Content Strategy: The Practical Guide For Brand Owners

Content Strategy Ultimate Guide

It’s common for content marketing gurus to make a subtle difference between “content marketing strategy” and “content strategy.” 

Whatever you call it, a content strategy is the step-by-process plan by which you decide who your business will target and what process you will employ to do so.

The idea behind any strategy or plan is to aim at something to achieve. When you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you will get.

Now, having decided to aim your content strategy at something worthwhile, you will need to think about your business, and its goals – and how you can use your content to accomplish your goals. 

Also, your content strategy plan cannot be a non-specific exercise. There are at least 8 points that I would advise you to focus on to create a well-rounded content strategy plan. For each of these 8 points, specific smaller goals have then to be set, so your plan becomes a glide path against which to measure actual overall content performance.

This guide is part of a practical guides’ series related to “Content Marketing: The Practical Guide For Brand Owners.”

Contents ...

To find a special gift waiting for you on this page, click the button below to take a peek, before you read on … 

What is Content Strategy? How can your content strategy succeed?

Understanding the basics of content strategy is crucial for any organization that wants to create and distribute content effectively. A well-planned content strategy helps ensure that the content you create is relevant, valuable, and effective in achieving your business goals. So let’s understand the nuances of this topic …

1. What exactly is deemed as good content strategy?

Content strategy is the process of planning, creating, delivering, and managing content in a way that is aligned with an organization’s goals and objectives.

It involves developing a strategic approach to content that considers the needs and behaviors of the target audience, the available resources, and the channels through which the content will be distributed.

A good content strategy aims to provide value to the audience while also meeting the goals of the organization and typically involves audience research and analysis, content planning and development, content distribution and promotion, and performance measurement and optimization.

Organizations can create more effective, efficient, and valuable content for their target audience through a data-driven, strategic approach to content.

2. Why is a content strategy important for brands?

A content strategy is essential because it provides a roadmap for creating and delivering content aligned with an organization’s goals and objectives.

By taking a strategic approach to content, organizations can ensure that their content is engaging, relevant, and valuable for their target audience while supporting their broader business objectives, such as generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or driving conversions.

A content strategy also helps to ensure that content is delivered efficiently and effectively through the appropriate channels and that performance is measured and optimized over time to improve results continually.

Without a content strategy, organizations may struggle to create content that resonates with their target audience, wastes resources on ineffective content, and misses opportunities to achieve their business goals.

3. Why does content strategy need to be documented?

Experts have always emphasized that content strategy needs to be written down and documented. Success will elude you unless it’s brought down into a document, even if you have it all pat inside your head.

According to the Semrush State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report, 80% of those who believe their content marketing was very successful had a documented content marketing strategy. 

Semrush Content Marketing Stats
(Image credit: Semrush

Documenting a content strategy enables organizations to track progress and make data-driven decisions based on performance metrics. Organizations can refine and optimize their content marketing approach over time by measuring the success of different content types, channels, and tactics.

Also, documenting a content strategy provides a reference point for future planning and decision-making, enabling organizations to build on previous successes and avoid repeating past mistakes.

4. Benefits of content strategy for business ROI

A well-executed content strategy can bring many benefits to a business’s ROI (Return on Investment):

  • Improved Brand Awareness: Creating a content strategy helps you consistently produce valuable content for your audience. As your content becomes more valuable, your audience will start sharing it, which can lead to increased brand awareness and reach.
  • Higher Organic Search Engine Rankings: With the right keyword research and optimization, your content can rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs), increasing organic traffic to your website. This means more potential customers find your website and engage with your brand.
  • Increased Website Traffic: By creating relevant and valuable content for your target audience, you can attract more visitors to your website. The more traffic you generate, the more opportunities you have to convert those visitors into paying customers.
  • Better Customer Engagement: A good content strategy helps you to engage with your customers more effectively. Creating content that answers their questions and addresses their pain points can build stronger relationships with your customers and increase customer loyalty.
  • Higher Conversion Rates: By providing valuable information to your target audience, you can establish yourself as an authority in your industry. This can help build trust and credibility, leading to higher conversion rates and more sales.
  • Lower Cost Per Acquisition: Content marketing is often more cost-effective than other marketing tactics. Creating content that resonates with your target audience can attract leads and customers at a lower cost per acquisition than other marketing tactics.

