Let’s start with a common question: What is a good content strategy?
Your content strategy is how you plan, create, distribute and measure the content that your business produces. An effective content strategy requires excellent planning and updated techniques, as well as a genuine sense of purpose.
This post will help you implement the best tactics for keeping up (and surpassing) the competition when it comes to content marketing. Things are always changing in the world of content, but there are some time-tested methods that every business should install ASAP.
Let’s get started.
1. Creating Clearly Defined Goals for Your Content Strategy
Before we define your content strategy goals, let’s talk about something more important: the purpose of your content.
Every piece of content that your team produces should serve a purpose and play a role in your overarching strategy. Businesses get into trouble when they’re churning out content just for the sake of creating something. Ensure that you know why each piece is important.
The purpose of your content can go hand-in-hand with the goals of your content marketing team. For instance, is one of your aspirations to rank higher in SERPs? Then you’ll produce content that helps you do that. Want to drive social engagement? Publish content that attracts lots of eyes and responses.
Before you start thinking of your goals, pump the brakes: goals can’t be loose. If your “goal” is a vague “boost our ratings” type of idea, then you need to learn about something called SMART goals.
This is a common tactic used in many business departments. However, we often see content teams struggle to install such a clearly defined method of explaining their goals.
If you want your content to give you a leg up on the competition, you can’t keep your content goals in the back of your mind or presented occasionally in big meetings. You need to write out specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely aspirations.
For example, let’s talk about Ellevest. The brand works to help users “invest like a woman.” It’s a company created by women, for women – and they advertise that.
Image Source: Ellevest
On the “Our Story” page of the Ellevest website, it states that the founder Sallie Krawcheck “made it her life’s mission to unleash women’s financial power and get them invested in their biggest goals.”
So, let’s use Ellevest as an example. What would the company’s SMART goal look like, based on what we know about their overarching efforts and personality?
Specific: The specific part of Ellevest’s goal needs to be clear and attainable. Something like “reach X number of signups on our investing app” would work.
Measurable: This goal would be difficult to meet if you’re not measuring. Ellevest would need a way to monitor the number of daily signups to see how their goal is progressing.
Achievable: What is that “X” in the goal we set? How many signups are we trying to reach? Ellevest shouldn’t set an astronomical number or they set themselves up for failure. They need to use their research and prior knowledge to pick a number that they can actually attain.
Realistic: This comes back to the “achievable” goals. A goal could be achievable, but if it will drain all of Ellevest’s resources and time to accomplish, is it realistic?
Timely: Ellevest will give their goal a time frame rather than hoping to achieve the number they set “someday.” This deadline should be set according to what works for the company and is actually doable. The company will need to prepare for unexpected roadblocks and setbacks, too.
After setting their SMART goal, Ellevest would hypothetically work to produce blog posts, social media posts, and general content to work toward their very defined ambition.
Think about what your SMART goal could be and how content would play a role in achieving the end results within the set timeframe and parameters.
2. Developing a Thorough Understanding of Your Audience
Achieving your goals becomes more difficult if you don’t know who you’re talking to. A content marketer who doesn’t know their audience is like a comedian who doesn’t know if he’s speaking to a room full of young liberals or old conservatives – he won’t know how his jokes will land.
If you want to beat the competition, prove to your audience that you know, understand, and care about them more than the other companies.
Image Source: Statista
As you can see from the graph above, Netflix has grown phenomenally over the past two decades. Although some of this massive success can obviously be attributed to its collection of movies and original content, there’s another factor that plays a role: audience data.
Netflix has extremely sophisticated algorithms that recommend different shows and movies to each customer on a unique basis. The company learns a great deal about their viewers by monitoring what they watch, how fast they consume content, and when they’re likely to use the service.
Ever wonder why Netflix releases all of its new episodes for an original season at once? That decision was based on consumer data. The company realized that people were more likely to get hooked and binge a season if all of the episodes were out, not just the pilot.
Don’t assume you know your audience – back up your suspicions with tangible audience analysis data. This information should include everything from the average age range to the readers’ place in the buying journey and their gender. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to target your readers with great content.
Now, you’re probably wondering, “How do I get this audience analysis data?” Fortunately, we can help you obtain this information with a step-by-step process.
Step 1: Take a look at your social media insights. This part is easy. You should be able to look at your Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube analytics to get a feel for who is ingesting your content, as well as their age, gender, habits, etc.
Step 2: Use Google Analytics. The go-to customer analytics platform, Google Analytics allows you to create an account and learn bundles about your readers and those who stumble across your content.
Step 3: Look at the audiences your competitors target. You can learn heaps from spying on your competition. Who do they address in their content? What do they seem to infer about their audience? The more you can learn, the more you can adapt similar (or better) techniques.
Step 4: Analyze product and page reviews. There’s a lot of valuable information about your audience hidden in reviews if you’re willing to dig. What do they seem to want from products? Do they talk about their children? Are reviewers including their background info?
Step 5: Pay attention to what kind of content performs best. One way to understand your audience is simply to know what they like. That’s why you should pay close attention to the content that gets the most engagement.
Remember: once you obtain information on your audience, it’s not set in stone. Your audience could continue to change and grow, and that means their content preferences will, too. Be willing to adapt as your audience evolves.
