How to Build Your Content Strategy Part 1

Your Audience: Who are you Trying to Reach?

What do They Need to Know?

If you’re like 60% of the companies out there, you don’t have a documented content marketing strategy. And that’s concerning because it’s an essential element to the foundation of your successful program. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2C Content Marketing Study, 63% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy. Only 20% of those who are the least successful do. 73% of the successful content marketers say their strategy is extremely/very effective compared to a 35% overall average and only 5% of the weakest performers. In this series, we're going to break down the questions you need to answer to determine your content strategy.

A well thought out, researched, and applied content marketing strategy is critical to the success of your program. If you’ve struggled to either create your strategy or implement it, this series is for you. We’re going to go through the steps you need to follow and present the questions you will need to answer to create your content marketing strategy. It’s not quick or easy, but it will make a difference in your outcome.

First Things First – Who is your Audience?

  1. Who are you targeting?
  2. Where are they in the sales funnel?
  3. What information do they need to know to move to the next stage?
  4. Where do they like to hang out online? (hint, it’s not your website or blog)
  5. Do you have access to them? Can you ask them questions?
  6. Are you friends with your Sales and Customer Service teams yet? If not, make new friends today. They know your customers better than you do. 

 Create Your Marketing Personas

Do you have audience analysis data and persona information available? Does your team work with it daily? If you don’t, you need to create your consumer personas. These need to be data-driven. This is not a place to go on, “hunches” or guesses. Your content marketing strategy’s success will be closely tied to this. If you get the personas wrong, your overall strategy may be wrong too. And then, you won’t be in the group that feels that their marketing efforts are extremely or very successful. And that would not be good.

If you need to create personas, there are places you can gather some audience-based data for free. If you are using Google Analytics, your account likely includes demographic data. Facebook Ads and Pinterest also provide demographic data free of charge. This insight helps you better understand who’s coming to your website now. You can also use a persona creation tool and interview guide to help ensure you have the right information before you begin creating your strategy.

There are multiple guides and tools you can use to create your personas. Hubspot has some great information, including a template they’ll share with you (in exchange for your contact information). They have a bit more detail on what a person is, why it’s important, and then templates to work with to create your own.


Map Your Personas to the Sales Funnels

Once you have your personas, you need to determine where each one falls within your sales funnel. They’re not all going to be at the same stage in the buying process.

Most sales funnels will have four stages, some have a fifth, due diligence but it’s not common. Due diligence is seen mostly with high ticket items such as a college degree or home mortgage. The standard funnel stages are as shown above.


  • Awareness – The consumer knows they want to make a purchase. However, they haven’t likely identified the brand they want to buy from or even the specific product. These consumers are searching high volume terms like, “shoes.” The chance of them converting on the initial search is low because they haven’t determined what they need yet.
  • Consideration – this customer has a slightly better idea of what they’re looking for, but they’re still not entirely clear. They may be searching by using a term that’s a bit more tailored and likely has less search volume. This customer might be searching for tennis shoes rather than shoes.
  • Intent – this customer knows they want to make a purchase, but they’re still trying to determine what they need or want. They may have visited your site before and could be back to do more research or gather more information. They’re likely using a lower volume, more targeted search term. This customer could be searching for women’s tennis shoes or leather tennis shoes or similar. There’s a lot of information in their query, but they don’t know exactly what they want yet.
  • Convert (or Decision)– the customer who is ready to convert knows precisely what they’re looking for and if you can deliver it, they’ll very likely buy. The search term they’re using is probably specific; it could be Women’s Adidas Gel Kayano Running Shoe Size 7.5. While there is likely minimal search volume for this term, this is a customer who knows exactly what they want, and if it’s available, they’ll likely purchase.

How the Sales Funnel Represents the Buyer's Journey

We often see the search volume drop significantly as we move further down the sales funnel. However, those who are searching further down the funnel are much more targeted in their search and have a significantly higher conversion rate. You can make more money from fewer visitors who are further down the sales funnel; this is why you'll often hear about targeting long-tail keywords. There's usually less competition for a long-tail term, and the consumer is closer to a decision.

So, What do Sales Funnels and Personas Have to do with Content Strategy?


Back to our questions to determine the content strategy-

  1. What questions do my customers have at each stage of the sales funnel?
  2. What do I need to answer, so they move from one stage to the next?
  3. Who is best suited to answer each question?
  4. What type content format would be the most useful to answer that question?

By identifying the questions within each stage of the sales funnel, you can start determining the content you need to create for your customers. You will likely have questions that appear in one or more funnel stage; you don’t need to create duplicate content, one piece can address the question for multiple personas or funnel stages.

Complete this exercise with each persona and go through all four (or five, if applicable) stages of the funnel. Identify all the questions that need to be answered for a customer to go from lead to convert. If you’re not sure what questions they have at each stage, go back to #6 above, are you friends with your Sales and Customer Service teams? Talk to them and find out what questions they hear both before and after the sale. They’re going to know better than anyone else on the team.

Up Next in the Series

Next up, we’ll discuss production schedule, sign-off, and planning. It’s not the exciting part of the process, but boy is it necessary. You need to know that everyone is on the same page to be successful.

If you’re reading through this and know you need help crafting your content strategy or personas and aren’t sure where to start or just don’t have the bandwidth to tackle it, contact the team at Etched. We’d love to help you. You can be a successful content marketer with the right pieces in place.