Section 1: Your Content Strategy Basics

1.1 Preparing your strategy

For any strategy you implement to grow your business, you need to be clear about where you stand. In other words, you need to know who your customers are and the value you deliver to them.

Your content strategy can only be successful when you stand on a solid foundation.

For any strategy you implement to grow your business, you need to be clear about where you stand. In other words, you need to know who your customers are and the value you deliver to them.

If you haven’t taken a closer look at these, now is the time.

If you have, a refresher is in order, for there is a very tangible link between these and building your content strategy’s next steps.

Let’s get started.

The difference between why and how

We’re not going to go too theoretical here; still, it’s essential to clarify the difference between the why and the how of your overall strategy. 

When you hear the words content marketing strategy, you’re talking about that strategic approach to achieve your business objectives. Creating and distributing valuable content to increase your visibility, have more sales conversations, and close more deals; that’s you why. 

This course will help bring you clarity about your why. But the most significant part of the course will be about how to implement your strategy.

That’s the part we call content strategy.

Before we dive deeper into the how, let’s make sure your why is crystal clear. 

Your Value Proposition

A value proposition answers the questions, “what problems does my product or services help solve?” and “what needs does it satisfy?”

It goes beyond that infamous question, “what do you do for a living?”

That’s not to say what you do is not important. What you do is only part of the equation that forms your value proposition. 

Your product or service may deliver the value of novelty, something you’ve never seen before. Other times the value is more about performance or how every product or service is better than before (or even the competition). 

Another value your products and services can deliver is that of customization to fit particular customer needs. Or perhaps it’s more about outsourcing a part of another product or service. 

Harder to measure, but quite compelling value deliverables are design and brand. The former could refer to the practicality of your product or service, or something as simple as how great it looks. The latter is more about status. 

A popular one is price, or how you can deliver your product or service at a lower cost. It is perhaps not the low price-point of that product or service, but how it can provide cost-reductions to your customers later on. 

This is not a definitive list, but it can give some very high-level ideas of the types of value you can provide. You can read more about this topic in the book Business Model Generation

But we’re not going to be about the “high level” here. Just like you don’t reduce your value proposition as “X is what I do,” we won’t minimize the value as “I deliver Y.”

To craft your value proposition, use the worksheet below to answer the following questions. Please note, you should answer each question for every product or service you offer.

What do you offer? 

Your offer is the easiest place to start because it’s very concrete. For example, this could be a coaching program, an online course, a health assessment. You don’t need to go into details yet. At this point, you’re putting yourself in the context of that specific offering. 

What challenges does it address? 

People buy your product or service because it helps them solve specific problems. What are these problems? When I say “problems,” I’m talking about that starting point of a journey.

Your customer wants to get to point B. What is point A? Be as thorough as you can, and list all of those challenges or starting points.

For example, for your coaching program, your clients may feel stuck in their careers. That brings them a lot of frustration and anxiety. List all the possibilities.  

“What if…?”

Now it’s time to paint a picture. Imagine what that point B looks like.

Let’s use the same example of the coaching program. You could say the client feels ready to take on the next steps of their career journey; they feel hopeful and excited about their tools to achieve career success.

The point of this exercise is to list all the possible outcomes your clients can get when they work with you.

Another way to see it is to flip the challenges into positives. For example, “frustration” becomes “satisfaction;” “anxiety” becomes “serenity.”

How do you do this?

Your offering brings customers from point A to point B. What goes in the middle of those two points?

That’s your method.

Here you need to put all the features of your product and service. If you offer a coaching program, how will clients work with you? How often? What additional resources do you provide? What guarantees?

The answer to this question is probably going to sound very much like the answer to the question, “what do you do?” 

Now you have a pretty comprehensive view of what your value proposition is all about. How can you use all of this information? Here are a few items you can craft based on this value proposition.

  • Create your elevator pitch
  • Profile your ideal client
  • Craft impactful landing pages
  • Brainstorm content ideas

We’ll look at some of these items later in the course. At this point, we’ll use it to craft the other foundational piece of your content strategy.

Your ideal client

In marketing lingo, these are what you call personas. Sometimes you can hear them referred to as the target audience.

Nothing wrong with those terms. I sometimes use them in my writing and some of my work with clients. 

We’re going to call that person who would benefit the most from your product and service as your ideal client. A persona or target audience sounds distant and abstract. An ideal client is more personal and tangible.

And why is it important to define who your ideal client is? 

  • Knowing your ideal client will set the right tone when you create content for them
  • Understanding their challenges will give you a greater insight into how to reach them through content 

You can create your ideal client profile from your knowledge and interactions with past clients. You can even go one step further and ask them questions directly. 

So what do you need to know about this person? Use the worksheet below to begin creating your ideal client profile. You should create at least one ideal client profile and not exceed three.

Who is this person? 

Describe who this person is as much detail as you can. Not in a philosophical way, of course; more tackling topics such as:

  • Their gender, age group, marital status, and family composition
  • Current job, industry, career aspirations, income level, and education. 
  • Place of residence (renting or owning)

What are their challenges? 

You will already have great input from the Value Proposition worksheet for the challenges of your ideal client. Grab those ideas there, and expand on them by focusing on:

  • Their EXTERNAL challenges: for example, health issues, financial difficulties, relationship issues.
  • Their INTERNAL challenges: for example, frustration, helplessness, embarrassment, fear.

What are their consumer habits? 

This question is a harder one to answer when you don’t have market research teams but can provide incredible value. Based on your customer’s knowledge, you could make some underlying assumptions and revise the information when implementing your online marketing strategy. 

  • How do they learn about a new product or service?
  • How do they find information?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • Where do they spend their time offline?

Armed with this knowledge we’re going understand the process that gets those ideal clients from strangers to customers. We’re talking about, of course, the buyer journey.

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