Content creation is a beast that dominates every industry. The amount of content being created in a day is mind-blowing. But sadly, most of this is just noise. Value added and strategic content is very rare. So much so, that 55% of B2B marketers say they are unclear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like.
Over half of the industry experts in marketing have no clue if the content they are creating is successful or even what successful content looks like. OVER HALF! The SaaS industry is no different. It’s more than keywords and SEO these days, content has to be strategic.
You must have a plan in place, with clear and objectionable goals that you can measure. Currently, 23% of organizations are not measuring the ROI of their marketing and 18% have no clue if they have seen any ROI from marketing. The only way to measure a return on your investment is to establish a clear strategy and goals.
Source: Hubspot, The State of Inbound
What Does Content Strategy Mean?
A content strategy is knowing exactly where to say what, how to say it, when to say it, and know who you are saying it to. It’s a well-thought out plan (written down somewhere) that lays out the short term end-goal, and then provides a step-by-step, day-by-day course of action for your content. But, before you can even begin thinking about a strategy you have to know your target audience.
How Do You Find Your Target Audience?
Your target audience is your customer base. These are the people that you do business with every single day. The best way to find out who these people are and what they need is to talk to them. Send your rockstar and pain-in-the-ass customers an email or text and ask if they could spare 20 minutes to share their experiences with you.
It’s beneficial to hear from both your favorite, rockstar customers and the customers that you never wanted to hear from again, called customer support twelve times, and churned after three months. These two sets of customers are going to provide the most useful insights on who your target customer is, where they are, and why they love or hate your product. Knowing these crucial pieces of information means no more wasted time and money advertising to the masses.
This is Not a Sales Call
The key to this conversation is to ask meaningful questions and to listen. Let the customer guide the conversation and listen closely to their exact wording and repeated phrases. You will discover similar words being used by multiple customers. Their words will make up key pieces of the content in the sales copy, website, and blogs, which gives the reader the impression that you are “in their head” or that “you really understand their problem and how they feel”.
Now, remember, this is not a sales call or a time to solve your customer’s problems. This a conversation and an opportunity for you to pay attention to the words they use and how they describe their experience with your product.
Have the Conversation
First, you need to schedule a phone call. A conversation is the only way you are going to be able to gather the information you need to make an impact. A survey, email, or quiz will not allow your customers to express their concerns in their own words, and it doesn’t allow you to ask crucial follow-up questions.
When scheduling your call be clear with your customer that this is not a sales call, let them know up front there will be no pitch, no up-sale, and zero product demonstrations. Establishing this clearly beforehand will set your customer’s mind at ease and allow them to be more open and honest with thoughtful answers.
Consider offering an incentive for your customer’s time. This could be anything from a gift card to a local restaurant, a discount on their services or personalized thank you. The gift is a gesture of appreciation for their time and help, so give what feels appropriate for your product and the amount of time they provided.
Take Awesome Notes
These conversations will be the foundation of all content and targeted advertising you do for years to come, so it’s important that they are done thoroughly, accurately, and recorded in a way that the information you gather can be put into an actionable plan. In other words, jotting down quick phrases on a yellow notepad or google doc is not going to cut it.
Record the Call
Schedule a zoom call, skype, or google hangout chat and record it. If video is not an option record the phone call using google voice, Recordator, or TapeACall. Let your customers know that you’re recording the phone call for note-taking purposes and then just chat like usual. Once the call is over, use a transcription service like Rev.com to put the words to paper. This will make it easier to change your notes into data that will turn into a content strategy and marketing plan.
Questions to ask that will get you the answers you need:
Product Use Questions
- What is your favorite thing about the product/company? Or What did you hate about our product?
- If one thing could be changed what would you like it to be?
- How long have/did you use the product/company?
- Tell me about your experiences using the product?
- What is the most annoying thing about using our product?
- Why did you buy the product? Or Why did you stop buying the product?
- Where do you spend most of your time on social media professionally and personally?
- How are you using our product?
- How did you purchase our product?
- When did you realize you first needed something like our product?
- Before using our product, what were you doing to meet your needs?
- If anyone, who helped you make the decision to buy our product?
- What is your job title?
- How many people work foryour company?
- What industry are you in?
- What are your job responsibilities?
- Which publications or blogs do you read?
- Who reports to you? Who do you report to?