3. Implementing Growth-Centered Tactics and Measurements
In one of our recent posts, we talked about how to make sure your content marketing strategy is centered on growth, not just producing endless streams of blogs or videos that may or may not serve a purpose.
Image Source: Databox
As you can see from the data in the above chart, provided by Databox, the surveyed marketers have very different practices when it comes to monitoring the success of their content. Some are doing so every day, but there are also marketers who only check on their content analytics every two weeks or even once a month.
To be frank, it’s difficult to know how well your content is doing if you really aren’t measuring its success on a regular basis. Growth comes from understanding which kinds of content perform well – and which don’t.
The key is to continuously measure your growth and success so that you can adapt as necessary. Whether you’re hoping to rank better with Google or simply get more attention on your blog, you’ll need to measure these efforts and come up with ways to understand which pieces of content are doing their jobs.
4. Wielding Authoritativeness Within Your Field
Really want to show off your success in the face of a competitor? Establish yourself as THE expert in your field. After all, it’s difficult to compete with someone who is at the top of their industry.
Eventually, the goal is to get to the point where you don’t even need to explain how credible your opinions and posts are – your name will speak for itself in terms of authority. For instance, think of the name Dave Ramsey.
Image Source: Dave Ramsey
Whether you like his philosophies or not, Ramsey has built an empire on the back of his debt-free living strategies and advice. From his website to his books and even a podcast, this man has done an excellent job of building credibility and authority.
Don’t panic – we’re not telling you that you need to become the next Dave Ramsey. What we are saying is that credibility is huge – and the more people can immediately recognize your site/name as a source of valid, helpful information, the better.
You might be thinking, “My industry is huge! How will I show off my expertise amongst thousands of other competitors?”
Don’t think about that right now. Building authority takes time, so focus on climbing the long ladder for now. To help you reach the next rung, take note of some of these helpful tips.
- Learn what it means to be an authority. The definition of an expert can vary from industry to industry. Take time to understand what skills, credentials, and attributes the authorities in your industry have – then figure out how you can obtain them.
- Focus on visibility. You can be an incredibly smart, authoritative resource, but if no one knows or sees you, what’s the point? Work on getting your name and ideas out there to improve visibility.
- Interact with other high-up names. Whether it’s guest-posting, interviewing, or simply interacting, it’s smart to associate yourself with the other big-wigs in your online community.
- Don’t be fake. There’s nothing worse than an in-your-face “expert” who has few skins on the wall but lots of gumption. Building authority isn’t about showing off – it’s about actually becoming the well-known expert you want to be.
Authority is an excellent weapon to wield against your competitors. However, it’s not one you can obtain overnight. Prepare for a long road of hard work if you want to be recognized as a trustworthy expert.
5. Evolving Your Content Strategy as Necessary
If you want to continuously keep up with your competitors, evolution is key. Content expectations, trends, and recommendations are constantly changing, and if you want to stay in the game, you’ll need to update your content when necessary.
Content marketing plans shouldn’t stay stagnant. Pay attention to the trends of 2020 that will impact how well your content performs in comparison to the content of your contenders.
To help you stay ahead of the curve, here are some of the biggest upgrades you’ll likely need to make in your content strategy to compete.
- Expanding beyond blog posts. We’re moving beyond traditional written content now. Keep up with the times by producing more visual content, videos, infographics, and even auditory content like podcasts.
- Including more data in your stories. If you really want to boost your authority and keep up with the times, updated information like statistics and research are essential.
- Personalizing posts. As of 2019, 74 percent of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized. To keep up with the tactics of other businesses, you’ll need to learn to speak to your audience in a personal manner and tackle the things they really care about.
As much as we wish it was, content is not a one-and-done deal. To really stay a few steps ahead of competitors, you need to be willing to embrace new trends and update old ones as necessary.
6. Highlighting Your Core Values in Everything
We’re at our last point in this article, but it could arguably be the most important one. The values of your brand are everything when it comes to earning the trust, respect, and admiration of your customers – and beating the competition.
In today’s world, being a “faceless corporation” is a surefire way to lose against other contenders. Recent statistics indicate that 30 percent of consumers worldwide often make decisions based on company values – more than they did 3 years ago.
Think about Whole Foods. You pretty much have to spend an arm and a leg to shop for groceries there, and yet it’s the fifth most popular and second most famous grocery store in America. Why? Because people like what it stands for.
Image Source: Whole Foods
Between advertising for the ethical treatment of animals and highlighting farm-to-market, individually run companies, Whole Foods has established itself as a company that has values and sticks to them. That’s why people are willing to pay $13/lb for their organic beef.
What are your company values? Why do people choose to support you over other companies?
These are the themes you need to imbue in your content and brand storytelling. People are making purchases and following brands because of their values and impacts, not just the products and information they have to offer.
Start to focus on highlighting what is important to your brand in various pieces of content. With the right tone and approach, your values will shine through in an authentic manner.
Want to beat the competition? Follow these content strategy tips and tricks. Trust us: they’re not just hyped up trends that will die out quickly. Implementing these tactics will give you the leg up on competitors that you desperately need in our digital marketing, quickly changing world.
Riley Heruska is a full-time writer at a E2M Solutions specializing in producing content in the realm of SEO, marketing, and features. Her passion lies in helping others through the use of written word, and she can often be found sharing her travels from around the world.