Content strategy - muzzle or ally of the marketer?
Content strategy or content marketing strategy is associated with boring planning and limiting the creativity of markers. In practice, we find that the lack of a plan creates so much confusion that firefighting gives way to creativity. That's why in this article we share experiences and best practices that will help Co answer the question: do you need a content strategy.
From this article you will learn:
- Is it worth creating a content strategy?
- What happens if you start creating marketing content without a plan?
- What are the benefits of planning and creating a content strategy?
Content strategy - a marketer's dilemma
Several articles that have recently appeared in front of marketers have left me feeling confused. On the one hand, I hear an expert urging to avoid over-planning and content strategy raises a smile. On the other, a serious marketer argues that without a strategy it's not worth moving forward with content creation.
In the end, to plan or not to plan?
I answer – content strategy/plan is what distinguishes an artist from a professional.
An artist can be showy, his content is meant to inspire awe and envy. For this you don't need a strategy. You need to be effective before anything else. Your content is supposed to arouse not envy but interest, and not of other marketers but of customers. If you want to be effective, your content must be consistent, useful and appear regularly. And here without planning you won't get too far.
Does this mean that people who don't plan their content always fail? No. Usually, these are people who simply enjoy creating content and have either a developed workshop or a natural talent or a combination of both. To them, content creation comes easily and they develop a strategy for themselves in the so-called "meantime." There is only one problem - it is very difficult to learn from them.
If you are starting out in content marketing and you look at such a person, it seems that content creation comes effortlessly. To them it does. You don't yet.
What is the danger of not having a content strategy?
So let's consider what happens if you start creating content marketing without a plan.
How do you decide, on content topics?
- usually the topic is imposed by whoever sits highest or shouts loudest. Usually it will be a topic that interests the content creators. Because in the absence of client planning, no one asked for their opinion.
How do you decide who to create content for?
- This is where perceptions and stereotypes usually come into play. And so, blogs for programmers will feature a picture of a guy in a plaid shirt, material for marketers a stylized hipster, etc. Does it fit the stereotype, but not the reality anymore?
How do you choose your content format?
- "There's a fad for podcasts and live", why aren't we doing it yet? How do you defend yourself against such an accusation from a boss who came back from a visionary conference without a content plan/strategy built on an analysis of the needs and preferences of your target audience?
One thing I must admit. Creating content without a plan is much more exciting. At any moment your idea can be swept away by an even "better" idea from your boss or sales colleague. Emotions guaranteed.
What does content strategy give you?
However, if you're tired of office adrenaline and long for a little predictability in your life, content planning is not a bad idea at all. Let's answer the key questions again, this time from the perspective of someone who plans content.
How do you decide who to create content for?
- Segmentation - analyze your customers in terms of their margin, cost and time to sell, overall value over time. Perhaps the sales department already has this data. Then go through the last few dozen contracts with your salespeople and list the people who influenced buying decisions on the customer side. Determine the people who are most likely to repeat themselves - that way you determine who to target with content.
How do you decide what to talk about in content?
The content plan should be based on an analysis of the decision-making process. In B2B, several people are involved in such a process, each with their own information needs that we should meet.
How do you know what those needs are? It's worth talking to your customers. To start, gather the questions they ask salespeople and answer the ones they ask most often. This is a good start.
I recommend you Marcus Sharidan's book - They Ask You Answer, which uses his own and many other examples to describe the benefits of using this technique.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive approach, read about Buyer Persona. This method is based on face-to-face interviews with customers and allows us to accurately determine their needs throughout the decision-making process. This way we know what information they need to make decisions.
The Buyer Persona method is described in Adelle Revell's book - Buyer Personas
How do you choose the content format?
When analyzing your buyer persona, it's a good idea to determine their preferences, ask them how they consume content. Then you may find that the super-fashionable recent video format won't be appropriate, because your customers spend their lives in a company car and you don't want to encourage them to watch video during that time. In such a situation, you may choose a second super-fashionable format - such as a podcast.
There are several more advantages to planning content and creating a strategy.
As a rule, the strategy should be approved by the board of directors. If it is, you will avoid implementing "yesterday" wonderful ideas that an overly creative sales manager came up with. The strategy, while defining what we are to deal with, at the same time defines what we will not deal with.
Listen to an episode on content marketing from the BusinessMarketer podcast
I know it varies in practice, but I've observed that the amount of ad hocs drops noticeably if the company has a content plan in place.
If you're having trouble engaging colleagues to create content, a board-approved content strategy gives you additional "influence" arguments 😊.
A content strategy also allows you to reign in the content promotion zone, which in many companies simply lies. Often we spend a few, several thousand on video production, and after a year it turns out that it was viewed by a few dozen people, half of whom are employees of the company. When creating a strategy, also lean into the methods and tools of content promotion. When working with companies that are new to content marketing, I usually advise them to spend as much time and money on content promotion as on content creation. That's a starting point, of course, but the ratio should look that way in my opinion.
Learn about content planning tools - the content matrix and content calendar, which I discuss in the video below:
The bottom line is that if you hear from a marketing guru that he/she/it just started creating content and then somehow things worked out, keep in mind that there's a good chance that things just won't work out for you.
Unless you're a born or educated shoegazer with a book and media contacts to your credit, you may have trouble copying their strategy. This is why not every great soccer player becomes a good coach. Distinguishing between natural talent and methods that can be widely applied is key here.
If, on the other hand, you are a mere mortal who needs to:
- prove that marketing translates into sales
- persuade colleagues to share their knowledge with customers
- earn the respect of management by generating quality sales leads
A content strategy will help you:
- plan messages that will be relevant to your potential customers, so you will attract their attention
- plan the next steps in your communications, so you turn content recipients into leads
- working in a relatively structured environment, free of ad hocs, ASAPs and fuc... you know what 😊 yourself.
If you want to learn more about the details of creating a content strategy, I recommend you our article on the content matrix, a tool with which you can plan min. topics, formats and touchpoints to include in your content strategy.