No, we are not talking about a content marketing strategy.

Developing a content strategy is the first place to start when you are building an online solution whether it is a portal, application, secure account or informational microsite. Without clear understanding of the content requirements and a strategy for delivering it, you may wind up designing solutions that get ho-hum results or even fail.

It is important to clarify one common misunderstanding first: a content strategy is not the same as a content marketing strategy. A content strategy allows you to manage the business assets (useful information) you have in a way that more effectively delivers the relevant information your customers want. A content marketing strategy is about strategically promoting your information or telling your brand story.

A recent Forrester study revealed that 70 percent of executives believe personalization, which is the key to relevant communications, is of strategic importance. Having a well thought out content strategy will help you deliver a personalized experience.

Unlike most other business assets, content (which includes data) lives in perpetuity and is flexible. You can repackage and repurpose it. That is why a content strategy is so critical. It creates and manages valuable customer information that can be shared over and over again.

Content comes in many forms. Some examples include:

  • Video
  • Image
  • Big data
  • Small data
  • Coupon or promotion
  • How-to or educational information
  • Geo-location information (store listings)
  • Product inventory
  • And more…

The good news is that modern technology can take any siloed data that is critical to the customer journey and make it accessible to both the customer and the organization through a detailed content strategy.

Best-in-class brands have an enterprise-wide data strategy that identifies the information necessary for delivering a personalized experience. Unfortunately, many organizations lack an enterprise-wide data strategy, especially one that includes all the lifecycle touch points for a customer. A content strategy can help fill the gap. The critical output of a content strategy is a plan for how to share your valuable assets with your customer in the right way, at the right time, in the right format and on the right device.

Below are the high-level steps for creating a content strategy.

1. Start with defining your goals. What is the business objective of the solution?

Just knowing what content you have is not enough. Sharing information or creating a website without a solid strategy is like giving out candy at Halloween. Sure, you may have lots of visitors, but you have no idea if they like what you are serving. And, like trick-or-treaters, the content you serve only benefits the person who comes to your door. There is no direct benefit to you. Your content needs to align with your business goals so you benefit too.

Are you creating awareness? Are you seeking leads? Are you looking to retain customers? Do you want to upsell a customer? Knowing the desired results directs how your content will be consumed. There is no lack of content, especially when it comes to data; advances in analytics and technology means more and more data is always available. What content is valuable and what is not worth using depends on the business objectives. It also depends on the target customer.

2. Understand the target audience and its preferences.

We know this may sound like marketing 101. Even though it is basic marketing, many brands skip validating their assumptions for different solutions. We find that developing a customer journey map deepens and extends a company’s understanding of its customers. A deeper understanding enables a company to strengthen the customer’s relationship with the brand. Inward thinking, especially in a highly siloed organization, usually ends up with gaps within the lifecycle touch points. Gaps equal missed opportunity.

The process of building a customer journey map helps you understand the context in which customers interact with your brand. It can help clearly identify the opportunities across channels, devices and departments to reduce any gaps between what the customer wants and what the customer receives.
Your content strategy should answer the following questions:

  • What content do your customers need at each phase of the customer lifecycle (awareness, consideration, first contact, purchase, use, loyalty, etc.)?
  • Why is your content valuable to your customers? What are they gaining from it and what is your business gaining?
  • What are the opportunities for repurposing and repackaging content into different forms of media?
  • How can you combine content to delight the customer?

Most importantly, the customer journey map will bring your customer personas to life and help you uncover deeper and often surprising insights.

3. Prioritize your content

There are a number of important factors to consider when you are prioritizing your content. Every customer may have unique communication needs at each stage of the buying process. What customers need and want depends on who they are, where they are in the lifecycle and, to some degree, how they are accessing your content.

Over 50 percent of people using the web are using mobile devices to consume content. Mobile devices have a broad range of screen sizes (smartphone, tablet, e-reader, MP3 player, etc.). Things can get even more complicated with the merging of apps and websites. Today, responsive website solutions can be wrapped into an app. There is less screen real estate to display your content within an app-style or smartphone solution than there is on a tablet.

Simply replicating your desktop home screen on a mobile solution is a mistake. It is also a mistake to assume users do not want to access the same information on their mobile device as their desktop. When it comes to scaling your content for the smallest of mobile screens, your customer journey map and your business objectives are keys to prioritizing how you display your content.

It is best to leave the decision of how, when and where a visitor reads your content up to the individual. When you are building a responsive design, the industry standard is to build for mobile first. However, no matter what platform a person chooses, he/or she should be able to access appropriate and relevant information. If you have done a good job of creating a content strategy, you may arrange the content differently on the small screen or display the content in a different form than on a desktop, but it will always be an optimized customer experience.