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What Guides Your Content Strategy?
Posted on May 27th 2014
Just think about it: having an excellent content strategy is like having money in the bank. There’s at least one good reason why you should always plan ahead when it comes to crafting content: it’s easier to reach your destination when you know where you’re heading. Truth be told, at this point your prospects can be influenced to respond to your calls-to-action through a plentitude of marketing channels. But the question is this: do you promote and distribute your web writing randomly or is your content strategy as elaborated as a well-played game of chess?
3 Dangerous Pitfalls of Content Strategizing
A cohesive, personalized, long-term content strategy can help you become an extremely competitive player in your industry over a short period of time, leading to:
- Improved conversion rates
- Increased brand visibility
- A solid community and a bigger client database built around your brand
- Superior organic search rankings
- Reinforced social following
However, these improvements can’t be witnessed overnight and require sustained efforts on your part. To stay on the right path to content strategizing success, you have to be able to spot and avoid the most common pitfalls associated with this process.
3 of the Worst Mistakes You Could Make Instead of a Great Content Strategy
1. Putting the responsibility on somebody else’s shoulders. (Half-heartedly tossing a list of keywords at your secretary and having her come up with a few blogs for the week, for example. Is this you? Don’t feel too bad…we have some helpful steps for you below.)
2. Thinking that your product, brand or industry is boring. There are no boring products; there are only boring marketers. Every item available for sale has a value, a price and a well-defined market. Your job as a marketer or content creator is to put its unique features and benefits on full display and make it look insanely attractive in the eyes of all potential buyers.
3. Acting like what you write and how you write about your company won’t affect your online reputation and your bottom line. In a world in which online interactions are your most powerful ally when it comes to getting and staying on the same page with your audience, what you write helps your readers determine who you are and why they should (or shouldn’t) do business with you.
10 Ways to Guide Your Content Strategy
1) Evaluate Your Unique Marketing Techniques and Unique Business Objectives. Before getting to work, make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve and how you plan to accomplish your mission. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Many content creators, strategists and marketers get stuck at some point simply because they don’t know which business goals they are supposed to follow. So ask yourself this: why are you investing time, money and energy in a content strategy in the first place? Do you want to rank higher in search engine results, boost customer loyalty or increase conversion rates?
All these objectives are different and require different courses of action. Instead of opting for an overarching goal that doesn’t say a lot about who you are and who you plan to become, it would be better to come up with a list of smaller, manageable ones.
For instance, if you run a small-scale auto shop ensuring affordable repairs and you also sell used cars, you will try to attract 2 different segments of prospects: those who wish to get their car fixed and those who are interested in buying a used vehicle from a local dealership. In this case, you will most likely try to grab the attention of local clients by promoting your inexpensive, high-quality repair services, while spreading the word about your decently-priced line of used cars. Based on these small goals, you can elaborate your own content strategy and make wiser decisions.
2) Understand Your Audience. According to Search Engine Watch, it is extremely important to build your content marketing strategy based on the particular interests of your targeted audience. We all get it: your end goal is to improve sales and increase brand awareness but to do so, first you need to build credibility and trust. Keyword research and social media listening tools are two valuable elements that you can rely on to find out what makes your segment of public tick.
3) Understand Your Industry. If youwant to win big you have to become familiar with the rules of the game. Find the most accurate answers to the following questions:
- What motivates your prospects make online purchases?
- Who are the most powerful influencers in your industry?
- Is your audience service-oriented (and eager to spend more on premium packages) or price-focused (and always determined to pinch pennies)?
- Are you out-shined by an influent competitor that is currently dominating the entire industry? (If the answer is yes, it wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look at its community, web content and social media presence).
- What type of content is received with more enthusiasm in your niche?
- Are there any gaps in the content creation strategies displayed by your competitors, which you may be able to fill?
- Would you be able to create and maintain solid relationships with industry experts and influencers?
4) Find the Perfect Distribution Channels. How exactly do you plan to reach your audience while distributing your first-class content? According to The Guardian, the mix of media channels that you select to broadcast your message is extremely important. You should evaluate the strengths, drawbacks and costs associated with every single channel before making a final call.
5) Use Surveys and Rely on Real Customer Input. Do you want to know how your digital content, blog or website is performing? Are you really ready to assess the quality and effectiveness of your web writing? If so, explore the unmatched power of surveys, accessible online or included within a certain publication. Surveys are the 21st century oracles that will tell you what you need to know about your current content strategy and the best course of action that you may want to embrace.
Furthermore, note that big brands do everything in their power to guarantee a memorable experience for all their buyers every single step of the way: from the “I’m just looking” phase to checkout and doorstep delivery.
