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
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
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
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
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
The real answer is that something is better than nothing-
and a regular, well-done something is the best of all.
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
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
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
Cut through the noise and figure out what matters to your
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.”
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.