Developing a strategy is complex, and for many of us, anxiety inducing. It’s not easy to figure out where to start and how to proceed. Too often, content marketers are out there working without a strategy, or working within one that is far too restrictive. When things don’t work out as planned, it’s necessary to go back to the beginning and reassess the foundation of the strategy. This is difficult because it means giving up on good work in progress, work that would be nice to complete, but ultimately distracts from the bigger picture.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, and 51% of those marketers say that creating visual content is a priority they are focusing on in the coming year.
You don’t want to, and can’t likely afford to, waste work – so the right visual content strategy can prevent this. But what makes a good strategy? You need a strong foundation, but something that gives you the flexibility you need to move – you need agility. There’s a difference between being agile and winging it – so here’s a six step process you can use to guide you.
Step One: Identify Your Core Purpose
Understand who you really are as a company and what you’re after. Your business purpose is not the same as your measurable objective, and it’s not to double your business or increase your leads by a certain percentage.
Get to your purpose by answering: Why does my business exist? If it disappeared tomorrow, what would be lost in the world? If you achieve what you’re building, how is the world different?
Spending time on this task is crucial because it informs your company culture, which powers content creation and efforts in many other areas of your business.
Once you figure out what your core purpose is and have tweaked it to the point where everyone is excited about it – it’s time to move to the next step.
Step Two: Refine the Audience
If you’re building a business and content around you, it won’t connect with your audience. By shifting the spotlight away from yourself as a company to the customer, you’ll build trust, relationships, and ultimately increase conversions. Build your content not to impress co-workers, but to impress your prospects.
If you’re a growing company and have a huge overall market for the products or services you’re offering, that’s great – but it can be problematic. If you’re defining your market broadly, such as people who lie to eat food, you’re trying to be too many things to too many people.
This is why you must segment your audience into smaller pieces. For instance, rather than focusing on everyone who likes food, you could begin with a focus on a certain geographic location who want to lose weight and eat healthy, but just don’t have enough time to cook.
Narrowing your focus shouldn’t be confused with thinking smaller. With agility in mind, you focus on the work that makes the biggest impact at the moment, while still keeping your larger purpose in mind.
Identifying a market segment you can address immediately lets you run experiments to get the information you need to continue expanding in the future.
When you know who you’re specifically targeting with your offers, you can create content to speaks to them directly. This builds a core audience of people who love what you do and will help you grow so you can choose additional customer segments in the future.
Step Three: Identify Your Customer’s Unmet Need
As a marketer, it’s easy to spend a lot of time thinking about what people want. Once you know who your audience segment is, you should do research to find out what they want – rather than working based on what you think they want.
You must find the things your customer needs to do, but cannot get done. Conduct market research in the form of surveys and focus groups to get this information. Build a list of questions to help you get inside the mind of the customer. Find out what their main pain points and frustrations are, and any other issues your product or service can help solve. Your content is how you’ll communicate your solutions.
Use everything you learn here to create detailed customer personas. Having these fictional people in front of you can help you with content creation. It’s as simple as writing as if you were speaking directly to that person.
Step Four: Choose the Best Distribution Channels
The hardest part is out of the way now. You know who you’re dealing with and know how to empathize with them. Now, you’ll have to find out where they are when they’re not busy with work and hobbies. This way, you know what channels to focus on when you distribute the content you create. If your audience isn’t on Instagram, don’t waste time and money creating content specifically for that platform! Only invest resources in platforms where you know your customers are. Use your analytics to determine which platforms bring traffic to your site and start there.
Think about where you are currently publishing your content – and the benefits of each channel. Consider how you’re promoting your content and ensure you’re following best practices to get your content in front of as many eyes as possible.
What do you hope the next step will be after viewing your visual content? Craft a buyer’s journey that will transform your content marketing into sales.
What publishing partnerships have yielded the best results in the past? Which new ones would make a big impact? Everyone wants to be on a site like Huffington Post and things they have a great story worth publication there, and if you do, that’s awesome. But look for other ways, too. What would happen if instead of focusing on that, you tripled down on a content partnership with an influencer that caught your eye last year?
You should keep these things in mind from the beginning of content ideation. All components – the subject matter, format, and distribution channel will contribute to your overall success.
Step Five: Create Your Visual Language
Your visual language is how you’ll communicate your message to your audience. Will you strictly follow your brand guidelines, or will you experiment from time to time? Your visual language should include your voice, your brand identity, a flexible and scalable design system, and clear visual hierarchy.
Step Six: Generate Ideas for Content
You’ll want to generate a lot of ideas for content at once, so you always have something to be working on, and there’s always something ready to push out in line with your campaigns. A good piece of content should be told from a user’s perspective or experience, explains how value is created for the customer, is as specific as possible, has business impact, provides some form of value – no matter the size or form.
Visual content helps your brand exponentially online. It builds brand awareness, trust, credibility, and more. Building a strategy ensures your content creation efforts are never made in vain. Whenever you get stuck, start at step one and re-evaluate.