First up, what is a content strategy…
🤔 What is a content strategy?
According to the Content Marketing Institute (who you think should know what they’re talking about!), a content strategy is the ‘creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.’
Hmmm, I’m not convinced…
A look at Moz’s definition doesn’t really help either. They distinguish between a content strategy, a content marketing strategy and content marketing.
Is that REALLY necessary?!
In the interest of keeping things simple, I’d like to propose the following:
A content strategy is the step that translates your messaging into some form of marketable content.
It outlines why you’re doing content in the first place, how it relates to what you’re selling and what sort of activities and
campaigns you can do to promote that content.
In other words, it’s the why, how and what of content.
Or put another way…
Why = your customer and their pain points
How = the themes you’ll cover and the formats of content you’ll put these themes in
What = your content calendar
🔖 A very helpful Content Strategy framework
At immerj, we’ve come up with a Content Strategy framework that really helps put some much needed structure into your content.
- It’s in plain English and laid out simply and clearly.
- It connects your strategy to the actual implementation, so it’s not just a bunch of blue-sky ideas, it’s something actionable as well.
- It’s balanced between the customer and you, as the company.
Here it is:
You’ll have no doubt heard of the 4 P’s in marketing – Product, Placement, Pricing and Promotion.
Well this framework is the 4 P’S – with a big ‘S’ – Persona, Pain Point, Proposition, Planning and Scheduling.
Let’s go through each one briefly.
Where every great content strategy needs to start – with our customer!
Regardless of what stage your company is at – startup, scaleup, large corporate… you should always have a very clear idea of who your customer is and what their profile looks like.
- Where are they based?
- What job title(s) do they have?
- What’s their professional background?
- Who do they report into?
- Who are their stakeholders?
And added to that:
- Where do they hang out?
- Do they go to events or prefer to browse online?
- What ‘channels’ do they engage with – email, social media…?
- What do they base their decisions on?
- Who else is involved in those decisions?
A bit of desk research is sometimes often enough to pull this stuff together. What makes it all the better are:
- Diving into your own data – yes, who would have thought!
- Social media and SEO research – sifting through a few profiles or Quora threads to get a feel for what your customer is concerned about is a great way to add colour to a persona.
- Speaking to sales. If you have a sales team, then SPEAK TO THEM! They’re speaking with customers every day and are a gold mine of information,
- Web stuff – anything from simple Google analytics to more advanced SEO research or HotJar stats. It will all help build up a better picture.
- Speaking to your customers. Yes, you’re allowed to do this. And if you do nothing else, DO THIS!
🤯 Pain Point
Now this is effectively an extension of your Persona, but it helps you focus on the most important thing you’re trying to tackle – their Pain Point.
There are various ways of looking at this.
Two of the most useful are:
- Competitive gap analysis
This is where you’ll look at what your competitors do and where their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s a great way to then land on where the gap is and identify where you could play as a business.
Going back to the Persona research, Quora is a great tool here.
Just search on your competitors’ products/services and see where people have complaints.
- ‘Jobs to be done’
Essentially, ‘jobs to be done’ is when you focus in on specific tasks or jobs that your customer has to get done.
The circumstances around that job are key. And jobs also carry powerful social and emotional dimensions.
Your product or service therefore needs to reflect these, and create a great customer experience to deliver it too.
Anyway, back to our Pain Point.
The crux of this step in the bigger framework is to really understand what our customer is concerned about, what they’re frustrated by and what’s keeping them up at night.
Now hold that thought…
Next comes our proposition.
Or in other words, how we fix the problems and pain points that we identified above.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about this step as it really requires a good old workshopping session or two to thrash it out.
But the two key things to bear in mind and balance out are:
- Remember your customer. Keep challenging if what you’re offering really is fixing the customer’s pain point or not.
- Remember your story. What was it that inspired you in the first place to build this product or start this company? Why are you better than anyone else to do it?
From here, you’ll want to do a fun – and slightly annoying! – game called the ‘5 How’s’.
It’s adapted from the ‘5 Why’s’ technique of Lean Six Sigma.
Basically, anytime someone on your team (within the workshop setting of course!) states how your product or service fixes your customer’s pain point…
You ask HOW?
Honestly, it’s worth it.
Because you’ll dig out the real way in which your product or service actually helps – and even uncover areas where it might not!
Your planning stage is where you’ll pull all the previous steps together into one cohesive plan.
I’ve found that the best way to do this is by customer journey stage.
For a pre-built Content Planner structured by customer journey stage, just
check out the immerj Content Planner.
Using the immerj tool or your own version, then:
- Organize your customer pain points under the relevant journey stage – mindful that some of them may stretch across multiple stages of course.
- Start to map your proposition under these pain points. Quite simply, for each pain point, match your fix or solution. And yes, this does include all the stuff you’ve unearthed in the 5 How’s!
By doing this, you should start to see some key themes emerge.
The trick at this point is to then flip your key themes into Content Themes.
Et voila! You’re starting to build up your content plan!
To add a bit more depth to this, you’ll probably want to do some more detailed SEO research so you can align the themes you have with what people are actually searching for online.
Just remember – don’t overdo it.
It’s better to address the real pain points in a human and engaging way than start keyword stuffing to the point your content is unreadable.
Once you’ve got your themes, the two most important things to ask are:
- What’s the format?
- How will we promote it?
For the format, check back on your customer journey stage and pick a format that best suits.
For example, earlier journey stages are probably better aligned to blog articles and short videos.
Later journey stages you can afford to go deeper into eBooks, wizard tools and in-depth content.
Then circle right back to your Persona stage and identify how best to promote the content – i.e. where does your customer hang out? What channels do they engage on?
Quite simply – go there and promote your content!
Once you’ve got your plan, the only way to make sure you’ll actually do it is to turn it into a schedule.
That means breaking down each of your content types and activities into the following tasks:
This is planning out what will go into your content piece and how it will be structured. Don’t worry – this could be as simple as a Google doc of bullet points!
Creating the content in line with your plan or outline. This could be with the help of a freelance copywriter or your in-house team of writers and designers.
- Build and testing
If there’s a design element or even if you need to put it on a website, you’ll want to allow some time for the ‘build’ and then to proofread it in situ, test any links, etc, etc.
When you put your promotional plan into action! Get out there and start promoting that great content you’ve created.
Don’t just leave it there – measure and optimise it! Keep checking back on your analytics and making any tweaks you need to. Content is a living, breathing thing so nurture it as you would a customer.
If you use the above steps and set these out in a schedule, then you won’t go wrong with keeping yourself right on deadlines and the like.
And there are plenty of tools out there to help as well – Asana, Trello, Smartsheet, Monday.com… take advantage of their pre-built calendars and don’t forget about the reminders too!
And there you have it!
A simple, yet effective framework to help you build a great content strategy.
With this, you’ll be clear on your goals, focused on your customer and accountable for getting it out there.
Which of course will lead to great results, engaged customers and lots of new and repeat business too!
[Main photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash].