With the growth of the knowledge economy, it’s clear that one of the best ways to sell your services and products is to engage audiences through content that delivers value and establishes your brand as an expert. But while your team might be full of great stories, where do you actually start? The answer is: content strategy. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful content marketers use a documented content strategy. Before you do anything, you need to define and manage a strategy, so that your content meets your business objectives and captures the minds (and hearts) of your readers. It’s critical to always keep an eye on your content goals and your content pieces as tactical assets.

It’s not about random acts of messaging and pumping out as much content as you can, but aligning your content with your specific business and audience goals. What original value does your content provide? How does it benefit your specific audiences in a way that differentiates you from the competition? Besides ensuring that everyone on your content team is on the same page, a content strategy is your road map to attracting, nurturing, and engaging prospects and keeping customers loyal.

Your strategy should define and align the needs and goals of both your business and your audiences. It should capture your unique voice and differentiate you as an expert in the industry. It should also engage and compel your audiences throughout their decision-making journey. The secret is to provide the right content, to the right audiences, at the right times, for the right reasons.

Develop your brand story and voice

The first step to creating powerful content is establishing your brand identity. Consider the unique editorial mission of your content, by developing your brand’s differentiated story, voice and tone. Your content should bring original value to your brand in a competitive landscape.

Look at your company’s unique perspectives, ideas, and messages, especially when it comes to current industry and market trends, and their evolution. Narrow your focus to areas of content where you’ll have the biggest impact, and then rally your brand’s greatest thought leaders to own the conversations in your content niche and establish yourself as an expert.

Deliver value to your audiences

Creating content with “real value to the user” continues to be one of the greatest factors for ranking high with Google. Consistently delivering content with value is not only integral to being heard above all the cacophony of today’s feeds, but developing trust and a meaningful connection with your audiences. The reality is that a prospect’s goal is usually not to find you, but to find answers. They’re searching for specific content related to their concerns.

Understanding customer intent is a crucial part of writing content that’s compelling and sustainable. Create a human picture of your niche audiences, by taking a close look at your target audiences: their specific problems, interests, goals, challenges, and most burning questions (especially those related to their points of resistance with your offerings). Define your buyer personas, examining data such as keywords, demographics, and audience behaviour, as well as what your prospects and clients are telling your sales team. Figure out the unique role your brand plays in providing solutions and improving the lives of your readers. Don’t be afraid to get personal, connect emotionally, and give them a real sense of what it’s like to do business with you. Try enlisting the most compelling first-hand stories of your customers.

You should map out how your content will touch your prospects and customers across the buyer’s journey, anticipating and adapting to their evolving content needs. Think about how you’ll engage audiences across each stage of the journey to drive them down the funnel, from brand awareness to nurturing and converting leads, growing customer loyalty and retention, and ultimately brand evangelism (customers open to upsell opportunities and sharing their experiences).

Measure and manage your performance

Know what actions your content should inspire in your audiences, along with your specific calls to action. You should define your key performance indicators, to measure your success and optimize your efforts. From web traffic to page views, blog subscriptions, filled forms ,and downloads, consider what needles you’re aiming to move.

Strategic content builds conversion over time. You can indeed establish a real rapport with your audience, through a regular cadence of quality content. But beware, simply hiring a writer is a flawed strategy. Every good writer is backed by an even better editor to oversee the process. An editor can manage your content goals and connect the dots, to ensure that what you’re writing actually meets your intent.