Content Strategy -[The Definitive Guide] for Small Businesses

Content Strategy

If there is one buzz word in the realm of digital marketing, it is ‘content strategy’ and ‘content marketing.’ For most, it is about creating and distributing content. But the truth is far deeper and meaningful. Most businesses fail to understand its real meaning and the potential and significance if this piece in your marketing strategy. This leads to an improper application that might lead to business failure.  

The importance of content is widely recognized today but what we fail to recognize is that good content alone cannot get the desired result if it is not backed by the right strategy. A good content used cleverly under a well-drafted and planned out content marketing strategy is what will take your business to new heights. Thankfully, you have a specialized content marketing agency that can handle this aspect of your marketing strategy and help you get the desired results. Here, we would understand all about content marketing and content strategy and how to optimize it for spectacular results for your business. Stay hooked! 

What is Content Strategy? 

Foremost, let us understand what exactly is content marketing. In simple terms, it is the technique of creating relevant, valuable and consistent content and distributing it to a clearly defined audience target such that you can drive profitable customer action and increase the sales. It is vastly different from the traditional advertising methods where you often interrupt a customer’s rhythm and ask them to purchase your product. Here, the method is more permission-based where the customer is incited and encouraged to buy your product.  

Your content is added value and made more effective by content strategy. It is the instrument that helps you set the right expectations with your audience and creating customized content for them using the allocated resources. The content strategy is best documented and evaluated and analyzed regularly to understand and improve its success quotient. It simplifies your business and even helps you incept new ideas.  

Basics of Content Strategy  

It is a common saying that ‘content is king’ but few realize that content strategy is the kingmaker. The entire purpose of content strategy is to create meaningful, engaging, cohesive and sustainable content and use them at the right time with the right audience. It helps you identify what is existing, what needs to be created and why it should be created. The ultimate goal of any content strategy is to fulfill the user’s expectations and meet business objectives.  

You might now ponder what should a content strategy include so that its aims are fulfilled. Ideally, it should 

  • Involve teamwork. 
  • Take into account the content and the people creating it. 
  • Ensure that the content matches the audience literacy’s level. 
  • Always answer the Five W’s and H (Who, What, Why, When, Where and How). 
  • Maintains proper voice and tone of the content. 
  • SEO content writing norms are maintained.  
  • Contents are broken into smaller chunks for a better flow and flexible usage.  
  • Content is wrapped into metadata. 
  • Content must embrace web standards. 
  • Proper platforms need to be chosen to tell the stories.  

As evident, plenty of time, skill and brainstorming is required to come up with a killer content marketing strategy. Thankfully, you have the option of hiring an expert content strategy agency who can do the job and make your content marketing sharp and crisp.  

Why Do Startups Need to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy? 

Content marketing strategy is important for every business operating in the digital space but it assumes special importance for any start-up business. Given the fierce online competition; content marketing becomes your ultimate arsenal to brand your business as establish it as a business leader. With a proper content marketing strategy, your startup business can reap plenty of benefits. We highlight below some key advantages that emphatically establishes why content strategy is important for any startup.  

Helps build your brand awareness and equity  

Any prospective client will always try to look for something unique and different in your business that will make it stand out from all your competitors. Strategizing and then presenting your content would help you achieve that most comprehensively.  

Increases customer engagement and help build relationships  

The entire purpose of online content marketing is to add value to your target audience. Gone are the days when you directly pitched any customer to buy your product. Instead, stellar content is used to highlight the benefits and advantages of your products and services and how it can solve the customer’s problems. You cannot achieve it without a calculative approach gained via your content strategy.  

Helps build a trust  

Being a startup, you are unknown to all. Thus, your content marketing plan must always use engaging content that can clearly and impressively convey your personality, beliefs, and value, industry knowledge and expertise, company culture and above all- your ability to understand and address your clients’ needs and requirements. Once you succeed in this endeavor; you start winning the trust of your customers and eventually build loyalty and trust for your business. It is content that can help you develop a voice and cement your authority and brand in the minds of the audience. 

Influences other strategies  

A robust content strategy would boost all your other business strategies to help you establish your business and drive productivity and profitability. It can help people sign up to your email list, boost your SEO strategy and drive traffic, help you post content on social media and increase your presence, help you develop connections with influencers and other valuable contacts, etc. To put it bluntly, it can form the basis of almost all your online business strategies. 

Expand your reach  

The best thing about online marketing is that it helps expose your business to customers from around the nation and even around the globe with minimal effort. It helps you break the local boundaries and grow your business to any extent you desire. 

