If you want to market a product or service online you need to tell a good story. In order to do that you need great content that engages your target audience. But if you don’t know how to build a content strategy effectively you could risk creating content that is not relevant or simply not engaging. Here are three tried and tested steps we follow when building a content strategy for our clients.
1. Know your audience
Before you begin writing and exploring different content types and formats, it’s important to understand who you’re writing content for. To handle the demands of content creation, marketers are often told to “think like a publisher.” Like publishers, inbound marketers must have a detailed picture of their target audience in order to create optimal content for them. Ask yourself:
- Who are your ideal customers and prospects?
- What are their biggest concerns, needs, and interests?
- Where can you reach them – on search engines, social media, or blogs – and what kinds of content do they prefer?
These questions will help you develop buyer personas. Personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data about demographics & online behaviour, along with educated speculation about their histories, motivations & concerns.
You can start developing personas by researching customer base to identify the most common buyers for your products and services. You may have several different types of buyers, so give each one a detailed description including:
- Job title or role
- Industry or company information
- Demographic information
For example, a community bank’s biggest customers may include small business owners and mothers managing the bank accounts for a family of four. In this case the bank’s marketers might name these personas “business owner Bob” and “Mary the busy mum”, and extrapolate details about their responsibilities, the typical size of their business or household income, what geographic region their in, and so on.
Based on these profiles you can outline the pain points, needs and challenges of each persona and answer critical questions such as:
- What are the problems customers are trying to solve?
- What does he or she need most?
- What information are they searching for?
Analysing the path that prospects take on the journey to becoming a customer is a great way to get insights about the needs and challenges of your target audience. Using a marketing platform, or analytics, can highlight which search terms brought prospects to your site, how long they stayed on your site, which pieces of content they viewed, and which forms they’ve filled out. Such lead intelligence will help you make better decisions when identifying the characteristics of your ideal customers and ways to nurture your new prospects.
For example, in the case of our hypothetical bank, “Business-owner Bob” may typically be searching for merchant services such as accepting electronic payments and securing lines of credit. Once on the site, he reads articles about how electronic payments can improve cash flow and researches how lines of credit can fund ongoing operations. Based on that activity, his persona pains points/needs/challenges would include managing cash flow, achieving cost savings, and offsetting the effects of a slow economy.
2. Map content to the buying cycle
Content plays a critical role in every stage of the inbound marketing process, from generating awareness about your company to helping convert leads into customers. But the types of content you should use to achieve each of those goals are often very different from each other, which means you need to ensure that you’re creating content for every stage of the buying cycle:
The prospect identifies the problem and researches potential solutions, including your product or service.
The prospect examines the options and begins narrowing the list of vendors.
The prospect decides who to buy from.
The prospect gets acquainted with your brand or realises they have a need for your product/service.
At Balmer Agency, we identify the types of content and channels that work best for each stage of the buying cycle. Of course, your prospects may engage with certain channels throughout the entire buying process, such as reading blog posts or following your brand on social media. However, marketing studies have shown that certain types of content play particularly important roles at specific stages of the decision-making process.
Here’s an example of the way we map content to the different stages of the buying cycle:
3. Build an editorial calendar
Once you’ve built your buyer persona and mapped your content around that persona’s buying cycle, it’s time to figure out when and where to share the content you will be ultimately creating.
An effective way to do this is to create an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is like a roadmap for content creation, showing you what kind of content to create, what topics to cover, which personas to target, and how often to publish to best support your inbound marketing strategy.
You can create a Google calendar or use and Excel Spreadsheet to create the template. Make sure you work backwards from your marketing goals to guide you editorial calendar. You should fill your calendar with specific publishing tasks, such as updating blogs or social networks daily, posting new videos or podcasts each week, publishing an ebook or hosting a webinar each month, and so on.
For each date you’ll want to list the topic, the title of the piece, the target persona, appropriate links, images etc. The goal is to create a good mix of content types, topics, and personas to make sure you’re covering your various audiences.
When building our content calendars we note target keywords, the stage of the buying cycle, calls to action or other inbound marketing goals that each piece of content must address. It’s a good idea to take note of important dates or events/holidays during the year that are good hooks for specific topics or types of content.
Want to learn more about how to build a content strategy?
Identifying your audience and creating buyer personas, mapping your content to each stage of the buying cycle and creating an editorial calendar filled with content that will inspire your prospects to consume your content, share it, and take action are the keys to a killer content strategy.
If you’d like to learn more about how to build a content strategy that empower your business to tell your story, talk to our content strategists today on +61 3 9041 1179 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.