Content strategy in 8 simple steps

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash
  • By Team CSI
  • |
  • Aug 14 2017
Categories: |Toolbox

“Content strategy is difficult. It’s hard to pin down, it’s vague, it’s a moving target. It’s expensive.” What excuses! Content strategy is difficult in the same way that losing weight is difficult. The process is not complex. It’s not hard to figure out what needs to be done. The challenge is in mustering the commitment and willpower to do it.

So, let’s say you really are serious about implementing a content strategy for your website this time. Here are eight surprisingly simple steps for you to follow:

Here are eight surprisingly simple steps for you to follow if you're serious about implementing a content strategy. Click To Tweet

1. Conduct a content audit and assessment.

Look at the content already on your site. What’s worth keeping? What needs to be thrown out? Which pages bring in traffic, and which pages are never visited? Determine the “OUCH factor” for each page: is the page outdated, unnecessary, current, or has to be written? While you’re at it, look at the quality of the writing. The structure of the page content. How the pages link and relate to each other. The writing style and consistency. Then find the patterns and associations that provide insights that will help to improve the content. The challenge here is in developing a deep and meaningful relationship with your spreadsheet.

2. Review existing research.

Odds are, in a company of any significant size, there is already some research done on your customers, your website performance, your competitors, and standards within your industry. There is often both in-house and third-party research for you to reference. Part of your job here is to paint as clear a picture as possible about these things, and the other part is to identify the research gaps that still need to be filled.

3. Do primary research.

You know the research gaps, so now you need to fill them. In addition to the items above, you need to get crystal clear about your business goals, marketing objectives, technology constraints, and project requirements. You also have to get to know your customers as if they were your family. Who are they, exactly? What are their goals and motivations for doing business with you? What are their barriers? Where do they hang out online (or even DO they hang out online!) and why do those places appeal to them? What do they expect from you, and what would it take to pleasantly surprise them?

4. Create customer personas.

Now that you know so much about your customers, distill all that knowledge into a few well-researched, well-written personas. Personas are fictitious people that represent each of your target customer groups, but are based on real market data and customer research. Include personality, story, or lifestyle elements that answer each of your key customer research questions. You can also include content triggers and messages that may resonate with them. Make sure that every team member gets to know these personas well, and create content and content flows that support these personas in their goals.

5. Get clear on your resources.

Before you start making a plan for your content, it’s a good idea to figure out your current limits. It can be disheartening to define an amazing strategy and then realize you don’t have the resources to support it. Make a list of your team members and their skill sets, your budget, and your tools and technology. You don’t have to keep your strategy within these restraints. In fact, it’s quite common to create a long term vision that goes beyond your current resources along with a shorter term, achievable strategy.

6. Define your content strategy and tactics.

You now have clear view of your business goals, marketing objectives, project success metrics, technology constraints, and, of course, your customers. You know where you are now, and are ready to figure out where you need to be to meet your goals, satisfy your customers, and beat your competition. This is the first step of your actual content strategy — figuring out where you need to be and showing how content can get you there. The questions to answer are, “What will your content look like? What impact will it have? How will it get developed, updated, and maintained?” Once you have your strategy you can determine the tactics, techniques, and tools you’ll use to get there.

7. Set guidelines and processes to support your strategy.

Knowing what has to happen, and how to do it, is easy compared to actually doing it! A solid content strategy will fail if the people executing the strategy don’t have the tools or resources they need to effectively carry it out. This is the stage where you create an editorial calendar and a writers’ style guide. This is where you push to ensure you have sufficient resources to hire people with the right skill sets, or retrain the people you have. This is where you ensure that your processes support your strategy, and that they include continual testing and evaluation of all things content.

8. Follow through. Enough with the planning.

Now, you just have to do it. This is where your hard work and brilliant insights will either sit on a shelf, or take wing.

I never actually said that content strategy was easy. I just said that the process is quite simple. And I know you won’t let the need for a bit of hard work, creative problem-solving, mind-boggling analysis, and insane powers of persuasion scare you away from doing what’s right for your business.

Then again, if you’re easily scared, you can always give us a call.

 

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