'Content strategy' is one of those phrases that is thrown around the internet a lot, but there's no real explanation as to what it is. When you Google 'content strategy', you're just left with a bunch of complicated articles that talk in boring, professional terms.
I don't have a traditional view of what a content strategy is. But untraditional is better, right? Untraditional is simpler, and ultimately more effective.
In this article I'm going to share my untraditional view of what a content strategy is, why you need one, and how you can create one. It's going to be a long one so you may want to go and pour yourself a coffee. ;)
What exactly is a content strategy?
I think of it like this: it's the planning, creation and delivery of free content that eases people down your sales funnel, and hopefully helps them become your customers.
(For information on what a sales funnel is + a free template, read this.)
In basic terms? It's purposeful free content that helps people go from leads to paying customers.
What makes up a content strategy?
To fully understand what a content strategy is, think of a social media strategy. After all, they're pretty popular! A social media strategy is purposeful. It's made up of social media posts from your most effective platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
A content strategy is very similar. It's made up of very purposeful content from your blog, newsletter, webinars, Periscopes and podcasts.
I create this stuff already. Does that mean I already have a strategy in place?
Not exactly. What you have is free content. But you're probably missing the strategy side of things.
A lot of freelancers do this:
- Publish blog posts about their work, their personal life, their vacations and their family.
- They post on Instagram about their cat and baby all the time, with the odd photo of their work.
- They stream Periscope broadcasts about personal things, like their trip to Japan. (That's fun, but it's not strategic.)
All of that is content. But there's no strategy there.
Here's the harsh reality: your ideal clients and customers don't care about your cat or your personal life. Sure, it's interesting to see snippets of these things here and there- they humanize you to your target audience. But what your target audience really wants to read is helpful advice that will improve or inspire them in some way.
That's why you need a content strategy.
Creating content with purpose
Every blog post, newsletter, webinar and Periscope broadcast should have a specific purpose. One blog post could have the purpose of selling your latest e-course, while another newsletter could have the purpose of booking new design clients. Your content doesn't have to be all about promoting these things, but it has to promote them somewhere.
Take my content strategy, for instance.
My ultimate mission is to book new design clients and get new people to subscribe to The Shelancers Club. My content needs to help me do this.
I post on my blog four times a month (and the same articles are sent to me newsletter subscribers.) One post is about branding and one is about website design. These two posts will provide my readers with lots of valuable free content, but also promote my design services.
My third and fourth posts are about freelancing. Again, they will be filled with valuable advice for freelancers, but they will mention The Shelancers Club somewhere.
The same thing goes for my Periscope broadcasts: they will always be about design or freelancing and I'll always mention my services and products at some point.
Because the ultimate mission of my content is to get people to buy from me. That's called strategic content.
If your content doesn't lead people to buy from you, you're just creating content as a hobby.
Let's look at someone else's content strategy.
I admire Mariah from Femtrepreneur. She runs a badass, highly strategic business. She sells two courses: one helps creative entrepreneurs earn their first 1k or get their first 1k email subscribers, and the other course helps creatives earn more money by utilizing webinars.
Here's what some of her latest posts were called:
- Giveaway: enter to win Webinar Rockstar
- Free workshop: How to do your own webinars on a budget
- 8 ways to keep making consistent sales after a launch
- Case study: How Jenna did 17k in sales from two webinars
- 30k in 30 days: How do you make money with webinars?
Notice that her content is extremely purposeful and strategic; everything is related to her products and niche. She isn't blogging about her cat or her love of vintage clothes, even though she may mention them here and there. Her content is always about her niche, and always relates to her products.
Without a purposeful content strategy in place, your content will be a hot mess. But when you get strategic, your readers start seeing you as an expert on your topic. They start to become familiar with your products, and they're more likely to buy from you because they know that you offer paid products that elaborate on the awesome free content you've already given them.
How to create your content strategy
Take 15 minutes to sit down with a pen and paper and start strategizing.
1. Write down what you sell. For example, I sell brand and website design. I also run a membership subscription for freelancers.
2. Write down who your products target. I target women entrepreneurs who are interested in rebranding and improving their website. My membership club targets female freelancers.
3. Write down what your current content is about. Is everything you create related to your niche, your products and your target audience? If not, stop it. For example, you may be a website designer who enjoys running a fiction book club and reviewing books on her blog. If they're not business or design-related books, why blog about them on your business blog? It isn't strategic. Create a separate blog or newsletter for the book reviews and keep your business blog focused and strategic.
4. Theme your weeks. There are four weeks in a month, so give each week a 'theme' that is related to your products, expertise or target audience. For example, I've recently themed my weeks like this: Branding, Websites, Freelancing, Freelancing. This means that I will no longer be posting about social media or other things, because they aren't related to my four topics.
5. Go through past content and delete anything unrelated to your brand.
6. Go through past posts and add links to your products and services wherever relevant. Don't do it in a sales-y way. But if you're a brand designer who wrote about the best time to rebrand, make sure you link to your services and let your readers know you can help them rebrand!
7. When creating content from now on, ask yourself if it relates to your business. If it doesn't, think a little harder before publishing it.
Your content should always relate to your products, target audience, and expertise. You don't see Mariah blogging about vintage clothing anymore, because even though she loves vintage and used to run a vintage shop, it isn't in line with her business and doesn't help her sell her products.
Keep creating content, but keep it purposeful. When you do, you'll have yourself a content strategy.