content development strategy
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Megan Bedinghaus, VP Operations & Senior Strategist
June 10 2019

7 Tricks to Creating the Best Content Development Strategy

Creating a content development strategy is one of the easiest ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts, but it’s also one of the most easily overlooked. When you’re focused on getting the next thing done on your to-do list, taking the time to evaluate what you’re doing and why isn’t at the top of your priorities. Whether you’re blogging to support your sales team, or you’re building a brand from the ground up, these seven tricks will help you create a content development strategy flexible enough to grow with your objectives.

Align Your Goals

Seems simple, right? But nailing down both your departmental goals as well as your overall business objectives is huge. Sometimes lead generation isn’t the answer; sometimes you need greater awareness or reduced customer attrition. Knowing both what you need to focus on and what’s keeping your boss’s boss up at night is the key to create a strategic content marketing program.

Understanding business objectives is one of the first things we focus on with our clients. It’s one of the reasons why our proposals include a large discovery section and only an idea of the work we might do together. Until you know where you need to go, it’s tough to find a way to get there. I can give you best practices until the cows come home and then leave again, but the best strategy is going to be rooted in your goals.

Find Your Hidden Resources

This was always one of my favorite stupid human tricks when I worked client side. I used to worm my way into the hearts of IT and make friends with my sales team. I’d badger my product managers and stalk my account leads. I’d bake for my customer reps and push my way into meetings of kinds. I was That Marketer.

When you remove all of the business gibberish, we tell stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing, PR, or HR. We’re all here telling a story about the organization for whom we work. Those stories can come from surprising places. Think about who talks to your clients, customers, or prospects daily. Who knows their pain points? Who answers questions day-in and day-out? Find those people and pick their brains (gently). Save their words, learn their language, and connect that to your strategy. Infuse the data-driven side of your content strategy with the very human side of those stories.

Set Your Pace

Think about the last big project that you never finished. Maybe it’s the deck in your backyard you meant to update or that sewing project you started a year ago but never quite got to. You were so motivated when you first started, but life took over, and it fell to the bottom of your list. It happens. And that project stares at you like a lost puppy, just begging to be completed.

Content development strategies are big projects that live on the fringes of our daily work. My to-do list is primary evidence of this. What’s the one thing that just never gets finished? Content. Blogs, social media, downloadables, case studies… all of it cycles through my email until it’s completed, and I need to start the next one. On our agile board, those post-its are the matriarchs of my time: they sit there, staring at me, daring me to ever move them to complete. And unlike most significant projects, they don’t have an endpoint. Wouldn’t it be great if they did? Write two blogs this week, done for life! SEO completed. Take that content marketing! 

The worst part is that you may feel like you’re failing if you don’t set a giant goal driven by 72 statistics and a pace that would set the world on fire. It would be utterly fantastic if we all had time in the day to match that kind of speed- or if we had a large team and a budget to rival that big sports stadium downtown. If we had leadership that understands the six-month lead time between content production and results, O’Keeffe would probably be out of business if that were the case. Content production farms – it’s the future!

The reality is that the best pace for your content development is the one you can stick to. Maybe you’ll be able to post five days a week in the future and maybe you won’t. Perhaps you can only really do one blog per month, but that blog is going to be well-researched and aligned with your goals. That’s okay. Quality is so much better than quantity, and a consistent pace matters more than bursts of content with a sad desert in between.

The real answer is that something is better than nothing- and a regular, well-done something is the best of all.

Get Inspired

I’ll admit it: sometimes I stare at my keyword research and my eyes glaze over. Blah blah, SEO, blah blah, gated content, blah, blah lead gen. Research the keywords, write the content, post the content, optimize the content, track the content, share the content. It’s kind of sad, eh? We find this amazing thing, this content marketing thing, and somehow us former English kids who were told we’d end up living in a box proselytizing about poetry, are somehow paid for writing for a living, and we get annoyed with it.

We get paid to write. Isn’t that the most fantastic thing? I remember the first time someone offered me a job as a copywriter (shout out to Chris for plucking me out of project management). It blew my mind. And we’re all like that here at O’Keeffe. We all have these stories of finding our way in communications and realizing that this was the thing we wanted to do with our lives. Book nerds, media nerds, hunting down the most exciting tales and finding a way to get paid for it.

You have to find the truth of what you’re writing. Go beyond your audience, beyond your research, beyond best practices. Whom are you writing for and what do they care about? Why does it matter?

Write It Down

I know what I’m doing, you say. I’ve got a spreadsheet, and I’ve sent emails. In the business world, that’s about the same as a blood contract. And yet documenting your content development strategy matters. There’s a massive difference between thinking you know your plan and working out the details in ink. Outline who your brand is, whom you want to talk to, and what they care about. Detail why it matters. Create a nice little one-pager (or three-pager, we don’t judge here) and save it.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve created a content marketing strategy for a client and then six months later, some yahoo from accounting is confused about why we’re spending so much time blogging. This is why, my dear yahoo. Because these are our goals, this is our strategy, and this is why it matters.

Here’s our favorite template: Content Marketing Strategy Template

Determine KPIs

Ah, those famous key performance indicators, drivers of some of the most inane business conversations that I have had the displeasure of having. But we need them. They’re the bumpers to our terrible bowling, the speeding tickets to our lead foot, and the fences to our furry squirrel hunters. When you can go anywhere and do anything, you don’t have a sense of where you need to be. (Didn’t think I could get all esoteric on KPIs, did you?)

KPIs are the corn starch to your sauce: they hold it all together. And laddering your KPIs into your business strategy is the best way to understand how your glorious content development strategy is performing. You need a dash of common sense and some patience to make this work because the fact is that you can track anything and you might end up tracking everything. 

Cut through the noise and figure out what matters to your bottom line.

Analyze and Test

So you went through all of this, and you’ve got a strategy, and it’s full of KPIs, and you’re making that sweet, sweet content happen. You’re done, right? Incorrect, my amigo. Now is the fun part! It’s time to start playing with your strategy and testing what works better. Generally speaking, you’re going to stick to that A/B test (in other words, change one thing and see if said change makes things better or worse- “things” being KPIs) because multivariate testing always makes me want to call my old stats professor from grad school. If you’re very enthusiastic about this part, you can even test for statistical significance if your sample size if hard enough. And if you’re frowning right about now, you can squint at your results of less than 100 and say very sagely, “this isn’t large enough to be statistically significant, but that’s an interesting result.”

What’s Next

So that’s all I’ve got — your seven tricks to creating the best content development strategy. If you’d like a free analysis of your current strategy, let us know. We enjoy answering questions, and we know sometimes your budget isn’t quite there to hire an agency yet.

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