5. Experts' quotes on the value of content strategy

Here are some top experts’ definitions of “content strategy” – notice their nuances.

Neil Patel

"Your content strategy should focus on producing quality content, engaging with your audience, and measuring your successes and failures. Don’t simply churn out content for content’s sake. "

Joe Pulizzi

"Nine out of 10 businesses say that they use some form of content marketing. However, only 8% of companies say that they’re effective at it. Marketers who have a documented content strategy and follow it consistently are just plain better at getting results. "

The 8 steps to building a solid content strategy for your brand 

Here is my list of 8 steps to building a rock-solid content strategy. I’ve emphasized what kind of process that works for me gets good results for my brand and my clients’ brands. 
8 Steps To Building Content Strategy
(Please use this infographic with credits intact.) 

1. Identify your "attitude" to shape into your unique power

Why no one talks of Unique Selling Proposition (USP) any more

To create any content strategy, you must first know how you are different and make that evident to your customers and competitors.

In the older days, marketers used to think of defining their “Unique Selling Proposition (USP)” as their competitive edge over other rivals in capturing the target audiences’ interest. We’re now in an age when our “attitude” is seen as our unique differential. 

The Cambridge Dictionary says “attitude” is: “A feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving caused by this.”

Attitude - dictionary meaning

"Attitude" is the new differential that brands need to have

In other words, “attitude” differs from mere beliefs or values because you not only have a strong stance on something but are also consistently ready to act on it. 

Great brands are seen to be doing just that.

  • Richard Branson’s attitude to life that “there are no rules” shaped his company Virgin’s brand and made it attractive and unique.
  • Steve Jobs’ attitude of “stay hungry, stay foolish” underlined his way of innovating with never-before products.
  • Nike’s attitude of “just do it”  is another way of advocating the idea that “nothing is impossible, so go for it.”

When Nike spun their tagline differently ... video!

If you thought Nike was the among the strongest attitude-based brands, with their “Just Do It” tagline, think again. This video from Nike shows how they gave it a whole different spin in a great cause. They showed you when you “For once, don’t do it!”

2. Refine your business goals to make them ultra-specific

The 6 classic goals that brand content can serve admirably

The way you set your goals for content strategy can make all the difference to your prospects of success. There are usually 6 areas in which businesses may have goals.

  • Building brand awareness
  • Increasing site traffic
  • Generating customer leads
  • Encouraging customer conversions
  • Building customer loyalty
  • Nurturing customers for upselling

Make sure your goals are articulated as S.M.A.R.T goals

Whatever your goals, though, they have to be articulated as SMART goals – that is, they have to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Vague goals never work.

Here are some examples of how you can articulate your content strategy goals:

To increase brand awareness … our goal is to publish X number of blog posts per week on our website and share them on social media platforms X number of times per day, targeting X number of new users and achieving X percentage increase in website traffic within the next 6 months.

To boost engagement … our goal is to publish X number of interactive content pieces, such as quizzes, polls, and surveys, per month, targeting X number of active users and achieving X percentage increase in engagement rate within the next 3 months.”

To generate leads … our goal is to publish X number of thought leadership pieces, such as whitepapers and eBooks, per quarter, targeting X number of potential customers and achieving X number of leads generated within the next 6 months.”

To improve customer satisfaction … our goal is to publish X number of customer success stories per quarter, targeting X number of customers and achieving X percentage increase in customer satisfaction score within the next 9 months.”

The effective way to write S.M.A.R.T goals ... video!

By following the SMART goals template from Lifehack, shown in this video, you can establish a more concrete foundation of goal setting. It will ensure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—attributes that cover the necessities of an effectively written goal.

3. Plan your target audience and its segments to focus on

Micro-segment your target audiences for sure targeting

If you want to be ultra-successful with your content marketing,  you have to do “micro-segmentation” of the audiences you want to target. For example, if you have an e-commerce store with all sorts of implements that left-handers can use – and they can be of any age from kids to the elderly, and you have different products for men and women – you’d need to look at so many separate target segments:

  • Elderly males
  • Elderly females
  • Adult males
  • Adult females
  • Teenager males
  • Teenager females
  • Kids – girls
  • Kids – boys

The more you break down your audience segments, the more accurate your blog posts or other content will be for your target audience segments.

