Inbound marketers use a steady stream of good, relevant content to attract prospects to their websites, where they can then start building prospects’ confidence. What most marketers don’t always know—or at least struggle with—is how to develop a smart strategy that drives all that content creation toward an end goal.
This blog post outlines the critical steps involved in developing a content strategy that will guide you as you create effective content.
1. Get To Know Your Best Prospects
Before you’re able to develop a strategy, you need to back up a bit and do a deep-dive into your prospects’ minds. For your strategy to make sense and the content to provide real value, you first have to refine and expand your knowledge of your best prospects. You undoubtedly know a great deal about your prospects, but this exercise will provide even more insight into their motivations and needs, making it easier to develop content they’ll view as valuable.
First, make sure you haven’t cast too wide a net and hone in on your best prospects. In simple terms, these are prospects who 1) stand to get the greatest benefit from your products, and 2) who can afford it and understand its value. You don’t want to include every potential prospect on this list; that would require you to create content that relates to a more diverse group with a greater variety of needs. This, in turn, would dilute the effectiveness of your content.
Now that you’ve pinpointed your best prospects, develop prospect personas. Personas are representative “pictures” of your best prospects that include detail about their demographics, professional goals, business challenges, objections they have to purchasing your product, hurdles in their paths, what keeps them up at night, their reporting relationships, questions they need answered relative to your product and more. Prospect personas put you in the shoes of your best prospects so you can develop content that’s highly relevant and meaningful to them.
Here’s a link to Weidert Group’s Content Creation Checklist & Template – a good resource to help create personas (and content).
2. Identify Your Competitive Advantage
If your first thought, when asked why a prospect should choose you over a competitors, is to say, “Our quality is better,” or “We’ve been in business 76 years,” stop and be prepared to dig a little deeper.
Your competitive advantages must be two things: 1) measurable and 2) meaningful. Quality isn’t an advantage, nor is it measurable or meaningful to your prospects. (If you ask 1,000 manufacturers if their quality is good they’ll all answer “yes.”) But if you can articulate how “quality” translates to improved business results for your target, you’re onto something. How does your quality make prospects’ lives easier? Does it increases productivity by an average of 85% or result in a reduction in maintenance and downtime by 35%? Does it last an average of 18 months longer than competitors’?
It’s also important that whatever you determine are your real competitive advantages relate back to what you know about your best prospects’ needs. If reduction in maintenance time isn’t something that keeps him or her up at night, save that fact for supporting points and zero in on capabilities that matter most to the target.
3. Competitive Advantages Lead To Content Strategy
Now that you’ve gotten inside your prospect’s head and you identified what it is you do better than competitors, you’re ready to set your content strategy. In fact, by doing those things, you have set your content strategy! That’s because content should demonstrate to your best prospects what your competitive advantages mean for their businesses.
A formal content strategy is essentially an outline of all your competitive advantages and the multiple benefits of each. You’ll use that strategy to develop content around each of the advantages. Here are examples of just one competitive advantage for 3 different types of businesses:
An Industrial Blade Manufacturer
Competitive advantage: Our agricultural cutting blades are hardened using a heat-treating process
Benefit to prospects: Our blades last an average of 6 months longer than untreated blades; this in turn reduces the number of times blades need to be replaced (and associated costs), and reduces the downtime associated with maintenance/replacement.
Software Company that Produces Tools for Manufacturer Order Processing
Competitive advantage: Our software allows for greater flexibility in creating and applying rules to orders received
Benefit to prospects: This results in fewer order exceptions which in turn reduces the need for manual intervention, reduces the length of the order-to-cash cycle and allows you to invoice and get paid sooner
A Cheese Company that Sells to Restaurants and Pizzerias
Competitive advantage: Only company-owned dairy farms provide the milk used to make our cheese
Benefit to prospects: This strict chain of custody results in greater product safety (less risk of product contamination) and more consistent quality and flavor of cheese
You should be able to identify several competitive advantages for your company, and each advantage may have several benefits to prospects. Think of each advantage as a topic “bucket,” and in each bucket you’ll have dozens of ways to explore and expand in multiple directions on that topic.
Using the cheese company above as an example, your topic “bucket” would be the company’s chain of custody. Within that bucket you could find several ways to demonstrate the advantage and its benefits:
- Comparisons/demonstrations of cheese flavor and performance
- Discussions about the chain of custody process/steps and how it contributes to better product flavor and performance
- Overviews of other methods of sourcing/receiving milk and the resulting compromises in safety, flavor and performance
- Profiles of company-owned dairy farmers
- Discussions of how the flavor and performance of cheese influences pizza consumers’ perceptions of a brand/restaurant
- Discussions of how/why cheese affects restaurant patrons’ loyalty
Don’t start writing or producing videos until you know what you're going to write about – and understand why you’re writing about it. And you can’t do that until you’ve investigated your best prospect, and articulated what you do better than anyone else. Use this guide to develop the kind of content strategy that makes everything you publish valuable to your best prospects.