No one wants to buy from someone they don’t like.
Developing a comprehensive content strategy is more than just a few videos and blog posts. There is a science to it.
Each piece of content fits in the buyer’s journey like a piece of a puzzle. This is why you must have a deep understanding of your customers.
In this post, we’ll take a deep-dive into creating a comprehensive content strategy. You can download the free content strategy planning template at the end of this post.
1. Understand the Customer Journey
Ask yourself about the last purchase – how did you go about finally clicking on “complete checkout”.
You first became aware of your problem. You googled it. You didn’t find a convincing enough answer yet.
But then you saw a brand talking about the problem on youtube. They showed you how to solve it. But to solve it you need this product. The product promises to take care of your problem for good.
So you explore the product a bit more. You ask your friends, who like their Facebook page whether it’s a good product. You read reviews online. Check forums. Then you see them again on Instagram.
While you’re getting your daily news you see their product ad following you around. It’s time you think to make the call. You’re back on their site. You’re on mobile during lunch break. Your boss asks you to look at something. The shopping is interrupted.
Later that evening you get an email from them that you can still get your product and they’ll even give you free shipping. Bummer, you’re already at your station and have to walk home.
Next morning on the way to work you see another email. This time they’re offering you an extra freebie. You take the bait and make the purchase. All of this just for the first purchase. It’s been 57 days since you first became aware of your problem. We’ve only just covered the awareness > consideration > acquisition journey.
The modern customer journey is no longer as simple as reacting to an ad or article in a magazine. People interact with a brand on multiple channels. Each channel serves a different purpose. The number of touchpoints has increased. Service expectations are phenomenal.
Whether you’re running a product or a service business your customer follows a journey from awareness to retention. It’s not just marketing that has to commit. Every organisational function is part of the journey.
2. Map Objectives to Journey
Depending on where in the journey your customer is they seek different kinds of information. Show coupons to someone just looking for a few ways they can solve their dry skin problem and you’ll most likely lose them.
Similarly, when someone’s looking for how to build better charts, selling them an entire business intelligence solution is unlikely to work well.
Each stage in the buying process has a distinct purpose for the customer. Before you start producing content you need to figure out why you’re producing the content in the first place. What is the objective and how will you measure success?
First, let’s look at the three stages of an acquisition funnel.
Top of funnel – They’re looking for more information about a problem. They want to know what to do about it. They don’t yet know about different solutions. They definitely don’t know you’re the right product supplier. To see if you’re attracting the right people set new visitors as an objective. Measure this against different channels being used to distribute the content (more on this later).
Key objective: Generate awareness about your brand by driving relevant traffic (new visitors from any given channel with a low bounce rate and high on-page time)
Middle of funnel – They know they have a problem. They know there are different solutions to their problem too. So they start to evaluate. They try DIY solutions. They look for a solution and decision frameworks. Remember, no one wants to look silly when they present a solution to their team. Not even your boss. By this stage, they’re signing up for your free course, whitepapers and use free tools.
Key objectives: Increase engagement – downloads, signups, shares among new and returning traffic. Usually, returning traffic is warmer and will have a higher engagement rate.
Bottom of the funnel: These visitors are ready to take the next step. They either want to buy or want to speak with your sales team. Make it easier for them to do this. Give them dedicated landing pages to solve a very specific problem. Let them enquire about specific services.
Key objectives: Generate marketing qualified leads for sales. Once they’ve signed up or expressed interest, marketing can hand over the lead to
Most content marketing strategies end here. But look at the customer journey map above. It’s not over yet. You’ve only just started proving your value.
The next stage is to nurture the customer with great service. Make sure they’re clear about how to use your product. Help them with specific use cases. Answer common questions anyone will have about your product so that they don’t have to wait.
Key objectives – customer service satisfaction. Measure this with feedback buttons, mini surveys or NPS surveys.
Finally we move to retention. Impress them and look after them. Give them the roadmaps to get the most out of your product. Solve technical issues and misunderstanding in a timely manner. A dedicated account manager or support person can make a huge difference to the perceived level of satisfaction. Let your best customers become your evangelists – use feedback and testimonials as content for the next wave of new customers.
Key objectives – again it’s customer satisfaction (use NPS to measure this) and reviews/ratings generated.
3. Match Content Themes to Objectives
Your content can be broadly organised in 3 core content themes.
