What is a digital content strategy?
So let’s start here: A digital content strategy is a group of tactics you’ve chosen strategically to help you reach a particular goal in your business.
Tactics, in this case, include things like:
long-form videos on YouTube
short-form videos on social media
social media posts
live videos on social media
challenges, summits, and events
And so on.
How to create a digital content strategy for your small business:
For us at our agency, I define small businesses as being up to around $5 million a year in revenue; beyond that, businesses usually start to hire marketing people in-house. Specifically, my agency works with businesses earning anywhere between, say, $250k and $5mm a year because that’s our sweet spot, but the following information should be useful for even businesses at an earlier revenue stage.
1. Know your goals.
So many articles will talk about KPIs and metrics in the same breath as goals, but for small businesses, it often comes down not so much to things like click-thru rates and website conversion rates, and more to: what do you want to achieve?
That’s where I start with all my clients.
What do you want to achieve in the next 6-12 months?
Your answer will inform what kind of digital content strategy you want to put together and where you want to focus your efforts.
For example: If a client comes to me and tells me that she wants to write a book proposal and sell a nonfiction book to a major publisher in the next year, the content strategy we create for her will be very different from someone who has a very high ticket program or service and only needs to fill, say, 15 spots in a year.
So, start with the goal. If it’s a revenue goal, work backwards from there and determine how many sales you need (and of which products) to meet that revenue goal.
If it’s a visibility goal, determine how many people you want to add to your audience. In our book proposal example above, it’s well known that publishers look to see if authors have an existing platform, so an aspiring author might want to shoot for 10,000 followers on social media to shore up their marketability with a publishing house.
At its most basic, a digital content strategy is about building an audience of potential customers.
To know what tactics you want to add to your digital content strategy, you need to have an idea of how many people you want to add to your audience.
Some important numbers to know:
If you’re selling something online with a sales page and a “buy now” button, you can expect a 1–3% conversion rate. That means, between 1–3% of the people who land on the page will decide to make a purchase. (This is average; you may have a better or worse conversion rate for any given offer.)
If you’re selling something via a phone (or zoom) call, your average conversion rate will probably hang around 50%. It’s worth tracking to find out what your personal conversion rate is so you know how many people you need to speak to in order to reach your sales goals.
But these numbers mean that the number of people you need to have in your audience is actually exponentially bigger than your sales goals.
For example, email is still the best place to nurture your audience for most businesses, but the average click thru rate for emails is also 1–3%. That means, if you have 5,000 people who actually open an email, you can expect around 50 of them to click on a link to a sales page…
…and of those 50, you might make 1 sale.
This is not to make you feel bad about yourself, your business, or your numbers! (And remember: these are averages. Your conversion rates may be better or worse.)
Rather, this is to help you get a more reasonable idea of how many people you need in your audience to meet your sales or growth goals and your digital content strategy.
2. Choose the discovery channel for your digital content strategy
At this point, the vast majority of my clients realize they aren’t reaching enough people and that they need a digital content strategy that will grow their audience.
And many realize they don’t even really have a clear way for new people to discover their business.
I call this your discovery channel: the part of your digital content strategy focused on how new people will find your business.
There are lots of different tactics that can be added to your digital content strategy here to fill the role of your discovery channel:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
publicity (including traditional media, guest blogging, podcast interviews, etc.)
And so on.
You want to define at least one strong discovery channel as part of your digital marketing strategy; and, depending on how quickly you want or need to grow, you may choose more than one.
The metrics to track for this channel are essentially how many new audience members you’re adding per strategy, per month.
3. Define your nurture channels for your digital content strategy and choose your Power Platform
The next part of your digital content strategy that you want to focus on is how you will nurture the audience you have and are growing to become leads and potential customers.
Your nurture channels include anywhere that you’re having a conversation with your audience and leading them down the path to becoming a customer.
Nurture channels might include:
videos (long and short)
And so on.
Usually what I recommend is that small business owners choose one Power Platform where they will share their thought leadership, and then use other channels to drive their audience to that Power Platform. This is the backbone of your digital content strategy.
How do you choose a Power Platform? Well, think about how you most like to communicate — what’s easiest for you. Is it writing? Speaking? Recording videos? The medium will often dictate the platform.
For example, if you love to write, you might choose blog articles or email newsletters as your Power Platform. If you prefer speaking, a podcast might be best for you. And if you love to be on camera, video is the way to go whether it’s live or pre-recorded.
(Quick note: some people love to verbally process their ideas, but don’t want to start a podcast or video series. In that case, I recommend finding a great writer who can take your verbal processing and turn it into articles, the way we do for our clients.)
Once you know your Power Platform, you’ll want to focus most of your efforts on creating content for that platform, and let your other channels — like Instagram captions, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. — point back to your Power Platform posts.
4. Choose your Power Platform content topics strategically
Now, because we want to focus on quality over quantity, you’ll need to choose your content topics strategically.
Essentially, we want each piece of content you create for your Power Platform to help move your audience a little bit closer towards a sale.
In practice, there are practically infinite ways to accomplish this, but here are some pointers:
Think about what your ideal customer needs to know, do, feel, or experience right before they say yes to the sale and create content about that. (This is all about understanding your customer awareness spectrum.)
Consider what myths or objections you can overcome for people with your content — maybe before they even think of it themselves.
Be sure you’re writing content for your ideal customer: for example, if you sell a done-for-you service, don’t tell them how to do it for themselves; that will attract the wrong audience.
Think about what action you want people to take from each piece of content, and be sure to have a strong call to action in every one.
Once you’ve chosen your topics, you’ll want to organize them into some kind of editorial calendar for your digital marketing strategy. I offer a template of the same system we use with our clients here.
5. Create your distribution plan.
As I mentioned, your Power Platform is where you’re going to share your deeper thought leadership — but you still need to promote and distribute it on your other nurture channels so that everyone in your audience gets to see it!
Typically, for many of my clients, this means having an assistant create content for the other channels.
And for a lot of people, this is where the process can start to break down. They find outsourcing this sort of content creation to be challenging and the results not up to their standards.
There are three main things you need to successfully outsource content creation — whether that means an assistant who creates some Instagram and Facebook posts for you, or a full content production team:
A content calendar (see step 4 above!)
A brand voice style guide
And a clear content workflow and standard operating procedure
As I said, whether you have one part-time assistant or an entire team, having these 3 pieces in place will make outsourcing any part of your digital content strategy that much easier.
6. Test, measure, and iterate
The final piece of the puzzle when you’re thinking about how to create your digital content strategy is to simply test things out and see what works.
The “see what works” part is key — which means you have to keep track of those metrics we were mentioning back in step 1.
Of course, the metrics you want to track will vary based on your strategy, but some common ones include:
how many new people you add to your audience acro