My Content Strategy Framework I Use as a Consultant for Startups

This article provides a framework for developing your startup’s content strategy. 

It focuses on startups because that’s who I work with as a content strategy consultant. My clients are almost always:

  1. High-growth companies with a technology-forward offering

  2. Building their marketing from the ground up or transforming it in a new direction

Many long-lived global corporations can afford the time to set a prescriptive content strategy. But startups are moving fast. They’re scaling, so every day brings a new development. They wear many hats and learn as they go.

It’s a necessity that my clients’ content strategy is flexible enough to grow and learn with them. 

Over my time consulting, I’ve developed a content strategy framework for high-growth startups. This article documents that framework. It’s best for scaling companies, but anyone can use it. 

The TL;DR:

Your content strategy sets your unique opportunity to reach a business goal with content for audiences whose interests align with your own. It also identifies what that content looks like.

Have questions or thoughts? I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an e-mail at adrienneksmith9@gmail.com.



FIRST, LET'S ALIGN ON WHAT 'CONTENT STRATEGY' MEANS

WHAT IS CONTENT?

Content is material that your company creates to share what it has to say. Here are some examples. 

You have something to say about your... So you create a...
Company's offer Website
CEO's perspective on an issue Thought leadership article
Company's expertise on a topic Educational blog article
Company's offer Website
Newest feature How-to video
Customer experience Case study
Employer reputation Booklet for college recruiting fairs

Sometimes content is digital and sometimes it’s print. Sometimes it explains your company and sometimes it educates on an industry topic. Whatever form your content takes, it needs to:

  1. Share what your company has to say

  2. Reflect what your audience has shown that they need from you

When I kick off projects, my clients often need to ramp up content creation as soon as possible. That’s where a content strategy comes in. While it takes a bit of time upfront to create, it helps you create content rapidly, with focus, and for maximum impact. 

WHAT IS A CONTENT STRATEGY?

Everyone defines a content strategy differently. 

“Content strategy refers to the management of pretty much any tangible media that you create and own: written, visual, downloadable ... you name it. It is the piece of your marketing plan that continuously demonstrates who you are and the expertise you bring to your industry.”
— Hubspot Marketing Blog

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
— Content Marketing Institute 

“A long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis.”
— 
Neil Patel

If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’ll know that my definition of content marketing focuses on fast moving, fast growing companies.  To me, content strategy sets your unique opportunity to reach a business goal with content for audiences whose interests align with your own. It also identifies what that content looks like.

“Content strategy sets your unique opportunity to reach a business goal with content for audiences whose interests align with your own. It also identifies what that content looks like.”

Let’s break down why this definition works best for high-growth startups. 

  • “Your unique opportunity.” My clients are innovators in their spaces, and so they need a content strategy tailored to their unique path. 

  • “Reach a business goal through content.” Every initiative needs to positively support a startup’s bottom line. Content isn’t just for reading; it must contribute to business goals too.

  • “For audiences whose interests align with your own.” Build a content strategy around customer interests (not an ever-evolving offering) so your strategy is flexible as your business changes. 

what is a content strategy - a definition from a content strategy consultant for startups
 

WHY DO WE NEED A CONTENT STRATEGY? CAN'T WE JUST START CREATING?

Yes, developing a content strategy takes time upfront. But your strategy makes your decisions upfront too. 

With your decisions made, you don’t have to answer these questions with each new piece: 

  1. What should this content communicate? 

  2. What should it look like? 

  3. How should we use it? 

Your strategy answers those questions! And you can dive right into creating the best possible piece of content. so. much. easier. 

why does my startup need a content strategy

That’s why 73% of most-successful marketers use their content marketing strategy for content priorities

Finally, your content strategy helps you generate more leads with less money. Content generates 3x more leads than outbound marketing, and costs 62% less. But it only does so if you’re focused and strategic about it. 

Ready to get started? Let’s do this. 

