Whether it’s freelance support or in-housed team members, an effective content strategy can often feel like a heavy lift.
In our recent session for marketing team leaders and management, we sat down with experts from our agency network to explore:
- How to define and invest in a streamlined content strategy
- The common challenges to maintaining an effective content strategy - and how to solve them
- How to make the most of your resource & budget with a content plan that maximises return
- Where to invest in your strategy for better long term growth - and how to make the case to your business
Getting started: How to assess your existing content strategy
Before taking the plunge with planning a new strategy, it’s important to assess where you currently are as a business.
The data discovered from regular assessments can help inform where you head next. But where should you begin, and how often should you do it?
How often to evaluate your content strategy
Charlotte Graham-Cumming, CEO of Ice Blue Sky recommends undertaking a quarterly SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) across all content, channels, and campaigns.
“This will give you some good insights, and may throw out some surprises around who is engaging over which channels. Quarterly is good, because you need to give the campaign time to bed in and for the numbers to mean something.”
“Measure monthly, evaluate quarterly,” is the advice from Jonathan Branney, Digital Strategy Director at Banc.
“Content is a function of marketing, rather than a particular campaign itself. You can’t plan for a year ahead; it needs to be reactive because you don’t know what is going to happen in that year.”
For most people, they will find that their strategy is just where it needs to be.
However, Helene Klaustrup, SEO Director at Anything is Possible says that if you find your current strategy isn’t working for whatever reason, “it’s important to have the strength to pivot and say we need to tweak it.”
“We’d recommend reporting monthly, not to change strategy, but to highlight anything major that might require instant action. Reporting any more frequently than this will make the data completely meaningless.”
How to evaluate different channels in your content strategy
When reviewing your performance on a channel-by-channel basis, Helene advises that it depends on your business.
“It’s fine to break it down into different channels, and this can especially help teams who only work primarily on a single channel.”
“However, overall performance shouldn’t be assessed on a micro level, you still need a macro-overview - just because something isn’t working on social doesn’t mean the campaign isn't working.”
Using audience research and data to evaluate and inform your strategy
Data and audience behaviours are key factors in measuring the success of current strategies and help identify strengths and weaknesses to inform future strategies.
“To assess where you are, you need to look at the data,” says Sophie Cartwright, Senior Content Lead at Flaunt Digital.
“You need to see where customers are coming in and leaving."
"Do a content audit to see what type of content is doing well, but be honest with yourself. One of the most common issues we see is when people try and weasel out of the data and do their own thing, because they don’t like what they see.”
Helene backs this up and says one of the biggest mistakes she has seen when people are planning content strategies is “not looking at the data and making decisions purely off hunches and feelings.
“You cannot beat backing things up with data. What you think you know; you might not know as well as you thought. Also, people can get bogged down looking at their own data, but looking at competitor data can help you learn from them and take inspiration.”
Jonathan explains that content is very resource (and time) heavy, so you don’t want it to fail.
"There might be a temptation to get stuck in without doing your homework, but if you do, you should prepare for a time-sink."
Key points to understanding your current strategy
- Reporting monthly is key for catching urgent issues, but evaluate your strategy in full no more than quarterly to see real results
- When assessing your channel performance with content, don’t overlook the pieces of the journey that the channel exists in – take a holistic approach
- When auditing your content, review the whole journey – not just the main piece - and be honest about the results
- Focus on the data, and take a step back with competitor data where possible for a stronger understanding of your performance
Updating your content strategy
With so many facets and different influences affecting your content strategy, it can be difficult to pinpoint what needs to be achieved to make it succeed.
So how do you plan an updated content strategy to give it the best chance of success?
Putting the right content in the right place with funnel-specific content
Firstly, it’s important to understand the different types of content and how they fit into the marketing funnel. “You need to plan at every stage of the funnel,” recommends Jonathan.
“Larger pieces like blogs, guides and downloadable resources are only a small part of the equation.”
“Many marketers focus on these ‘top of the funnel’ pieces, but when you are planning your content, you need to consider every stage of the customer lifecycle."
"Are your product pages optimised content-wise, have you considered both the pre and post-purchase stage?"
"There is also value in targeting existing customers with content to generate affinity, which will in turn reduce the spend on your customer services."
"You need to be clear with your goals and consider which stages of the funnel you’re trying to target. You need to reach people at all relevant touchpoints, not just at the top of the funnel.”
Focusing in on the type of content that matters to your audience
In terms of the content’s subject matter and purpose, Charlotte explains that the difficulty in precision targeting “has forced a shift into better practice."
"We all like practical help. Understand what your customers; pain points are, and what they need help with.”
Knowing this will allow you to create educational, helpful content that is of value to your customer.
Sophie agrees; "The biggest route to success is finding interesting, creative content that has depth, the search volume and a customer’s interest at heart."
Key points to understanding the different types of content and best practices
- Plan for every stage of the funnel, not just the top
- Create content that is educational and helpful to your audience – not just the wider world
Prioritising your focus for a streamlined content strategy
As discussed in a recent blog post, the benefits of a great content marketing strategy are hard to overstate, but it can also feel like a never-ending resource sink.
As such, we asked our panel how they manage resource, beginning with what they prioritise.
Choosing your priorities for your content strategy
“When knowing what to prioritise, you need to clarify your goals at a simple level,” says Jonathan.
“Content means so many things to so many different people. Figure out your goals, create KPIs that match them, and understand which metrics you’re going to use to measure them. You can then decide where to allocate that resource.”
