If creating a content strategy was one of your 2020 goals, you’re not alone. Many marketers have prioritized content on their to-do list for the new year. But like most strategic endeavors, research is an important first step. Before you jump in on creating a plan, you need to ask a few questions to help point your content strategy in the right direction, and make sure it’s best positioned to achieve your goals.

Question 1: Who is your audience?

Before any work begins on your content strategy, the first question to ask is, “Who are we trying to reach?” Think about the age, gender, geographic location and even life experience of the consumer you’re trying to engage. Beyond that, think about their motivations: What are they trying to achieve? What are their points of pain? What kind of content is going to solve their problem?

Defining your audience will not only help make sure your content is relevant, it will help you choose the right channels to tell your story. For example, are you trying to reach Gen Z readers? Then you probably don’t want to focus on Facebook – and your content needs to be delivered in easily digestible bites, probably with a healthy dose of video peppered in. Are Baby Boomers looking for a second career in your sweet spot? LinkedIn is probably an important vehicle for your content – and you can use a few more words to tell your story.

Question 2: What is their customer journey?

Now that you know who you want to connect with, you need to consider what they need, what your content is helping them achieve and how they might interact with your content at different points in their decision-making or information-gathering process. From learning about your brand on social media, to receiving a “thank you for your purchase” email after their purchase, there are many points in between where consumers could and should be engaging with value-added content from your organization.

Let’s think about a consumer considering the purchase of a new software solution, for example. If you are a SAAS provider, they might first see your brand in an organic social media post on Instagram – or maybe a paid digital search ad. Once they know your name and what you do, they may seek out content that shows the benefits of your platform, learning about what problems you can solve and how your solution will make their way of doing business better. The next point of contact might be testimonials, case studies or other storytelling pieces that share competitive advantages in a real-life framework, and help reinforce the “why” of their decision-making process. All of these pieces of content are moving the client toward the end-goal of a purchase.

The important thing to remember is, your customer journey is probably not a straight line from point A to point B. There will be many entry points to your content, and how and when each specific audience gets from point A to point B may be very different. Though it’s not a one-size-fits-all map, by doing some surveys, executive interviews or even focus groups with your existing clients will help you explore their roadmap and their process, and better predict how you can put the right content in their path at the right time to incite them to take action.

Question 3: What are your competitors doing?

Take some time to dig into your competitor footprint. Identify your top 3-5 direct competitors, and take a hard look at what they’re doing – and how you can do it better.

A competitive audit is a critical part of any content strategy’s foundation. First, research what key messaging your competitors are using, so you can prepare pivot statements and rationale to help counter their claims, and ultimately better position your brand against theirs. Then, you can use this information to shape your own messaging and better showcase your own competitive advantages.

Also, consider where your competitors’ content is performing well, and let that information guide your own content placement decisions. If your competitors are killing it on Twitter, consider engaging with customers more on that social platform. Or, if a competitor’s video series is getting earned media attention, think about how you could better leverage video to move the needle with your own customers. Remember, you’re not looking to copy your competitors’ strategies, but to emulate the best practices that might also work for your brand.

By designing your content strategy around a solid foundation of research, you’ll have all the information you need to create content that will resonate with your audience, and connect with your brand.

Want to learn more? Contact us today and discover how Willow can help you create a content strategy that works.

Erin Witt Headshot

Written by Erin Witt

"She believed she could, so she did."