A popular refrain goes, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” The saying is as true in life as it is in business. The statement is also true for content strategy, for it is talked about more often than it’s used effectively. Everyone seems to realize that a sound content strategy makes your brand more competitive in the marketplace, in large part because it helps keep everyone aligned on the goals of the brand and the audience with which they hope to do business. When done well, content strategy is an effective tool for ensuring your brand’s success, online and offline.

“There’s a reason content strategy is the next big thing, and it’s not because it’s easy or cheap,” says Kristina Halvorson, who is widely credited with being the founder of the discipline. “It’s because content is a huge, pain-in-the-ass, expensive, out-of-control problem. And, as with any big messy problem, getting to a solution is going to take time. Creating a smart plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of your web content means research and reflection. Trial and error. And selling your plan to the powers that be—winning attention, approval, and resources—is going to take even longer.”

Years ago, when you mentioned content strategy to the executives of many businesses, you were likely to get eye rolls or, at worse, be ignored. It was common for managers to ask “What’s that for?” when asked about content strategy. While needed, valuable and worthwhile for companies of all sizes, content strategy was often seen as the redheaded stepchild of content marketing. Now, brands don’t need to be convinced of the value of content strategy. They’re asking about it upfront. It’s still helpful, however, to understand the benefits of content strategy, especially for small businesses in competitive verticals.

Build a content strategy moat to order your brand’s steps

Though there are many definitions of content strategy, the central tenet of the discipline is it acts as a pilot for the creation and management of any and all content (e.g., images, text, graphics, videos, interviews, social media sharing, etc.) you endeavor to produce. When used correctly, and applied with conviction, content strategy can help chart a course for your business that ultimately makes it easier for you to find marketing success, primarily by ensuring that your team members and the content they produce are always in alignment with the core goals of the business.

The benefits of content strategy are hard to overstate:

  • Ensures you establish important goals, have in place metrics to measure them by, then keeps everyone on task
  • Forces you to ask the tough questions, and as a result you get the answers you’d never get otherwise
  • Fosters a culture of being strategic, of evolution, iteration and improvement, not simply process
  • Creates brand consistency
  • Aids the building of brand loyalty
  • Keeps alignment between brand and audience

Those are just a few of the real benefits, however. Now that we know what content strategy is, it’s important for us to understand what it does.

A sound content strategy protects your brand from content marketing failure

In a nutshell, content strategy prevents your business from ending up as part of the majority B2B and B2C content marketers who struggle to produce worthwhile content for their audience. Three of the biggest issues these businesses struggle with are the usual suspects of content marketing failure:

  • 62% are creating content simply to create content, without any clear, definable goals
  • 72% say they’re producing content without the involvement of knowledgeable stakeholders within the business
  • 85% say the content produced has no clear relationship to the goals of the business

Your competitors’ challenge is your brand’s content strategy moat

AI generated moat surrounding a small business

The single biggest advantage content strategy confers to your business is that it makes certain you’re always assigning, creating, sharing and amplifying content that’s in line with the goals of the business, which is something few brands get right. Let’s explore how your business can put the practice to work.

Get your team ready for content battle

Beginning this month, pull the core of your marketing team, and anyone else involved in creating content, into a room once a week for a 30-minute meeting. During this meeting, you’ll discuss five core elements that will order your brand’s content efforts from going forward:

  • Who are we?
  • Who are we in the minds’ of our prospects and ideal customers?
  • What do customers want in a product/service that we are uniquely positioned to provide?
  • Why would our brand be the first choice for prospects looking for those services?
  • How do we communicate our main point of difference in a meaningful way to the audience?

This exercise will  is designed to help you get your brand messaging in order, making it possible for you to stay on target with every piece of content your teams then create, whether emails, blogs, newsletters or brochures.

By meeting frequently, it keeps everyone sharp, engaged and on message; it also makes it possible for the information to filter out to other teams, who could then use these core tenets during sales presentations, speaking events and sundry interactions with vendors as well.

Guiding your brand through the process of asking the tough questions and getting the needed answers is where content strategy really shines.

Focus on areas of weakness among your competitors

Even if your competition has the needed focus to be successful, there’s a high likelihood that the areas they’re focused on don’t rise much above the brand level (i.e., surface), especially when it comes to the keywords they are hoping to rank for. With rare exception, your competition is likely to be making one of two bad choices as regards their content:

  • They are using too few keywords—only branded terms (e.g., “Kelly’s Burgers”)
  • They are using too many keywords—branded long-tail phrases that have very little traffic associated with them (e.g., “Kelly’s Burgers in Phoenix”)

A better approach is deploy a smart long-tail keyword strategy that’s informed by user intent.

Instead of thinking about your brand or the products/services it sells, think of how a user would discover them. Specifically, think of the language they’d use in a search engine to discover your brand. It’s unlikely they’d use your brand name, if they didn’t know you existed, right?

Focus your attention on two areas.

1- Non-branded long-tail keywords

These are the terms that have a higher volume of searches by users looking for products in your category. For example, a better approach to gaining traffic for Kelly’s Burgers would be “burgers downtown Phoenix” or “Phoenix best burgers” or “Phoenix best burger downtown.”

These more specific search terms are less common but are easier to rank for and, most important, are higher-converting, meaning the folks who find your site using these terms are much more likely to buy your products. Use the once-a-week meeting with your marketing team to discern the most effective means of developing your keywords.

2- Personas

Few companies devote the time needed to create these practical examples of their typical customer. By doing so, you’ll stand apart from the competition and have a leg up in targeting and marketing to your core audience. It’s simpler than you think, too. Begin by asking your sales, customer support, communications and marketing people to sketch out their ideas for who comprises your typical customer, including age, income, job, race, residence, etc., as the key markers.

Once you have this information, begin creating fictionalized models to frame your marketing efforts going forward. For example, if one of your models is Pam, a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom with two kids from suburban Phoenix, it might make sense to share content regarding kid-friendly meals or fast, friendly service to get her attention.

The key, though, is to refrain from overthinking it, which could result in analysis paralysis. Gather enough information; then go to work.

Build a fortress around your brand

While content strategy is helping you nail your messaging and keeping you on track by marketing your products or services to the right prospects, it’s also building a moat around the brand by way of helping you build an audience. Customers hate being sold but love being made a priority via products or services that perfectly fit their needs. Often, they willingly trade their loyalty for such quality service.

The better you become at iterating the messaging and the content you produce, share and amplify, the sooner prospects move from becoming customers to audience members, part of the community, then brand advocates. The benefits from this prospects to customers to audience members to members of the community to becoming brand advocates shift is immense.

It means you’re spending less to market to these folks since they are already in the sales and marketing pipeline. Also, the shift highlights the growth of your own homegrown marketing troops, who’ll likely share the story of your brand and your products to friends, family members and business associates, whether in person or online, via social media, email or one of the popular messaging apps.

Are you ready to build a content strategy moat?

Most important, if these marketing soldiers are advocating for your brand, they’re unlikely to be recommending the competition. You can’t argue with the results achieved from a disciplined, pragmatic approach to content strategy. Based on my nearly two decades of experience helping enterprise brands and small businesses—that a content strategy moat will benefit your brand as well.