“The real value is in the strategy piece – the skill to recognise the difference between production and approach."
"It’s easy to start producing content with no real strategy and measurement in place. But being able to analyse the data and create content are two different skills. It’s rare to find someone who have the skills to both create and analyse.”
A Content Strategy focused on Lead Generation
If lead generation is your goal, Helene says that you should focus on the traditional funnel.
“To prioritise for lead generation, use top of the funnel, educational, and emotional content to pull people in.”
“In terms of format, animation and video work well at this part of the funnel as something quick and consumable that will help people remember your brand.”
“For the middle of the funnel, use practical content that people can be interactive with. We have seen a lot of success with interactive video recently, where people can make different choices based on the content they have seen.”
“At the lower stage of the funnel, use more comparative, customer advocacy-led content, analyst reports etc. then focus on sales enablement.”
Find your fit in the funnel for your content strategy
Ask yourself - how can you work with sales and what they require so that it’s fully consistent with all parts of the funnel?
Where different pieces of content are needed at different stages of the funnel, it can be difficult to know which stage needs the most TLC.
“When companies are focussing on lead generation, they expect to see high-quality content before you have established an audience,” says Jonathan.
“Use tools available to you to understand who you are and where you are now. It’s ok not to start with the top of the funnel, you can start in the middle and build out in either direction.”
Helene sums it up by saying, “where we see a weakness in this funnel is where we recommend you prioritise your focus.”
Key points for choosing your priorities
- Clarify your specific goals and measure performance against them before you allocate resource
- When it comes to lead generation, pinpoint what works at every stage of your audience journey
- Find out your weak points, and focus on them first
Managing your resource to make the most of your content
Can you repurpose content?
There’s an ongoing conversation in the marketing world around how acceptable it is to repurpose the content you already have.
The consensus? It’s about finding a balance.
“You can repurpose your content in different ways, such as infographics and podcasts,” says Sophie.
For Helene, the key is to add value.
“It’s all about how we’re making sure the formats of our content are useful for the consumers. 60% might prefer looking at the website, but some people prefer podcasts and visualisation etc. “
“You need to think of what type of formats are appropriate to spread into. It’s less about writing twelve blog posts about the same thing.”
Ask what your audience is looking for, and how you can develop from that
For Charlotte, how you make the most of your current content depends entirely on strategy.
“It depends on who you’re going after and what they want the content for. It’s about not broadcasting and shouting about product releases, it’s about what’s in it for the buyer."
"Each piece of content must now add its own value because people don’t like repetition.”
Jonathan says that if you are going to produce a piece of content, you want to ensure it answers whatever a user is searching for in the most complete way.
“You also need to think about cannibalisation and duplication because this can hurt your SEO. That’s not to say you can’t repurpose content, but make sure it’s tailored to the right broadcast and distribution channels.”
Distributing content vs. content creation and knowing the difference
When making the most of your current content, it’s important to recognise the difference between distribution and creation.
Jonathan explains this by saying, “if you have a good blog post and it’s starting to degrade or pick up, you don’t need to tread the same ground and create a new post. Just enhance and update that post and redistribute with a new angle. This will increase its performance further.”
Helene adds that you should never overvalue a buyer’s ability to remember a piece of content.
“It’s harsh, but true. Sometimes, a current piece of content may only need a small tweak to adapt it for a current trend.”
“This is especially true on social,” says Charlotte.
“It’s hard to overestimate people’s potential span when it comes to social media. It’s interesting how a different time of day or different wording of the same day can get different responses. You can use your content as a test and learn to know your audience better.”
Key points for repurposing current content
- If repurposing content, form new value and formats from it
- Tailor content to the right broadcast and distribution channels when repurposing
- Enhance and update current content rather than creating new content from it
- When it comes to distribution rather than creation, don’t overthink when it comes to re-sharing!
Boosting your content strategy with external support
Of course, one solution to resolving capacity issues when it comes to your content strategy is bringing an external agency partner on board.
We asked our speakers to expand on the benefits this could bring, and how to frame it within your financial investment and return.
Better value for your resource
Sophie explains that internal teams are limited in terms of ability and time.
“Agencies employ dedicated, qualified writers who can all bring their own flare in terms of writing style.”
“Being able to produce quality content is becoming more imperative as customers choose brands who they have an affinity to. By putting out content, you don’t just get an immediate purchase, you get someone who will continue to follow you on your journey.”
Getting an objective view on your strategy
Very often, internal marketing teams can be too close to their own brands to take a step back and see things objectively.
For Charlotte, this is a key reason for using an agency.
It’s a view also shared by Helene.
“Agency partners can help by giving you a bird’s eye view, spotting opportunities that other people can’t. Agencies are also better at spotting holes in your strategy. It could be something as simple as ensuring you have the right attribution model in place, and that you’re measuring your content properly.”
Building your business for the future
We’ll finish with this thought from Jonathan, who reminds us that content isn’t just a revenue driver, it’s part of a much broader approach.
“Content is a long-term view, like SEO. You need to prioritise where you want to be in the long-term. Stop thinking of content purely as assets and more like a strategic, long-term approach.”
These learnings were all shared in our dedicated virtual workshop series, Marketing+. Join an upcoming session here.
The GO! Network is a free-to-use marketing intermediary, connecting in-house marketers with vetted agencies that fit their specific needs. If you’re looking to review or take on support, let us know here.