There are a lot of different definitions for content strategy floating around online. Some of them are very general, like Kristina Halvorson’s, “Planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content,” while others are far more specific like Michael Brenner’s, “defining the process and then securing the right resources for producing a consistent stream of content mapped to buyer needs across all phases of the buying cycle.”

Whatever your definition of a content strategy might be, what all of these people can agree on is that in 2017, a content strategy is a vital part of any marketing plan. In order to guide you along this path, whether you have done content marketing in the past or not, we have created a quick “how to” on creating a content strategy for your business. Let’s get started.

Who is it for?

The first step in any solid content strategy is establishing who you will be creating content for. Your target market is going to be the driving force behind what decisions you make and why, so you want to make sure you know everything you can about them.

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A good place to start is by creating buyer personas, which are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customer. They help you understand your potential customers better and are an easy way to tailor specific content to meet their needs, behaviors, and concerns.

Creating the buyer persona

According to Neil Patel, creating a buyer persona requires market research and all insights gathered from your customer base. When you are putting together the research or reviewing the information you already have, use this guide to figure out which blanks you need to fill in.

Once you understand the basics of your target market by creating a buyer persona, the next step in the process is figuring out how exactly to get the content you will be creating in front of your ideal customer. But how do we do this?

Curate a list of keywords and search terms from your buyer persona

Your audience is going to define everything about your content, from your style to the words you use. Most importantly, they are going to define what you are writing about, the topics you choose to explore, and the objectives behind your content.

However, when it you boil it all down, this process is pretty straightforward.

  1. Your target audience searches under a certain keyword or phrase
  2. You write content using those same keywords and phrases
  3. Customers visit your website and you get traffic

But how do you know which keywords to write for?

Think like a customer

Write down the main categories of your business and then write down the terms or phrases that fall into those categories. Include terms or phrases your customers would use to describe your product or services, not just the actual names.

  • Select a few long-tail keywords that will catch specific members of your target audience that you know will be more likely to follow through if you meet their needs.
  • Choose a few general keywords for a wide reach. These clients won’t always be making a purchase decision, but they might spread the word and end up sharing it with someone who will.

Mix and match your keywords

Once you find the specific keywords and phrases you want using Google’s keyword planner or another service like Hubspot, now comes the time where you need to match the content you are hoping to create with each type of person in your target market.

For instance, with the members of your audience who are going to be targeted by general keyword terms, make sure to create content that doesn’t get too technical. These customers aren’t looking for a deep knowledge of the subject, but more of a brief overview.

On the other hand, when you are targeting someone with a specific, long tail keyword you will need to write content for them that explores all aspects of that topic. These customers already have a baseline understanding of what you are talking about, so don’t waste their time and get right into the nitty gritty.

Pick and choose how your clients will consume your content

Not only do different customers want different topics explored in your content, they also will have different ways of consuming the content you create. With so many different options to choose from, making sure that your content is presented in the most accessible way for your target audience needs to be a key component of your strategy.

According to the content marketing institute, the average amount of tactics used for content marketing is 13 different approaches, but 15 is what is recommended. Obviously, no one is going to find your content through all 15 channels, but knowing where you clients are looking will help you pick and choose where to place your content for the best results.

In order to give you a good starting place, let’s take a look at some of the common ways you can spread your content.

  • Blogging: this form of content creation is recommended for every company, but considering some have used this avenue as their main source of lead generation, you definitely don’t want to sleep on blogging.
  • Email: Having an engaged email list can be all you need to have a successful content campaign. However, this method only works with certain demographics, so make sure you understand your target audience before putting all of your chips on this tactic.
  • Social Media: You may not be on social media right now, but your clients definitely are. This is a great way to remind your customers of the work that you do and keep them in the forefront of their mind. Remember though, most customers are going on social media to keep up with friends and family, not read an in-depth report. Tailor your content with this in mind.

Find your brand’s personality

As you are planning out your content strategy, you will start to get a feel for the type of personality and voice that you want your customers to associate with your brand. This might be something you known from day one, or it might be something you find along the way. The important thing to remember is that people will keep coming back if they think your content resonates with who they are as a person.

Old Spice is a good example of successful brand development that resonates with their audience. Through social media and creating YouTube videos featuring the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” Old Spice showed their customers that they didn’t take themselves too seriously, all while building an identity of looking and smelling good that their audience now associates with them.

Tune into the frequency of your audience

Once you have established who you are creating for, what you are creating, and what personality you want to present to your audience, you now need to plan the frequency of your marketing.

Obviously, all of the different approaches listed above work on different schedules and timelines, so make sure that you have planned out the best way to use each of them. For example, the frequency of email updates vs. Facebook posts should be radically different. If you are emailing your customers twice a day, you might need to rethink your strategy.

Make a calendar

Not only do you need to understand how often you should be posting across different platforms, you also need to know when you will be posting. Are you sending emails late in the afternoon that aren’t getting the traffic you want? Try sending them in the morning.

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The best way to keep track of everything is by creating a content calendar so that you are presenting a unified face to your customers and meeting them where they are going, when they are going. Some pro-tips for creating your calendar include:

  • Include in your calendar when exactly you will be posting your content and where. Planning ahead will allow you to post exactly when you want to, instead of just posting when things get made.
  • If your content has a high frequency, like every day or two, schedule out your content calendar for at least a month. If the frequency is lower like once or twice a week, plan out your content for a least two months.

Begin again

That’s right. You aren’t going to reach everyone that you need to with content marketing your first time around, so once you have been able to see the results of your strategy, start the process over again, this time with your new insights in mind.

Content marketing is a slow, systematic process that can take months or even years to fully see working for you. However, don’t fret, the benefits of increased engagement from your target audience is worth the time that you put into it. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and create!