MY CONTENT STRATEGY FRAMEWORK FOR STARTUPS

CONTENT STRATEGY DELIVERABLES

Your content strategy makes lots of decisions upfront. It needs to answer: 

  • Who do we reach?

  • What do they achieve with our content? 

  • How does that action map to our business goals? 

  • How do we measure success? 

  • Which topics are we uniquely positioned to address? 

  • Which formats resonate most with our target audience? 

  • What are my 3 most important next steps?  

To make these decisions, you need to follow three stages: 

  1. Research. Where you uncover audience interests and areas of opportunity within content. 

  2. Strategy. Where you define what content will look like and how it will achieve its goals. 

  3. Process. Where you set up your roadmap, working docs and tools you’ll use in your day-to-day.

content strategy framework for startups - adrienne smith's framework

CONTENT STRATEGY STAGE 1: RESEARCH

Let’s revisit our definition of content strategy.

“Content strategy sets your unique opportunity to reach a business goal with content for audiences whose interests align with your own. It also identifies what that content looks like.”

You can’t sit in a room to rapid-fire write your company’s strategy and expect it to achieve the above definition. Your content strategy shouldn’t reflect what you think. It reflects what your audience needs.

How can you know what your audience needs? Research, research, research. 

In a perfect world, research deliverables should include all the below: 

  • Content audit of all existing content and its strengths and weaknesses

  • Content analysis of your existing content’s performance

  • Competitive analysis of your competitors’ approach to content

  • Audience analysis of your audience’s demonstrated interests and pain points on search, in forums, in questions to your customer support team, etc

  • Customer interviews to learn their interests and pain points

  • Persona development of your target audience

  • Team workshop uncovering what your company has to say

But I quite often build this smaller research package for my clients: 

  • Competitive analysis of your competitors’ approach to content

  • Audience analysis of your audience’s questions on search, in forums, and in sales and customer support conversations

  • Team workshop uncovering what your company has to say

CONTENT STRATEGY STAGE 2: DOCUMENTING YOUR STRATEGY

My content strategies tend to break up into 4 parts.

What success looks like

  • Marketing goals that content goals will funnel up to

  • Content goals outlining what your content needs to achieve

  • Content objectives, or your to-do items to achieve your goals

  • KPIs to measure success

Who your content serves

If your strategy nails anything, make it this. Codify your target audience, including their interests, behaviors, and content needs. 

What your content looks like

  1. Content pillars, or the 2-4 foundational topics all content will derive from. Pillars should reflect your audience’s interests and be a topic you’re uniquely positioned to address.

  2. Content types, or the 3-5 formats that all content will take. Picking 3 helps you focus your resources and hire the creators best suited to creating the content you want. I often see my clients focus on: 

    1. Website pages 

    2. Long-form educational articles

    3. Designed educational content 

    4. Webinars recycled from articles or eBooks

    5. Short videos

    6. Usable templates like calculators

How your content is used

Identify the 2-4 marketing channels that content can best support. Stay focused and start small. Then, experiment, experiment, experiment with what works best. 

I often see clients use content in these 3 channels first: 

  • Search engine optimization

  • Social media marketing

  • Email marketing

Here is a full list of possible ways to use content:

  • To grow an audience (Or, using content in top of the funnel marketing)

    • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

    • Paid search ads

    • Organic social media promotion

    • Paid social media ads

    • Youtube

    • Medium

    • Quora

    • Guest posting with partners

  • To engage your existing audience (Or, using content in middle of the funnel marketing)

    • Email marketing

    • Newsletters

    • Events

  • To convert your audience into customers

    • Email marketing

    • 1:1 emails 

CONTENT STRATEGY PHASE 3: SET YOUR PROCESS

Congratulations! You’ve done your research and built your strategy. Time to hit the ground running. I recommend my clients focus on the following: 

You could also set your voice and tone guidelines and writing guidelines at this stage. But I find clients usually want to do this after they’ve gotten their writing sea legs. 

Psst… Have more questions on developing a content strategy? Thoughts? Shoot me an e-mail at adrienneksmith9@gmail.com