Flying by the seat of your pants just doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to digital marketing. If you don’t have an integrated content strategy, your digital marketing will inevitably be all over the place and a competitor whose digital marketing activities are better than yours will steal your customers. A surprising number of businesses don’t have content strategies though so let’s examine why you need an integrated content strategy for your business.
What is an integrated content strategy?
In order to understand why you need a content strategy, you need to know what one is. A content strategy is a framework that guides the creation of meaningful and engaging content that accomplishes specific goals for your business. An integrated content strategy also includes a plan for how you will deliver your content.
All of these aspects of a content strategy are crucial for every business, from sole traders like authors and painters, to large corporations. If your content doesn’t accomplish your business goals, it’s pointless. If it’s not engaging and meaningful people won’t consume and share it. If you don’t have a plan for disseminating your content, you won’t get it in front of the right people at the right time.
So, now you know what a content strategy is, no doubt you’re starting to see why your business needs one. But let’s break it down to ensure you see the full picture.
Know your goals
Why does your business create (or invest in) content? Do you know? Does everyone in your marketing team know? If the answer is yes, that’s fantastic. If you know what your goals are but the marketing team doesn’t, you need a document (your strategy) that spells it out. If no one knows what your goals are, you need to sit down and figure out what they are.
You’ll be best served by having goals for each stage of your sales funnel. By extension, you should also have content that caters to each stage of the funnel.
Remember that there are two key actors you need to serve when creating content. On the one hand your content must suit your customers but on the other hand, it needs to suit search engines so that people can find you and your content. You shouldn’t have to rely on advertising for customers to find you and nor should your customers be deterred by robotic content. As such, you need to have goals that cater to both masters.
Know whether you’re succeeding
So, you know what you’re goals are. How do you know whether you’re achieving those goals? How do your marketing people know? If you don’t know how to measure your success, you’ll never know what content is working and what isn’t. You need specific measures of success (metrics) and a means of determining what those measures mean (analysis). Your strategy will clearly define your measures of success.
Know the content you need to enable you to meet your goals
Once you know what your goals are and how you’ll know whether you’re achieving them, you can focus on preparing content that aims to address each of your goals and then determine whether that content is successful. When you sit down in six months time to produce that month’s (or week’s, or day’s) blog post/video/infographic though, will you remember everything you’ve already produced and how you were aiming to achieve your goals with each piece? How much time will you waste going back through your content catalogue to refresh your memory? How much time and money will you waste producing (or purchasing) content with a duplicate or redundant purpose? No one wants to waste time or money so your content strategy will spell out what content you need and when you need it. It will also be flexible enough that you can make changes based on real-time data about what works (or doesn’t work). For example, you could specify that you need a blog post on topic x and that it should be one of three types of blog posts. Then, when the time comes to create that post, you can choose the blog post style that is performing best with your audience at that time. Here’s an overview of the best-performing blog post styles, which you might like to include in your integrated content strategy.
Know the best platforms for your business
Why did you choose each of the social media platforms you’re currently using? Why did you choose to also use (or not) offline distribution platforms? Are they the best platforms for your specific goals? If you don’t know, you need to find out as interacting on social media requires a reasonable investment in time and/or money so you don’t want to waste it on less-than-ideal platforms. Developing an integrated content strategy will give you a record of how you made the decision to use each social media platform. Doing so will mean you not only know how to tailor your interactions to take advantage of the differences between each platform, you will also be able to refer to your original decisions as your business and the social media landscape change, enabling you to quickly adjust if required.
Know your audience
This goes hand in hand with the above point. You not only need to know who your business’s target customers are, you also need to know who your target social media and offline marketing audiences are. If you don’t, your messages won’t be nearly as effective. Knowing your target audiences and their habits also enables you to schedule messages to be delivered when your targets are most likely to see them and when they’re likely to be most receptive to your messages.
You also need to know what your social media followers want from you. Do they interact with you for customer service purposes? For example, are they using social media to enquire about products/services or to troubleshoot problems they may be having with your service? Your strategy can document this information so you can tailor your use of each platform to provide the services your prospects and customers actually want.
Know how best to target your messages
Do you know which hashtags to use to get your posts into relevant social media conversations? Do you know which influencers to tag in posts to boost engagement and dissemination of your messages? Do you know which celebrities to get onside so they spread your message for you through offline media? This is another very useful inclusion in an integrated content strategy. The key here is to document the research you did to find the relevant hashtags/influencers/celebrities so you can quickly update your data as the situation changes.
Know when to share your messages
At what point are your prospects ready for sales information? Push too early and they’ll be turned off your brand but if you act too late, they’ll buy from a competitor. Knowing the best time to push out specific information is a key part of an integrated content strategy.
Know who is creating and distributing content
It always pays to have responsibilities down in writing and content creation and dissemination are no different. Make sure everyone in your team knows what their responsibilities are and what resources are being devoted to content by detailing it in your strategy.
Know when to revise
A key part of any strategy has always got to be a decision about when it will be revised. Digital marketing is so fast moving that this shouldn’t be a specific time. Rather, it should document indicators that tell you it’s time to do an update.
Once you’ve developed your content strategy you need to produce implementation plans. These will include a stocktake of existing pieces of content, lists of content that needs to be created and calendars for dissemination. To get you started, download a free content gap analysis template to help you conduct your content stocktake. It’ll save you time and also contains suggestions for various kinds of content you could use for each stage of a typical sales funnel.
Once you’ve got your content strategy and implementation plan, you’ll be ready to start creating (or commissioning) content. If blog posts form part of your content mix, have a read of these guidelines for creating awesome blog posts. Now is also a great time to ensure your site and content is optimised so it ranks well in search engines (so you get more website visitors). Here’s a super detailed guide that will tell you exactly which SEO techniques will make the biggest impact on your search rankings based on how well optimised your site currently is.
If you have any trouble developing your strategy, consider consulting an expert. A strategist can take an outside view of your business and see your strengths and weaknesses, which, in addition to expert knowledge about how to construct the most effective strategies, can really help you take a step back and develop an actionable integrated content strategy that suits your business’s goals and the time and expertise you have available for content marketing activities. I offer bespoke content strategy services so why not start by checking out my strategy services to see if I might be a good fit for your business.