and why it will set you up for success
by Brittany Taylor
published July 10, 2015
updated June 5, 2018
¶ When it comes to producing content for your business, you have two basic choices:
¶ Going with a wherever, whenever, whatever approach will require you to rely on luck to succeed as a business owner. If you want to grow your online biz, you need put strategy behind your content marketing efforts.
Content strategy sounds fancy, but it isn’t. It’s kind of like a business plan—again, an intimidating document, but it doesn’t have to be.
Where a business plan offers a roadmap for a business, a content strategy offers a roadmap for your content. It’s more niche, but many of the essential questions you need to ask yourself when formulating a business plan come into play with content strategy.
This document can be informal. It could be an MS Word doc, an email, even a napkin you snagged at happy hour.
In fact, your first thoughts on content strategy should be informal. Don’t sit down and hammer it out in one go. Spend a few days, a week, even longer musing about what you want your content to be, and how it should play into your larger marketing plan. The two walk hand-in-hand, remember, so make sure their efforts aren’t overlapping or divorced. Cohesion—that’s the goal.
There are two parts to this question. First, there is the client you intend to sell to. Second, there is the client you didn’t intend, the one who stumbles upon your product and says, “ah, genius!”
Consider Duck Tape. The sticky stuff that fixes pretty much everything came about during World War II, when it was used to seal and repair on the run. Post-1945, consumers bought it to seal cracks in air ducts, thus the generic name “duct tape.” Did the creators ever think girls would be making prom dresses out of the stuff? Safe to say, probably not. And yet, Duck Tape has a huge crafting customer base—so much so that a lot of their consumer marketing focuses on DIY.
As you consider your clientele, keep both sectors in mind—who is the main consumer, and then, who else might be peripherally interested in your product or service? What sort of lifestyle does this customer lead? Where does she live, what does he do for a living, and what do they spend their discretionary money on? How old is she? At what stage of life will he be in when he turns to you to help him solve a problem?
Think of your customer as a character in a story, and go crazy with it. The more specific you are, the more unique your marketing message will become.
Speaking of product or service, now it’s time to consider what it is that makes you money. Tangible or not, you’ve got something to sell, right? Think about words and phrases that define your product. These descriptors will later color your content strategy, so give it some thought and get creative. Consider both what your product is, now, and what you want it to be in the future. How do you want people to view it? How do you want your customers to describe you?
I know this question seems obvious, and it is. But just because it’s an easy bullet point doesn’t make it any less important. Think of it this way: The content you’re getting ready to create or commission will be joining your sales force. That sales force sells you and the awesome things you make or do, right? So it makes sense to build your content to perfectly suit what it is you’re selling. When it comes to words, even if it’s just a few lines of copy or a call to action, the tone and voice and feelings those words capture need to mirror your offerings and exude the personality and lifestyle you’ve prescribed them.
A year ago, there were 75.8 million blogs on WordPress and 172 million on Tumblr. There are 1.35 billion active Facebook members and 284 million Twitter users.
Many of these—probably most of these, actually—were created by people who just…wanted a blog, or wanted a Facebook account or a Twitter handle. While some plan to monetize or want to turn their web activity into a book, many of them are just shooting the breeze where the entire World Wide Web can see them.
But that’s not you.
You and your product are part of a business, and so is this content strategy. While “because I want to” is a perfectly sound reason in your personal life, if you are like most business owners, you need something more. So think about it: What do you want your content to do for you?
Your answers to that question are the goals your content strategy is created to reach.
For you to actually reach those goals, though, you need to make them actionable.
goal: Play teacher
You want to increase your customer's knowledge so they can improve their lives (and better understand your product's value).
Ask leads to take a baseline survey periodically. Pick a % of "yes, I know a lot about X" as your goal.
goal: Create fans
You want to build a loyal, raving fan-base for when you eventually release a product to sell to them.
Keep a spreadsheet charting your blog post comments, referrals, replies to your email newsletter, and repeat visitors to your website.
goal: be discovered
You want to boost your search traffic and social shares so that new clients can find you more easily.
Find out your target competitors' stats and as them where they were when they started seeing an uptick in business.
You’ve brainstormed your answers to the three questions above, and now you’ve got one for me: What about the content?
The content is coming. As a writer and a new platform junkie, I get that you want it now.
But trust me, as a writer and a new platform junkie, when I tell you that the more you think about the content before you create blogs and erase that “Hello, World!” WordPress post and start tweeting like the quirky social media addict you totally could be, the better that content will be.
And it won’t just be good content—it’ll be content that serves a purpose. Your purpose.Your business. Your bottom line.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.