If you’re looking for a dynamic content plan, you need to look at three parts; content strategy, content development and content marketing. Yes, I realize that many people are using the term “content marketing” to sum up the whole of the three, but I’ll explain in a later post how this is different.
For the purpose of this post, let’s start by looking at the content strategy portion, and what a holistic content plan for businesses looks like.
What is Content Strategy?
First, let’s throw the word “copywriter” out the window for this particular facet of content. Copywriters are great, you need them, and you need the skilled kind – not the kind you outsource by the word (no offense to those businesses focused on that, but I just don’t believe it’s conducive to quality content).
If you’re looking to have content work for your business, you are going to need those great copywriters, but that’s just part of the tactical approach in the development stage.
So what’s content strategy? Content strategy is the “how we are going to accomplish creating content that drives business goals” phase. This is where you’ll look at all they types of content available and decide which make the most sense for your business.
You’ll also do an analysis of the social mediums and other marketing channels where you can push that content. Different types of content have different paths for marketing them.
The Content Audit
Doing an analysis of the content that’s already performing or content that has potential to perform better is important in this phase. To discover this, conversations need to happen; historical analysis of the content that’s been created over time can reveal much.
Another important part of the content audit is looking at how many resources are being spent on any given piece of content and the return on that investment. For example, if you’re spending 20 hours on the creation of the newsletter every month, and you don’t have conversion goals set up, you’re already wasting efforts.
If you do have conversion goals tied to your content, you need to look at the cost of creation versus other metrics you’re tracking, such as conversions per newsletter, branding, etc. to see if it’s worth it.
Beyond the conversations, dig into tools that can help you get an understanding of the existing Web content to see how it’s doing, such as analytics. You must gauge the effectiveness of the content on the goals of a site. Compiling data about what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t worked and where the business is now is key to understanding how content can perform better.
A competitive analysis of content that’s out there and working for other businesses in your industry is a part of the strategy, too. But don’t limit yourself to just your industry. Content marketers are doing all sorts of creative things for many different industries that could work for your business, too.
This phase also includes the planning phase. You’ll create things like editorial calendars and schedules for publishing and marketing content. You’ll also often find in the strategy phase that you can leverage multiple types of content from one idea, thus expanding the types of content and channels you are going to be using.
Here, you’ll also identify which types of content you can create in-house and which types you will outsource. For example, do you have the ability to produce videos in house? If not, you’ll want to identify potential vendors. What about infographics? Do you have designers that can commit resources to that portion of your content development?
Of course, you’ll only be able to answer this question if you know how much time and resources your content strategy is going to require, and what type of an impact it can have on your business if you were going to go full force. That’s why content strategists should put together Plan A, Plan B and Plan C for their clients or employers, to offer the most benefit based on level of commitment.
Benchmarking and Setting Goals for Content Performance
Benchmarking and setting goals in the strategy phase is important. How will you gauge what’s happening now and know how you are doing in the future? Goals beget the metrics you want to track. Work in tandem with the decision-makers to understand what those will be. But also make sure you’re setting your clients or employer up for success when setting goals for individual pieces of content.
For example, if you’re a B2B, how likely is it that a blog is going to garner a direct conversion? Probably not too often. What it can do is increase brand awareness, freshen the content on your site, bring traffic into your website and educate the community. Know what mediums are meant for what so that you’re setting up realistic expectations. Some are for branding, some are for lead capture, some are for conversion.
Pick your arsenal of tracking tools to help you benchmark and track. Understand how to best use tools like Google Analytics and other data aggregators to make conclusions about the performance of content. Google’s Analytics has some great social analytics reporting that can help you understand what social channels are driving traffic for what content, and user behavior once they land on the site.
Here’s where an understanding of Web marketing also comes into play. If you have a background in search engine optimization, you know how to plan a site’s content based on SEO, for example. Or you know how to take a top-performing page and create strategies to increase conversions. Or you begin to look at how a Web page’s content will affect other tactics like a pay-per-click campaign.
Individual Strategies for Each Piece of Content
These are baked into the development phase. For example, you know you are going to do an ebook. This will have an entirely different strategy than say, a video. Or, a newsletter will have a different purpose than a blog.
Then, when you’re ready to market individual content channels, you must recognize that the marketing of a video, for example, will be different than the marketing of an ebook. Understanding that a strategy is a part of every facet of your content is an important concept. This is the key to content that performs for you versus just words filling up pages with graphics that look cool.
As a content strategist, you must be able to understand the goals of the business, understand digital marketing and have a creative mind that’s backed by an interest in data and return on investment. In another post, we’ll look at the components of content development and content marketing that finish off the skill set.
I welcome your thoughts below.