A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Content Strategy

Learn how you can use relevant, engaging content to connect with existing and new customers.

Content Strategy Why You Need It and How to Craft It Hero Image Illustration

Small business owners know the importance of social media marketing and blogging. However, they may not realize just how important content is. While anyone can create content, having a content marketing strategy is key to ensuring your content gets seen.

You work so hard to create blog posts, infographics, videos, and e-books using your expertise to inform the public about a topic to teach them something new. However, how are you going to get people to read that content? If you leave it on your website and hope for traffic, you might not get very much. If you create a plan to distribute the content on social media or optimize your content for search engines, you're sure to reach more people.

But what is a content strategy, and why is it important? A content marketing strategy can help ensure your content gets seen by customers at the right time; it can do everything from informing your target audience about a specific topic, product, or service to convincing them to take action on your website.

Your content can help you attract new customers and retain current customers through organic traffic on several mediums, including social media and your company website.

Then, once visitors are on your website, your content can be used to educate and convince, getting you that much closer to reaching your business objectives.

Your small business’s online presence is made up of branding, marketing, social media, your website, and more. Content strategy ties these elements together for a cohesive brand experience.

What is a content strategy?

At its core, content strategy is a comprehensive plan for creating, releasing, and managing your content. It provides guidance for every step of the process, including:

  • Writing. Whether you write articles, blog posts, or social media posts and comments (or hire someone to do it for you), your goal is to engage your audience and provide them with meaningful information.
  • Curating. Besides creating original content, gathering content from other reputable sources can keep your audience engaged and create mutually beneficial relationships within your industry.
  • Presenting multimedia. Just like the written components of your content, images, videos, and other media need to engage, inform, and entertain your audience in harmony with your business goals.
  • Releasing the content. An essential aspect of content strategy is to schedule and post your content regularly to keep your audience engaged.
  • Maintaining the content. Once the content is published, you have to manage it. Some content is permanent, some needs to be updated occasionally, and some is only relevant for a period of time (after which it needs to be removed).
  • Engaging with your audience. Additionally, it’s best to acknowledge feedback and engage in conversations with your audience.

In addition, you can use several content formats in a content strategy, and a successful content strategy will rely on a mix of blog posts, videos, infographics, case studies, and more. Using these different content ideas can ensure you reach more people.

Content strategies must be comprehensive and include a method of delivery. How you distribute your content may be just as important as the content you create. After all, you have to ensure your target audience sees your content.

How does content impact the marketing funnel?

The goal of your content strategy framework is to draw potential customers into the marketing funnel and nurture their journey into becoming loyal customers and brand advocates. Content strategy comes into this because you need to supply content to keep your prospects moving through the funnel, and that content needs to be relevant at each step along the way. You can use a content strategy to target different areas of the buyer's journey, depending on where they are in the marketing funnel.

You can use the marketing funnel to guide and organize content in your content strategy to help you attract more organic traffic and convince them to make a purchase or enter the sales funnel.

Understanding the types of content necessary at each stage of the funnel will ensure an effective content marketing strategy you can use to attract and convert website visitors. The content marketing funnel has three parts: discovery/awareness, consideration, and purchase/conversion.

Discovery/awareness:

The discovery/awareness stage in the content marketing funnel is used to attract organic or paid website traffic, depending on your distribution method.

For example, you can attract organic traffic using an SEO content strategy with keyword research, or you can attract paid traffic by creating a social media advertisement.

Of course, if you're using social media as a distribution method, you should invest in a quality social media content strategy and editorial calendar to ensure you're posting at the right times. The discovery/awareness stage is the top of the funnel, so your main focus will be brand awareness.

Your content marketing strategy should aim to attract paid or organic visitors. When creating content, you should focus on what potential customers are searching for and issues or problems your business can solve.

At this part of the content marketing funnel, you should create content around customer questions to help them discover your business and its products.

