A Content Strategy is a MUST-HAVE, not a Nice-to-Have

Margaret Johnson Buyer Personas, Content Marketing, Content Strategy

Throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks doesn’t sound like a great idea, does it? In fact, it can really mess things up. Without a good, solid content strategy, content marketing becomes an exercise in throwing content at leads, hoping something sticks – and can similarly mess things up.

Yuck.

Sometimes I call this “hope marketing,” a term that describes how many people approach marketing – send out some emails and hope that someone will respond. Recently I spoke with an organization whose entire marketing approach is to send out sales promotion emails, multiple times a month. That’s a real case of hope marketing – hoping that the sales promo will land in an inbox (their first hope) at the exact time someone is thinking about buying what they sell (their second hope). By the way, that organization is slowly killing off its list, because no one is engaging with their emails, but that’s a story we’ve covered elsewhere.

There are some things about developing a content strategy that few people, if any, are talking about. I know this because we’ve done dozens of content strategies for organizations in all different markets, and about half of them have had a content strategy developed for them by someone else before they ever engaged with us – and those strategies weren’t working for them. At all.

That’s right. These companies spent good money with consultants to develop a content strategy that yielded no results. By the time they came to us, they were about to give up, but, given that the cost of hiring us is darn reasonable, they decided to give a content strategy one more try.

So why didn’t they work? What makes us so special? I know I’d be asking those questions if I were reading this blog post right now.

Here’s one key thing about content strategy engagements that few, if any, will tell you – perhaps because they don’t realize it themselves (?).

A content strategy engagement isn’t really about content.

That’s right. The RESULT of a content strategy engagement has content in it, of course – we call it “content pathways,” but the engagement itself, and all that goes into creating the content pathways, has NOTHING to do with content.

Does that surprise you?

Ah, now I bet you’d like to know what the heck a content strategy engagement is about if it’s not about content, wouldn’t you? Well, I’ll tell you, as long as you promise to keep reading, because there’s another thing that no one will tell you coming right after.

You promise?

A content strategy engagement is all about your perfect potential customer. Notice I’m not calling it a “buyer persona” at this stage, nor am I calling it an “avatar,” as others do. I’m deliberately calling it “your perfect potential customer.”

Here’s why – the next thing that few, if any, will tell you – most buyer personas are crap. Now don’t get mad at me – maybe yours are awesome. That would make you a rarity, and you should stand proud. Here’s what we usually see:

  • Multiple buyer personas – creating competition for your focus
  • Buyer personas that focus on generic information that may or may not be relevant to what you do
  • A buyer persona that is so general you end up trying to talk to everyone

It’s a fact – when you’re talking (marketing) to everyone, you end up talking to no one. It’s more spaghetti getting thrown against the wall, and NOT what is going to help you get better results from your marketing.

What we’ve learned is this: a rock-solid, results-generating content strategy cannot exist without a laser focus on your perfect potential customer – one profile. One. Who is your highest value target? Who has the potential to turn into your very best customer?

Because your content needs to talk to THAT person. Everything you do needs to talk to THAT person.

Will you sell your wares – your products or services – to people who don’t fit that profile? Of course you will. This isn’t about who you SELL to; it’s about the people you target, the people you market to, the people you deliberately try to attract. Yes, you’ll sell to people who seem to not fit that profile – and then you may find out, if you dig into it, that they share enough characteristics with your perfect potential customer profile that they responded to your content anyway.

But how do you know what will make people respond to you? That’s the third (and final) secret I’m going to share with you here – another thing that no one else will tell you.

A rock-solid, results-generating content strategy STARTS with getting into the heads of your perfect potential customers. This piece isn’t easy, but it MUST be done. If it isn’t done, and done right, you end up with dreck. Yes, I know that’s not really a word, but you know what I mean, right? You end up with something ELSE you’re throwing at your leads, hoping it will stick.

Yuck. Double yuck.

One of our clients had done a content strategy with another firm before they found us. They spent thousands of consulting dollars and got a strategy that created absolutely zero results for them. Want to know why? (Maybe I will share one more secret with you, after all.) That content strategy was all about what they wanted to say to their audience. It had nothing to do with that that audience could hear. In other words, they were told to talk to the market in THEIR language, not in the language that their perfect potential customers were speaking.

That’s really the long and the short of it. A content strategy that speaks Portuguese to a group of people who speak French isn’t going to work.

What language is your content strategy – if you have one – speaking? Is it speaking your language, or the language of your perfect potential customer? If your content strategy is working for you, then you’ve likely figured out the right way to talk to your audience. If it’s not, or if you don’t have a content strategy at all, then you’re missing what could be the most critical piece of your marketing plan.

I’ve given you four big secrets about content strategies at this point. In exchange, I want to tell you this one thing. Our ContentZAP team delivers rock-solid, results-generating content strategy engagements for an incredibly reasonable cost. We’ve put in hundreds, maybe thousands of hours decoding the process of content marketing and how to make it work for small and mid-sized businesses, particularly those with modest marketing budgets who need and want to focus on results. If that’s you, and you’re ready for a content strategy that will work for you, we should talk.

Regardless of how you get there, a rock-solid, results-generating content strategy is a MUST-HAVE, not a nice-to-have. It’s not a luxury; it’s a requirement. Not having one, or not fixing the one you may have already done, comes with one guarantee: if you keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the same results. And if those aren’t good enough, it’s time to do something different.