By Alex Zlatin, Maxim Software Systems
We live in an information-flooded era. 2019 Adobe Brand Content Survey found that most consumers constantly “multi-screen” (which means they consume content from more than one screen at the same time) and consumers in the U.S. estimate they engage with their devices between 8.8 to 11 hours per day. It seems that everywhere we go, anything we try to look up returns endless amounts of both relevant and irrelevant information. Your potential and existing clients are facing the same information overload that you are.
So, when we are looking at ways to engage our target markets, we must take into consideration the abundance of information out there and ensure that our message is crystal clear. It must bring value without asking anything in return and, most importantly, that it is repetitively communicated.
How Is A Content Strategy Created?
Simply creating content is a step in the right direction, but without a clear strategy, it might not be enough, too vague, or just not enough to get the desired results. For any complex initiative, a properly designed strategy (which is both robust and flexible) can be the difference between success and failure. When we look at designing a content strategy, one must look closely at the following points:
1. Defining A Theme And Message
Like any good story, our content strategy must contain the end result. The purpose of our strategy should then guide us through the creation and measurement of campaigns. Defining a theme for your content might be the most difficult task at hand. It is, also, the most important one, as it guides everything else.
The best way to approach this task is to ask yourself: “what do I want to be known for?” Once you have your answer, don’t rush into implementation. You should check if one of your competitors has already occupied the positioning you envisioned for your company. If you found such a competitor, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should find yourself a different thing to be known for. You might choose to still go in the same direction. But, in this case, you should be aware that you are going to be competing for a similar position.
So, you better do it way better than your competitor.
Once a theme has been selected, you should make a list of messages that correspond to the theme and will be used to create a variety of content. These messages, in essence, encompass the things that you (and your company) do and how you do them. Instead of a generic feature/benefit message, you should share a story about how your product/service helped a client deal with a problem/challenge. Consider the message a wrapper for your product/service and make sure that there is a clear point to each message and that it is in-line with your selected theme.
2. Identifying Your Target Markets
You cannot create content on a topic without knowing who your audience is. Any content, whether a presentation, blog post or podcast, must be tailored toward the people who will be consuming it. This is why identifying your target markets is a crucial step in the creation of a content strategy.
At a broad level, you might only come up with one target market. However, it is important to ensure you are able to divide it into a variety of unique groups of people. The old-school approach was called “segmentation”. It talked about dividing your big target market into smaller groups based on social-economical, geographical and other criteria.
The new way of doing this properly is a variation of “journey-mapping”. You have to identify your perfect client and outline their decision making and process through their purchasing cycle. Going through this exercise will allow you to identify all the information you need for an effective content strategy.
3. Content Creation
Once you have the theme, messages and target markets identified, the next step is to allocate resources for the actual authoring of the content. This can involve a copywriter, graphic designer, and even out-sourcing. However, these people must be knowledgeable and committed to ensuring the content is created at the highest level. Creating the content is easier when you have the guidelines from item #1 and #2.
Having said that, it is important that the content created brings value to all who consume it. This is the only way to progress toward a successful content strategy.
Consistency is important in everything you do. But in marketing, it is instrumental. Without consistency, ALL your marketing efforts are futile, as consumers will not be able to associate a single type of message to you. Flooding consumers with multiple themes is the equivalent of an athlete wearing gear from 10 different sports. As you look at them, you will not be able to determine which sport they play. Similarly, your consumers will not be able to identify your main theme and will remain confused.
The easiest way to ensure consistency is to ask people within your organization to provide feedback on a piece of content. If their feedback is in line with your theme, you’re on the right track. If it is not, it means you should probably go back to the drawing board.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, your content strategy must be, not only robust but flexible. The reason why is simple: Just because you (and your team) believe a theme or message is of value to your consumer, does not mean the actual consumer values it. Engagement levels are a key indicator of the value it brings. So, if you see that a certain message performs better than another one, your strategy must be flexible enough to make changes to the message according to what you are able to measure and gauge.
Measuring is the final step of any strategy implementation and the results must be incorporated back into the implementation to ensure it is always optimized for best results.
It is important to note that a content strategy does not possess a quick ROI. As such, it must be backed by upper management to be sustained properly through time.
Any content strategy must be a part of an overall marketing strategy for the organization. Consistency between the overall marketing strategy and the content strategy is imperative to ensuring the entire organization is in sync. Any content must complement any other activities done through marketing and even at times augment it. For example, if there is an event organized by the marketing department, content can be created before, during and after to maximize engagement.
Content is a way to engage with consumers and must remain fluid, to adapt to trends, and encompassing to ensure you are relevant to your consumers and delivering value constantly and consistently.
About The Author
As the CEO of dental practice management software company Maxim Software Systems, Alex Zlatin helps struggling dental professionals take control of their practices and reach the next level of success with responsible leadership strategies. Leveraging over 11 years of management and consulting experience, he empowers organizations to become more productive and profitable based on the belief that successful businesses establish a genuine connection with employees, stakeholders, customers, and vendors. Alex volunteers his time and expertise to various professional organizations, such as serving on the Advisory Board for AMBAC (Association of MBAs in Canada), as a business mentor to young entrepreneurs for Futurepreneur Canada, and by launching his a not-for-profit organization, Dental Office Managers Association of Canada.