Users expect brands to deliver them the right information at the right time on the right platform. As a result, digital content needs to fit with user needs as closely as possible. Unfortunately, this can lead some organisations to become obsessed with market research at the expense of content strategy.
Get started with these 5 steps and ensure your content strategy remains simple, flexible and usable.
1. Turn your audience segments into user personas
Marketing departments – especially those which are campaign-led – have traditionally thought about audiences in terms of segments. Segments based on age, gender, social class, place of residence and other demographic data. And there are often a lot of them – sometimes as many as 20, 30 or even 40.
It turns out, though, that if you group your audiences by their attitudes and motivations instead – such as technology preferences and feelings towards other brands, for instance – then you can start to spot behaviours common to many of these segments.
This is the starting point for creating a set of user personas or composites which, based on market research, will help you get a much clearer understanding of how your users actually behave – and the types of content they enjoy and require.
One company that is doing this well – and in a really fun way – is email marketing service provider MailChimp. Building on the demographic data it already knew about its customers, the company interviewed users from popular industries to understand their motivations and needs. The results were turned into a series of profiles, like Mario, the cool Studio Consultant, Eliza, the smart PR Manager, and so on.
2. Define your customer’s life cycle and touchpoints
With your user personas in place, the next step is to define your customer’s lifecycle, and to understand all of the touchpoints where they are likely to come into contact with your brand.
This might be when they first stumble across your business in their search engine results, see your ad online, visit your shop, or read reviews about your brand.
For some brands – such as public bodies or charities – consumers are not strictly ‘customers’ in the traditional sense because they aren’t buying products. But the goal remains the same: to push these consumers further down the sales funnel to the point of conversion – in this case, to make a donation.
Other brands might be purely focused on e-commerce and simply want to nudge consumers into a website buying funnel. Still other brands might decide to focus more on stimulating board-room discussions about major capital investments by sharing content through social media.
3. Map your user personas to points in your customer’s life cycle
This is where the detailed work takes place. First you need to rank your user personas in order of importance to your business. What’s your core audience? Who are your more casual users? This can deliver some surprises. You might find, for example, that your most valuable consumers do not actually make up the majority of your website visitors.
With your rankings in place, you then need to map the content requirements of your user personas to the relevant touchpoints in the customer lifecycle. This begins to give you a feel for prioritising content requirements overall and sharing them with the relevant internal departments.
You might find, for example, that your product pages are receiving more traffic than you expected, but not generating the sales you would like. If that’s the case, you might need to schedule a copywriting workshop with your product teams to help them optimise their content.
4. Identify content gaps and opportunities
When you’ve identified the most important content requirements of your users, and gained input from internal stakeholders, you can begin to audit your existing content to see how existing content meets these requirements and where you might have gaps.
If you find that most of your users engage with your content on mobile, for instance, think about how much of your content is optimised for that experience. You can then begin to identify where existing content needs to be edited and new content commissioned.
At Sticky Content, we’ve refined our auditing process over more than 17 years of working with digital content, and can tell you how well your current content supports your business objectives, communicates your brand and serves your users or customers.
5. Devise key messages and phase delivery
By now, you should have a good idea of what key messages you need to be creating – and on which platforms – for each of your user personas. The next step is to create some adaptive copy templates or content formats for key content types – such as your product pages.
These standardised templates provide a really useful way of structuring content items of the same type, and will give you a clear idea of how your content will look before it’s created. Copy templates will help you to:
- increase usability on your site by remaining consistent and structured
- improve your seo copywriting by clearly defining where to insert headings, subheading and links
- focus your content planning and strategy by mapping certain content types to specific audiences and business goals
- manage your team of writers by providing clear guidance and rules
Follow this up by creating an informative and clear editorial calendar to stay on top of your content plan for the year and any forthcoming deadlines. You might even like to create a hub of messages to be used as an internal resource by stakeholders.