0:00:03.3 Jacalyn Holsted: Hello, I’m Jacalyn Holsted, and you are listening to On Point Conversations. In this podcast series, we share creative marketing, content and branding strategies that help your business successfully navigate the new normal marketing environment.
0:00:37.9 JH: In today’s podcast, I’m going to be talking about building an effective content strategy. Now, I have talked about this before, but in this podcast, I’m going to give you 10 steps to develop a content strategy. First, before I do this, let me tell you that a content strategy is very important. It’s a really big part of your marketing plan. It’s acting as both a guide to the content you’re going to create, and as a benchmark for how you measure success. It’s in your best interest to make sure that the content you’re creating, so you’re not spending and wasting time and money on creating content, is getting you where you want to go and also, that you understand what your benchmark for success is, and how you’re moving towards that, particularly, if you have to report to someone or let someone know what the successes of your content program are. You want to be able to identify that. Put very basically, a content strategy is how you ensure that your contact directly meets your business objectives and the needs of your customers. What you want from your content is that person who is delighted to get and read your content.
0:01:58.5 JH: I used to, and I stopped doing it since COVID, but there was a Learning to Learn Program on Coursera that I took, and every Friday, they would send out an email. I would wait to get that email. I was looking forward to that email. It had things in it, things to read, things to think about, and it was a very important part of my Friday morning to be looking for when I’m getting that and what it says, and that’s what I want for you. And, for your customers, I want them to be able to say, “I am so interested in what I’m getting from this company. I am delighted to get their information and I’m learning something from their information, not just being sold something.” Now, in doing this today, I broke it out into 10 steps. Some of these steps can be combined, but I find that sometimes, making things into smaller steps is a little bit easier to do. I’m also going to encourage you to write these down. It doesn’t have to be formal, although I tend to like to use maybe PowerPoint or Keynote, whatever you want to use, to put down this information, and then share it with my mentors because my mentors help me get a different perspective, and they also are very good at letting me know what they think about what’s working and what won’t work. So, let’s talk about these 10 steps.
0:03:25.2 JH: First of all, define your goals. Now, this is really important, and I know we talk about at ad nauseam, almost, but great content needs to have a purpose, and that purpose needs to be defined by clear goals. So, you want to start by looking at what is the mission that you’re trying to accomplish. What are the business and marketing objectives? And this is the point where you’re going to ask yourself, is content, and therefore, a content strategy: What’s the best way to reach those current business objectives? Now, if your answer is yes, then we go to step two. Let’s just, for a minute, look at step one. Let’s say that you are a small company, you have a subscriber-based service, and maybe you have 300 subscribers. Your business objective may be to increase the number of subscribers, so you might say, “I want to increase the number of subscribers by 25% in three months.” So, you know what you’re trying to achieve with your business goals. It could also be that you’re losing subscribers, they might be staying with you for two to three months and then quitting. There’s another how do you retain business goal. How do you retain those subscribers? Include a business goal to retain subscribers with more engaging content.
0:04:50.4 JH: Now, if you are in a bigger business and you have a manager and you are working within a team, you’re going to want to find out from the C-Suite or top management what those business goals are that they want to achieve so that you can tie that together. The second step is, define your issues. Now, what I mean is, what are the challenges that you’re facing? What’s the competition? What’s the problems? Why aren’t you getting there? What are the misunderstandings? What are the things that are coming through customer service that are questions or issues that are not addressed? So let yourself take the time to define your issues. Step three, oh, my gosh! This is ad nauseam again, too, know who you’re talking to. You’re not talking to everybody; you are talking to some audience. So, the success of your content strategy really depends on how you’ve identified your audience, existing and desired audience. So, there are many things to do, there are many tools, there’s Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Instagram Insights. Don’t forget research papers.
0:06:03.2 JH: Once you’ve defined your audience, then what I want you to do is step four, which is develop your audience persona. Now, I have worked with clients who have 10 to 20 personas. No, no, no, please. Develop only two to three personas. Those are people that we’ve identified. We’ve given them demographics and psychographics, and we are going to address the content to that person. We know, specifically, more what and how they’re going to be talked to, some of the things you wouldn’t talk to a child the same way you talk to an adult. In other words, you’re trying to get to a point where you’re talking specifically to the audience that you want to reach or have to reach to reach your business goals.
0:06:55.1 JH: Step five: Look at the competition. Now, I have clients who say, “I don’t watch the competition because I don’t need to know what the competition is doing.” It’s really good to look at both indirect and direct competition. Analyze what they’re doing, learn what they’re saying, or what they’re not saying and look at where the gap is in the market. Where is your product or service filling a gap that your competitor is not, and that your audience, now that you have defined them, is going to be interested in?
0:07:29.3 JH: Step six is: Audit your current content based on what I’ve just said taking into account steps 1-5. So now, you’ve established, you’ve defined your business goals, or your top management has. What are those business goals? What are those marketing goals? You’ve defined what your issues and problems are. You know who you’re talking to. You’ve looked at the competition, you’ve developed your audience persona. Now, you’re going to look at the content that you have created. Are you speaking to the right person? Are you engaging with the right audience? Is your current content saying what you want it to say and what you want it to build on? And where are the gaps? This is very important because your current content will really allow you to see what you’ve done well and what isn’t working, by using the analytics that are with any of those programs or social media that you’re working with.