Create "personas" and "buying journeys" for every audience segment

How to create audience segments' personas

The next thing to do is to create a fictionialized “persona” (a typical imaginary member) of each target segment. Put a stock image of such a persona on a sheet and start describing what the person may be like, how the person may think or buy … whatever details flesh out the persona and make it feel like a living person.

Here’s an example persona from Fake Crow:

Persona Example
(Image credit: Fake Crow)

How to create audience segments' buyer journeys

After creating all your personas (for all your target segments) you need to trace the buying journey of each persona you have.

Every human goes through different stages of buying – Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Onboarding, and Adoption/Retention. At each stage of this journey – from broad information gathering, to narrowing down choices, to ultimately trying and buying, and then repurchasing – different forms of content will be needed to nudge the customer to the next step. So knowing their journeys is vital. 

Here is a simple buying journey map that shows how buyer behavior changes at each stage of the buying journey – and content strategy nuancing will need to change at each stage.

Buying Journey

For each persona you have, see how their progress along the buying journey may be, and what challenges they may face that your content can ease.

"Personas" and "buying journeys" full explained ... videos!

In the set of two videos below Matthew Woodget of GoNarrative first explains the process of developing and utilizing a buyer persona for each of your brand’s target customer groups will help you reach and connect with them more effectively … and then explores their journey with your brand, from awareness to evangelism.

4. Research your audience segments' needs and pain points

Identify customer pain points along their buying journeys

Along buying journeys, your personas may have hurdles, bottlenecks or pain points. Your content has to be variegated to help solve customer issues at each buying journey stage.

Most people’s pain points fall into these categories.

  • Financial Pain Points: People want to cut down the high spending they are doing on current tools, products, solutions, or consulting services and want to reduce their spending.
  • Productivity Pain Points: People are finding too much of their time wasted on some methods or practices and they want some smarter time-saving ideas that use their time more efficiently.
  • Process Pain Points: People’s internal processes or workflows are not working as they should, they are not getting the results they want, and they’re not sure what else they should be doing to plug the holes in their leaky systems.
  • Support Pain Points: The brands they have bought are not supporting them with good service. They have a number of cribs with delayed responses, a lack of understanding of their problems, and tedious to-and-fro. 

How to get sharp insights on customers' real pain points

How do you identify your target personas’ pain points? People vent at certain places online where they feel they will be heard. These include comment boxes under blog posts, in special groups or forums, on social media, or on product review pages.

If you regularly check these places online, you can harvest ever so many unsolved needs of your target audiences that your content can help them with.

For the sharpest first-hand understanding of your target audiences needs, desires and paints, what could be better than a chat with them in person, over phone or over Zoom? Or you could send around a very short survey and elicit some responses that give clues to the bigger picture. 

Locate just 10-20 people who sharply resemble the target audiences you want to aim at, and ask them on LinkedIn if they can help you in your quest for information. Make them feel like they are helping you, and not that they are being interrogated on their behaviors or preferences.

More on how to zero-in on customers' pain points ... video!

This video from Chrystabelle from ChrysMedia  really explains the process she uses to quickly and efficiently idenitfy her coustomers’ pain points. When we understand the biggest pain points and challenges our prospective customers face, we can position our products and services as the solution to their biggest challenges.

To find a special gift waiting for you on this page, click the button below to take a peek, before you read on … 

5. Solve your audiences' needs at every stage of their journeys

Planning a content campaign to solve customer pain points

Once you know what the buying stages journey are, and what the customer pain points at each stage of the journey are, it’s time to decide what content you need to create to solve each pain point.

Adapting the customer buying journey map we used earlier we can use a content planner that expands to look like this:

Solving Customer Needs With Content

In this diagram, you will notice that we have added two more rows than before. We have included in Row 3 some objectives for the content we need to create to satisfy the customer journey stages … and in Row 4, we have included some specific types of content we can offer.

Why you need content for every stage of the buying journey

Why is it so important to have high-quality, useful content for every stage of every persona’s buying journey? There are two big reasons:

Reason #1: Experts believe it used to take at least 7 touches of a customer before the customer gets ready to trust and buy from you. These days, given the competition level online, it takes at least 12 touches before a customer is yours to nurture and grow.