A cost-effective alternative to traditional methods  

Budget is a challenge with established business as well though it assumes a war-like proportion for any startup. You might be fighting all corners to make ends meet. Good and quality content can readily give you the required exposure at a fraction of the price you would drool out in traditional methods. The result would also be far more profitable than the traditional methods of advertising. Your business only stands to gain with a good content marketing strategy.  

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy? 

Now, that you understand what is content strategy and why do you need it; let’s pull our socks up and move to the next step i.e. how to develop a content strategy. Most are confused about where to start. The process is far simple than it sounds. Follow the concrete steps below to grow your business without wasting any time, effort and money.  

Define your mission, goals and KPI’s  

Before you even begin planning, it is important to clearly define your mission, goals and KPI’s and document them in a clear and specific language. The mission statement will help you focus on what’s important and creating such content that keeps your content strategy on track. You must clearly outline your target audience, the content you intend using to reach them and the benefit it will yield to your audience.  

The goals are important as it would focus all your endeavors and help you concretely measure your efforts and results. The most common goals that most startups adopt are to improve revenue, make more sales, get more traffic; improving the perception of your business in the minds of audience such that you gain more influence and authority as a thought leader; SEO success; reduced marketing costs, increased social media engagement, etc.  

Once your goals are defined, it’s time to set the key performance indicators (KPI’s). These help you set milestones and verify if your goals are being met. It is highly specific and measurable so that you can understand clearly and make definite changes if required.  

Define your target audience  

A successful content marketing strategy can only be created if you clearly define your target audience, also called as ‘Buyer Persona’. It is especially vital for any startup as this knowledge would help you produce more relevant and valuable content to help achieve your goals.  

The starting point of this is to collect the demographic data of your website visitors by using several analytics tools and other methods and even take customers’ feedback. With this information, you can easily flesh out your Buyer Persona. It would describe their pain points, challenges, behavioral motivators, etc.  

Audit your present content status  

Even if you are just a start-up; there is bound to be some content present. It could be SEO content writing like blogs, social media content, podcast, videos, etc. The steps to run an audit include logging all pieces and types of content, evaluating their usefulness and success and finally identifying the content gaps. There are many tools available that help you to run a successful content audit. Else, any content strategy agency would gladly do the job for you.  

The results are insightful if your business is about a year or so old as you can know how effective has been your content so far and you can easily identify the gaps and the pain areas.  

Identifying the types of platforms to reach your customer  

While distributing the content and working with it; you would start realizing where you are attracting the maximum audience and succeeding in building your online presence. Being a startup; its best to take advantage of what is already present and working instead of trying to make your presence felt everywhere. You can also take the help of web analytics to surmise which platforms are working best for you.  For instance, you could be getting more traffic from YouTube or Twitter than from any other channel. Then, its best to create more content specifically designed for this platform.  

Planning the types of content to create and post  

Next, you need to decide on the type of content that would work best for you. There are a few content types that are always included in every content marketing strategy. Some of the most common content marketing examples are blogs, website content, how-to articles, lists, infographics, etc. Other popular forms of content you can exploit for your business goals include video marketing, webinars, e-books, podcasts, etc.  

Identify and allocate resources  

Major work has been done once you have decided upon the type of content that you need to produce, the target audience and the platform where you would be sharing it. Next, you must ensure that you have everything you need to deliver seamlessly with your content marketing strategy. A few aspects that you need to pay heed to is to decide who would be responsible for producing and maintaining content; the tools and resources including humans you would need to create the content and what would be your publishing workflow and content scheduling.  

Creating your content calendar  

An integral part of content strategy is to know when to publish the content and on which platform. Without proper planning and scheduling, your entire efforts can go down the drain. Hence, it is essential to schedule your content using a content calendar. You can find several tools like Google Calendar, Asana, CoSchedule, etc. Each has its own specifications and can make your work easy.  

Create the content  

By now, you would have realized the prep work that goes into your content marketing strategy before you begin to create content. No matter what type of content you intend publishing, you must know the content that is already present and how your content can add value for your audience. The content should only be created once you get both these perspectives clear.  

The technique used here is popularly called the Skyscraper Technique. It involves doing a Google search, checking out all available content on your chosen topic and finally identifying ways of improving it. Doing keyword research is also important for you to ace your efforts.  

Now, you are ready to create content. It should reflect your brand’s personality and show your expertise. However, you need to be cautious that you do not come across as patronizing to the audience. The content must also be in sync with your SEO content strategy.  

Distribute and market your content 

The next element of content strategy is distribution and marketing. Without it, you are not likely to get the desired results. There are plenty of tools and avenues available for you to fulfill this objective. You can share your content on social media, make use of a drip campaign, use email marketing, reach out to influencers to spread your content, use content promoting tools like OptinMonster, etc.  

