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Lifting the Lid on Content Strategy

Charlotte Hollow 5 January 2022

If you’re reading this blog, you probably work for a financial services company on commissioning, producing and managing content. That means you’re almost certainly already doing elements of content strategy as part of your day-to-day working life – perhaps without even realising.

But ask yourself this: when was the last time you paused to reflect on the success of the content you’re producing? Do you know what success looks like? That’s not a trick question. There’s no right or wrong here. The answer will depend on your organisation’s unique objectives – and that’s where content strategy can play a role.

Content strategy – a shape-shifting concept

If you’re looking for a single definition, then you’re going to be disappointed. Content strategy is a broad church, and just like a shape-shifter, it can change its form or identity to suit its circumstances.

Content strategy helps organisations provide the right content, to the right people, at the right times, for the right reasons (Content Marketing Institute blog).

A content strategy takes your business goals and then uses content as a primary means to achieve those goals (Hubspot blog).

Content strategy concerns itself with the vision – the ins and outs of how and why your content will be created, managed, and eventually archived or updated (Moz blog).

It’s helpful to think about content strategy as the thought process and planning that links the content you’re going to produce to your business objectives. When you think about it like this, it’s clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, there shouldn’t be; it will be different for every organisation. And as your business objectives and audience preferences change, your strategy should change along with them.

Under the bonnet of content strategy – what does it all mean?

Content strategy can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into its constituent parts can help make it digestible and manageable.

The right people

Put another way, this is about identifying your desired audience. Who are you trying to engage? It could be retail investors, independent financial advisors, fund managers, or a mix. If you have more than one audience, it’s worth asking yourself whether the content you produce will resonate with all your audiences, and particularly whether the language is appropriate. You may decide to develop separate content. That obviously creates more work, but it will be worth it in the long run.

The right content

The term ‘content’ can mean anything from a white paper to a video and everything in between. The questions you need to answer are: what will appeal to your audience? And where will you reach as many of them as possible? Again, there doesn’t have to be a single answer. In fact, publishing a variety of content is often a good thing, particularly if you don’t yet have a clear answer as to what your audience prefers.

The right time and place

Timing is everything, so the saying goes. Determining when your audience will be most receptive to your content is essential. It goes without saying that you want as much engagement as possible with your intended audience, so if you know they tend to be focused on other things at quarter-end, don’t schedule a piece of content to be published then. It’s a no-brainer.

Similarly, understanding where your audience likes to consume content is important. If your audience are all avid users of Tik Tok, that’s where you should be too. Don’t make them come to you.

Making sure your content is easily discoverable is also critical. Part of this is making sure it’s optimised for search engines (known as SEO). Often considered to be a dark art, at its simplest, SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of visitors to your website. Developing keyword lists based on popular searches and using appropriate domain names are both key levers that will help make sure your content sits above your competitors on a search engine results page. On social media, using appropriate hashtags will make sure your content is part of the relevant conversations.

The right outcome

Setting clear and measurable objectives is critical to understanding the success of your strategy and to justifying ongoing investment from your organisation. Of course, you can measure the success of your content by tracking metrics such as open rates, views, shares and so on. But more importantly, tracking how performance is contributing to wider business objectives is critical. In investment marketing, that could be new money under management or improved customer sentiment via NPS (Net Promoter Score).

Is it working?

The glue that ties all of the points above together as a strategy, or ongoing thought process, is a constant feedback loop. You should continually reassess whether your strategy is working and whether your content is helping to meet your business objectives. Producing content that performs well but doesn’t align with your goals is a poor use of time and resources. Equally, there’s no point writing a strategy to simply file it away and never go back to it. You need to keep it alive.

If your objective is clearly defined, then the rest is a moveable feast that can be tweaked. The key is to test different things and to learn what works and what doesn’t. The timing, the type of content, the channel you use – all this can be optimised as you understand more about your audience. However, it’s also important not to change too much at once. If you do, you won’t be able to isolate what change worked and what didn’t. It’s best to take an iterative approach – evolution, not revolution.

It’s easy to think that putting time into the process of developing a clearly defined content strategy will result in ever more demand for new content. But in fact, the opposite is often true. Focusing on the data will tell you what’s working and what’s not. This allows you to stop producing content that isn’t generating a return on investment, however you measure that return.

Bringing it all together

Ultimately, having a content strategy will help you enhance your relationship with your current, and potential, customers. We hope that by breaking content strategy down into bite-size pieces, we’ve helped demystify the term. And remember, even if you already have a strong content production pipeline and you publish in multiple channels, it’s never too late to apply a strategic lens to your practices.

Does your content need fresh eyes? We can help

We recently conducted a content strategy survey where we asked a range of investment writing and financial services marketing professionals about their approach to content strategy. The results showed a real misalignment between the importance placed on content compared to the strategic focus it’s given.

Eighty-six percent of respondents defined content creation as an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ part of their overall sales and marketing effort. However, most respondents said they (or their teams) spent just five hours a month planning and reviewing content performance. Only 22% had a clearly written and defined content strategy, with the biggest barriers being lack of time and lack of in-house expertise.

We understand how easy it is to get stuck on the treadmill of producing content every month but losing sight of the reason you’re doing it. That’s where we can help. We can bring clarity, objectivity and a new perspective to what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and whether or not it’s working. We’ll then apply our findings to the content we produce for you, so your strategy and output are automatically aligned.