How to build a content strategy: Phase one
Updated: Apr 7
Creating a content strategy can be a real pain while you’re also dealing with the day-to-day business of running your department. Annoyingly, planning a strategy isn’t something that can be done in between meetings. It takes a lot of time, dedication and research. We’re not talking days, we’re talking weeks or even months – especially for a product as competitive as Stocks and Shares ISAs which is my speciality… is there one square inch of the London Underground which isn’t plastered with ISA ads at this time of year? Luckily, over the past six months I’ve had a lot of spare time. I’ve managed to refine and finesse something which I never seemed to fully accomplish before - a complete 12 month content strategy. Looking out over the whole year, this strategy is designed to help you plan ahead and cover everything. Of course, you can use it for any product, I’ve chosen Stocks and Shares ISAs because I'm an investment copywriter.
Here's phase one of your three-part complete guide to planning a content strategy.
Welcome to phase one of your content strategy!
This my suggestion of what you should be doing in the first five months to get maximum return on your content. For this example, I've started off in April, as is the beginning of the financial year. However, you could also begin in January or the birthday of your company ... whenever suits you best.
April & May : Define your audience
Phew! ISA Season over. Hopefully you’ll also have acquired a new collection of customers and feedback. Now is an excellent time to stop and re-evaluate who exactly you're dealing with.
“Whoever understands the customer best, wins.” - Mike Gospe
Why do you need to know your customers? The best marketing departments will know everything that there is to know about their audience. Some of the basics are:
Profession and education
Whether they have families
Their motivations for investing
How much they have to invest
What holds them back from investing
Their interests and hobbies
Where they get their information from
What channels they use to get information
What they expect from their ISA provider
Once you have these answers, you can segment your audience into categories so you know what you’re dealing with and who you’re talking to. For example, your client base could consist of 30% “optimistic retirees”, 30% “cautious parents” and 40% “ambitious professionals”. Getting an accurate name for your segments is helpful, mustard have created this useful guide to help you.
You can get this information in a few different ways, using quantitative market research (such as a few survey questions for each customer) or qualitative research (such as a few in-depth conversations with customers who are representative of the wider group). I like to use a mix of both. A company who I’ve worked with in the past and are really good at this are called Two Igloos – they create very comprehensive reports of your customer base.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” - Peter F. Drucker
June, July & August : Define your message & channels
Now that you have a good handle on who your customers and target customers are; you can start to figure out what you want to say to them and how you want to say it. The channel is where you find your customers, it's how you get their attention. The message is what you want to say, its your moment to make an impact.
“I am all for conversations, but you need to have a message.” – Renee Blodgett
Refining and defining your message
This might sound like an easy step, but it’s really not. Reducing your whole service down into a memorable tagline is tricky business. I'd start from the bottom up, by collecting all of your customer motivations, concerns and expectations together. From there you can work on communicating how your service offers them a benefit.
Thinking of your customers, it helps to focus on why they are interested in investing. Ask yourself what are the benefits of investing for each customer segment? What are they hoping to achieve? What images come to mind? …. A family moving into a countryside cottage? A retired couple enjoying sunset on a tropical beach? Parents supporting their supporting their child through university? Create mood boards and test out your messaging to see what sticks.
Each of your client will have different motivations for investing. Your content will need to help bring them out.
Each customer will also find different aspects of your service appealing or unappealing. For example, some may value low fees and minimum fuss, while others may prefer more hands-on management. As a content manager, you’ll need to match the benefits to the people, and communicate them clearly. This is where the different messages link to the choice of channel. You should aim to have one clear message, and a few sub-messages, which clearly highlight the benefits to the customer.
You’ll probably find that you’ll need different messages for new and existing customers. Investing all your wealth is a big deal and existing customers probably want reaffirmations and reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. You might find that they respond better to the “feel good, well done for being responsible, we’re right here if you need us” sort of messages to hit the right note. This is especially important in the run up to ISA season when every competitor seems to be offering money for transfers. Get in there early and help to build that extra cushion of trust and loyalty. Finding the right tone of voice is important. Take the time to really craft what exactly you want to say and who you want to say it to.
“Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.” – Jay Acunzo
Once you’ve honed your message and sub-messages, tested it with various surveys and got an initial sign-off from compliance your next task is to find the right channels to showcase it.
Matching your channels to your customers
This is a delicate operation. By posting ads on the wrong medium you could wind up frustrating potential clients. Does anyone want to unwind on Instagram and be faced with a massive campaign about ISAs? Not really. It’s important not to alienate or crowd people with the choice of channel and how often to post.
That said, some channels are no-brainers. Obviously your website and app are your flagship stores, and you’ll be making use of customer accounts.
Other possibilities include:
Getting customer email addresses
Having a social media presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TickTok …)
Which print periodicals to appear in
Which online periodicals to appear in
Having a blog space
Featuring on influencers’ blogs
Interviews with publications and influencers (print and film)
TV ads, radio ads, online ads, print ads – such as with discount codes
There are loads of options, with more being created everyday. Instead of doing many, its better focus on a few and do them really well. Always put your customer at the heart of your messaging and channels, make it easy for them to see how you're a benefit to their life.
Some of your channels are more strategic than others and can kill two birds with one stone. Blogs is an obvious must-have because they have the potential to enhance your SEO strategy significantly, and build trust over time. They’ll also give your brand a reassuring voice and personality. Aim to have at least one blog published a week, ideally more, with your target search terms appearing in the heading. I’ll explain a lot more about how this works in the next sections. In the meantime, if you need to create a series strategic blogs, it’s a good idea to get a freelance copywriter (like me!) to get the ball rolling.
“When you are first getting started on social media, you really need to do your research… don’t just choose a channel because Facebook owns the world or because everyone’s doing Twitter.”
September : Present and finalise your audience, message and channels
After the quiet summer months , the finance world shakes itself awake again and everyone is back in the office. Now is the time to put it all together into a clear and precise presentation. In one smooth document, you should have lined up:
Your customer and target customer segments
Your key message – broken down into sub-messages for different client groups
Your channels, frequency of use and justifications
Bring everything together to show your department and company what you’ll be saying, to who, on what channels and why. September is the time for presenting strategies and finalising feedback or changes. When you do it before, nobody is in the office and if you do it after, you're already running behind competitors.
Getting sign-off from compliance now is critical so that you can move forward into implementing your content strategy.
... In the next blog post, I'll explain the following stages of what you need to do to put your plan into action and get maximum return for your content....