So the more opportunities we create for customers to see us as the best go-to resource, grows their trust in us … resulting in more affinity, loyalty, conversions, and sales.

Reason #2: It’s very easy to leak customers during their buying journeys to the competition. You bring them so close to you at the earlier stages of the buying journey, and then suddenly, some neglect of suitable content along some stage of the buying journey makes them run off to competition for a better answer. It happens all too often.

That’s why every piece of content you create needs to have a Call-To-Action and some backup email nurturing to ensure that the next stage of the buying journey is taken with you and not your competitor.

Match content to buyer journey stages via "mapping" ... video!

Hubspot has this terrific video where they show us their “content mapping” process to the stages of the customer journey. Your description of the customer journey stages may vary slightly from theirs, but how they catch content for each journey step is worth following.

6. Plan the channels you'll use to reach your content to audiences

Study audiences before planning your marketing channels

Planning your channels of reach to your audiences needs a lot of thinking. It is first dictated by where your target audiences generally hang out. Do they populate some particular social channels, online forums, or groups? Do they read some specific types of websites or online magazines?

If you can identify where your audiences primarily congregate, it’s easy to include those communication channels in your content strategy plan.

The new trend towards "omnichannel content marketing"

These days there is a big buzz around the idea of “omnichannel marketing.” Omnichannel marketing refers to an organization’s presence across multiple channels. These channels can include websites, apps, social media, email, and more. 

But while, earlier, we used to consider these channels and the content we create for them as separate pieces, we now need to see all our channels of communication through a different prism. Our customers have become multi-screen users … they may use laptops, desktops, tablets, or mobiles to reach our sites and content. 

We, therefore, need “omnichannel marketing.”

Multiscreen customers

In omnichannel marketing, the objective is to choreograph content delivery in such a way that the customer has a seamless experience of our content stream, no matter which channel or device he wants to be on at any moment.  This takes a lot of planning and a deep study of how people use their devices and channels, and what types of information they want to see on these.

The Salesforce State Of The Connected Consumer Report of 2020 states that 74% of consumers have used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. And Omnisend says marketers with campaigns involving 3 or more channels have a 90% higher retention rate than single-channel marketers.

Learn more about how omnichannel marketing works ... video!

In this video below from WebFX, you get the whole idea of omnichannel marketing in about 8 minutes. It’s worth a watch if the topic has got you intrigued.

7. Develop a system for ongoing content creation and promotion

The typical content creation process of seven steps

Content creation is a process. For marketers who want to leverage a content-based strategy, it’s an ongoing process. It, therefore, helps to create a system by which content creation workflows become automatic.

There are seven simple steps to any content creation:

  • Research
  • Ideation
  • Writing/Creating
  • Editing
  • Uploading
  • Publishing
  • Promoting

Scaled content creation via task batching and editorial calendars

Instead of thinking of each content piece separately and planning for it, it helps to batch your work for speed and scale of content creation.

One of the ways to do this is to brainstorm, do your keyword research, pick the topics you want to create content for … and then calendarize them all for at least the next three to six months.

An editorial calendar can contain not just the dates and topics for content creation but also dates and methods of content promotion. If it’s all on a calendar, life gets streamlined.

CoSchedule’s All-In-One Marketing Calendar allows you to enter your social media calendar, events calendar, blog schedule, email cadence, and all other important marketing projects side-by-side.

Co-Schedule All In One Marketing Calendar
(Image credit: CoSchedule)

How to scale up your content creation ... video!

Scaling content creation is not easy. More content usually means content quality starts to go south. It also becomes more expensive because companies usually build systems in an inefficient way. This educative video from Ahrefs shows how to build a scalable content creation system without degrading content quality

8. Monitor content performance analysis on some key metrics

Monitoring content performance at buying journey stages

To evaluate if content strategy is on track we have to plan ahead on what metrics we will use to judge performance. If we look again at the buying jouney diagram, notice there is now a new Row 5 that shows the kind of performance measurements we may need to use at the different stages of customer progress.

Metrics of Content Performance

An alternate way to analyze content performance metrics

Semrush provides another excellent breakdown of how to view performance analytics of content in their infographic below: 

Content Performance Analytics from Semrush
(Image credit: Semrush)

How to set up Google Analytics quickly for content metrics ... video!

