you’ll cover as you plan out your content.
You may find that you have more than one ideal client profile, or buyer persona, and that’s fine. But if you have multiple buyer personas, try to focus each piece of content on one or two personas at a time. Trying to reach everybody in your audience at every stage in their buyer journey will only water down your content and cause it to lose impact.
You Have a Strategy. Now You Can Make a Plan.
Wait – isn’t that the same thing? No, it is not. Your content marketing strategy is the macro, big picture view that will guide you as you plan each piece of your content and develop your content calendar. Planning your content focuses more on the micro level for each platform and individual piece of content. What does it need to accomplish? Which of your buyer personas is it targeting? When is the best time to post it? Who will write or produce it? Where will it appear?
Taking time to sit down and develop an overarching content marketing strategy will give you a framework that will help make sure your content is doing exactly what you want it to do and reaching exactly who you want it to reach.
Do you have a content marketing strategy in place, or are you winging it? How’s it going either way? Let me know in the comments!