Human beings are funny old creatures. We say one thing and do another. Take, for example, the sales process. We might argue we carefully evaluate competing products or businesses, dutifully filling in checklists, scoring potential suppliers against a range of criteria - but the truth is in most cases we decide based on a number of other factors that we don’t like to admit to.

One of those is authority. Another is credibility. We buy from people who tell us something we didn’t know already, who we perceive as experts in the field, and who are able to outline a believable long-term vision for our business (and that’s not a trick. We are right to do so. Organisations who can understand and simplify complex challenges are valuable partners).

It follows that for any organisation looking to win business it is vitally important to create that authority, that credibility, that vision. And that is where a content strategy comes in.

A content strategy is about communicating what your business does and how it sees the world. It enables you to speak to the challenges your clients face and explain potential approaches to addressing them. Done well, it is a fantastically powerful element in the marketing mix.

Done badly, on the other hand, it can be a detrimental to your business. Too many organisations appear to believe that a content strategy is about search engine optimisation (SEO), or more accurately that SEO is all that matters. That isn’t the case, however. SEO can of course be a hugely important part of any marketing effort, but slabs of text carefully stuffed with your keyword of choice probably won’t do a huge amount to build credibility. It is only part of the story.

So what is the best way to go about developing a content strategy? Read on….

How to make it happen

As you have probably guessed by now, the most important element of any content strategy is clarity around what you are trying to achieve. As indicated above, content (whatever form it takes) can serve a number of purposes:

  • It can build credibility and authority in a particular sphere - “thought leadership”
  • It can be used by a sales organisation to ‘break the ice’ of an initial outreach, or if things have gone cold
  • It can deliver inbound traffic through SEO

There are others of course, but it sometimes helps to establish which is these is most important to your business and optimise on that basis. Here’s three simple ways to help you do just that:

Create what you know

If a content strategy is ultimately about building authority and credibility, it makes sense to focus your efforts on those areas where your organisation has real expertise. Although it’s perfectly fine to cover a broad enough set of topics, focus as much as possible on topics that you have genuinely unique insight on. If you are lucky enough to have access to research or data that no other organisation has, use it. If your business has more levels of complexity and sophistication that some people might imagine, use your content strategy to bring them to the surface. The value placed on your work will rise as a result.

Work hard on ‘discoverability’

All the content in the world is not worth much if your audience can’t find it. Ensuring the best possible discoverability essentially involves a three-pronged approach.

Firstly, work carefully on information architecture to categorise and present content effectively onsite. Link content and make it a pleasure to browse - and easy to find something specific.

Second, optimise for SEO. Don’t compromise on quality but do ensure that the basics are done right - titles, sub-headings, alt-text and so on.

Finally, promote content through the organisation. If you have a sales team, make sure they know where everything is so they can share it at the right time. Leverage social media channels to make sure the best of what you create gets as wide an audience as possible.

Put your audience at the centre

Take the time to understand what your audience wants. In fact, take some time before that to understand who your audience is. ‘Content’ is a broad term and can take many forms, from blog posts like this through video to infographics and short social posts. Your own specific audience may tend to prefer one over the others. Try to work in the intersection between what your audience is interested in and what your organisation can talk about with authority - that’s the content sweet spot!

Finally, as with almost any other activity - always remember to define and measure success. Many organisations set themselves targets relating to volume of content created. This isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, but it isn’t a metric that is particularly meaningful to the success of a business. ‘Inbound leads delivered from owned media’, on the other hand, usually will be.

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