Measure the results  

Now, you come to the last part i.e. measuring the success of your content marketing strategy. Here, you would need to refer back to your KPIs that you had set at the start of the content strategy plan. Using your KPIs, you can ascertain if you are hitting your targets and what changes have come about. Various tools can make this task easier. Some of the most popular tools are Google Analytics to measure the performance of your content; Buzzsumo to measure social sharing activity and content performance there; OptinMonster’s conversion analytics to assess the success of your marketing campaign, etc.  

That’s it! Following all these steps would help you create a successful content marketing strategy from start to finish.  

What Should My Content Marketing Strategy Include? 

Now that we know how to build a content strategy plan, let’s reiterate a few key elements that should always be a part of your content marketing strategy. It would not only be important for your startup but would also remain as important once your business is established and you are looking to grow it further. Check them out! 

Document the Who 

Content is the medium using which you are talking to your prospective clients. Hence, you must specify your target audience precisely. This can only come about with a deep understanding of the WHO. Once it is done, your job is already half successful and you can proceed with confidence.  

Go for a big idea  

You might be doing SEO content writing or a B2B content marketing or just about any other type of online content marketing; its success depends on how powerful and surprising ideas your content contains. It should not only have the power to grab the attention of the clients but should also be robust enough to last for quite some time. This implies that you need to have a big idea, something which is no mean task.  

You can define a big idea as something that your clients can immediately comprehend as important, exciting and beneficial. You need to think out of the box and create content that can sustain the audience’s attention over a span of time.  

Isolate 3-5 supporting ideas  

For a cohesive marketing strategy, you not only need a unifying idea but you also need a few important supporting cornerstone ideas as well. Evolving over time, they would become the themes and recurring topics to keep your branded content marketing razor sharp. They help you establish your authority and build trust and confidence in you and your products.  

Look for avenues to purchase  

Content marketing offers plenty of flexibility to customers. Experts view content as the stepping stone leading to the purchase of your product and services. Thus, you must always ensure steps that would gently push the customers into the sales cycle. For instance, your blog post might be boosted with advertising that can lead to an option of a nurturing email sequence that would ultimately lead to the sales page. A solid understanding of the steps would help you present your content such that it would become apparent to the customers as to how you would benefit them.  

Design and strategize cornerstone content  

There cannot be a good content marketing strategy document that is not making recommendations for strategizing your content for cornerstone ideas. For instance, you might think about turning your big idea into a manifesto or the posts of your secondary cornerstone topics might make for an excellent eBook. Sometimes in web content marketing, you see a key theme running through your site. In the scenario, your website content strategy must ensure that the theme is always expressed in specific and easy-to-consume content.  

Use different content for different purposes 

Different forms of content have different roles to play to serve different purposes. For instance, the aim of some content is to educate the audience tuned in while others are intended to compel the customer to take a particular action like sign up for an email sequence or to push them further into the sales funnel. Barely has ever a single type of content have turned a stranger into a happy and satisfied customer.  

It is only a good content strategist who understands the importance of various types of content and makes appropriate recommendations according to your audience and cornerstone themes. 

Chalk out sequences and funnel  

If there is one term that is often handled clumsily, it is ‘funnel.’ But if your content sequences are well-defined and precise; it will inevitably lead to opportunities for conversion. A robust content strategy would always use persuasive sequences that are not pushy and respect the customer’s intelligence. It would impress the customers enough to pave the way for opportunities for conversion.  

Dig out opportunities for repurposing  

Creating good content is no mean task. It is time-consuming and involves plenty of hard work. Hence, it makes sense to use them well and repurpose them as much as possible. Regardless of whether you have an audio, video or a text-based piece of content, you should be creative enough to repurpose it into several other high-quality pieces. Any clever content strategist would exploit it to the full and multiple other valuable and unique high-quality pieces.  

Craft smooth transitions 

It might need some expertise but your content marketing strategy must be able to make a smooth transition from the content on their website to the content copy that converts and makes the sales. A higher level of congruence will yield better results. A good content strategy would always include advice for making this transition flow so that your audience experiences no break and awkward moment at the time of buying.  

Your content strategy should be such that you get to own the entire persuasion path without leaving a few elements like email sequences, sales pages, etc. to another writer. The entire series of content must create a cohesive persuasive environment.  

Drool out advice unique to you 

What attracts and impresses the audience at any point in time is the factor that sets you apart from the crowd. Thus, your combination of business model, topic, you and your audience must be unique.  

Even though your business and topic might be the same as your competitors but it is your content approach that would make it unique and will increase your chances of success. Hence, your content marketing strategy should always use a variety of strategies and tactics such that it looks at your specific business context.  

How Often Should I Update my Content Marketing Strategy? 

