How to Craft a Successful Content Strategy for Your Brand Do you want to be more successful planning, developing, and managing your content marketing? Then you need a content strategy. But, wait? How do you implement a successful content marketing strategy? One of the things I think we’re all discovering is that content creation is no longer the biggest hurdle to overcome. In fact, content creation is easier than ever and more competitive too, now that everyone is armed with an iPhone, a laptop, and a gazillion content creation tools. The real content marketing challenge is turning out to be connection, distribution and promotion according to Joe Chernov, marketing VP from Eloqua, Hubspot and now Insight Squared. Once you come to that conclusion, you have to ask yourself “What kind of content marketing playbook do I need to insure success?” If you’re looking to answer that question or start planning for the evolution of your content marketing efforts, This post is for you. The strategy question prompted me to reach out to Michael Brenner, a stellar marketer who’s implemented content strategy on a massive scale with his former company, SAP (74,400 employees in more than 130 countries) and now across numerous business use cases as the former content strategist at Newscred and now as CEO of Marketing Insider Group where he’s providing content marketing strategy, content development, and content marketing workshops for brands big and small. My quest also had me re-read the book Content Strategy by Kristina Halvorson & Melissa Rach. In it they contend that Content marketing is about creating more content, strategy is about asking a lot of hard questions of why and how. What are you creating content for? Successful brands are creating mission statements for their content. Woah, mission statement, what the hell do I need that for? That’s the feeling I had when I first read about content marketing mission statements back in 2012. I read this post that Joe Pulizzi wrote on the subject, he writes “Remember, content marketing is not about “what you sell” it’s about “what you stand for.” As it turns out, a content mission statement helps ensure that you’re not just creating a volume of content just to fill a quota. To get another perspective, I decided to ask one of my favorite web designers/content marketers, Andy Crestodina about his formula for creating a content marketing mission statement….. he breaks it down like this: Our content is where… [audience X] gets… [information Y] for… [benefit Z]. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Brenner added his take on the subject, and it becomes clear that there is consistency in this mission statement formula. Content marketing represents the gap between what brands produce and what consumers actually want Michael’s formula is similar to Andy’s: For [Who] on [What topic] will you become the PRIMARY destination to deliver [What customer value] AMEX Open Forum is a perfect example: they used to be “Help Small Businesses Do More Business” they’ve changed that to “Insights, Inspiration and Connections To Grow Your Business.” So in the AMEX example it goes something like this: For Who? = Small Businesses On What Topic? = Insights, Inspiration, and Connections To Deliver What Customer Value? = To Grow Your Business Here’s another example that Neil Patel & Kathryn Aragon put together as part of their super detailed infographic. The mission statement is about focusing on your audience so you can be efficient in driving business results, creating just the right amount of content inline your mission to achieve your business goals. Customer personas help you speak the right language This makes so much sense, but most businesses just assume they know their customers without really asking the right questions. Who are your ideal customers? What’s important to them? What do they like, don’t like? How old are they? Where do they congregate? These are just a few of the questions that can help you identify who exactly is in your target audience, where to build your tribe, and more importantly how to communicate with them so that you make a connection. Sujan Patel wrote a list of 150 buyer persona questions that you might want to ask. It’s may be overkill for some, but the list will give you inspiration on the topic. You might also want to follow Adele Revella of Buyer Persona Institute, she’s been studying and teaching on this subject for 25 years and knows her stuff more than most. I think the basic customer persona questions you need to know before you can implement a content marketing strategy go something like this: The answers to these questions will not only help with your content strategy and any content you create, but they will also help you with understanding what products to build, how to better target your ad spend and how to enable your sales team with the tools to sell to the modern consumer, social selling style. On that note, if you want to learn more about social selling, listen to Jill Rowley wax poetic on the subject. The only thing you need to remember is that personas are not etched in stone, they evolve just like all relationships evolve. Not only do you learn more about your individual personas, but they’re also growing non-stop, and for you to be in tune with them you’ll want to pay attention. You need to define your goals This should go without saying, but any project without a goal is probably more like a hobby or a rudderless boat. If you’re not sure what business outcome you’d like to achieve with your content efforts, start by building an audience and subscribers. You know, folks that give you permission to communicate with them regularly. One of my favorite books on pre-monetization audience building is Content Inc. The case studies are amazing and will give you lots of ideas. Here are some business outcomes you might consider— Want to build your email list? Foster you brands’ awareness? Nurture prospects during specific stages of their buying journey? Establish subject matter expertise? Convert your tribe into customers? Nurture an army of influencers? (Lee Odden shares one of my favorite influencer marketing strategies in this interview) Convert customers into online review writing evangelists? Ok, I think you get the point now, pick something meaningful and measurable. You can always adjust as you learn. Creating exceptional, remarkable content is a must Marketers are competing with lolcat’s and Kardashians for attention today. If your content isn’t remarkable to your target audience, the likelihood of it being consumed is next to nil. Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative does a great job of explaining how to go about creating exceptional content. Documenting Your Content Strategy is a Must If you’re just starting out with content marketing and don’t have much in the way of a team, your documentation can be simple. This is about clarifying who you are writing for in the form of personas, what stage of the consumer cycle you are looking to address and what channels and mediums you plan to use to reach them and what goals you are looking to achieve. I like to start with the end goal in mind. What are you looking to achieve. Outlining what it is and what it isn’t goes something like this: Content marketing is a crucial element in our overall marketing mix. We’re leveraging content for the following business objectives. EXAMPLE: We focus our content efforts to ensure that we are driving business value above and beyond the products and services that we sell. Note to self “Remember the mission”. The first business goal we are supporting with content marketing is (insert business goal here). As a company we are aiming to achieve (insert business metric) by (x timeframe) This is driven from your business plan. Content marketings support of this goal will be achieved by (insert content metrics). From there you want to focus on the what’s the value to the customer, it can go something like this: With our content marketing, we will answer the questions our audiences ask at key stages of the consumer journey. We will align each content program, and piece of content, to a persona. This guide will be used by our team of stakeholders, content creators and distributors during ideation, development, and implementation. This is just one flavor of a content strategy, theres lot’s of room for simplification and deep articulation. It all depends on your needs and resources. The key thing here is to point your ship in a direction and give it a purpose for being. Measure, rinse and repeat In business, it’s not enough to say you’re committed to content marketing, you have to make the content do something that makes your business grow. Let me know what’s working for you, I’ll be sure to respond. Seth Price I’m on a mission to transform the way you think about personal branding to empower your life’s work. My keynote speeches connect me with audiences all over the world. Join me in creating ideas for bringing your brand to market.