You know you need a content strategy to tell your business’s story, but where do you start?
This question can leave marketers running in circles. Storytelling is fun. Storytelling is strategic. Every individual at your company has a story to tell—that’s what makes putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard and Google doc) so hard.
Marketing content, by definition, is a business function that’s always in a state of transition. Today’s markets are dynamic, buyers are self-directed, and humans have access to a range of resources to learn about your company. It’s up to you to reinforce your reputation and organization’s story.
That’s a big undertaking, especially since very few company leadership teams have a precise understanding of how products, teams, and functions are going to evolve over the next five to ten years.
Done well, however, the process that you take to build your content can help influence that trajectory. The stories that you tell—and the way you tell them—will influence your company’s positioning in the market and the way that your organization builds relationships with the public. Content strategies don’t stem from journalism. They’re the mechanism of influence.
Think of your V1 storytelling program as a scaffolding upon which you add more. Here’s a simple template to help you get started, with less overhead.
1. Decide Who You Want to Be in the Market
It may take a bit of research to arrive at the answer to this question. Where your organization is now is not where you’re going to be in the next few years. If you’re part of a tech company that makes an app, you may be building towards a future in which you have multiple apps or a technology suite.
Wherever you are now as an organization, plan a content strategy that’s ahead of your organization. You don’t need to devote more budget to your program or overload your organization with the amount of content that you create. Rather, choose three words that describe the tone of voice that your organization may want to adopt.
Host an informal meeting—even over lunch—with team members across your company. Lock yourselves in a room. Brainstorm words that describe who you are as people, what you care about, and how you feel about your product. If you need more structure to guide you, work with a tool like this brand deck.
Expect some debate to take place. Perhaps you’ll need to go through this process over multiple meetings. The words you choose, in the end, will be anchors for your content strategy and a lens through which you tell your story—and influence your market.
Knowing who you are is foundational to getting started.
2. Establish Your Constraints
Creating amazing content is possible on any budget; the resources that you have now will be a footing to help you grow your program in the future. One of the toughest challenges that executives face is how to carve out marketing dollars for stories.
If you’re getting started with a content program, think shorter term. As with any marketing experiment, start with a test budget that makes sense for the size of your company—perhaps $5K or $10K.
Determine what resources you have in-house and what you will need to source externally. Do you have individuals on your team who are skilled in the discipline of writing for an audience? How much do you need to devote to distribution through paid Facebook ad channels? Would you like to bring on a coach, a consultant, or freelance writer? Do you need software to support your operations?
Understand that your test budget will enable a proof of concept. Your goal should be to figure out what is crucial to build and how you are going to build it—think like a developer.
3. Build Your Proof of Concept
At this stage, you’ll want to start with a couple of steps:
- Determine the exact use cases for your test content. Will you be sending it to your customers through a mailing list? Will you be asking sales teams to share customer stories? When you determine your use cases, you can tailor your content development and use cases, accordingly. Are your customers engaging with the stories that they’re reading? Are they following up to ask questions? Are sales teams shortening transaction cycles?
- Interview internal stakeholders (demand gen, sales, marketing, advertising) to create a plan for what your content needs to accomplish.
- Assign metrics and milestones to the questions most relevant to the strategy that you decide to pursue.
Instead of thinking like a marketer, envision yourself a builder or engineer.
Content is a product that you build to establish functional goals for your organization. The user experience layer that you create will be your voice, tone, and style. When you build your proof of concept, you’ll want to collect as much feedback as possible. You will probably need to run one to two more content experiments, following steps one through three, until you deploy your program in full.
When you’re getting started, less is more. If you write a case study, for instance, you can deliver it as a blog post, sales enablement asset, and one sheet. You can then combine these one sheets into eBooks. To take action on your content plan, you’ll want to think equally as a builder, business strategist, and artist.