Have you been scrambling to create, publish, and share content, only to see it fall flat? Every content marketer has been through that, and it sucks.
The sense of urgency around content marketing has led many businesses to jump right in, pumping out blog posts and tweeting up a storm without an explicit content marketing strategy. But skipping the strategy can mean that your content doesn’t connect with your buyer personas, leading to subpar traffic and engagement.
It’s straightforward enough to figure out which social platforms you need to use, or whether your persona would prefer an ebook or a webinar. But what should you write about? How do you establish a “voice” for your brand that will appeal to potential customers? How do you allow different writers to inject their own personality, but maintain that company voice?
That’s why it’s so important to define – like, actually write out in a document of some kind – the scope and tone of your content efforts.
Defining the Scope and Tone of Your Content
Finding the overlap of things that are relevant to both you and your audience is the core of your content strategy. I’m going to say something controversial here: relevance trumps storytelling.
I don’t mean to devalue your company personality or history—people want to know that there’s a human behind the content they’re consuming. I simply mean that you will never be as interesting to people as the value you offer them.
So how do you zero in on that value? Start with these questions:
What problems are your buyer personas looking for help with? The value you offer your audience is the reason you have their attention, and if you don’t give them what they’re looking for, you won’t have it for long.
What appeals to them about your products or services? Your emotional connection with your customers should be the defining tone of your content. I know everyone uses Red Bull as an example, but that’s because they’re spectacular content marketers. Remember the “Red Bull gives you wings” campaign? With that in mind, take a look at The Red Bulletin. They’ve tapped in to the desire for adventure—the drive to do more—that their customers associate with them, and created a huge range of excellent content around it.
How do your personas want to be spoken to? Everything from the vocabulary you use to the paragraph length, sentence structure, and formality of your writing will make your audience feel more or less at home with you.
Remember, you are the authority on your business topics, and that’s what people come to you for—reliable, up-to-date content that breaks down essential information in the format and language that your buyer personas want.
It’s important that the scope and tone of your content be documented for your team, so you can be consistent from author to author and post to post. This may include policy surrounding general topics, industry terms, humor, and questionable language, along with descriptive words to paint a picture of the voice you’re trying to achieve. Knowledgeable, fun, witty, and forward-thinking would be a few of ours.
This may (my journalism background says “should”) also include a style guide. For example, will you use “e-book,” “ebook,” or “eBook”? What capitalization standard are you going with for post titles? What’s your position on the Oxford comma? In web writing, consistency is a primary indicator of professionalism.
Finding Your Ideal Content Formats
The format you use to deliver your content is equally important to your company’s content voice as the subject matter you offer.
You have a wide array of types of content that you could produce, but not all of them will actually help you. Moreover, not every type of content is appropriate at every stage of the sales funnel.
Does your buyer persona prefer to skim a blog post, or watch a video? If they’re multitasking while they do industry research, they may not want to stop everything and watch your video. However, if they don’t want to read through an ebook to get to the good stuff, a short video might be perfect.
Whether you produce a case study, white paper, blog series, or webinar, the format needs to be appropriate to the buyer persona and the stage of the sales funnel, or your results won’t be ideal.
However, it’s not as though a given piece of content should only appear in one format. Repurposing your high-value content for multiple platforms is a huge part of successful content marketing. For example, our most successful ebook started as a series of blog posts, and we’re currently turning it into a series of SlideShare decks.
Even if you create the perfect content for your buyer personas, it can't get to your audience all by itself.