When we refer to content, we are referring to every communication you have with your customers and prospects. This includes your website, blog articles, social media posts, adverts, emails, letters, videos…you get the idea! This article aims to outline the key steps to planning and creating your content strategy – an element of your marketing strategy which in 2014, should most definitely not be overlooked.

1. What do you want to achieve?

The first thing to consider above all else is what you want to achieve from your plan and the subsequent content that you create. Are you trying to drive traffic to your website, generate conversions by persuading potential customers to complete a particular action or raise brand awareness? The answer may be all three but by establishing your goals, you can align your content marketing, channels and titles with them accordingly.

2. What about the competition?
Next, as with any aspect of your marketing strategy, you need to consider what your competitors are doing. What channels do they use?  What activities appear to be the most successful in achieving the goals you have outlined in step one, and in your industry in general? And, what are their key messages on each?

3. What have you done in the past and was it successful?
If you have done any content marketing strategy in the past, what was and did it achieve what you wanted it to? Even if it didn’t, are there any obvious reasons for that and is it worth trying again? Looking back at your answers in step two, if a competitor whom you aspire to be like is using a particular tool very successfully, it’s worth considering ways in which you can emulate that success with the resources you have available.

4. What channels would you like to use in the future?
Consider every potential aspect of content marketing including PR, video promotion, a blog, social media, eMarketing campaigns, guest blogging, direct mail campaigns and your website content to identify how they could be used to your benefit (if at all in some instances). Use your website content to identify (via Google Analytics or similar) pages/topics that interest your users and make a note of these topics so that you can draft them into your plan.

5. A targeted approach is a better approach
Marketing research has identified time and time again that a targeted message produces better results, so keep this in mind with everything you produce. If it’s a communication with a specific customer, include their name and something specific to them – their previous order for example and more than anything, make sure you get the details right! If it’s a marketing email, take the time to investigate if there is an opportunity to segment your target customers – if you’re running a sale on a particular product, make it more relevant by only sending to people who bought, or expressed an interest in that product or category previously. Whilst targeting may seem like you are excluding potential customers in some instances, you need to demonstrate Return On Investment (ROI), and this is the best way to ensure that you do this.

6. Empathise with your customers
Whilst this can be a tricky task, especially if you have been involved in your industry for some time, you need to try and look at things from your customer’s perspective. Visit your website and try and envisage that you are looking at it for the first time. What stands out? What are the key messages and are they the right ones? Most importantly, what need is your company fulfilling – i.e. what problem do you have as a potential customer and how is that being solved by the content currently available. Ultimately, are there improvements that need to be made in the way you speak to your customers?

7. What channels will you use?
Depending on your goals and the answers you have identified in the steps above, you now need to make a decision on which channels will be the most appropriate and give you the best results for your investment (time and budget). When you have created your content, how will you then promote it and integrate it with other channels and who will be responsible? Considering how a particular piece of content can be used across a range of channels (modified for each if necessary) will help you to get the most mileage from each and from your efforts in general.

8. Optimise your titles
In recent years, Google has wised up to bad practices in search engine marketing. An enthusiastic focus on providing good quality information that is relevant to its users is now the underlying ethos of all Google’s activities. This has inevitably resulted in previously popular link spamming and poor content being penalised and as a result, the amount of good quality content has risen exponentially. Whilst this is great news for Internet users, it does make your job more difficult as keywords and phrases have become increasingly competitive. With this in mind, it’s worth considering all of the titles that you plan to use over the next 6 months in advance and use a keywood tool (Google has one available within Adwords) to look at various combinations and their competitiveness Vs number of search results. You can base your topics on company news, new product releases, seasonality, competitions and promotions, awards, events and anything else that you can see coming up in the next 6 months.

9. Integrate your plan
If you have a PR strategy, marketing strategy and a business plan (which you should), incorporate the activities planned and look for ways in which you can tailor your content to each of the target markets you cover. Whilst your content strategy should be a document which incorporates the plans laid out by other departments (and your own), it also gives you the opportunity to think about the common questions your target customers may be asking, associated with cost, service, turnaround, benefits and potential issues. Your content strategy should answer these questions on a targeted basis.

10. Map out your titles and share

In terms of the strategy itself, draw yourself a matrix- using a spreadsheet is the best idea.  List all the channels you intend to use; then the months ahead (try 6 months to begin with); look for opportunities to segment the marketing activities you already have planned, and; within each channel, when you look for integration opportunities (i.e. social media posts, blog articles etc.), look for ways in which you could target each market. Once your content strategy has been agreed within your department, share with others to ensure that any additional potential opportunities are not missed and that the entire business understands what you are doing and why.

A final thought…

Like any strategy within your business, your content strategy is likely to change and evolve as time goes on. It is for this reason that a 6 month plan is advisable. However it’s not an easy task if you’ve got no previous experience or no expert copywriter in house. The best advice is to get help in the early stages. Understand what benefits a professional content strategy can bring to your business and if you have the resources in house, enable them to learn from the process. The Internet and search algorithms are evolving to ensure that the best quality companies (and content), will always be at the top of the search engine rankings, so make sure that your business is up there too! Give Cayenne Red a call today for advice on how to master the art of the content strategy. We don’t bite – honest!