Are you feeding the content beast?

Accepted thinking on a content strategy is that you think of some themes that you want to create content around. You may well call these content pillars. Then you brainstorm some ideas about what content would fit around these pillars. Once you have a list of ideas, you then apply this to a calendar as a schedule of what you are going to create and when it will be published. This then serves as your editorial calendar. You may also decide what format it needs to be and what channels you are going to deliver it through. If you look online for editorial calendars, this is the essence of what they do. Mostly, you could do this in a spreadsheet. At this point your content beast is born and now you have to feed it, and it has a veracious appetite!

If you ask the “why are you doing content marketing?” – then responses vary from stating it is for SEO purposes, for social reach or to build an audience, through improving brand perception or more worryingly just because everyone else is doing it.

There is a clear consensus that content is being used to increase engagement around a message the brand wants to convey. In response, marketers are looking at the engagement stats and creating lots of test and learn content to see what engages people the most. This leads to an endless cycle of content generation. However, marketers quickly scratch their heads over what content to produce next. They have created the significant burden of feeding the content beast to sate the appetites of their newly gained audience. It’s at this point that the mistake is made where the content strategy does nothing more than to help produce more content.

Busy work

By creating such a content strategy, the marketer has simply put in place a strategy to keep themselves busy – they have a production schedule after all. Marketing budget is now being spent on content production so that their managers will feel something is being done to push the brand forward. As the content goes “live” they will then have various mechanisms in place to measure what engagement their content marketing programme is achieving. Mostly, this is vanity measures such as clicks, likes and shares. Then it’s time to celebrate, right? After all, they have an audience engaging with their brand.

It will hopefully not surprise you to hear that such celebrations are premature. So, instead of cracking open the champagne, it is time to take a step back and consider what a content strategy should achieve that will drive clear commercial value.

The problems with feeding the content beast?

First, engaging with content is not the same as engaging with a brand. Second, engaging with all this content is not driving commercial goals. Last, this type of content is only marketing content. If a content strategy is going to be created that delivers on commercial goals, then consideration needs to be given to having content for the entire journey. Marketing content is at the beginning of the customer journey, sales content in the middle of the journey, and then customer content (loyalty, retention and support) at the end of the journey. The spread of content and effort across these three different areas will depend on the company’s products or services.

The problem with content pillars

The fundamental problem with traditional content strategies based solely on content pillars is that no thought has been put into creating a destination for the audience. The way to solve this problem of providing a destination for an audience is to step back from the “how” and really focus on the “why” of content marketing.

And the “why” comes down to engaging an audience in order to influence them towards a business goal. And it is this second part that many brands cannot define in their strategy. They are good at creating content to engage an audience but then not following through with this engagement to deliver any tangible result.

The solution to answering the “why” of “engaging an audience in order to influence them towards a business goal” is through a structured buyer journey.

Steps you need to take

  1. Identify key personas
  2. Identify what these Personas need at each step in the journey
  3. Define the destination or goal.

Then you have the foundations of a journey you can map.

This journey then becomes the overarching strategy that you can map content to, as each step of the journey will require different content to fulfil the individual needs and wants of the audience.

The output of this is a series of briefs for content along the entire journey of the customer that will most likely fall across several departments. Following this approach means that content is the tool you are using to deliver upon this customer strategy instead of content being a strategy itself.

When using this method to create your content strategy, we then measured each item of content in terms of how well it moves your audience to the next step. Ultimately, how it converts customers to sales. By structuring your content in this manner, you can attribute some of the success of the sale to the content that got your customer to that point. Clearly, this then provides commercial value to your content.

The content beast becomes a content strategy

By looking at content for your customers’ entire journey and not just thinking about content at the engagement stage, we can create communications that are connected. By the way, this also provides a seamless experience for your customer. But your content then becomes a valuable tool for retention and cross and up sell and a mechanism for deepening your relationship with your customers.