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Getting strategic about content

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 08 Nov, 2012
Essential Essential topic

5 themes and 21 ideas to help create a content strategy

We'd no doubt agree that creating, sharing, distributing and promoting great content is now a very significant component of not only effective marketing, but effective brand-building today? We'd certainly suggest that it requires a key place in the strategic thinking in almost every organisation.

Perspective enables strategic thinking

As with most things when talking digital, the tactical jargon can really confuse people and I've been reminded again this week how our infographics have been really useful to people, to help think about this. The word "content" is thrown around a lot these days, most know what it means and its potential, but most are unsure as to whether they're doing it right. We suggest that it's the jumping into a down and dirty tactical perspective which causes this early confusion, the key is to elevate up and get a bigger picture view of how 'content' can play a much more useful role at key stages of building trust and ultimately acquiring customers.

Strategically, content is more than a single infographic, blog post or regular tweets, I spoke to someone yesterday who couldn't understand why such an ad-hoc approach to content creation wasn't working for them, after all they're doing content marketing...

Using the content marketing matrix to aid strategic thinking

To help make your content marketing more strategic, try viewing your content as a total body of work, a programme that is being built to serve your customer (and potential customer) community over months and years.

We created our content marketing matrix in May to help with this strategic thinking:

In creating a content strategy, there are basic and tactical concerns, for example creating content to help attract visitors through target keyword phrases in your industry would be a huge if not simple concern. But you'll also want to bring your brand into your content.

To do this, ensure that the story and personality of your organisation and its values are apparent, that it's clearly linked to your brand, its differentiating features and offers something in line with your brand values. It could be that you're organisation is bursting with knowledge and has a very sage-like or educational element to it. You'd want to make are that this comes through.

Know who you're creating for

I can't stress this enough - you must create for people not your management team or peers. Knowing who the reader is offers about 80% of the solution. As Joe Pulizzi (content marketing guru and author) said - you want your content at the intersection between what your brand wants to communicate and what your reader wants to find or know.

Think about your content in light of helping prospects or customers move from initial awareness to conversion - we reckon there are probably five broad themes of content to think about. These categories are where your discussion with peers and management should take place, it enables more discussion and ideas generation. Each theme must be considered as part of your overall content strategy and weighted as necessary within your wider marketing and brand.

Theme 1. Build trust, provide social proof

Trust - a small word that makes a big difference when it comes to marketing. Being easily found, shared and quick to consume matters. I wrote a few weeks ago about Google's ZMOT, there's a base level of content which just needs to be created so that you are findable and in the same room as the customer when they're searching and researching. This is all about trust building and demonstrating 'social proof'. Your inbound link building efforts will work well with this type of content - negating the need for any dodgy SEO tactics along the way. Here are ideas in this category:

  • 1. Reviews - support and promote review writing for customers away from your website - Yelp, Google+ Local as well as industry sites like TripAdvisor for travel
  • 2. On-site testimonials - marry with external reviews, you want positive endorsements from customers in volume, it's naturally more trustworthy
  • 3. "How to" content – specific advice or tips and tricks that are quick to consume, this is fantastic blog material
  • 4. Thought leading articles – Get used to writing articles that contribute to your industry away from your own domains, of course mentioning your brand is key

Theme 2. Curate the best content

This is content marketing 101. There's a wealth of information that your customers face, daily. Most of it's likely pretty awful, repetitive, irrelevant and hard to make use of. Filtering and aggregating content produced by others is not only a great service; it’s a major differentiator. It always you to stand on the shoulders of the good stuff and be the 'go to' guys for updates that matter to me.

  • 5. Republish and share – point to and share great content that's being produced by others around you
  • 6. RSS feeds – create customer or industry specific feeds that people can take and share
  • 7. Curate – This is really a manual, resource intensive job to do it properly, you need to 'live it'
  • 8. Newsletters – Weekly or monthly education pieces that nurtures interest, though in reality a newsletter can meet all manner of needs, this can be more easily done by collecting the best content and creating an industry briefing

Theme 3. Solve problems

This is the heavier content investment, it sits neatly in that 'intersection' between what your customer or prospect needs to know, and what your organisation wants to communicate.

  • 9. eBooks – forget the dry product stuff, they're 'guides', wrap your story and content into bigger topics based on unmet needs
  • 10. Video – Consider basic vox-pop pieces, on the road, behind the scenes and even video explainers
  • 11. Seminars – in person or online, whatever offers the most access, allow prospects to learn
  • 12. Q&As and Social FAQs – Don't forget some of us just want the answers to their questions - plain and simple
  • 13. Survey data – a great way to partner other industry experts, or just use other's results from surveys - demonstrate the you understand the market

Theme 4. Community content

We hear that customers own our brands now, in simpler terms they own the conversation within which your brand sites. Get people involved in the production of content to engender loyalty and community, it also adds another dimension for customer feedback, customer insights, persona development and of course content through co-creation.

  • 14. Expert content - community includes other industry experts and even expert customers - let them guest blog post as a starter for ten
  • 15. Automate customer feedback – whether reviews or testimonials, trigger communications to help customers enter a review process using form tools such as Wufoo or Survey Monkey
  • 16. Contests and competitions - it's done to death badly, yet a selection of customers (in B2C more so) will create great content for you when incensed with a compelling reason why
  • 17. Customer video – It's more B2B, create or attend events where a selection of customers can be together to tell their story as well as network

Theme 5. Support sales

This is arguable where you'd start to demonstrate the business case for content marketing with your management team. The bottom of the sales funnel effectively.

  • 18. Guides - This might take the form of check-lists, product data sheets, reports and whitepapers - it's more about what you do than the over-arching topic
  • 19. Case studies – the most obvious and over-looked, quality case studies that dissect the success of another customer helps provide tangible proof in the buy decision
  • 20. Product pages – it sounds obvious, ensure you provide documented proof of results about your product, proof aligned to the most prevalent needs of your customers
  • 21. Interactives - a popular example would be ROI calculators, yet the broader applications might be aiding in choice or demo-ing product features

Does this help, are there more useful categories that you work with or different types of content that works for you within the ones above?

Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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