For excellent results, follow in their footsteps and listen to what your clients have to say long after they hit your “buy now” button. How would they rate your content? Did the product match its description? Sometimes, the most brilliant ideas allowing you to take your content strategy to the next level come straight from your buyers.
Since they get to test your product, they are the ones who could point to flaws, features and benefits that you would have never thought about. Therefore, you should keep in mind that a good strategist is always a good listener. Pay attention to new directions indicated by clients and find the best way to include real customer input in your content pieces. There’s one more aspect that you should take into consideration: credible testimonials are a great way to build trust and attract new potential buyers.
6) When in Doubt, Just Ask! Even the most experienced strategists get stuck at some point. If you don’t know how to resonate with your audience and how to guide your content strategy in a new direction, don’t hesitate to ask the right questions. At the end of the day, your curiosity will be rewarded. Ask your visitors:
- What do they enjoy reading the most?
- What are the topics that they would like you to expand on more often?
- What kind of content are they interested in finding on your website or blog? Do they prefer text-based content, videos, infographics or a combination of all these elements?
By simplyasking a few basic questions, you show that you care and that you are looking forward to improving your content strategy based on the specific needs, demands and expectations of your targeted audience.
7) Look for Awesome Opportunities in Your Own Backyard. Before setting extremelyambitious goals and targeting new playgrounds, make sure you explore all the tempting opportunities that may be hiding in your backyard. Analyze your existing audience and find out if you could deliver more value to your customers.
After all, you can enjoy pancakes without that delicious maple syrup, but what would be the point to do so? In this case, value represents the sweet syrup that prospects wish to taste when they choose to buy your product or do business with you. A feature blog would enable you to inform, educate and entertain your prospects and give them another reason to land on your website, purchase your merchandise, subscribe to your newsletter or spread the word about your brand or your new line of products.
8) Create a Useful Editorial Calendar (and Stick to It). One thing’s certain: content planning should not involve any guesswork. Unfortunately, in some cases, this is easier said than done. To prioritize your goals, stay relevant and come up with first-class content pieces designed to attract clients like a magnet and improve your bottom line, you have to stay organized at all times. According to HubSpot, when it comes to guiding your content strategy, you have to map your web writing to the buying cycle and elaborate an editorial calendar.
In this case, the key is to set up and follow very strict weekly (or monthly) benchmarks, indicating who your public really is and what it wants from you, what kind of topics you should expand on, the best ways to share your content, what type of formatting you should use and so on. Never forget that practice makes perfect; creating and following a strict timeframe will give you the chance to put your thoughts in order, avoid distractions and strategize in a much more effective manner.
Ideally, you should be able to take a small step back every 3, 6 or 12 months, harvest the fruits of your labor, evaluate the end results of your content strategy and optimize the aspects requiring urgent improvements. Before you start working on your content pieces, first make sure that you can count on a large audience that is interested in what you have to say and is willing to share your web writing. This is the moment when you start reading what your competitors are writing, while keeping an eye on social media to spot excellent engagement opportunities. According to Moz, by investing in long-term relationships with influencers and powerful players in your industry you will manage to get the bigger picture and upgrade your current content strategy fast and painlessly, without breaking the bank to make it happen.
9) Give the Green Light to the First Batch of Fresh Web Content. Ultimately, you will guide your content strategy based on a trial-and-error process. Even though you’ve done your fair share of keyword research and have used every SEO tool in the box to perfect your web writing, only time will tell how your readers will rate your content. Before launching the final version of your content piece, you have to make sure that it actually:
- addresses the real needs and concerns of your readers
- provides value and presents certain topics from a different perspective
- helps you reposition yourself as an industry leader
- reflects the vision, mission and purpose in business of your company and is accompanied by a number of extras ( illustrations, photography, charts, infographics, videos and so on), which enable your audience to filter and assimilate your message much more effectively
10) Measure Your Results. After a certain period of time, you have to go back to your old content pieces and measure their effectiveness. By assessing your own website and reviewing past campaigns you can find out what types of content make your prospects rub their hands in anticipation and which ones make them yawn. You can use various tools to measure your success and improve your interactions with your readers. For example, Google Analytics allows you to reengage with your potential buyers by interpreting their particular set of on-site actions.
All in all, a clear understanding of your industry, audience and your own business goals will help you make the best decisions when it comes to creating and implementing a successful strategy. Keep in mind that no industry or product is truly boring. The key is to identify and reach your own segment of public and build interesting, informative content based on a solid plan. As long as your content is shared and enjoyed by a large audience, you are ready to strategize for success in the long run.
Photo Credit: Content Strategy/shutterstock