A popular saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” True in life as it is in business, this statement also applies to content strategy—which is talked about far more than it is used effectively.

There are many definitions of content strategy. At its core, content strategy acts as a pilot for the creation and management of any and all content you produce (including images, text, graphics, videos, interviews, social media sharing, etc.). There’s a reason it is the next big thing: poorly planned and executed content is a huge problem that’s out of control.  Kristina Halvorson, who is widely credited as the founder of the discipline, says solving the content conundrum will take time. “Creating a smart plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of your web content means research and reflection. Trial and error,” she says. “And selling your plan to the powers that be—winning attention, approval, and resources—is going to take even longer.”

Mention content strategy to the executives of many businesses and you’re likely to experience some hesitation or be ignored. While valuable, worthwhile, and necessary for companies of all sizes, content strategy is often neglected. Here’s why you shouldn’t make that mistake, and how a clear content strategy will help you leave your competitors in the dust.

1. Content strategy establishes a path for your brand.

When used correctly and applied with conviction, content strategy can facilitate marketing success by ensuring your team members—and the content they produce—always align with the goals of the business.

Those are just a few of content strategy’s many benefits. Now that we know what content strategy is, let’s dive into what it does.

2. It protects you from content marketing failure.

Content marketing is difficult to do well, but a good strategy will set your company apart. It prevents your business from joining the 96 per cent of B2B content marketers who struggle to produce worthwhile content for their audience. Three of the biggest issues in content marketing, uncovered in a 2014 report, are the usual suspects: creating content for the sake of content, limited or no involvement of stakeholders, and no clear relationship to the goals of the business.

These stats demonstrate the challenge of effective content marketing. Before you engage in content marketing, create a sound content strategy and goals.

3. It helps you prepare your brand for friendly competition.

The single biggest advantage of content strategy is that it makes certain you continually assign, create, share, and amplify content that’s in line with the goals of the business. This is something few brands get right. The beauty of content strategy is that it makes your competitors’ challenges your brand’s opportunities.

Now that we know what content strategy is, why it’s important, and, most importantly, how the competition is failing to use it wisely, let’s explore how your business can put the practice to work in your business.

Beginning this month, meet with your marketing team (and anyone else involved in creating content) on a weekly basis. During this meeting, discuss the five core elements that will order your brand’s content efforts going forward.

This exercise is designed to help you get your brand messaging in order, making it possible for you to stay on target with every piece of content your team creates—whether emails, blogs, newsletters or brochures.

By meeting frequently, all team members can be engaged and stay on message. Weekly meetings also allow the information to filter out to other teams, who can draw from these core tenets during sales presentations, speaking events, and interactions with vendors.

Guiding your brand to ask the tough questions and get the necessary answers is where content strategy really shines.

4. It allows you to thrive where the competition is weakest.

Even if your competition has the focus to succeed, there’s a high likelihood that the areas they’re focused on don’t rise above the brand level. This is especially the case when it comes to the keywords brands hope to rank for. With the rare exception, your competition is likely to make one of two bad content-related choices:

  • They use too few keywords—only branded terms, such as “Kelly’s Burgers”
  • They use too many keywords—branded, long-tail phrases that have very little traffic associated with them, such as  “Kelly’s Burgers in Montreal”

A better approach is to deploy a smart long-tail keyword strategy that’s informed by user intent. Instead of thinking about your brand or the products and services it sells, think of how a user would discover them. Specifically, think of the language they would use in a search engine to discover your brand. It’s unlikely they’d type in your brand name if they didn’t know you existed.

Focus your attention on these two areas:

Non-branded long-tail keywords:

These are the terms that have a higher volume of searches by users looking for products in your category. For example, a better approach to gaining traffic for Kelly’s Burgers would be “burgers downtown Montreal,” “Montreal best burgers,” or “Montreal best burger downtown.

These specific search terms are less common but easier to rank for. Most importantly, they have higher conversion rates, meaning the people who find your site using these terms are much more likely to buy your products.

Use the once-a-week meeting with your marketing team to find the most effective way to develop your keywords.

Personas:

Few companies devote the time necessary to create these practical examples of their typical customer. By creating personas, you’ll stand apart from the competition and have a leg up in targeting and marketing to your core audience. Begin by asking your sales, customer support, communications, and marketing teams to sketch out what they think represents your typical customer. Key markers include age, income, job, race, residence, and interests.

Once you have this information, you can create fictionalized models to frame future marketing efforts. For example, if one of your models is Pam—a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom with two kids from the suburbs—it may make sense to share content regarding kid-friendly meals or fast, friendly service to get her attention. The key is to avoid over-thinking it, which could result in analysis paralysis. Gather enough information to get started, and then go to work.

5. It builds a fortress around your brand.

While content strategy helps you target your messaging and market your products or services to the right prospects, it also builds a moat around the brand by way of a growing, engaged audience.

Customers hate being sold to but love being made a priority through just-for-me marketing and products or services that fit their needs. Often, they willingly trade loyalty for quality, tailored service.

The better you are at iterating the messaging and content you produce, share, and amplify, the sooner prospects convert from customers to audience members, become part of the community, and then ultimately turn into brand advocates.

Fostering this shift from customer to brand advocate is huge. It means you spend less to market to these people since they are already in the sales and marketing pipeline. The shift also highlights the development of your homegrown marketing troops, who will likely share the story of your brand and your products to friends, family members, and business associates. Most important, if these marketing soldiers advocate for your brand, they’re unlikely to recommend the competition.

Final Thoughts

When examined holistically, it’s hard to argue with the results that can be achieved from a disciplined, pragmatic approach to content strategy. The first step to make content strategy work for you: Don’t think you don’t need it. Next, realize how it can help set your business apart from the competition (especially since many companies are still in the dark when it comes to content). What may seem like a difficult undertaking at the outset is in fact an effective means to set your business up for success.

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