1) Problem aware – This prospect knows they have a problem. They’re not well versed with the solution domain. For instance, most executives we speak with want to grow their sales. They might be looking at different sales channels, marketing efforts or even hiring an in-house team to achieve this. In order to attract such clients to our website, we write content about how to improve sales through advertising, conversion optimisation, retention management etc. Notice how we’re not necessarily talking about growth marketing yet?
2) Solution aware – These prospects know that they have a problem. They want this problem dealt with. They’re evaluating different solutions. For an eCommerce store, they might be looking into a CRO package or a CRM solution. They’re trying to learn about different tactics and product that can help them solve their problem. This is the middle of the funnel.
3) Product aware – These customers know about your product. They’ve compared your product to others. They need a good enough reason to get in touch with your team or start a free trial.Your product must stand out from the rest so clarifying your positioning is vital. Free trials are still the easiest way to prove your product’s value. Like a free strategy call? This content corresponds to the final acquisition stage i.e. the bottom of the funnel.
4. Keyword & Topic Research
Before you run off to check SEO tools look at all the ways people become aware of something new.
- search online
- hashtag search
- search Q&A websites
- ask for recommendations
Keywords and hashtags fall under different intents. The intent is so important in classifying and searching for information that the entire Google search engine is built around it.
So whether you’re looking for “food boxes in Melbourne” or “meal kits near me” – the intent is the same – find a food delivery service that lets me cook at home.
1) Informational – Problem and solution discovery stage. Answers questions like how to, ways to do X, why does x happen
2) Comparison – answers the question “to whom should I give my business?”. Information search patterns look like this:
- product x vs product y
- compare service x
- x services in y area
- best service providers for x
3) Commercial – Ready to buy – red sweater size 44 mens, hoka one one sky arkali size 10, dyson air purifier deals
4) Brand – Looking specifically for your brand.
Now that you have a rough idea of what people look for at different stages of their buying journey use tools like Buzzsumo, Ubersuggest and Mangools to see which keywords draw traffic.
Investigate content on similar topics on your competitor’s website. I wouldn’t hold back from looking outside your industry on how and what marketers are producing to attract organic traffic.
5. Platform and Content Types
Content, whether user-generated or branded, takes many forms:
- Blog post
- Native article (linkedin facebook)
- Text (twitter)
Each of these has a specific purpose. More importantly each of these suits a different behavioural intent. For instance, how-to videos are much easier to follow than a how-to podcast. Similarly, comparing multiple services is easier in an infographic or a blog post than a Twitter post.
The next thing you need to decide on is the content mix. If you’re running a small team, managing more than 3 content types may get very challenging. remember, you’re trying to produce genuine and useful content not content for the sake of content.
Research your buyers’ behaviour using qualitative and quantitative research to learn more about which platforms and content types are best suited for your business. No point posting on Instagram when your audience is on LinkedIn.
6. Distribution Strategy
Like your product distribution will make or break your content strategy. This is often an overlooked part of the content marketing strategy.
Creating content is no longer enough. It has to be distributed on the right channels. Whether it’s through an app, video sharing platform, social media or even paid advertising, something has to power your content rocket.
Otherwise, all your content will turn into the world’s best-kept secret.
Distribution channels fall under 3 main categories.
- Owned – this is your website, your blog post and app
- Earned – guest posts, influencer mentions, shared, reposts
- Paid – article placements, sponsored articles
For your content strategy to work you’ll need to ensure all 3 of these channels work in harmony.
Paid channels make discovery easier. They generate user experience signals important for search engine discovery. When on your site, the quality of your content makes it more likely to be shared. Sharing leads to further discovery and the engine perpetually fuels itself.
7. Content Calendar & Schedule
This is everyone’s least favourite part. Scheduling and administration of the content.
But it’s also important because humans are creatures of habit. They expect to see a post from you on their favourite platform on specific days. The organic content distribution schedule for a single content package could look like this.
- Monday – podcast and video
- Tuesday – blog post
- Wednesday – Linkedin post
- Thursday – Medium repost
- Friday – Facebook and Twitter post
But this is just one piece of content. Your other content pieces need to be timely and relevant. No point talking about end-of-year tax savings when you’re just starting the year, right?
Ideally, you’d plan in quarters with detailed timelines and work across multiple distribution channels. Keep your team in the loop about who’s producing what content. not everyone can write well so distribute the work between research, writing, design and editing. Download the template at the end of this post to help you plan.
Wow! that ended up being a longer than anticipated post. But I hope this shows you that using a content-driven marketing strategy is in fact a lot of work. However, if you have the resources it is a powerful strategy that delivers solid results in the long-run.