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What Is Content Strategy and the 8 Steps to Create One (2023)

Today, customer relationships are often formed online through digital channels. So, one of the best ways to build trust and connection with customers is through your content strategy.

Use your content strategy to publish useful content that demonstrates your brand’s unique point of view and expertise. This will help you connect with your customers and build trust.

What is content strategy?

Content strategy is the practice of planning content—which can encompass everything from website content and blog posts to emails and social media posts to videos and podcasts—that speaks to your audience and serves your business goals. Many people think of content strategy tactically. For instance, they plan for a set of videos or a blog. However, content strategy is bigger than this: It’s the framework that helps you plan what kind of information you push out—and to whom. If your content isn’t backed by strategy, it can become busywork; a solid strategy should deliver return on investment (ROI)

Benefits of content strategy

Good content can catch a potential customer’s eye and keep them engaged. Developing a clear strategy ensures you’re creating content and managing it in a way that supports your business goals

5 questions your content strategy should answer

  1. What do you want the content to do for the business?
  2. Who is the content for?
  3. What will your content do for your customers?
  4. What channels will you use?
  5. How will the content reflect your brand?

There is no set template for creating a brand’s content strategy, since it’s dependent on your target audience. Still, you can ask the following five questions to help create the framework for your content strategy: 

1. What do you want the content to do for the business?

Content can serve a number of purposes for a business, and it’s important to get clear on the objectives you want your content to achieve. This will help you avoid the pitfall of trying to accomplish everything with your content but accomplishing nothing. 

Ask yourself: What are the business goals associated with our content efforts? What key performance indicators (KPIs) will we use to assess success? Common goals and metrics include: 

  • Increasing brand awareness, measured in impressions, traffic, and brand recognition surveys
  • Driving customer acquisition, measured in sales and conversion rate
  • Driving engagement, measured in email open rates, clicks, and time on page
  • Increasing customer retention, measured in customer lifetime value and repeat purchases

2. Who is the content for?

Identifying your ideal customer will help you understand how to communicate with them and what value your content can bring them. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What are my target audience groups? 
  • What needs or challenges do they have that we could fulfill with good content? 
  • What content formats are most likely to connect with them? 
  • Where do they consume content? 

Answering these questions will help inform the next few aspects of the framework.

3. What will your content do for your customers?

Once you understand your audience and their needs, desires, and pain points, you can set out to solve those with content. Be clear about how your content will deliver value. For instance, if you sell fishing flies to novice fishing enthusiasts, your content might be informative—like a series of articles on choosing bait, casting techniques, and types of reels and which to pick. 

4. What channels will you use?

Content is most effective when it reaches audiences where they are—meaning they can discover it on channels where they already consume content. For business-to-business (B2B) companies, that might be on LinkedIn; for a Gen Z skin care brand, it might be on TikTok. Or, you might try to reach your audience when they’re searching on Google with paid search ads or organic search engine optimization (SEO).

5. How will the content reflect your brand?

Does your content have a point of view, and what is the voice you’ll use to convey it? A distinct brand voice enables a company to reach its target audience and build connections and community. Is your voice matter of fact? Academic? Funny? Consistent messaging in your brand voice will help you tap into a target demographic for whom it will resonate.

How to develop a content strategy: 8 steps

  1. Define goals
  2. Research target audience
  3. Audit existing content
  4. Assess the competition
  5. Decide what types of content you’ll create
  6. Build an editorial calendar
  7. Create engaging content
  8. Measure content effectiveness

1. Define goals

Select concrete goals for your content strategy, and choose the KPIs you will use to measure success. Think about what kind of content would help you reach these objectives. Examples of content marketing goals include:

  • Increasing brand awareness by tripling your social media following within six months
  • Increasing customer acquisition by growing your conversion rate from 2% to 4% in six months
  • Increasing brand authority by growing organic traffic (visits from unpaid search results) to your landing pages by 20% in a year

2. Research target audience

Study your target demographic’s interests and preferred content channels so you can create content that will appeal to them on platforms they use. Two ways to find your audience include: 

  1.  Market research. Using market research tools on consumer behavior and trends, as well as conducting your own primary research through surveys, customer interviews, and reading customer feedback can help you understand your target audience, their buying preferences, and the way they consume content.
  2. Using web analytics. Web analytics will not only tell you who’s visiting your site, but also how much time they spend there, the traffic to individual pages, the number of times a page was viewed, and where your visitors are coming from. 

