You keep hearing that content is king, or queen, or some other form of highly influential royalty. You feel like you should have jumped on this content marketing train like yesterday.
But every time you sit down to write, you end up staring at the content intimidation tactic that is the blinking cursor on a blank screen. Then you give up, shuffle content creation around on your to-do list, and promise that you’ll get to it later.
Creating a content strategy that makes your ideal audience feel like “Thank God, I found you!” doesn’t have to be intimidating or frustrating. It can be as simple as talking to your audience and having a plan that works for your business. Below are five steps to get you started.
But first, what is a content marketing strategy anyway?
A content marketing strategy is a documented plan for using content (written, oral, visual, etc.) to attract your ideal audience, bringing them into your sales funnel to convert them into clients/customers, and finally, your biggest fans.
I like to think of the strategy in terms of a movie set and you (the content strategist) are the director. You let actors (the content) know where to stand, what to say, and where and how to say it to elicit the response you want.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start creating your content strategy.
1. Determine your commitment
Content marketing is a long-term strategy to attract your ideal clients and customers, not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time, discipline, and a commitment to meeting deadlines, promotion, responding to comments, and more.
Before you get started on your content marketing strategy, set goals and delegate tasks among your team. Schedule weekly meetings to check in, create new ideas, and help one another. If you’re running your business solo, you’ll absolutely need regularly scheduled times for content creation.
Whether in a team or on your own, be realistic about your time. If blogging once a week and sending a newsletter twice a month is the most you can manage, don’t shoot for any more than that. Setting yourself up for failure breaks trust with your audience that expects what you’ve promised. You don’t want burnout here, you want a streamlined process that works for your schedule.
2. Know your audience
I can see your eyes rolling already. You can’t seem to get away from this “know your audience” thing, and here’s why: how can you sell your product or service if you don’t know who you’re selling to?
Knowing your audience goes beyond creating a fictional persona you’ve saved to a Pinterest board. It’s more than assuming that because “Lauren” shops at Whole Foods and practices yoga you know what she’s about. You don’t. Where she shops and how she spends her time only scratches the surface of who she is.
Talk to members of your ideal audience and take notes. Sit down to coffee with them or schedule a Skype chat to gain insights into who they are at their core and as individuals, not stereotypes.
3. Analyze your data
I promise, it’s not as tech-ed out and scary as it sounds. Simply compile your notes into a spreadsheet to get a comprehensive view of what your ideal audience wants. You’ll start to recognize trends in how they think and feel. Use those recurring emotions and their words to fuel your content.
Talk about the benefits (how your audience wants to feel) and then let them know how your product or service can help them achieve that feeling. You want to connect with them on an emotional level where it counts.
4. Make a plan
Content calendars are popular for a reason. They help you stay organized by taking all of the ideas out of your head and putting them into a process that makes sense. You never have to sit staring at that nagging cursor trying to figure out what to say and where or how to say it again.
To make creating content even easier, set themes for each month. Themes narrow your focus on a subject that appeals to your ideal audience and makes it easy for you to establish yourself as an expert.
Setting a theme also helps you create several streams of content. For example, if my theme for the month was content strategy, I could turn each of these five steps into their own blog post. Then I could create additional content like a sample content calendar or audience analysis spreadsheet to supplement each post that readers could download for free.
5. Create, create, create!
You’ve determined your commitment and set goals, talked to your ideal audience, found common trends, and used this data to create monthly themes and ideas for content. High-fives for everyone! Now, it’s time to create the content you feel comfortable with.
If blogging isn’t your scene, don’t do it. If the thought of being in front of a camera sends you into an anxiety-ridden spiral, video probably isn’t for you. Your audience can spot inauthenticity from a mile away.
Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. And when you’re done, remember to promote it. Reach out to influencers in your field and encourage followers on social media to share. You’ve worked too hard to keep your awesome new content to yourself.