Content Strategy

How to Break from a Product-Driven Mindset and Create a Customer-First Content Strategy

By Ty Scheiner on June 22, 2018

Whether they admit it or not, the job of an online marketer, or any marketer for that matter, is to drive sales, ROI and raise brand awareness. But most marketers don't want to be seen as that creepy, untrustworthy "salesman" pushing products so forcefully that they actually scare the customer away.

To avoid the stereotype, the goal of the modern-day marketer shouldn't be to make the sale. Instead, they should focus on how best to establish a relationship, build trust and authority with their audience, and ultimately make their customers feel confident in the product once they are ready to make a purchase.

If your business is looking for long-term success, you must first learn how to leave these old models behind and develop an in-depth and strategic content marketing plan. But in a world where half of currently working marketers are operating without a clear content marketing strategy, what steps should you be taking to get your own strategy off the ground?

Where to begin?

Once you've decided to start work on a content marketing strategy, it's essential to take your time defining exactly what you want your plan to accomplish. Before you jump into creating content, take a step back, do your research, determine the audience you want to reach with your content, and outline your goals.

Are you looking to drive traffic to your site? Grow a social media presence? Build thought-leadership credibility within your industry? It's better to go slowly and be certain that you have a firm understanding of what your strategy is setting out to accomplish. From here, you can move through the entire process keeping these greater goals top of mind to ensure the content types you are building align appropriately with your overall vision.

In addition, make sure the goals you select are realistic and measurable. Otherwise, it can be difficult down the line to directly correlate content marketing efforts to sales. CMI advises tracking leads, contact form fills, downloads, and other easily measurable metrics.

How do you organize an effective brainstorm?

After you've gathered the important data, the next step is to start coming up with ideas for your program. Determining your publishing cadence will be important in deciding how frequently and when you ideate topics. Putting together a schedule of the content creation process will be key in choosing the cadence that works best for your needs.

For example, depending on your content team, you may start out with a manageable quantity of ten content pieces per month. You should begin ideating at least a month out to take into account the time involved in creating, editing, and finalizing the content before it goes live. Once you've examined all of these aspects, the full process for completing your calendar of content for the upcoming month may look something like this:

Week 1: Brainstorm ideas for next month

Week 2: Build out and create content based on topics from brainstorm

Week 3: Edit content

Week 4: Finalize content approvals and schedule in content calendar for next month

Now when you are starting off, brainstorming may feel easy, as you're coming in with a clean slate and haven't touched on most topics. However, as you continue to ideate on a monthly basis, it becomes more important to keep these sessions fresh and explore new topic areas.

Each topic should have a clear, unique purpose. You'll want to make sure each content type you set out to create relates back to your goals. For instance, if you are trying to create a piece promoting brand awareness, the article will likely take a broader thought leadership approach. Whereas, if your aim is to drive lead generation, the content might be more focused on product.

Where do ideas come from?

man holding photograph

Image attribution: Rawpixel

As mentioned, when you start to think of possible topics, you'll likely have no trouble jotting down a few months worth of ideas. But there will come a time when your brain might feel fatigued trying to find new angles and you'll strugge to think of what else is left that you could possibly cover. So how can you overcome these frustrating creativity blocks?

Thankfully, there are resources you can use to make sure you are providing quality, consistent, and fresh content to your site. Once you've tapped out your internal marketing team for ideas, be sure to leverage other internal experts throughout your company. Marketers aren't the only ones who have knowledge of your company goals and can talk about your brand.

Product, sales, customer service, tech/operations are all great resources to source for different topic ideas. They can provide different perspectives and more expertise in their area of their business that resonate with a different part of an audience you might be trying to reach. To make the most of these internal resources, it's important to have a strong editorial team working alongside internal employees. Some of these team members may not feel confident or experienced writing down their thoughts, and the guidance of your editorial team can help easy any anxiety they have about producing putting a high quality post, allowing them to focus on just getting the ideas down on paper.

A second way to obtain more ideas is to work with your SEO team and ideate around keywords. Using different keyword tools such as SEMRush, MOZ, or Google AdWords can assist in identifying different and relevant keywords that people are searching for. These tools can help recognize new topic opportunities that you and your team may not have thought of or even realized would be something that people are interested in and searching for.

A final suggestion to help with creativity in ideation is to invite a group of employees (across all departments) to a brainstorm session. It's important to make these engaging so attendees will be encouraged to participate and excited about coming back. Make sure to prep by asking everyone to come to the meeting with 'X' amount of ideas to pitch and provide strong feedback. You can even further promote an interactive and collaborative atmosphere by making these meetings into 'gamestorms' featuring popular activities like Stormboarding, Mind Mapping and Persona.

How do you prioritize these ideas?

Now that you've created all of these great ideas, how do you coordinate them into your content calendar? You don't want to publish every big piece of content all at once, but rather spread them out in order to maximize their impact and keep delivery consistent.

One point to consider is timeliness. Seems obvious, but if the piece of the content is tied to recent events or a specific moment in time, it will get priority over others. This will help keep your brand relevant and create opportunities for your brand to capitalize on organic and social search if the topic is trending.

Another consideration is the goal of the piece of content. If the content you are creating is around a series, campaign, or product launch you'll want to make sure you're taking the customer through the buyer's journey when you are scheduling content. Start with a 'top funnel' piece of content that is centered around brand awareness. Later on, deliver more content that is built around education and starting to engage with your established audience such as gated assets like white papers, ebooks, videos, or infographics. Finally, when you reach the purchasing stage of the funnel, you'll focus on content that's more specific to your product and brand such as demos, case studies, and trial offers.

Although a true content marketing strategy may seem like a daunting enterprise to get off the ground, it's an imperative part of running any business. Find the strategy that fits best for your brand's needs by establishing a reasonable distribution schedule, aligning content with specific goals, and tapping into your internal resources to help build up your content hub. Once you've got a strong content strategy up and running, keep in mind the work doesn't stop there. It's important to remember that this strategy is an ongoing project which will need to be consistently maintained so that it evolves over time, constantly delivering and expanding upon those important customer relationships.

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Ty Scheiner

Ty is a content strategist at Skyword with over seven years of social media and content marketing experience. He has worked across multiple industries such as travel, higher education and athletics. Outside of the office, Ty enjoys staying active and traveling the world. He has been to six out of the seven continents and hopes to knock Antarctica off of his list someday!