- How did you feel when you first heard about our product?
- What does using our product do for your company?
- What are your biggest concerns with using our product?
- Did you have any anxiety or hesitations before you purchased? What were they?
- Is there a feature you love? Or hate?
- Have you shared our product with others in your industry?
- How long do you plan on using our product?
And don’t forget the best follow-up question you can ask. Why? Asking why will allow the customer to expand on their experience and get to the core of their answers.
Beyond the Phone Call
Another effective way to understand your customers is to speak with your customer service reps and sales staff. If you’re on the marketing team and you haven’t spoken to a sales rep recently, or ever, you are missing out on a wealth of knowledge. The sales reps are the people who hear every groan and compliant, every praise and compliment. They are in direct contact with your customers and know exactly where the customers are satisfied and dissatisfied. In fact, 81% of companies whose marketing and sales departments are tightly aligned report that their marketing strategy is effective.
By the time your conversations are over you should know:
- where your customer spends most of their time on social media
- how they make their buying decisions
- average gender
- job title
- why they chose your product over other products
- how learned about your product
- how they use your product
And if applicable to your product and marketing:
- geographical location
- political beliefs
- religious beliefs
- marital status
Once you’ve had these crucial conversations, you can begin to put a name and face to your buyer.
Use the Target Audience Info To Create Your Content Strategy
With a foundational understanding of your buyer, you now have the ability to walk them through the stages of awareness, answer their greatest pain points, and promote your content exactly where they spend their time online. Putting these pieces together is your content strategy. But unlike a puzzle, you begin your content strategy at the end. Franklin Covey said it perfectly when he said, “begin with the end in mind.” Knowing exactly where you want to end up will help you create the steps to get there and will reveal your successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses for future strategy plans.
Start At the End
In order to have a clear and documented content strategy, you must have measurable goals. Your measurable goals could be a number of things: a launch, an audience reach goal, a sales goal, a holiday or event. Knowing what you are working towards will help you clearly identify the steps needed to get there. Establish one goal you would like your content to achieve, and give yourself a timeline of at least three months to achieve it.
Plan the Content
With your target audience and goal in mind, you can begin to formulate the content plan. The plan is your calendar of when and where you will promote and share your content. Airtable, Trello, and CoSchedule are all great resources to keep your content plan organized and efficient.
Work your way backward from your goal week. Each week identify what piece of content you are going to promote, and where it should be promoted. This is a great time to create your content calendar and schedule social media posts. Use each social media’s best practices for promotion for the greatest impact. Here’s how I plan my content:
- I create a list of article topics I want to cover.
- Research and write an amazing, value-packed article that addresses my target audiences questions and problems
- Promote each piece of content- Reach out to people mentioned in the article, or other publications that share a similar audience and ask them to share. Share via email subscribers and social media followers.
- From that one article, I want to be able to pull quotes, questions, and statements that would be applicable on multiple platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Facebook, and Quora- these are the places that my ideal client spends most of their time.
- Repurpose your content- One piece of content can be used in multiple ways. Blog posts, Infographics, slideshares, webinars, video, Tweets, Facebook statuses, LinkedIn Posts, Medium Articles. The options are almost limitless! BUT!! Don’t just repurpose everything you write, everywhere. Remember where your audience spends their time on social media. Those are the platforms where you want to spend time promoting and repurposing content.
Create the Content
Your content can be an ebook, video, webinar, or article. Being a long-form content writer, the easiest way I develop my strategy is to start with the article. It’s crucial that each piece of content created is of high-quality and helpful to your target audience.
High-quality content is always original, in the brand’s voice, well-researched with primary sources, and easy to read or watch and implement. Creating content of this caliber can be time-consuming, but if your plan, calendar, and strategy is in place before you begin creating the process will be much quicker.
Stick to the Plan
Consistency is key, and the only way to grow an audience, educate, and build a genuine community is to be consistent with your content. Follow your plan. Give yourself at least 30 days of consistency before completely revamping things. Track your data during the 30 days and you’ll have a good understanding of what is working and what needs to change. Trust that you created a great plan, and give it time to build and grow. Ranking number one on Google and having a million followers doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a snowball that grows and builds with each day and each new post or article.
Creating content is the easy part of content marketing and everyone is doing it. Make sure that you are being strategic with your content. A clear strategy will be what separates your content from the noise that every other company is making.