However, it is not uncommon for us to hear: “Strategy is overrated. We don’t need it; it takes too long; it’s too expensive. We are already on various channels and publish our content there.” But when marketers are asked about their goals, about the meaning and purpose of individual activities, or in particular, about their proof of success, some of them have trouble answering.
It seems that their motto is “a lot helps a lot”. Often, companies publish content as if on an assembly line. It doesn’t interest anyone. And they do this even though the content producers have the dull feeling – or even the certainty – that they’re writing for the round file. Regardless of whether a user needs it. Regardless of whether the post will ever be read... Money goes up in smoke and the channels are “littered” with content. And that’s exactly the problem.
But everyone who publishes wants to be noticed – because reach and impact count. Messages should arrive and have an effect.
If content is arbitrary or haphazard, the effect will fizzle and users will quickly lose interest. And in times of limited customer attention – when many other companies are also competing for their attention – a company’s motto should thus be “smart strategy instead of blind activism!”
The goals of most companies on the web are quite complex.
They want to strengthen their image, develop new customer segments, generate leads, stage brands and products, sell products, strengthen their reputation, and so on. All of these are legitimate, reasonable, and correct.
What is missing, however, is any alignment between their own messages and channels on the one hand, and the needs of concrete target groups on the other: content strategy.
Therefore, content strategy must always be oriented toward the company’s communication goals and the expectations and preferences of the target group. It must create the highest possible relevance and added value.
How is good content strategy built?
The good news: It’s not rocket science. Good content strategy rests on five pillars:
- Clearly formulated goals
- Target groups and their needs
- Messages that fit the brand
- Qualitative and quantitative inventory of content
- Continuous success measurement (of goal achievement)
1. Clarify and prioritise goals
Before a company creates and publishes target group-specific content in the sense of content marketing, it should first clearly define its concrete goals. Large companies in particular often have a profusion of different goals, and correspondingly, they have contradictory paths. Even the goals of small and medium-sized enterprises are not always clear. Often, the goals are not prioritised.
The key question here must be: “How can content support business and communications goals?”
Does a company want better SEO rankings, more traffic, and more sales? Or do they want to generate more customer data? Companies must have internal clarity. They should collect and prioritise all their goals so that future content can be aligned with these.
2. Know target groups and their needs
Hand on your heart: Do you take a detailed look at the people who use your content? Do you know your customers? Communication goals can only be achieved if content reaches users.
A clear target group definition is therefore essential for success. It influences the content, its tonality, and the core statement. Identifying the specific features and needs of target groups is the main objective.
- Which channels do the target groups prefer?
- What content do the target groups consume, and on which channel?
- Which formats do they prefer?
- How long do the target groups spend watching content?
- What level of information do they expect and when do they change channels?
- What role do our corporate channels play for our customers? Should we perhaps try new ones?
- Where are the biggest gaps for my target group?
That’s where personas help. Personas describe a user group and a method from the design thinking toolbox that we also use in social media and content marketing.
Information from various data sources is used to gain insights into the information behaviour of customers and then used to create user archetypes. Along with a customer journey analysis, personas help you better recognise and understand your target groups – and take advantage of that knowledge.
Based on the defined personas and customer journey insights, a strategy can then be defined. Which channels can I use to best reach the persona in their customer life cycle? What content interests the persona? What added value can it derive from the content and what should it do, think, feel, etc. after consuming the content?
Don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t publish content haphazardly and incoherently – without a concept, without goals and without considering your target groups. For content to do what you want, inspire users. There is no way around content strategy!
3. Identify brand message
Which content stands for which brand – and is also relevant for the target group?
Here, you must be clear! How is your company positioned? What does it stand for? What is influential in its brand world and which themes fit the brand? Which message should be conveyed, which topics should be covered – and which not? In which area is your company the brand expert?
This is the only way to make content serve your brand message.
These questions must be answered precisely, especially for relevant, convincing, and brand-appropriate storytelling. After all, it is not a matter of simply filling the network with good stories, but of linking certain values to your own company and brand, and thus addressing the desired target audience.
In practice, a clearly formulated and accessible mission statement helps clarify the company position for each employee and regularly remind them of it.
4. Audit and analyse your content
A content audit is a method for systematically collecting and evaluating content based on particular criteria.
Basically, you’re taking stock – making an inventory. This helps optimise existing content and produce targeted content in the future.
The content audit is divided into a quantitative part, the so-called content inventory, and a qualitative analysis.
- The content inventory first captures and lists existing content. The result is an accurate overview of the actual content on your platforms and channels.
- The qualitative analysis then evaluates the quality of the content based on predefined factors. This process looks at, for example, whether the existing content fits the defined goals and what users of the channels want – what they really care about.
Content that meets the predefinded criteria is retained and, if necessary, optimised.
Dealing with the rest of the content is more exciting, e.g. finding content with high drop-off rates, outdated content, or content that does not contribute to the company’s goals and is not otherwise attributable to any goals.
This content should be examined more closely and sorted out according to the results.
And yes, it can hurt.
No matter how beautifully a text reads on the website and no matter how much work has gone into it, if it is not aligned with the company’s goals, target groups, and other factors, it has no raison d’être.
Content audits typically examine online content (on websites, social media channels, or on other external online channels). However, the procedure can also be applied to offline content (content in customer magazines or brochures).
5. Measuring goals
Do you know if your content really works? Measure it!
Optimisation measures by continuously monitoring the implementation of the defined objectives. Here, it is important to monitor content based on defined KPIs (key performance indicators). Content planning and production can only be carried out based on consistent, repeated controlling that provides reliable figures. Content based on a gut feeling is out. There are obviously certain tools that can help. But don't just rely on them. Content cannot always be evaluated with hard numbers alone.
Outlook: Content & editorial concept
These five basic pillars of a content strategy can serve as a starting point for a content and editorial concept. Such a concept defines and develops other tools and working materials (selections from the content framework depend on what is needed) as well as the ongoing content and editorial work.