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What is Content Strategy and How to Create a Successful One?

Whether you’re just starting to explore the voice and style of your brand or you’ve long pinned down the nitty-gritty of your brand strategy, you must be thinking already of ways to engage with your future customers.

From building a brand to growing one, content is a handy and very effective tool to connect with your target audience and attract the right customer profiles towards your brand.

“Content marketing is really like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.”

— David Beebe, former head of content at Marriott

Though we often imagine content as blog articles, videos, or white papers, content actually covers the entire range of communications that a brand creates for their audience. It includes email and social media communication, product documentation, press releases, and even advertising campaigns.

The goal of a content strategy is to help you make sure that your content is aligned with your brand strategy, and that you create relevant content that speaks to the right audience (that is, potential customers).

Why and when you should start thinking about a content strategy

We all understand, at least intuitively, why content plays an important role in communicating our brand’s stories, values, or mere product updates to our audience. Next to email, content is one of the most effective types of marketing. Content marketing costs 63% less than other forms of marketing, and can generate three times more leads.

While brands create content quite frequently, many don’t always have a strategy to inform their content creation and distribution process. As a result, content gets created that isn’t exciting for the brand’s audience, doesn’t convert, or quickly becomes obsolete.

A content strategy helps to put together all the pieces of the puzzle in a way that makes sense both for the brand and for its audience:

“Content marketing costs 63% less than traditional marketing and generates three times more leads.”

— neilpatel.com

  • How often should we publish content, and what is the best moment to do it?
  • What response should we expect to the content we publish? What results should our content generate?
  • Is our content easy to find by our target readers, and does it truly address their needs/interests?
  • and, finally, How do we know what kind of content to create in the first place?

One other thing to keep in mind is that a content strategy is needed not only if or when you are just starting to publish content. Content requires a lot of energy and dedication, so discarding old content is not a decision that can be taken lightly.

A content strategy sets goals, expectations, and guidelines for content formats and topics. This helps to evaluate existing content through a new lens, in order to decide if and how your old content can best be reused.

Content Strategy Framework

Based on our experience helping brands to develop and deploy content strategies of different scopes, we developed the Content Strategy Framework – a 10-step process for evaluating the content needs of a brand and planning a content strategy that resonates with the brand’s audience and drives qualified leads.

These 10 steps can be organized in four phases: research and planning of your content strategy; creating content; amplifying content to make an impact; and executing and measuring a content strategy. 

Let’s dive into these four phases below.

1. Research and planning

To create a content strategy, we must resist the urge to put pen to paper as soon as an idea springs to mind, and instead work in a steady, structured way.

Preparation is what I consider to be the most important step of a content strategy. During this phase, you need to take a step back and think of crucial aspects of strategy, such as what you want to achieve with your content strategy, and how you will know if you got there.

The research and planning phase should answer a few important questions: 

  • Why are you creating content? What do you want to achieve? 

Setting the right goals will help you select the right formats, set a publishing pace, allocate the right resources for your strategy, and improve it over time.

  • Who is your content for? 

Persona development is crucial for understanding who your target readers are, what are their content preferences, which channels they prefer, and whether they are ready to buy.

A customer persona template is provided in the Framework.

Audience discovery cards in the Content Strategy Framework
Audience discovery cards in the Content Strategy Framework
  • What is working and what is not working in your existing content?

A content audit will help you make informed decisions about your existing content. Being able to reuse some of your old content or leveraging it for traffic will avoid the strain of having to create large amounts of new content at once.

2. How to create content

If you’ve worked through your goals, personas, and content audit, you’ve gotten to the core of your content strategy: content creation.

Coming up with content ideas might feel easy at first, but you can quickly run out of inspiration. While there are many ways to think of ideas for new content, you should focus on finding content generation techniques, rather than individual ideas.

Contrary to common belief, content ideas don’t have to come exclusively from inside your team. Very often, your audience can be a rich and never ending source of ideas for new content.

