One of my clients was excited to launch a new product. It was unique and made people’s life easier, a good story. They asked for a new webpage and themes for their campaign.
Sure, we can do that.
But, before we design a new flashy web page, and some cool videos:
- What is the goal of your website?
- What’s the campaign for?
- Who is your target customer?
All these questions content strategy answers. It sets you up for success.
What is Content Strategy?
Content strategy is the analysis, creation, publication, and maintenance of content that is engaging and useful to your target buyers. It helps you reach your business goals. Content includes all types of media: text, graphics, videos, which you create for distribution across all channels of marketing.
Why do You Need Content in Addition to Amazing UX Design?
Many designers start creating wireframes and comps first. This leads to a pleasing design, but does not ensure that the webpage engages a customer.
Users don’t come for the design, they come to your webpage for information. They are looking for content that helps them solve problems.
Why do You Need a Content Strategy?
Your webpage is there to communicate the value of your product. Unless the content you provide is extremely useful for your target buyers, you'll lose them to the competition.
But, how do you know which content is compelling to your customers?
Understand your audience in depth, know how and why they buy your product, and create messages that engage your customers emotionally.
This is why a content strategy is important for your marketing campaign and webpage:
- Produce targeted content: Don’t waste your time creating content that nobody looks at. Content only produces leads when it is directly tight to your target audience.
- Achieve business objectives: Create content that guides your customers towards your goal, often a purchase or a call to your sales reps.
- Save money: When you know how to leverage and maintain content across buyer personas and channels you can create content once, and distribute it 10 times.
- Engage customers: Only when you understand the process your buyers go through from starting to think about your product category to eventually purchasing your product, can you craft an engaging user experience.
- Advise your customers: Content is the meat of your webpage, it’s why customers visit it.
The Lean and Effective Way to a Solid Content Strategy
Creating a thorough content strategy can take several weeks. If you only have little time and money, you need a lean, but effective way to get it done.
Here is the recipe.
It’s designed for startups and small companies with limited budget and those that do not have to deal with the complexities of different brands and products.
These 4 steps guide you in building an effective content strategy:
- Create a Messaging Platform
- Define Content Goals
- Define Main Themes
- Execute a Content Audit
- Plan New Content
Create a Messaging Platform
Understand Your Buyers
Buyer personas help you understand why your customers are interested in your product. It defines their needs and pain points in the context of your product. What motivates them to come to your webpage?
First list all the buyer personas that you think you have, then pick the three most important ones. Answer the questions below for each of them.
Sample Questions to create a buyer persona:
- What is their job role?
- What are their main professional goals?
- What is the most difficult part of their job every day?
- What is their main challenge?
- How is their job performance measured?
- How do they like to communicate?
- Which information sources do they trust?
- What kind of information is the most interesting to them?
- Are they the main decision makers, or are they influencing the purchase decision?
- How can your product help your persona to overcome their challenges?
- What are the 3 key triggers to buy your product?
- What concerns hold them back from purchasing your product?
- What thinking process does your buyer go through when making a purchase decision
- What and how do they evaluate? What drives their decisions?
Now you understand your target audience much better. Let’s see what the competition marketing their products. Are they targeting the same personas?
When creating messaging you need to survey your key competitors and understand their strengths and weaknesses. You also want to see how they position and message their product. Most of the work you can accomplish by evaluating competitors’ webpages and publications. Use these key questions to guide your competitive assessment:
- What is the product?
- What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the product?
- Who are they targeting?
- How is the product positioned?
- How is the product messaged?
- What are the main marketing campaigns?
- What do you like about their webpage?
- What does not work about their webpage?
- What is the tone and voice of their communications?
- What is the look and feel of their webpage?
- Which social media do they use?
- What communication channels do they use?
With your buyer personas and competitive insight you can now create your value proposition, the basis of your messaging.
Create a Value Proposition
This is what a positioning statement is for:
A positioning statement enables you to understand the positioning of your company or product brand—how you want it to be perceived by your customers and how it differs from your competition.
A quick way to craft a positioning statement is to answer the following questions:
- For: Who is this product for?
- Who: What is the main problem for the customer that is addressed by your product?
- Our: What is the product name?
- Provides: How does your product solve the customer’s problem?
- How: How does it solve this problem?
- Unlike: What does your competition do in comparison to you?
- Value Proposition: Now put it all together using the info above.
Feel free to download my free template to create your positioning statement here. See this example of a positioning statement to give you a better idea what it looks like:
- For: Office Mangers of small and medium size companies
- Who: Need a simple, efficient solution to order things across the company from online stores
- Our: Order X
- Provides: A cloud-based tool with a simple user interface, that allows you to order with just a few clicks, even across teams
- How: It automatically organizes requests across the organization and captures accounting data.
