How to Create a Winning Content Strategy in 8 Steps

Responsive Inbound Marketing's President Lindsey Framer leads our marketing course on inbound marketing in Boston. If you already have your own content strategy in place, are you executing it in a way that’s driving leads? If your honest answer is “no,” how do you know if the time and money you’re allotting to content creation is benefitting your business? How do you know if people are reading, or even sharing, your content? How do you know if it’s moving prospects down the funnel? How do you know if it’s helping you rank for strategic keywords? And, if your content strategy is working, how do you know if it could be working even better?

In order to answer all of these important questions and build an extremely effective content strategy, here are 8 key tips to apply to your content marketing efforts:[bctt tweet="How to Create a #Content Strategy in 8 Steps, by @RspnsvInbndMktg"]

1. Understand your buyer personas.

Today’s consumer is savvy, so in order for someone to trust you before they decide to buy from your company, you need to educate them with content. You can accomplish this by understanding your target audience, or your buyer personas, first and foremost. Profile your perfect buyer(s). Research and understand their pain points and then position your business as a provider of a remarkable solution. If you don’t create a strategy to understand your buyer personas, your content will not relate and, thus, will have no traction.[bctt tweet="Customers are savvy. Earn trust and educate with #content, says @RspnsvInbndMktg"]

2. Develop a content calendar.

Smart companies plan out their content for the year—their blogs, social media posts, videos, emails, campaigns, and any other essential pieces. Plan out what keywords you want to be found for and what questions need to be answered with your content. This will help shape the long-form content that will drive visitors to your site. Then, you can tie the long-form content to short-form blog articles so that they promote one another—and also create social media content that is perfectly positioned to drive more views.

3. Create meaningful content.

You should always be creating content that readers embrace and want to share. For instance, a white paper about the “secret tips to buying a quality television” has much more viral sharing and conversion potential than an article titled “why our TV is the best.” Create meaningful content for your buyer personas that will truly resonate. People don’t buy “salesy” offers; people appreciate helpful advice.[bctt tweet="People don't want to be sold to. Be helpful and advise, instead - @RspnsvInbndMktg"]

4. Stay focused.

Take a granular, personalized approach with your content. Each audience has a different focus, different pain points, and crave different types of content. So, write every piece of content with one specific buyer persona in mind. Your company undoubtedly has a number of different personas, but make sure you’re creating separate pieces or campaigns for each so that they remain targeted. Then, your messages will prove more effective and will likely prompt action.

5. Take prospects down the buyer’s journey.

Strategic content is delivered in a variety of stages. The first stage is the awareness stage, which includes educational content – a tip sheet, guide, or white paper – that someone downloads in exchange for their contact information. After that person has downloaded a few awareness stage pieces, they’ll be offered relevant content that falls under the second stage—the consideration stage, which incorporates webinars, workshops, demos, or consultations. There is often no cost, but some time and information (location, for example, or company size if you work for a B2B organization) are required.

After a few consideration stage downloads, your prospect will come to the decision stage. Now that they’ve visited your website, read a white paper, and watched a webinar, it’s time to offer an opportunity to do business with your company. You must never skip right to this stage! People feel unsafe if you push a sales offer on them without first providing meaningful, validating content. Remember that they need to know, like, and trust you before they buy. Solid content strategy means understanding this, creating content for every stage of the sales funnel, and using lead nurturing to introduce new, helpful content to people as they move through this journey. This can help to increase conversion rates and shorten the sales process.[bctt tweet="A solid content strategy needs to address every stage of the funnel -@RspnsvInbndMktg"]

6. Create content to convert.

You don’t just want 1,000 people per week visiting your website; you want 1,000 people visiting your website and 100 of them filling out a “let’s get started” form.

When you include calls-to-action (CTAs) on your site pages, you drive viewers to a landing page with relevant content and a form that requires their contact information. This is how conversions happen; once someone fills out a form, they become a lead. Keep your CTAs, landing pages, and offers enticing and closely related to both buyer's interests and recent activity. The content you provide should be directly tied to your conversion goals (conversions are a direct indicator of sales opportunities). Your content strategy should work toward specific quantitative measures of performance. If your content doesn’t result in clicks, page views, conversions, shares, and leads, you’re going to need to rethink your entire plan.[bctt tweet="If #content doesn't result in views, shares + leads, you need to rethink -@RspnsvInbndMktg"]

7. Test, analyze, and tweak.

You don’t know if what you’re offering is valuable to your audience unless you put it out there and test its traction and activity. After testing, either fix it or get rid of it. If it’s working, rinse and repeat!

8. Execute.

It takes a serious, concentrated effort to produce the relevant, informative content your customers crave. If you want to establish your company as the obvious choice to do business with, you need to provide lots of remarkable content, and consistently. So, after you’ve nailed all of the previous steps, execute, execute, execute in order to attract all of the right attention.

These eight steps will help you create a flawless content strategy for the year that can be built upon for years to come. Let this solid strategy be the foundation for your business growth.

If you join an in-house startup marketing team that can't handle a large quantity of content creation, you might consider outsourcing. If you’re not sure whether it’s in your best interest to create content in-house or to outsource, read this free white paper to compare the two options.

Photo credit: waferboard via Flickr cc