When I first started playing pool, I drove my dad crazy. Not because I was good, but because I was lucky. I’d pull back my cue, whack the ball, and somehow, I’d send the right ball into a pocket (just don’t ask me to call it).
Not having a content strategy can put your website in my position at the pool table. If luck isn’t on your side, you can waste resources on content that doesn’t do a thing to help your business. Taking the time to put strategy behind your content is like lining up a shot: the more forethought you give it, the more knowledge you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Will you win the game in a single turn? Maybe not. But your chances are far greater than if you crossed your fingers and put your success in the hands of Lady Luck.
What is content strategy?
Content strategy sounds fancy, but it isn’t. It’s kind of like a business plan—again, an intimidating document, but it doesn’t have to be. Where a business plan offers a roadmap for a business, a content strategy offers a roadmap for your content. It’s more niche, but many of the essential questions you need to ask yourself when formulating a business plan come into play with content strategy.
Start planning your content strategy here
This document can be informal. It could be an MS Word doc, an email, even a napkin you snagged at happy hour. In fact, your first thoughts on content strategy should be informal. Don’t sit down and hammer is out in one go. Spend a few days, a week, even longer musing about what you want your content to be, and how it should play into your larger marketing plan. The two walk hand-in-hand, remember, so make sure their efforts aren’t overlapping or divorced. Cohesion—that’s the goal.
Ready to get the process rolling? Here are the top three questions you need to ask yourself:
#1. Who is your target client?
There are two parts to this question. First, there is the client you intend to sell to. Second, there is the client you didn’t intend, the one who stumbles upon your product and says, “ah, genius!”
Consider Duck Tape. The sticky stuff that fixes pretty much everything came about during World War II, when it was used to seal and repair on the run. Post-1945, consumers bought it to seal cracks in air ducts, thus the generic name “duct tape.” Did the creators ever think girls would be making prom dresses out of the stuff? Safe to say, probably not. And yet, Duck Tape has a huge crafting customer base—so much so that a lot of their consumer marketing focuses on DIY.
As you consider your clientele, keep both sectors in mind—who is the main consumer, and then, who else might be peripherally interested in your product or service? What sort of lifestyle does this customer lead? Where does she live, what does he do for a living, and what do they spend their discretionary money on? How old is she? At what stage of life will he be in when he turns to you to help him solve a problem?
Think of your customer as a character in a story, and go crazy with it. The more specific you are, the more unique your marketing message will become.
#2. What is your product?
Speaking of product or service, now it’s time to consider what it is that makes you money. Tangible or not, you’ve got something to sell, right? Think about words and phrases that define your product. These descriptors will later color your content strategy, so give it some thought and get creative. Consider both what your product is, now, and what you want it to be in the future. How do you want people to view it? How do you want your customers to describe you?
I know this question seems obvious, and it is. But just because it’s an easy bullet point doesn’t make it any less important. Think of it this way: The content you’re getting ready to create or commission will be joining your sales force. That sales force sells you and the awesome things you make or do, right? So it makes sense to build your content to perfectly suit what it is you’re selling. When it comes to words, even if it’s just a few lines of copy or a call to action, the tone and voice and feelings those words capture need to mirror your offerings and exude the personality and lifestyle you’ve prescribed them.
#3. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
A year ago, there were 75.8 million blogs on WordPress and 172 million on Tumblr. There are 1.35 billion active Facebook members and 284 million Twitter users. Many of these—probably most of these, actually—were created by people who just…wanted a blog, or wanted a Facebook account or a Twitter handle. While some plan to monetize or want to turn their web activity into a book, many of them are just shooting the breeze where the entire World Wide Web can see them.
But that’s not you. You and your product are part of a business, and so is this content strategy. While “because I want to” is a perfectly sound reason in your personal life, if you are like most business owners, you need something more. So think about it: What do you want your content to do for you?
A disclaimer: I’m not talking necessarily about setting milestones (i.e. “I want 1 million followers by this time next year”). This is broader than that, bigger in the sense of your business generating leads and converting them into clients rather than the number of eyes that are focused on you at some point during the day.
Here are a few sample goals to get you thinking about yours:
- I want to…increase the knowledge of my customers so they can make their lives better—and see me/my product’s value better
- I want to…build a loyal audience and client base for upcoming products and services
- I want to…boost my search and share competitiveness so new clients can find me more easily
Wait, why do I need to do this again?
You’ve brainstormed your answers to the three questions above, and now you’ve got one for me: What about the content?
The content is coming. As a writer and a new platform junkie, I get that you want it now. But trust me, again as a writer and a new platform junkie, when I tell you that the more you think about the content before you create blogs and erase that “Hello, World!” WordPress post and start tweeting like the quirky social media addict you totally could be, the better that content will be. And it won’t just be good content—it’ll be content that serves a purpose. Your purpose. Your business. Your bottom line.
Next week, I’ll be back with a post discussing how you can bring these three questions to the world of web content—and get it out there, already. Until then, if you have questions for me on developing your own content strategy, shoot me a line or two or twenty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Brittany Taylor is a freelance writer based in South Carolina. She wrote this post while quashing the itch to start (another) new blog about something completely trivial and absolutely divine. Don’t ask. She is the founder of Write for Freelance and Ingenue Diaries. Follow her on Twitter @ingenuediaries.