Content strategies are one of the top three things clients angst to me about. Everybody feels like they need one, everyone’s inundated by tips for creating these uber-complicated strategy spreadsheets that will supposedly increase your engagement by a zillion percent overnight, and everyone’s intimidated as hell by the whole process.
And while there are loads of ways that you can get super strategic with your content, what many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to have a massive spreadsheet or mountains of A/B test data to come up with a decent content strategy. (And unless you’re running a huge, complicated business, you probably don’t need that anyway.)
You can create a great basic content strategy just by asking yourself these three questions:
What am I trying to do here?
Sounds obvious, but so many people get caught up in trying to do all the content strategy stuff all at once that they forget why they wanted a content strategy to begin with. And, as with all strategies, you can only get strong outcomes if you have strong, defined goals to begin with. Think about it like going on a road trip. If you’re not sure where you want to end up, how are you going to know when you get there?
So start out by asking yourself what you actually want to accomplish with your content. Are you trying to get more sales? More views on your site? Higher quality leads? Maybe you’re trying to attract the attention of a new type of customer, or you’re trying to show off your expertise so you can get a sponsorship deal.
Just to be clear, there are no inherently right answers here, so don’t think that you have to use your content to, say, build your list if that’s not what you need to be doing with your business right now. Really think about how you want your content to serve your business goals big picture, then chunk it down into a specific goal.
How can I best make that happen?
Now that you know where you’re headed, think about what you need to do to make that happen. This is going to vary according to your goal, but you should be thinking about:
— Subject matter of the content:
Look at your end goals and then think about the type of subjects you need to be talking about in your content to support that goal.
For example, if you’re trying to build your mailing list, then think about the types of topics that have historically performed well for you and figure out different ways to approach them. If you don’t have enough of a history yet, then look at posts that people with similar audiences have had success with, and see if you can contribute to that conversation.
Likewise, if you’re trying to use your content to support a product launch, then don’t re-invent the wheel. Look at the products and then go one step backwards or forwards. Ask yourself, what kinds of questions/problems are people having right before they buy your product? What kind of benefits/wins will they have after buying it? Then pull ideas for content from both of those areas.
This does not mean that you do that kind of bullshit where you tease them with one tiny tip in the blog post and then make them sign up or buy to get to the good stuff. Instead, give them really great stuff — just make sure it’s adjacent to what you’re selling so you’re not giving the house away.
— Timing and frequency of delivery:
Unless your content goal is to annoy the hell out of your audience, then you need to pay attention to the timing and frequency with which you’re delivering content. There’s a certain amount of give and take here — you’ll probably be posting more in the lead up to a launch, for example — and of course different audiences have different preferences. So experiment a bit to see how often your audience likes to receive content.
And remember that consistency and quality beats frequency every time. It’s much better to plan to send out one really great post every month than to try to post every other day, doing that for two weeks, then not posting again for months.
— Means of delivery:
Really consider the best way to actually deliver the content to your audience. This will be determined by the type of content you’re sharing and your audience’s preferences. If you tend to talk in more long-form, deep thoughts type of posts and resources, then a blog, newsletter, or podcast are probably going to be your best bet. If you like to share bits and pieces, quick tips, or lots of things about your personal brand, you’ll probably want to be more social media heavy.
How do I know if it’s working?
This is the part that ties your whole content strategy together, but almost everybody skips it. If you’re not tracking some type of metrics about how your content is performing, there’s no possible way you can know if your content strategy is working or not — and that means that you can end up doing things that aren’t working over and over and over again without understanding why you can’t get a response for love or money.
So look back at your goals and figure out ways that you can tell if you’re actually meeting them or not. This can be anything from page views to social media shares to an increase in the quality of your leads. Whatever you decide on, make sure you actually track it from week to week, or at least month to month. As soon as you get a couple of months of data under your belt, you’ll start to see trends — which will let you know what’s working, what’s not, and what you need to change for your next iteration of your content strategy.
So remember, three questions:
1. What am I actually trying to accomplish?
2. How am I going to make that happen?
3. How do I know if it’s working?
It’s not complicated, but it doesn’t have to be — a simple content strategy that you actually execute on beats a fancy spreadsheet gathering dust in your Google Drive any day.
Guest Author Bio:
Rachel Allen is the founder of Bolt from the Blue Copywriting, where she helps small and brave business owners like you shake up the world one industry at a time with devastatingly incisive copy and content that gets right to the heart of who you are and makes your readers’ synapses sparkle.
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