- Unlike: Our competitors that provide a complex and cumbersome to use software that waste time
Value Proposition: OrderX enables office managers of small and medium size companies to simply and efficiently purchase items across the company with a cloud-based tool. It saves time by automatically organizing requests and capturing accounting data.
Just to get your thinking going, see these great examples of value propositions. Keep it simple and compelling.
- Shopify: Shopify is everything you need to sell everywhere
- KISSmetrics: Gives you the insights you need to optimize your marketing.
- SoundCloud: Hear the world’s sounds. Explore trending music.
- Square: Start accepting credit cards today
- Visual Website Optimizer: World’s Easiest A/B Testing Tool. Quickly test landing pages, websites, eCommerce pages and more with minimal IT help.
Great job. You are very close to creating your messages now. Before you do that, however, think about the tone of voice.
Define Tone of Voice
While your messages define WHAT you want to say, the tone of voice tells you HOW to say it:
- It’s about the words, the rhythm, the pace.
- It’s about your brand’s personality and value.
- It’s about a distinctive, recognizable way of communicating to your customers and partners.
I’ll just keep it real short here and give you the key lead questions you need to ask:
- Why was the product developed in the first place?
- How is your way different?
- What three words describe your brand the best?
And an example for clarification:
- Apple: innovate, inspire, dream
- Red Bull: adventure, try, adrenaline
Now, finally we are ready to define messages. All the previous work builds the core of your messaging.
Create Key Messages
Based on your value proposition, you now start drafting your messages. Some of us call them ‘themes’. These messages appear on your website, in your marketing assets, your social media. Use the language your customer’s speak and keep it short and simple. You have to play around with the words until you get it right.
Here are the messages that came out of the value proposition example above. See how they are based on the main benefits and differentiator:
A new way to order effortlessly across the company.
Simple: Order fast with just a few clicks from any online store
Collaborative: Sorts requests from everybody across your organization
Organized: Captures accounting data automatically
The messages above should be clearly visible on your website. Your content is designed around these themes.
Define Content Goals
When you are designing a new website or digital campaign, it is most important to define realistic goals. Think about why you want to create the campaign and your website?
Here are some of the most common goals that my customers have:
- Build trust and loyalty with potential customers with information (brand awareness and loyalty)
- Attract new potential customers to your product or service by providing content that addresses your buyer needs in each step of the buying journey (lead generation)
- Explore more about your potential buyers, their challenges and preferences (surveys)
- Make market influencers aware of your offerings (press, analysts)
- Introduce a new product to the market and making potential customers aware of it by providing information (brand awareness)
- Provide current or potential customers with information so they can advance to the purchasing stage of their buying journey (lead generation)
- Support sales with content marketing to drive the buyer’s journey (lead generation)
- Keep existing customers engaged and updated on the latest offerings (up-sell, cross-sell to existing customers)
Define Main Themes
Now that the messaging and objectives are done, let’s develop the main themes for your content. The themes are topics that support your main benefit statements. If you are saying that your product makes ordering simple, you can build content around this theme.
This is also the point, where content strategy crosses over to marketing strategy. Your customer’s buying journey drives your marketing campaign. You need to match your content to the different stages your customer goes through from the time when she becomes aware of a problem to finding a solution. See my previous post about Best Practices for Generating Leads for examples of marketing assets matched to the different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Execute a Content Audit
In this phase you need to understand what content you already generated. Best is to pull up a spreadsheet and collect the information. I know it’s a bit tedious, but it’s a valuable exercise that saves you time in the end. You always discover content that you can leverage for future marketing assets.
Pull out access metrics for all your marketing assets and webpages and start your spreadsheet. Here are several questions that help you to assess your content quickly.
- What content pieces are out there?
- Do they address one of your personas?
- What is the format of the marketing asset?
- Is it up-to-date?
Plan New Content
Based on what you’ve found out in the content audit, it’s now time to understand where you have good content coverage and where you have gaps. Also, which content can you leverage and adjust to address additional buyer personas. See where the gaps are for each of your topical themes.
If you are designing a led generation campaign, you want to match your content to the different stages of the buying process. See also my post about matching content to the buying journey.
Congratulations, you are now ready to start designing your webpage and marketing campaign. Content needs to be always refreshed and your blogs and social media want to be fed. Set up a publishing calendar that specifies owners and dates, so you can keep it up. And very important define valuable metrics and KPIs so you can see what works and what doesn't. Keep on testing and improving.
What has been your experience with creating a content strategy and do you find it useful?