“Content is king,” or so the saying goes. Bill Gates first used the term in an essay in 1996, but we’re still using it today. Why? Because every marketer, copywriter, and content developer knows that, without content, there’s no story. Without a story, you have no audience.
Without an audience, you have precisely zero chance of building any profitable digital following.
Luckily, a robust content development strategy can save (almost) any business from the depths of digital insignificance. In this article, we will share a few of our key steps in developing a killer content development strategy.
Content Development in a Nutshell
Content development takes every step of the digital content marketing strategy, from strategising to analysing a finished content campaign, and combines them into a single process. It may include any web content, from blog and social media posts to videos and infographics, and can stretch across departments, management levels, and teams.
A content development strategy is so much more than just creating a few good posts and exciting images. Successful content development creates links between an audience and a business using copy, images, visuals, stories, and emotions.
It’s a beautiful and dangerous ecosystem that can make or break your content marketing strategy.
How To Plan a Killer Content Development Strategy
Now that you understand just how important a solid content development strategy is, let’s look at how you can create an effective one.
#1 Set Goals
Before you can create content, you need to know your goals. What should your social media posts accomplish? Are you targeting a specific audience with your blog posts? Should your graphics convey a certain feeling or tell a particular story?
Your content is your voice, and it’s critical that you and your team understand the end goal of each piece.
When you do set goals, ensure that they’re measurable and realistic. Setting unachievable goals will demotivate your team, dooming your content marketing activities before they’ve even begun. Additionally, without clear, measurable goals, you won’t be able to define success or motivate your content and marketing teams.
#2 Evaluate Your Audience
The fastest way to fail is trying to be everything to everyone. Not every business or consumer will need your product or service. Instead of trying to throw an impossibly wide net, focus on refining your buyer persona. Consider:
- Demographics (age, location, professional status, etc.)
- Psychographics (values, goals, standpoints)
- Personal and professional beliefs.
- Pain points and challenges
- Favoured information sources (websites, media, events, influencers)
Use all available resources to get the information you need about your audience. Determine their needs, and figure out how to target their pain post effectively. Once you know that, you’ll be able to communicate with your audience in a meaningful way.
#3 Tell A Story
Have you heard of ad fatigue? When people see the same advert or post too often, they become “blind” to it – and the phenomenon isn’t limited to paid advertisements. If your content marketing strategy involves constantly sharing “my business, buy product” posts, it won’t be long before you alienate your audience entirely.
Storytelling is a great way to connect with potential buyers, make a positive impact, and still market your business. It’s all about how you structure your content and what message you convey. Are you going to tell your audience why they should buy your product (again), or are you going to delight them with a tale of heroic success?
What you say matters, but how you say it matters more – and if you’ve learned to understand your audience during step two, you’ll know exactly what story to tell.
#4 Look for Gaps in Your Existing Content Development Strategy
Gaps exist. If they didn’t, you would already have a flawless content development strategy. Now is the time to drill down and look for any performance gaps you can close. If need be, work with your sales teams to identify any potential drop-off points in the sales and marketing journey.
For example, you may discover that your social media PPC campaign is leading to several people going through to a landing page on your website. Most of these potential leads sign up to find out more about your product or service. However, very few ever open your follow-up email.
This would be an excellent opportunity to strengthen your email campaigns, evaluate and improve your audience segmentation, or even offer those leads a special incentive.
#5 Brainstorm Content Ideas
According to Semrush, almost 30% of marketers consider “finding content ideas” one of their biggest challenges – but it doesn’t have to be! There are several fantastic ways you can get a lot of excellent ideas without having to spend a dime:
- Brainstorm ideas with all the teams involved. For example, your customer service team may have valuable insights that the sales team lacks and vice versa.
- Research popular competitors in your industry. If they’re doing something right, why reinvent the wheel?
- Find influencers in your niche and get recommendations.
- Don’t shy away from (responsible) newsjacking. (ex. A solar company posting “No #loadshedding will stop us from keeping South Africa lit” during stage four loadshedding – remember, humour is a good thing!)
There are many ideas out there, but development teams need to be brave enough to push the boundaries if they want to find them.
#6 Brief All Your Team Members
Your teams may be creative, but they don’t read minds. Before your creators can give life to your vision, you need to share it with them – in detail. Include:
- Your goals and metrics.
- Flexible guidelines that allow creative freedom.
- Reference and benchmarks.
- Any similar, interesting content.
- The tone of voice.
- Buyer personas.
The more complete the image, the better the team’s results will be.
#7 Content Development
Gather your writers, editors, and designers – it’s time to bring your ideas to life. All content should have a similar structure, message, and tone of voice. Most importantly, each piece needs to play a clear role in driving results in line with your strategic goals.
- Tools to analyse keyword density and check grammar.
- Descriptive headlines.
- Lists and exciting visuals to create engaging content.
- A defined framework that applies to all content.
- Consistent design elements.
Consistency is key. Your audience needs to feel like you’re trying to give them a single, vital message that they must hear. You don’t want that message to get lost in a jumbled mess of random content.
#8 Optimise Everything
When we say “optimise,” you’re likely thinking, “SEO!”
Yes, one of the main goals during this step is to optimise your content so that Google can understand it. However, you also need to create high-quality, relevant content that your visitors will enjoy reading or find valuable. You can also optimise other types of content, depending on their purpose.
- Optimising your written content for search engines and people.
- Using rich media, visuals, and unconventional formats to engage your audience.
- Optimising your social media content through keywords and hashtags.
#9 Paid Promotion
Paid promotion certainly has a place in a content marketing strategy, but it should never be an impulsive spend. If you’re going to include paid promotions in your marketing, you should prepare for it during the content development process. The advertisements should align with the content on your chosen platform while correlating with the initial goals you identified.
Without that structure, you’re likely going to be wasting your budget and get minimal ROI.
#10 Track and Analyze Results
Tracking isn’t just about seeing which goals you’ve achieved or reconsidering the ones you missed. Doing a thorough analysis of your results can give you valuable insights into improving your future content. Consider using advanced analytical tools to get the data you need.
Audit the performance of each piece of content, figure out what you did wrong (and right!), and refine your content development strategy into a well-oiled, fine-tuned, results-delivering machine!
Conclusion: Too Long, Didn’t Read
Let’s quickly recap the ten critical steps you need to follow to plan a successful content development strategy:
- Set clear, achievable, measurable goals.
- Evaluate your audience and create a buyer persona.
- Tell a story that’ll delight and inspire your audience.
- Look for gaps in your existing strategy by evaluating previous results.
- Brainstorm ideas with everyone.
- Give your team a detailed briefing of the required content and campaign goals.
- Give the team the creative freedom to develop content in line with your goals.
- OPTIMISE OPTIMISE OPTIMISE!
- Include paid promotions in a logical way.
- Track the results so that you can refine your strategy continually.
Content development can seem like a complex, time-intensive exercise. However, if you and your team work through each step together, you’ll soon reap the rewards of your efforts.