POV

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30.06.21

Why great content needs a great strategy

Stephen Hobbs

Strategy & Planning Director

Content Marketing

It's possible to produce catchy content without a strategy. But it won't be as effective.

Your content strategy is the framework that helps you identify your customer needs throughout their purchase journey and beyond. It shows how you can meet those needs and inspire trust with the right content.

Think of every piece of content as a stepping stone towards your brand’s marketing objectives – only with a documented, regularly updated content strategy can you map the entire path and drive the customer outcomes you require.

Your strategy should define your marketing goals and outline how to achieve them by bringing brand purpose to life. In short, everything begins with your brand’s unique value proposition, and a clear articulation of your core customers.

1. Mapping your brand experience

A great customer experience has a profound effect on behaviour. That’s why we challenge our clients to think like their customers. But before your team starts to try and empathise with people, make sure everyone understands each potential customer’s touchpoint with your brand. Success relies on consistency. If the tone of a brand’s email is at odds with the look and feel of its mobile app, it undermines the whole strategy.

This doesn’t mean you should be tempted to change everything at once. Start by plotting out all those pre- and post-purchase touchpoints – from that first Google search to your loyalty programme. This will allow you to identify the barriers in the customer journey that you could instantly addressed, as well as those to be fixed later.

This is the driver behind our iCrossing Brand Experience Map – a tool that allows you to plot all customer touchpoints on a single visual.

2. Understanding customer journeys

Once you've clearly mapped your range of touchpoints, you need to assemble a team of colleagues, stakeholders and interested outsiders who are willing to dial up the empathy and step into your customers' shoes.

Rich insights from customer data will facilitate the process here, but lots can be learned even from simple persona portraits. Encourage your team of would-be customers to think about all the ways someone might encounter your brand for the first time — for example, a mobile search while talking to a friend, or content shared on Pinterest. Follow their journey. What’s stopping them from achieving your marketing objectives? This process will help you identify barriers, such as a social post with no call to action, or landing pages with rogue links.

Collating a list of these barriers allows you to consider how you could overcome them – and a competitor content audit can provide valuable inspiration. Some barriers will be easy to remove, others will require more work. But once you have a list, you can investigate the data to understand the scale of the problem. Prioritise the changes based on the effort required versus the value of the outcome.

3. Evolving your Content Marketing Playbook

Too many strategies end up in a drawer because the theory never perfectly matches reality. That’s why sophisticated content marketers treat their strategy as a living document: a Content Marketing Playbook.

Some elements of your Playbook are unlikely to change quickly. For example, brand personality and tone of voice must be consistent. But tactics should be updated on a regular basis. At iCrossing, we recommend using easy-to-update digital formats for Playbooks – from simple wikis to fully branded, CMS-driven intranet sites. Integrate KPI dashboards and staff-facing content to encourage users to return regularly.

4. Embedding a culture of experimentation

A truly adaptive content strategy should embrace failure in order to accelerate success.

Update your Playbook with best practice examples and the results of your content experiments.

The most effective content strategies embed a culture of experimentation. This means empowering staff to solve problems by building hypotheses, and testing these scientifically. For example, “I think we can increase product views by adding category storytelling on landing pages.” You won’t always get it right, but small-scale failure will spawn more insights and ideas than large-scale success.

We'll help you build a Content Marketing Playbook for your brand

This team of specialists will identify the ideal content themes, formats and platforms for your audience. Moreover, the team will:

  • Interview key stakeholders

  • Review your current documentation

  • Audit existing personas and journeys

  • Review customer touchpoint strategy

  • Review existing production processes

  • Audit current content formats and cadence - development of long-list of experiments

Your own Content Marketing Playbook will allow you to share the knowledge, develop a series of experiments and put your strategy into action.

To find out more, get in touch with the team.

How to improve your content marketing in 2021
Download our whitepaper now

Do you have a clear content marketing strategy? Or, like many companies, is it something of an afterthought? Discover our in-depth whitepaper to help your content marketing go from good to great. Produced by our specialist team of content strategists, this piece provides an operational and measurement framework for content marketing, setting out steps to help you focus yours.

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