As you move through this process, consider creating a buyer persona, or a fictional customer, which can also help you understand customer needs and how to create content that will resonate with them. Give your persona a name, occupation, age, hobbies, geographic location, income, and aspirations, and list the types of content they consume and how they like to engage with it. Use your buyer persona as a guide in content creation. 

3. Audit existing content

If you have already created content, audit your existing assets. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Are they still relevant? 
  • Will your planned content be a significant departure from your existing content? 

This may be the time to phase some out. Access analytics such as social media analytics tools and Google Analytics to see what kind of content is most popular. Also, consider which pieces of content haven’t resonated or diverged from your goals. You can use these data points when planning for future content.

4. Assess the competition

Complete a competitive analysis that includes a content section so you can compare and measure the success of similar companies’ content strategies. If needed, search online for equivalent products or services to yours. Create a list of your direct and indirect competitors, then visit competitor sites and go through their customer experience—identifying content you like and dislike. 

Subscribe to their newsletters, read their blog posts, follow them on social media. Check out what types of content they post—and how often. If you like their content approach, consider what you could do better or differently. Use SEO tools to see which keywords are driving traffic to competitors’ sites. This can help you determine which keywords are worth building content around to help your audience find you. Collecting data tracks your competition in categories such as price, product offerings, and social engagement, and can help you see what kind of customers the competition is reaching and how.

5. Decide what types of content you’ll create

Understanding how your target audience engages with content will help guide your content decisions. Refer to the sales funnel, which is the process by which prospective customers become aware of your brand, consider your products, and eventually make a purchase. Producing different types of content can help your target audience arrive at the sale. So, it’s important to map your content to align with the goals of each stage of the funnel: 

  • Awareness. You’re introducing your brand and addressing their top pain points. Educational content and tips work here in the form of articles, blog posts, ebooks, explainer videos, and newsletters and social media content. Here, you’re introducing your brand, not pitching a product.
  • Consideration. You’re nurturing the relationship with your audience, shifting into a combination of marketing and helpful information that educates them about areas where you can claim a competitive advantage. These might be comparison articles that highlight differences between you and competitors, how-to articles that feature your product, product reviews, and case studies.
  • Conversion/purchase. Your audience has done its research and is ready to buy. This is where you can focus on why your product or service is better than others using buyers’ guides, product videos, and user-generated content.

6. Build a content calendar

Create a content calendar to ensure your content has a regular cadence and is cohesive across channels. Creating a calendar can help you maintain a consistent publishing schedule, create consistent messaging across platforms, and avoid duplication or inconsistency. Whether it’s a simple calendar or list of upcoming content or leveraging a full content management system (CMS) to manage content, creating some type of system to publish content on a regular, predictable schedule reinforces to your audience that you’re a trusted source for information.

7. Create engaging content

Depending on the scope of your content strategy, you might have a dedicated team member tasked with creating content, or hire a freelancer or content agency to execute it. Will you publish on multiple platforms and over multiple channels? If you’re planning to publish a series of articles, shoot video, or run a full social media campaign, you might want to add creators that specialize in social media or writing. A freelance strategist or agency should be able to help you develop a calendar, produce your content, and optimize it using SEO tools so that potential customers can find it more easily. 

8. Measure content effectiveness

Evaluate how well your content is performing with your audience by using tools like Google Analytics, email marketing software, social media analytics tools, and other analytics tools to track KPIs like click-through rate, website traffic, social media reach and engagement, mobile traffic leads and conversion rates, and search rankings. This will help you streamline the content you produce. Depending on your results, you may make tweaks in content pieces or change your strategy over time. 

What is content strategy FAQ

How often should you update your content strategy?

There is no set time period for updating your content strategy, but you should monitor it frequently and update it if it’s not doing what you need, such as converting leads into customers. As you check performance metrics such as time spent on a page or click-through rate, you can update the type of content you publish.

What is the role of audience analysis in content strategy?

Understanding your audience will help you know what kind of content they interact with and what platforms they engage with regularly, as well as what their pain points are and how you can help solve them.

How is content strategy different from content tactics?

Content strategy focuses on achieving big-picture goals, while content tactics are the practical methods you use to achieve those goals. Your content strategy is the larger framework that determines what kind of content you create, your target audience, and your goals.

What are the most common mistakes to avoid when creating a content strategy?

The most common mistakes include erratic publishing schedules and not measuring your content’s performance. If you’re not publishing the right type of content for your target audience when they want it, you risk sacrificing customer loyalty.

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