According to the 2020 SEMRush State of Content Marketing survey of both B2B and B2C marketers, the top three challenges marketers face are: creating content that generates quality leads, creating content that attracts more traffic, and proving the ROI of content. How can you do all three? Build a content marketing strategy that fits your business needs.
Unfortunately, creating that content strategy can come with its own challenges. Where do you start? How do you know it’s working? How do you tweak it to make it even better?
We’ve struggled with these same questions for our clients and our own brand. Luckily, in helping everyone from up-and-coming startups to Fortune 500 brands revise their content strategies, we’ve navigated the most common pitfalls, made a few mistakes, and learned a whole lot from it. Now, we’re here to share that knowledge to help you create strong content that turns people into lifelong fans.
10 Tips to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy
If your content strategy isn’t working the way it should, don’t worry. From brainstorming to production, here are 10 tips to help you get on the right track.
1) Put Your Target Audience First
It may sound obvious, but too often we see brands prepare to create a content marketing strategy by asking, “What content do we want to create?”
(And, yes, we used to do this too.) But remember that content isn’t for you; it’s for your audience. What do they need? What do they find interesting? What can help them? These are the questions you should be asking.
Tip: If you haven’t identified who you’re trying to reach (or haven’t segmented your audiences effectively), creating strong personas is the first thing you need to do. Personas help you understand your audience’s wants and needs, what problems they’re facing, and how you might provide the solution to those problems through content. To start, use our guide to craft your marketing personas.
2) Talk to Your Target Audience
You can’t build marketing personas based on what you think people need. You need to go to the source. Reach out to clients and the people in your company who interact with them most (e.g., your sales or customer service teams). This will give you the perspective you need to build a content strategy that speaks to them.
Tip: Even if you’ve created your personas, having these conversations consistently is a great way to keep up-to-date. Think surveys, customer feedback, or even a simple email to a prospect to get inside their mind. Here are a few questions that can help guide your conversations:
- What are your goals this quarter?
- What do you wish you knew more about?
- What are the biggest frustrations weighing you down?
- What resources do you wish you had?
The answers to these questions can inspire all sorts of great content ideas that you know will deliver true value. You may update your personas based on these insights, too.
3) Work Around Content Themes
Brainstorming a year’s worth of content ideas isn’t efficient. It doesn’t allow for any flexibility or strategy changes, plus it’s a lot of work. We find it easier to choose a quarterly theme to focus on. (You can even choose monthly themes.)
This makes it easier to brainstorm ideas, and ensures everything you create aligns with both your short- and long-term content goals. This approach also lets you stay current. For example, if you’ve had an enlightening conversation with a customer and realized a major gap in your content, you may devote a quarter to that type of content.
Tip: Even if you’re creating content around the same theme, you should have a healthy mix of different types of content.
If you need a little inspiration, see how LinkedIn recommends you mix up your blog content.
4) Lead With Value
Good content entertains, educates, or inspires your audience. (The best can do all three.) This is especially true in a competitive marketplace, where plenty of other brands are vying for your audience’s attention.
You can differentiate by demonstrating your expertise, sharing unique insights with proprietary data, and creating content that enhances people’s lives.
Tip: Before you approve an idea, ask yourself:
- Is this relevant to our audience?
- Does it speak to their needs and wants?
- Is this within our expertise?
- Are we offering a new or interesting perspective?
Note: You don’t always have to rely on your pro expertise. Sharing mistakes (and what you’ve learned) can also endear you to your audience while providing something of value.
5) Apply Your Brand Identity
One of the most important parts of creating strong brand content is making sure that it does, in fact, reflect your brand. That doesn’t mean you talk about your brand and slap your logo all over a piece. It means that you are presenting a cohesive picture of who you are in visuals, messaging, voice, personality, etc.
Tip: Design practical brand guidelines to help content creators stay on brand. You can also create a simple brand identity checklist to vet your content before it goes out into the world. If you don’t have an established identity, see our guides to identify your brand voice, personality, messaging, and visual language.
6) Showcase Your Culture
People care about who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re like behind closed doors. And it’s not just consumers who care; potential and current employees care about the company they work for, too.
Peel back the curtain to showcase the people who work for you, the office you work in, the culture you’ve cultivated, etc. It’s a great way to humanize your brand.
7) Create a Road Map for Every Piece
Every piece of content you create supports your content marketing strategy, so every piece should be given the same level of thought, care, and planning. This is crucial to make sure that your content is consistent, cohesive, and on-brand.
Tip: Before you start copywriting or designing a piece, make sure you have a strategic, documented plan. This should include your:
- Audience: You should know your target persona, as well as what want or need the content is serving.
- Measurement approach: What are your metrics?
- Distribution channels: These can influence how you craft your content, so make sure your creators know from the begining.
- Key messaging: What is the real story here? Use our brand messaging framework to make sure your content tells the right story.
You can also use our creative brief template to make sure key info is documented.
8) Optimize Your Production Process
It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if you don’t have the people, tools, knowledge, or infrastructure in place to actually create them. If you want to make sure your content strategy is successful, consider how much content you plan to produce, as well as how often you plan to publish it.
Consistency is crucial, so it’s better to start small and scale up than try to launch a huge operation at once.
Tip: If you’re creating content yourself, see our guide to optimize your content creation process. If you don’t have the skills in-house, you can always use an outside partner. Just make sure it’s the right fit. See our tips to find a content agency that can work for you.
9) Let Sales Do the Selling
Content marketing is not sales. If you come on too strong in your content, start talking at people instead of to them, or try to sell too soon, you’ll make them want to run the other way.
Your job is simply to engage people and build a genuine relationship through content. If you’ve done this effectively, they will gladly take the next step in the buyer journey.
10) Try New Things
If your content marketing strategy isn’t working—or isn’t working as well as you’d like—don’t be afraid to experiment. A good strategy is a strong guide, but it should also allow the flexibility to change course, try something new, and tweak as you go. You never know what surprising changes can drastically improve your results.
Tip: Do a content audit to see how your content stacks up to your competitors. You may identify content gaps you can easily fill, or be inspired to use a new format or distribution channel.
Don’t Set and Forget Your Content Strategy
Most importantly, remember that content strategy is an ever-evolving practice. The more you learn, the more you improve, and the better your results will be. To stay ahead of the game, review your strategy quarterly to make sure it still supports your goals.
We hope these tips steer you in the right direction. But if you still have questions, we’re always down to chat.