Of course, even though you may be trying to target as many people as possible, a successful content marketing strategy targets customers based on target personas and market research you've done to learn about your customer base.

Consideration

In your content marketing strategy, you'll need to plan what types of content to share with individuals who are in the middle of the funnel.

Middle-of-the-funnel content helps individuals who are already on your website decide whether or not your solution is the right fit for them. This is a great chance to convince your target audience with different types of graphics and content to help them learn more.

Visitors in the middle of the funnel may be organic or paid traffic, and the type of content you share with them may depend on how they arrive at your website.

Purchase/conversion

The purchase/conversion stage is the bottom of the content marketing funnel and helps prospects or website visitors decide to take action. Actions taken may include sign-ups, form submissions, or even purchases.

Individuals just need a final push in this stage to feel more confident taking action. The content you may share with them can include trials and demos, e-books, guides, or another blog post that discusses the benefits of your products, ultimately describing why they should buy them.

What can content marketing do for your business?

As we've just discussed, content creation can help you attract website visitors and customers, ultimately guiding them along the marketing funnel or buyer's journey with usable content that teaches, informs, and convinces them. Content can help you reach your business objectives to earn more customers and promote customer loyalty.

What can content do for you?

Relevant, engaging content helps strengthen your brand, and it gains momentum as your business grows.

Here’s what content strategy can help you do:

  • Build brand recognition. Content can put your business on the radar, so to speak. It drives awareness of your brand and your mission. Since one of the main goals of content production is to attract customers, you can use it to help build brand awareness and recognition. The more helpful and engaging content you distribute, the better your brand recognition can become.
  • Establish your place in the industry. Timely, dependable, and informative content shows your audience that you know what you’re talking about. The better your content, the more people will see you as an authority. Publishing valuable content regularly can help you become a thought leader in your industry to help build trust with your customers. Since we live in a digital world, your customers can find any information they need online. However, when it comes to your industry, you can publish content and become their main source of information, making them more likely to purchase your products and services because they trust you.
  • Support your marketing efforts. Generating good content is a cost-effective complement to your marketing strategy. In tandem, they promote your brand, advertise your products and services, and draw potential customers. Content marketing efforts can help you sell more and generate leads by helping customers along the buyer's journey. You can do this using existing content, blog posts, or several other types of content formats, depending on what works for your business. What's most important is that your content production can attract website visitors to boost brand awareness and help customers enter the marketing funnel. With content marketing, you can increase organic traffic, boost sales, and support the rest of your marketing strategy with different content formats, a content calendar, and a content audit that allows you to learn about which types of content perform best.
  • Promote trust to boost customer loyalty. By being a reliable source of information and responding promptly to feedback, customers will gain confidence in your brand and keep coming back for more. Publishing valuable content promotes trust and can build brand awareness. When your customers trust you, they're more likely to return to make a purchase. Even if you have tons of competition, trust can be the one thing that sets you apart, and you can build trust to support customer loyalty through regular content creation.

Content strategy questions to ask yourself

Content marketing is simple, and anyone can do it. However, you should do your research and ensure you know everything there is to know before you start your first blog post.

For example, how will you distribute content, and what types of content will you create for each stage of the customer journey? In addition, how will you measure the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy?

Your content strategy is a crucial part of growing your business, but what do you need to know before you create it? Use these questions to get started.

Who is your audience?

The purpose of creating content is to connect with your audience—and keep them engaged. Are they prospective clients or customers? Are you trying to gain social media followers? What age group or community are you targeting? What interests them?

Defining who your audience is will help you produce content that’s meaningful to them.

Where will the content be published?

Connecting with your audience through blog posts and articles on your own website can help boost search engine optimization (SEO) rankings, increase traffic, and drive conversions—whether that means making a purchase or subscribing to your newsletter. Social media, email, digital ads, and postcards are also important channels to consider in your content strategy.

How will you maintain a consistent brand?

