Using content to win new customers is not something many businesses know too much about. Yet even those that say they’re engaged in content marketing don’t often venture too far beyond having a website and writing the odd news update.

Which means there’s content (and some half-assed marketing), but no real strategy.

Strategy is important

Why? Well, the answer to this one is worth a blog post in itself. However, it’s a bit like baking a cake. Simply chucking the right ingredients into your bowl isn’t going to provide you with delicious results. You need to combine the ingredients in certain ways, in a certain order, and cook them for a certain time in order to produce a show-stopping treat.

In other words, you need a recipe. And the same goes for your content.

Is a content marketing strategy the same as a content strategy?

We should note at this point that these terms have been used interchangeably over the years, even by organisations like the Content Marketing Institute, so you’d be forgiven for doing the same. And for the purpose of this blog post, which is simply looking to help you get started putting your content to better use, we’ll treat them as more or less the same thing. But if you want to delve into the finer details, this is an interesting read: How Content Strategy and Content Marketing Are Separate But Connected.

Focus on the details, not the design

Before you get started, remember that you’re not looking to create a work of art. Unless you’re presenting this strategy to another party, all you really need is a single page ‘statement of intent’ that encompasses all the relevant details of your plan. There are many wonderful downloadable templates out there to help you make it look beautiful later on. But for now just concentrate on the nuts and bolts of what will make your content work hard for you—the why, what, who, how, where, and when of your content marketing.

1. Why are you doing this?

In other words, what do you hope to achieve through creating your content—is it brand awareness, finding and converting new customers to leads, nurturing current clients, or a little bit of everything?

2. What types of content do you need to produce?

The answer to 1. will not only determine how your website needs to work, but what content you’ll need to focus on. For example, brand awareness might only require blog post-style content and maybe some videos or podcasts, while conversions will require a combination of ‘offer content’ (e.g. downloadable ebooks, webinars you need to register for), landing pages and forms.

3. Who is your audience (and who will be writing for them)?

It’s difficult to create content for someone if you don’t really have an idea who they are. Again, who your audience is depends on why you’re doing this. Brand awareness might mean you want to raise your standing within the industry, which could make your focus those peers and influencers you already work with or aspire to emulate. While a focus on gaining new customers means thinking about the type of person who would use your service.

Oh and don’t forget that in order to produce professional content that speaks directly to your audience, you’ll need someone with a flair for good writing and editing . Messy, incoherent content won’t get you anything but scorn—or, worse, ignored.

4. How can you help them?

Content marketing should always be educational. You need to create content that helps your audience and therefore encourages them to view you as a trusted source. This means having a good think about the types of problems that they’re facing in their own lives, the questions they’ll be asking to solve them, and how you can provide the answers to help.

A useful way to get started is by jotting down all the questions you (or your client-facing staff) have ever been asked about your business and/or products. This should give you an excellent idea of the problems facing prospective customers and the questions they’re currently asking to solve them.

Once you have a list, you’ll have a better idea of the content you can create to answer those questions—to showcase your business as an authority in your industry and highlight the USPs that give you standout from your competitors. These questions will also help you identify the types of keywords that you should be targeting with your content titles, with both your audience and SEO in mind.

5. Where should you share your content?

Having good content on your site is all well and good, but you can’t simply wait for it to appear in Google’s search results—you have to get out there and share it! Which means becoming a social media monster and engaging on those platforms where you know (or can at least guess) your audience hangs out. This usually means either Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

While you’re there, it also doesn’t hurt to build up a following, engage with likeminded people in the industry, and share anything of theirs you think your own audience will find interesting. You never know when they’ll do the same for you—finding you a bigger audience than you could get on your own.

6. When should you share your content?

Consistency is key, so never bite off more than you can chew. It’s far better to start small (say with 2 blog posts a month) and build from there, than to come crashing out of the gates with 12 blog posts a month, only to crash and burn a few weeks later. As for days of the week to publish and share, it’s widely thought that Mondays and Fridays (as well as weekends) won’t provide you with your biggest audience. However, feel free to experiment, as your own particular audience might break those rules!

Once you’ve answered all those questions, you should now be able to produce a solid content calendar that encompasses all the thinking above. Now go get creating!

Do you need a little more help getting your content marketing up and running? Is your website even content-marketing ready?