So, let's say you really are serious about implementing a content strategy for your website this time. Here are 6 surprisingly simple steps for you to follow:
- Conduct a content audit. Look at the content already on your site. What's worth keeping? What needs to be thrown out? Which pages bring in traffic, and which pages are never visited? Determine the "OUCH factor" for each page: is the page outdated, unnecessary, current, or has to be written? It's a simple idea, but the challenge here is in developing a deep and meaningful relationship with your spreadsheet.
- Review existing research. Odds are, in a company of any significant size, there is already some research done on your customers, your website performance, your competitors, and standards within your industry. There is often both in-house and third-party research for you to reference. Part of your job here is to paint as clear a picture as possible about these things, and the other part is to identify the research gaps that still need to be filled.
- Do primary research. You know the research gaps, so now you get to fill them in. In addition to the items above, you need to get crystal clear about your business goals, marketing objectives, technology constraints, and project requirements. You also have to get to know your customers as if they were your family. Who are they, exactly? What are their goals and motivations for doing business with you? What are their barriers? Where do they hang out online (or even DO they hang out online!), and why do those places appeal to them? What do they expect from you, and what would it take to pleasantly surprise them?
- Create customer personas. Now that you know so much about your customers, distill all that knowledge into a few well-researched, well-written personas. Personas are fictitious people that represent each of your target customer groups, but are based on real market data and customer research. Include personality, story, or lifestyle elements that answer each of your key customer research questions. Make sure that every team member gets to know these personas well, and run every web and content design decision by your personas to see how they react.
- Define your content strategy and tactics. You now have clear view of your business goals, marketing objectives, project success metrics, technology constraints, and, of course, your customers. You know where you are now, and are ready to figure out where you need to be to meet your goals, satisfy your customers, and beat your competition. In a nutshell, that's the first step of your actual content strategy--figuring out where you need to be based on all of the things above. It's really about knowing what the overall business strategy is, and determining how your web content can support and reflect that. Once you have your strategy, you can determine the tactics, or the techniques and tools you'll use to get there. For more on strategy and tactics, Chris Moritz wrote a great post for the Content Marketing Institute on diagramming content strategy and tactics that you should check out.
- Set guidelines and processes to support your strategy. Knowing what has to happen, and how to do it, is easy compared to actually doing it! A solid content strategy will fail if the people executing the strategy don't have the tools or resources they need to effectively carry it out. This is the stage where you create an editorial calendar and a writers' style guide. This is where you push to ensure you have sufficient resources to hire people with the right skill sets, or retrain the people you have. This is where you ensure that your processes support your strategy, and that they include continual testing and evaluation of all things content. This is where your hard work and brilliant insights will either fall flat, or take wing!