Your voice and tone characterize the way you communicate with your audience. To maintain consistency in the written elements of your content, you’ll need to create voice and tone guidelines. This guidance can be used by anyone on your team or hired to create content—whether it’s video, written pieces, social posts, webinars, or even talking to your customers directly.

For the visual elements of your content strategy, you’ll want to incorporate your logo, the fonts and colors you use, and the imagery and graphics you create or choose. With a tool like Mailchimp’s Creative Assistant, it’s easy. The AI-powered tool pulls brand elements from your website (or the assets you’ve already uploaded in your content studio) and generates and resizes more designs for you to use across your marketing channels.

Factoring all of these considerations into your content strategy will help create a clear, consistent brand that your customers like and recognize.

How will you measure your strategy's performance?

If you're doing all this work to create content and revamp existing content, building a content calendar, and investing in a content management system, you'll need to know whether your investments of time and money are worth it.

Luckily, you can use tools like Google Analytics and CRM software to measure the effectiveness of your content. With tools like Google Analytics, you can determine which pages or pieces of content perform better than others, where customers drop off the customer journey and get actionable insights into your content marketing strategy.

Content without direction doesn’t reach the appropriate audience. With so much content available online these days, a good content strategy needs to be built on a solid framework of goals, targets, and milestones.

Your content strategy goals should relate to your business goals, and they should be both actionable and measurable enough to break down into specific targets.

For example, if you sell clothing online, a business goal might be to increase sales 5% this quarter. So, a goal for your content could be to drive awareness about your new seasonal line of clothing to create interest and ultimately boost sales. A target, in this case, could be to send weekly emails about your seasonal clothing line and increase audience engagement with your emails by 10% over the quarter.

How to create a content strategy for your business

To begin crafting your own goal-oriented content strategy, answer these questions:

If you already have content in place, the first step after you answer the questions above is to audit your existing content to review its performance. Does the content resonate with your target audience? What do analytics and metrics show? How are your SEO rankings or results? The audit results will define whether you can build on existing content or if you need to start from scratch.

Either way, your content strategy should address the following specifics.

Schedule

Once your goals and milestones have been outlined, you need to decide on a timeframe for achieving them. Relevant content releases should be planned at strategic points along the way. Even if your schedule has a bit of leeway, it’s always useful to have the workflow laid out.

Topics

Include a list of topics in your strategy so the content creators and curators have ideas to choose from. Remember, you want to inform and engage your audience, so the topics can vary greatly. But they should all be consistent with the brand or image you want your business to project.

Audience

Identifying your audience is part of your initial content strategy planning. But within that strategy, you may want to consider specific segments of that audience you’ll be targeting with each piece of content. Segments will vary based on the platform where you’re releasing the content, the content itself, and the product or service you’re marketing. service your content marketing.

Channels

Again, as part of your initial strategy, you may have chosen the platforms where you’ll release your content based on where your target audience will most likely see it. But you might need to get more specific—some people will respond to blog posts on your website, and some will find you on social media. Be sure to consider how the content on each channel relates to the others. For example, your digital ads might drive newsletter signups and the newsletter might drive traffic to blog posts on your website, which include links to follow your social media accounts.

Links to content

Part of your strategy should be to thoughtfully choose the products, services, or external content you’ll link to. Keep the marketing funnel stages in mind and consider how the linked content will work at each stage. Don’t forget that links also factor into your SEO and how search engines rank your site.

How can Mailchimp help with your content strategy?

If you're ready to begin creating your content strategy, Mailchimp's all-in-one Marketing Platform offers many tools and resources to help you at each step.

With Mailchimp's marketing CRM, you can learn things about your audience, like their demographics, where they live, and how they interact with your marketing. With this information, you can craft a strategy for content that speaks to them. You can also create content for all of your marketing channels, including website, email, social media, and digital ads.

Of course, you won't know if your strategy is effective if you're not measuring it. Mailchimp allows you to track engagement with insights and analytics to see what's working and improve as you go. With tools in hand, it's now time to execute your content strategy.

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