Like most other things, it is important that you review your content marketing strategy and make tweaks and changes to it so that they remain viable and crisp. There are some elements of the content strategy that are never changed like the business goals, mission statement, and the KPI’s. But other elements need to be reviewed and updated periodically.  

To keep your content marketing program on target; it is better to review your channel strategy, core topics, and team process at least annually and preferably more often as you are a startup.  

Do I Need to Share Our Content Marketing Strategy with Other Teams/Departments in my Company? 

It is always a smart move to share your content marketing strategy with everyone in your organization and even those who are not influenced by it. The major advantage of it is that it keeps everybody on the same page. With complete knowledge and awareness; all are able to work towards the same content goals and no unnecessary duplication of efforts takes place. This way, you always have everything on your fingertips and can share part of full knowledge with anybody to take your business forward.  

Best Practices for Creating Meaningful Content 

If you aim to attract prospective clients and induce them to make a purchase; you cannot do without compelling and unique content. Its effectivity is demonstrated on the extent of engagement your content elicits from prospective clients. This can only be achieved if you always follow some best practices to create meaningful and relevant content. Some of those include: 

  • Your content should not only hold your organizational goals flag high but also understand and address user’s needs. Understanding user’s needs might be challenging but you can identify them by using a few tools like market research, analyzing web metrics, user research, etc.  
  • Your content needs to be created and structured such that it aligns with the way your audience will think and speak about a subject. The direction to this is obtained from your SEO content strategy.  
  • The language of your content and the way it is communicating with your audience can make or break the deal. It is better to stick to plain writing principles so that even the most nerd of readers can understand and easily digest your content.  
  • Crisp and precise content always makes a killer impression. Every word of your content should be useful and all fluffs should be omitted.  
  • Another key principle to follow is to keep updating the content with the latest information and stick to being factual. If the content is losing its relevance; it’s better to archive it.  
  • Accessibility to content is a key requirement. As a startup business owner; it is your duty to ensure that the content is easily accessible to all and in a form that is readily understood and digested by the audience.  
  • Being consistent is another rule that you must follow. Be it your style, language, and design; it should remain unique and easily identifiable to you.  
  • It is essential to propagate your content as much as you can. Your entire efforts serve no purpose if the audience is not able to reach your content. Thus, it should be easily available on search engine results and well as have enough links internally so that your audience can easily find your content.  
  • Finally, the content must define and fulfill the requirements of your site. It must effortlessly drive structure, design, etc.  

What does Content Strategist do? 

Crafting and executing a content strategy plan might look challenging and daunting but this is where a content strategist comes into the picture. It’s a difficult job that not only requires versatile writing skills but also knowledge of SEO, web designing, client-facing skills, etc.  

In simple terms, a content strategist is an expert marketer who offers his versatile content marketing services and skills to build, manage and execute a brand’s content strategy such that the awareness and authenticity of your brand get established such that it can garner attention and sales organically. They are also popularly called as inbound marketers.  

To keep things simple, we list out a few deliverables of a content strategist. 

  • First and foremost, he understands your business goals as well as your user’s needs. Based on it, the strategist plans develop and delivers clear and relevant content to meet both requirements cohesively.  
  • For it, the contents strategist first builds a content inventory where he looks at all available content, its types and where it is located.  
  • Next, the strategist runs a content audit to evaluate how the content is performing, what is required and what needs to be eliminated.  
  • Next, the strategist holds meetings and discussions with stakeholders and other business heads to come up with a clear set of project goals and objectives and decide on the Key Performance indicators. 
  • The next step is to create an empathy map. Using this collaborative tool; the needs and the requirements of the customer are clearly defined.  
  • Next, a content gap analysis is performed to understand what type of content is needed, its form, the platform for which it is needed and other aims to get to create useful and usable content.  
  • The next step is to decide on the core content model which is the blueprint for a UX team to create a wireframe and write to craft content for a specific page or platform. It might be a web page, or social media or any other platform.  
  • Next, the core content strategy statement is crafted and documented to initiate and drive your content strategy. It could be broken into several parts like the content strategy for the web, social media content strategy, etc.  

Thus, you can see, plenty of skills and time are involved. But hiring a content strategy agency gives direction to your inbound content marketing efforts and ensures success that assumes more importance because your business is a start-up. They are the smartest investment you can make to give your startup a flying start in content marketing.  

Final words  

You see continuous changes in content marketing and the form in which content is drooled out to the audience but its core values remain the same. You have to chalk out a top-notch content marketing strategy formulated from trustworthy data. With the strategy in place, you can use the content effectively through its life cycle. We hope that our framework makes the job much easier for you to manage and scale your organization’s content management system to take your business to new heights.  

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