The presenter at the Feb 25th Portland WordPress Users Meetup, Jim Woolfrey (@informative) demonstrated ‘The Fundamentals of Content Strategy.’ He covered content strategy from a seller, marketer and agency perspective. During the presentation we saw an actual content strategy brief and the process Jim uses to build a strategy plan.
The Fundamentals of Content Strategy
Jim introduced himself and his presentation. Ultimately he will answer why digital content, good content, is more important than ever.
What is content?
- Info that delivers meaning, communicated via audio, picture, image, etc.
- Anything that we use to communicate with each other. Here’s a big list that we won’t read to you
What is strategy?
- Plan to reach a specific goal. Roots in military & politics. Also applies to business & organizational goals.
A repeatable process for planning, creation, distribution and government of informational content–written or in other media–throughout the entire content life-cycle.
- For planning, creation, & re-use of content: What content. How to produce. By whom. When & why
- See Kristina Halvarson’s book, Content Strategy for the Web
Why? … due to how consumers & buyers are changing. They’re educating themselves & want to keep it that way – old way of doing sales is with dinosaurs. People avoid contact until late in the sales-cycle, once they know what they want.
- It’s now about using content to inform and educate people. Engage them & provide good info so they can become informed about our product.
Content Across the Lifecycle
Think about customer’s view of who you are.
The people we’re targeting may not be aware of who you are or that they even have a need for your product/service. Content can help to let them what to solve.
Content also helps to push them to explore
Help steer consumers to more information about what you solve, how you help
More exploration leads to more of your information in decision process
Content should provide value
Biggest Challenges in Content Marketing
(or any content production, especially recurring basis)
- Create breakthrough content
- Provide value
- Compelling content is a necessity
- Balance business objectives & buyer needs
- Success is rooted in developing a repeatable process to keep content going
Why Content Marketing Fails
- Lack of goals
- Lack of planning
- Poor messaging
- Bad quality, lack of talent, etc
Why a Strategic Approach?
- Align organization with audience needs
- Enables organization to better deliver to needs of different roles
- Distribute (Publish)
- Govern (and maintenance) – Governance is about the macro process of repeating production & the stuff including maintenance
Establish Goals & Objectives
- Go back to what is at the core of the organization … what are we doing, selling, etc
- Identify & prioritize the target audience – map it to a buying life cycle
Research the target, make sure they’re aware of the need or figure out how to create awareness. Then, prioritize & map those
- Evaluator/Biz User
Remember, there will be more people & personas involved in more-complex sales (ie: Boeing)
- Create personas or mental models
- Framework for establishing need mapped to customer life cycle
- Narrative Overview (ie: is this a “SysAdmin”)
- Keywords that resonate
- Objectives, priorities, orientation, obstacles
- Q: Are personas “fluffy”?
- A: Not when they help you refine the voice of the content, but they need to match the customer life cycle. The important part is the next question…
- Define the questions you need to answer
Q: Should we create personas using a blog?
A: Not necessarily, a PPT or Word doc works. Anywhere you can create lists and add some thumbnails
- Persona “buyer’s Journey”
- Persona Questions: Buying Stage > Questions Content must Answer
- Content Inventory
- Content Audit
- Get a value of what you have and understand if it answers questions in your persona
- Gap Analysis
- The “blank spots” in the Excel grid of questions & content
- Content Maps (persona-specific)
- Look at what you need to create
- Do a flowchart of the customer life cycle & make sure you have something to get each persona through all the steps of the buying process
- Content Plan (prioritized)
- Figure out what’s the most-important, the most-quickly
- Editorial Calendar
- Build this from the Map & Plan, and assign resources to the needed items
Note that we go from a conceptual level, to a structured matrix, to execution
Q: How do you create or define a life cycle for your content?
A: This is where governance comes in (later in presentation). In terms of life cycle of the target audience — amount of content per-persona should pay attention to how long the sales cycle is.
Content Creation Guidelines
Reason for this is to think about how & who will produce the content
This isn’t typical in web dev cycles, which tend to rush the content-production or give it low priority & end up late
WordPress is the tool, but think about: (1) How the team will get content into the site, (2) How users will consume the content (* This is where design fits-in)
- Maintain, Measure, & Update
- Build a team who have a defined workflow about how to go through and revise content plans/maps quarterly (or whatever)
- Quantitative – analytics, etc
- Qualitative – how people answer surveys, positive comments, ratio of +/- comments, number of referrals, etc
Analyze & Optimize:
- Compare performance w/ organizational goals
- More awareness?
- Changed attitude?
- Stimulated taking a trial, viewing a demo?
- Influenced a purchase decision?
- Signed up new subscribers?
The sooner you connect content to org-goals, the sooner you can change & refine what you’re doing
Big client did a lot of getting people to webinars & ebooks. Found that ebooks were 10x better at generating sales than the high-effort webinars
Best sales came from people who didn’t watch the webinar live … instead they downloaded & watched it later (* This was the busy decision-makers at-home when they had time)
Promises of Content Strategy…
- Why content strategy should be the foundation for UX design, social strategy
- Someone from IBM had great success applying this to the sales-cycle
How to execute on this:
- Step away from the CMS
- Identify goals
- Map & plan
- Put a team together, identify who does what
- Develop metrics & Create!
- Why focusing on hot topics may not be the best strategy:
- People get excited about new topics, but that may not be the best idea b/c it doesn’t answer the fundamental questions. Don’t skip those.
- Lesson: Keep hot topics to a minimum & remember they’re only for buzz
- Google, really. Search for ‘content strategy’
- Kristin Halvorson book ‘Content Strategy for the Web’
- Jonathan Colman – REI – jonathoncolman.com post “The Epic List of Content Strategy Resources”
- Strategy & Creation: Margaret
- Quality & Measurement: Colleen Jones book “clout”
- Marketing side: Ardath Albee book “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale”
- Marketing: Joe Pulizzi started The Content Marketing Institute
- CMS side: Structure content Sara Wachter-Boettcher
- CMS/Technical side: Cleve Gibbon
- CMS: CMSwire.com
- James Mathewson – Global content strategy for IBM
- Karen McGrane book “Content Strategy for Mobile”