The creation of smart and engaging content can be a daunting task when it comes to developing a content strategy for your business. Ultimately, you want to produce shareable content related to your business in a variety of formats—articles, e-books, white papers, videos, slideshows, infographics, photos, etc. Since your content marketing strategy is dependent on how your audience responds to what you’re putting out, it’s important that you’re willing to keep making improvements—so it’s constantly evolving.

The idea of content marketing is to not only attract customers, but to make sure you keep the ones you have. At a glance, content marketing involves creating content that guides prospects down a sales funnel at their own speed. This is usually done by educating them about issues they may have experienced, introducing solutions to those problems, and eventually demonstrating how your products or services can meet their needs. In a content marketing strategy, you are giving prospects the tools they need to find and value what you offer, whereas direct marketing takes that information directly to prospects. These are two complementary marketing strategies that, while different, work very well in tandem. Although content marketing is different from a sales pitch and you’re not necessarily always mentioning your own product, you’re creating and sharing valuable content in order to ensure your customers are better informed about what you do. If done right, content marketing is a concrete form of lead generation.

When you’re first developing your content strategy, try asking yourself these questions:

Who am I trying to appeal to?

What kind of content are my target audiences looking for?

What niche do I want to be known for?

What gap am I trying to fill in the market?

Once you’re able to answer these questions, you should be able to find your target audience. This is important because in order to connect with potential customers, you’ll need to be able to identify what social media platforms and/or resources will be the best way to reach them. Remember that not everyone responds well to every type of content, so you’ll have to pick and choose based on what is most relevant for your customers. Pinpointing your target audience will help you focus on what content makes the most sense for that audience.

Deciding what content you want to put out is usually the next step. Do you want to share articles? Do you want to start a blog for your company? Do you want to create and upload instructional videos on YouTube? Putting your company on social media sites is necessary for sharing information about your product, as well as making your content easily accessible. Figuring what to share and where to put it is an important aspect of developing content strategy.

To define your content strategy, it helps to keep asking “why”. Why are you sharing this article? Why are you trying to appeal to this target audience? Why is this information necessary for your customers? Asking yourself why and keeping your content current and fresh will help you generate customer loyalty and allows for lead generation. Once people feel like you’re sharing information for their benefit, not just to shove your product at them, they will be more willing to trust your company.

When you’re developing your own content strategy, you need to keep track of what your customers want. You’re attempting to fill a gap in the market and provide something that other businesses are not. If you simply try to copy another company’s content strategy, it will probably not work out too well. You need to work on developing a unique strategy that is tailored to your own company. Having a well thought-out content strategy will help you generate leads by spreading the word about what you’re offering.