If only more people knew how simple it is to set the free Google Analytics tools to get all the metrics they want! Since many of us need to shed our fears and go for Google Analytics, who best can teach us to set it up than Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media? He makes it sound so easy!

To find a special gift waiting for you on this page, click the button below to take a peek, before you read on … 

FAQs and their answers on the value of content strategy

Some of the most commonly asked questions on content strategy development are listed below … with their quick answers. These are good extra angles from which to understand some nuances of the topic to get the most bang for the buck.

1. How often should you update content strategy?

The frequency of updating a content strategy can depend on several factors, such as changes in the target audience, shifts in the competitive landscape, and new business objectives or launches. In general, it’s a good idea to review and update your content strategy on a regular basis, such as quarterly or annually. This can help ensure that your strategy remains aligned with your business goals and audience needs and that you’re leveraging the latest trends and best practices in content marketing.

2. What to avoid when creating content strategy?

First, avoid creating content in a vacuum without understanding your audience’s needs and preferences. Second, avoid creating too much content without a clear purpose or goals, as this can lead to content fatigue and reduced engagement. Third, avoid creating content without a plan for distribution and promotion, as this can limit its reach and impact. Prioritize quality over quantity to maximize engagement and ROI.

3. How can content strategy be tweaked for better ROI?

To improve ROI for a content strategy, it’s essential to continuously analyze and optimize your content to ensure it’s meeting your business objectives. It’s important to track key performance indicators (KPIs) and use data to inform content decisions, such as which channels to focus on, what content to prioritize, and where to allocate resources. Testing and experimenting with new approaches, such as interactive content or personalization, can also keep your content fresh and engaging for your audience.

4. Do very small brands need a content strategy?

Yes, even very small brands need a content strategy. While the scale and scope of the strategy may be smaller, having a plan in place for creating and distributing content can help small brands build brand awareness, engage with their audience, and ultimately drive business growth. A content strategy can help small brands define their voice, messaging, and tone, and ensure that they are creating content that resonates with their target audience.

5. What skills does a content strategist have?

A content strategist must have a range of skills, including a deep understanding of the target audience and their needs, excellent communication skills, and the ability to analyze data and measure the effectiveness of content. Additionally, a content strategist should be able to think creatively and strategically to develop and execute campaigns that meet business objectives.

Pro tips to take away in summary ...

1. A content strategy is critical for businesses and brands to have because it helps streamline content-led outreach to prospective customers. It also helps plan how to convert them into buyers systematically.

2. With a content strategy, marketers can streamline their budgets to make a little money go a long way. You can put clear non-overlapping plans in place to hit your targets.

3. Businesses with written-down content strategies succeed far beyond those who have not articulated their strategies as sacrosanct documents. So that’s where you need to get moving first. 

BONUS: How to get help with your branding and content marketing

Branding and content marketing are tough because they require a deep understanding of the target audience, a commitment to delivering high-quality content consistently, and ongoing optimization to remain effective. This is where an expert hand can be invaluable.

With cutting-edge knowledge of the latest industry trends and best practices, an expert can help provide the guidance and support needed to achieve the desired results.

Rather than slog at it yourself and spend time and money on trial-and-error, make it simple … let me help you.
Let’s have a free, no-obligations Zoom chat. We can locate the potential to power up your branding and content marketing. Let me know your goals and budgets, and I will offer you some readily implementable suggestions. 
If we’re a good fit for each other, you could consider outsourcing your branding and content marketing projects to me. I am confident I can take your business to an enviable position. 
Click the button below to book a free 30-45 minute online ZOOM meeting; we’ll take it from there!
Shobha Ponnappa

"I am committed to elevating my clients' branding and content marketing to a dominant position because I believe that a strong and distinctive brand identity, coupled with high-quality content, can be a game-changer for businesses. I've done it over and over for 40+ years and 125+ clients."

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Give yourself truly big benefits.

Get my weekly newsletter packed with cutting edge brand content tips, tricks, tactics, techniques, and trends. I scour the Net for you.

Get a free download of my 93-page eBook “BRANDSPEAK” … on how to deploy content marketing for total brand domination.

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