Creating a content strategy from scratch can seem daunting. It’s really not. Here are 6 easy steps to get you where you need to be to be able to start generating relevant content. I’m even throwing in a content strategy guide that I’ve used for a number of startups, and you can use for yours.

#1 Understand your audience

Gheesh, I know… right? Wait, hear me out. I’m not saying you need to spend a couple weeks doing persona validation and user research. All I’m saying is to start with what you know.

For the purpose of creating content personas answer these 3 questions:

Who are we writing for?
What content is valuable to the people we want to attract?
What are their current watering holes? Where are they getting that information now?

Still not sure where to get started? Well, personas should also validate customer pain points.

Here’s a list of tactics to get you started towards understanding your customer.

• Take on a customer service role for a week
• Work your product booth at tradeshows
• Conduct customer interviews and/or review past interviews
• Audit any existing marketing campaigns
 to understand what resonates and what doesn’t
• Understand your lead funnel and identify who the decision makers are
• Generate a list of communities your target market spends time with and start engaging on those channels

Once you think you have a few different types of potential users you want to target, clearly identify the different buckets. Writing this out will force you to really think about the categories you are building, and who your target readers are and why.

After you’ve put pen to paper, or marker to whiteboard, or fingers to excel, you should have something like this. Here is an example from a productivity app. We had to create content for productivity masters and aspirational time-savers. This meant we had to prove ourselves as knowledge leaders for the experts, and still be able to relate to people who wanted to be more productive but didn’t feel they had the time.

#2 Determine Content Goals

What are your goals?

In the above example with the productivity app, our goal was to onboard new users – so we devised a strategy that hit the different buckets of potential users and their frustrations. Depending on your product, your content is probably intended to:

1. Fill the top of lead funnel
2. Drive email captures
3. Nurture leads to conversion
4. Improve retention through valuable insights and community building
5. Increase referrals through shareable content

Once you’ve clearly identified the purpose of your content creation, you need to identify the metrics that you’ll use to gauge success. In other words, how will you know your content strategy is working? There’s nothing worse than spending a boat-load of time on publications that aren’t getting you the results you need.

Your KPIs might look like:

• Keyword page rank for that article
• Email addresses captured
• Number of times shared
• Number of clicks through to your website
• If reader takes a revenue-generating action

#3 Conduct a current content audit

Many times, there is a wealth of information you can gleen from your existing website. If you’ve already been publishing content, dig into your analytics and see which articles had the highest visits, or the most leads, or the most sales. If you already have a baseline to get started you’ll be able to narrow your scope to get started.

#4 Generate a list of articles you think your readers will find relevant

Make sure you list out at least 10 titles per persona. Some of the buckets may overlap, that’s ok. Here is a snapshot of a content strategy I used with a craft beer subscription service. Understanding what persona we were targeting, for which article, enabled us to write at that level of understanding/interest and held us true to publishing for each persona.

#5 Keyword research

SEO is key if you are trying to attract organic traffic (leads!) and build your site authority. You’ll want to generate a list of keywords you can use within your article subject lines and body. It’s easiest to just do this ahead of time and use it as a guideline for churning out great articles.

Google Keyword Planner is great for this. I wouldn’t spend more than 2 hours, you just want to get some ideas and know what phrases people are searching for already.

#6 Create a content calendar

The content calendar becomes your publication roadmap. I like to use google calendar. I can share it with my team, send reminders to my email, phone, and team slack channels. You don’t have to go too far into the future – I’d say maybe 1-3 months at a time. Just set up entries for the articles you want to write and include task deadlines for getting them done.

That’s it! This will get you 90% there, the rest you’ll have to tailor for your own experience. And, as promised… here is a link to a content workbook that I’ve used in the past, and have repurposed for a number of other startups.

Lauralynn’s Content Marketing Workbook (I’ve deleted any metrics from the workbook to protect the innocent😉)