0:08:24.2 JH: Now that you’ve gone through and defined your goals, you’ve defined your issues, you know who you’re talking to. You’ve looked at your competition, you’ve developed your audience persona, you’ve audited your current content.
Now, you’re ready to develop content topics. It’s really time now to turn your audience passions and your brand into the strengths and priorities that are now going to be the foundation of your content strategy. Now, these are overarching content topics, so use what you know about your audience and answer the questions. Here are some questions to answer: What content have you identified that your audience is interested in? What are they currently consuming? What are they interested in? And where are they? What content will your audience be interested in hearing and listening and learning from? And what do you, as a brand, have the right to speak about? What is your authentic voice? What do you know and what do you want to provide to your audience, your target customers? What can you bring? What new can you bring to the conversation? What platforms are you going to deliver this on? This is very important. And what platforms you’re going to use? I have a client, want to take the same message, same exact thing and put it, same exact message content, put it over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, website, everything, and lose out because they’re not strategically targeting the customer in the environment that they are in.
0:10:04.9 JH: Step eight is making your content applicable to your marketing funnel. What do I mean by that? You’re going to map out your customer journey, which is your buying cycle, and use that content to fill in each gap of your buying cycle. So, with the buying cycle that I like to use is six steps. The first is awareness. Your audience needs to be aware that they have a need in this area. Then they have to have, besides awareness, is interest. It’s something that’s bugging them, it’s an interest. They’re now going, “I am interested in this. This is something I think I need.” Then they start doing research. They’re going to research and look at who is doing it, who’s not doing it. Is it something for them? They’re going to be researching that alternative or that solution. Then they have a desire, then they want it. They want it, they want to look for it, they’re looking for it, they want to spend the money, they’re ready to make a purchase, and then you have the desire. And then you have the user. Now, they’ve purchased and hopefully, they’ve purchased your product, they’re using it.
0:11:23.2 JH: And next step, which is very important, is they go to be an evangelist or an advocate because more and more, when they’re telling other people about your service, it lends more credibility. When your family or your friend lends itself and says, “Here’s something I use, I really like it,” it lends a real credibility to the purchase, and you will probably say, “That sounds interesting.” In addition, you want to find out the needs at each point in that buying cycle. So, you want to have and map out your content for each part of that. Mapping out content based on that is really a good way to save time and save money on presenting content that might not at all be applicable. So, once you’re done with that, I’d like you to move to a messaging matrix. So which key messages and proof points are going to be the backbone of your communications and your content? That’s all part of step eight.
0:12:27.2 JH: Step nine: You can map out your content under various areas. So, for example, you have the learning area. How can you use your service or product to help people understand and learn something new? There’s also human-interest content, which is where you’re supporting your stories with human interest. Are you supporting a certain type of probably non-profit? Are you doing that? Or maybe there’s a human interest in how your founder started the company. Maybe there’s a human interest in storytelling and your narrative about some way you’ve helped someone else. UPS or Federal Express, so one of those, does a good job of showing, sometimes, how their carriers have done a good deed. It’s a human-interest story.
0:13:21.3 JH: And then you have help content that answers the key questions your customers are asking on a regular basis, and that they can’t understand. You could help them by having a help content. There are other types of content, too, you can look at. And once you’ve been through this process, you will know what content that you need to provide. You’ll also know, based on your audience, where the gaps are, and you will be able to put it together. Again, I encourage you only because this does save time and money. It also helps your credibility as you look at how your content meets business goals and therefore, increases revenue and therefore, does well with the business so that you can be solid in the strategy that you’re using.
0:14:10.8 JH: Step 10 is one that I call re-evaluate and be flexible. So, every Monday, I have topics in line, I have my spreadsheet with topics. Every Monday, I look at what’s happening around the world, what’s happening in the news, what’s happening in the marketplace, what’s happening in order to better suit my content for that week for me. I look at my brand, I keep that in mind. I look at my audience, I keep that in mind. But I also very much keep in mind what’s going on around me. I’m re-evaluating and I’m flexible. It may be that the topic that I’ve selected for that particular week doesn’t make sense for that week, so I’m going to change it. I’m going to look at ways to make it more applicable to my audience and more applicable to the times that we’re in right now.
0:15:04.0 JH: If you want to find these points and you’re not listening to my On Point Conversations podcast on my website, you can go to my website at onpointthinking.com. And what I do is a transcript with each one of my podcasts, so you’ll be able to go in and look at the transcript and look at the points. I also have a contact page; I’d love to hear from you. If you have things, you want me to talk about, if you have questions about this podcast, I would love to address them, and you can just put them in there, send them to me. And I read every one that has a question, I answer those that have questions, and I read everyone. I hope you have a good week and I’ll talk to you next week.
0:15:48.9 JH: Thank you for listening, and I invite you to join me next week as we talk more about specific actions you can take to reach your own business goals. You can find my library of other inspiring podcasts like this one at onpointthinking.com. Again, thank you for listening. This is Jacalyn Holsted at On Point Conversations.