The Content Strategy Framework provides four strategies that you can use to generate content ideas that are highly relevant for your audience and therefore can have a high conversion rate, while factoring in search engines optimization and competitive analysis. 

The Content Ideation Cards in the Content Strategy Framework
The Content Ideation Cards in the Content Strategy Framework

Before publishing new content, there are two things to consider.

First – is the content attractive for your audience in terms of length, readability, design, and so on? Knowing your personas plays an important role in choosing the right formats for your content. Formats should be well adjusted to attract and maintain the interest of your target readers, and the action you are expecting or asking people to take should be consistent with the format and the persona characteristics.

Adjusting your content and call to action to the buying stage will increase the chances of people taking action from your content.

The second aspect is aligning your content with your brand voice and characteristics. Remember that your aim is also to keep people engaged with your brand, so consistency is important in all types of content that you publish. 

👉 Here is our complete Guide to Uncovering a Brand’s Tone of Voice.

Discover the  Brand Cards
Discover the Brand Cards

A content style guide can help you keep your content in check and make sure it speaks to your audience in a consistent way, all the time.

If you haven’t worked out your brand personality and tone of voice, check out our Brand Cards.

3. Reaching more people with your content

Once you start creating content, you have to make sure of two things. 

One, that people will be able to find it, especially when they need it. And two, that you are proactively reaching out to the audience that might be interested in your content.

75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results.

— Hubspot

Optimizing your content for search engines (SEO) is important because it often is the first contact point between your audience and your content. 

Having your content easily reachable on Google search results increases the chances for your content to be seen, trusted, and accessed by people. After all, 75% of users never scroll past the first page of results, and the first search result on the page captures more than 35% of the clicks.

Well-optimized content includes not only selecting and using the keywords that your users are most likely to search, but also planning, designing, and amplifying your content across different channels.

Check the Content Strategy Framework for SEO guidance and easy to follow checklists for both video and written content.

Whenever you publish new content, you also have to be proactive and ensure that content reaches as many people as possible. You can leverage your email distribution lists and your social media channels, since your current subscribers and followers have a high likelihood of being interested in what you have to say. 

However, publishing your content on all possible channels that you can think of is not always a good approach. Distributing content on a channel where your content is not relevant to the audience will waste time and effort which can be better invested in finding the best targeted channels. Content that attracts the attention and interest of readers increases the chances that your content will convert.

4. Publishing content and measuring performance

Publishing content – almost the ‘last mile’ of your content strategy – shouldn’t be thought of as a random event that happens only once you have new content ready. Put together an editorial calendar where you can plan your publishing dates, resources for each content piece, and distribution channels (organic and paid).

Whether you put out content every week or every quarter, setting a publishing frequency will help to build anticipation, excitement, and thus will keep your audience more engaged.

So you’ve researched, planned, created, and published content. What next? 

Monitoring your results is essential if you wish to optimize your strategy over time. 

Starting from the goals which you set in the research phase, come up with key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to your goals.

What you measure will depend on what you are planning to obtain from your content strategy – so it can be anything from increased traffic, to downloads, or sales. Once you know what you want to measure, you can choose the tools that will help you measure your targets:

Content Canvas

The Content Canvas, which is included in the Content Strategy Framework, is also available as a free tool which helps you distill the essential aspects of your content strategy.

Download the Content Canvas
Download the Content Canvas

Using this Canvas, you can work through the following key steps of a content strategy:

  • Setting your goals and identifying the buying stages of your personas
  • Analyzing your existing content
  • Identifying your top keywords
  • Creating a Content Calendar
  • Setting KPI targets for your strategy

The Content Canvas is accompanied by a video walkthrough of how to use it, which you’ll get once you download the Canvas.

I hope this article has been helpful! To get started with your Content Strategy, check out the Content Strategy Framework, or start with the Content Canvas

If you want to create a successful content strategy, have a look at our Content Strategy Workshop

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