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You know that feeling you get when you start reading an article that’s so perfectly targeted to your experiences? You probably think, “Wow, this company really gets me!”
While it can be… questionable… at times when a company seems to know you so well, there’s also something refreshing about a business that understands what you’re going through. It’s the start of a beautiful, new relationship.
If you’re not there yet, it’s okay. This article was created to help you learn how to build a content strategy that educates, inspires, entertains, and, of course, sells.
But remember this: producing content isn’t just about “blogging.” Taylor Coil, the Director of Product at Animalz, explains why:
“DTC brands who think about producing blog content as ‘blogging’ are missing the point. The point of any marketing channel is to grow a business. The unique advantage content has over other channels in that regard is that each deliverable has the potential to pay dividends every single month—for years—without additional monetary investment. (PPC could never!)”
I spoke with Taylor, along with several other experts to uncover how DTC brands should approach creating a content strategy from scratch.
Here’s what I learned…
How blogging can generate word of mouth
The goal of your blog is likely not about driving referrals, but a good blogging strategy can be used as a tactic to generate word of mouth and get customers to share your content with their friends.
“Blogging gives you something to share, and it gives you an opportunity to give something to your audience before they give something to you. It's the concept of reciprocity. Building content that is educational and relevant to the product gives customers free value, and that can often create word of mouth just by folks recommending the helpful information you've shared.”
Take a look at Who Gives A Crap’s blog, for example. With its own unique name, “Talking Crap,” the blog covers share-worthy topics like bamboo FAQs, how to be an eco-friendly traveller, toilet paper crafts, and even playlists to listen to when on the loo.
With the topics being covered, Who Gives a Crap’s blog acts more like its own media publication and less like a keyword-focused traditional blog. In other words, it’s a community-building tool, not just a revenue-generator.
Nancy Einhart, Editor in Chief at House of Wise, shared a similar thought. In her opinion, “Compelling content creates conversation.”
She explained how House of Wise’s content aims to be relevant and timely, hitting a nerve that gets people to want to share it on social media—and that puts the brand name out there in an organic way.
To give an example, here’s an article published on House of Wise’s blog about how to know if your drinking has gotten out of control during the pandemic:
“That topic is likely to hit a nerve with some people, and the content inspires more engagement and shares than just a product page describing the benefits of CBD. Creating content that people want to share is a way to make an emotional connection with customers and get them talking about your product and sharing your content,” said Nancy.
So how can you make content that generates word of mouth? It starts with a good strategy, which I’ll dive into next.
A step-by-step guide to creating your blog strategy
Blogging is a long-term investment, so you want to try your best to get your strategy right. To help, I asked five experts to share how they think about creating their blog strategy from scratch.
1. Start with a framework
Taylor Coil’s advice is to start with a framework, and she uses the three elements from the book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy:
- Guiding policy
- Coherent actions
Before she joined Animalz, she used this approach as the Director of Marketing at Tortuga.
In the first stage, Taylor asks questions and pulls data to understand the situation. Her goal is to understand the company’s market position, the audience’s nuances, and the brand’s superpowers. Finally, she’ll create a buyer’s journey map.
Next, Taylor writes a guiding policy—also known as the content direction.
“Say you’re already strong in customer acquisition, but loyalty is low. In that circumstance, you probably want to increase LTV and decrease churn, which means you need content that will resonate with existing happy customers and perform well in owned channels,” she explained.
For the final part of the framework—coherent actions—Taylor comes up with the tactics. This is essentially answering the question, “What are you doing to do?” Tactics can include improving your blog UX, sending content-led email newsletters, or creating six new customer-centric resources for the quarter.
“At Tortuga, a past guiding policy was ‘burn the right fuel.’ During that time, we focused all efforts on acquiring high-intent traffic. We cared more about relevance and intent than scale, which led us in a very different direction than we’d have gone if we decided to maximize traffic growth.” - Taylor Coil, Director of Product at Animalz
2. Research, research, research!
Just like how you spend hours researching a topic before writing an article about it, your content strategy deserves the same love.
Here’s the trick: the research stage never ends.
As a strategist, you should always keep your eyes and ears open to new content opportunities, especially in an ever-changing market like ecommerce. Tracey Wallace shares a few sources of inspiration:
“If you’re an existing brand with no blogging strategy but have several hundred customers, then look at your frequently asked questions and build articles around that first. If you’re a new brand, start by writing articles that tell the story behind why you started the brand, and then work with early customers to profile them and share how the product fits in with their life.”
Tracey also suggests pulling SEO into your research stage. You should review your product category to see how people search for it in Google, the questions they ask, and the products they’re interested in.
Tip: Reviewing the “People also ask” section and “Related Searches” at the bottom of Google’s search results can give you a good idea of where to start.
“If you sell pillows, write a blog about all the different types of pillow fill materials. If you sell man-made diamonds, write a blog about the science behind how those diamonds are made. Feed people's curiosity. You don't need any fancy SEO tool for this. Google is your best bet.” - Tracey Wallace, Director of Content Strategy at Klaviyo
3. Choose your content categories
After all of your extensive—and ongoing—research, it’s time to choose your content categories.
- What your brand stands for
- Which topics will help you achieve your goals
- Why customers are buying your products
- What type of content you can create to help them solve problems
Answering these questions will help you decide if you should be sharing customer stories, writing how-to content, or some kind of thought leadership.
You can also bucket your content into funnel-stage categories (the top, middle, and bottom), which will help you understand how to engage with each type of buyer and drive them toward the next stage.
Here’s a quick example of what your categories could look like:
Top of funnel:
- How-to content
- Thought leadership
Bottom of funnel:
- Product education
- Customer stories
4. Plan your topics (and subtopics)
I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t I just choose my topics?”
The answer is no—your blog topics are different from your categories.
There are many approaches to planning your topics. If you’re bootstrapped or choose to focus on cash flow, Josh Piepmeier, a freelance SEO and content strategist, suggests prioritizing the bottom of the funnel first, creating product-focused content around high-intent keywords. This could include brand comparisons or writing topics around “best [product type] for [longtail keyword].”
The goal is to bring in an early revenue stream, so that you, as the content strategist, can make the easy case for continued content investment from the brand. “Just like any startup in their early stages, cash is king,” he said.
In the next stage, create thought leadership content to build brand awareness and demonstrate that your business is an expert in the space you’re selling in.
Finally, Josh suggests focusing on content that’s more about community, such as “how-to” content and Q&As with experts. “This content isn’t about including a pitch, but instead acts as a way to engage users over longer periods, improve brand loyalty, and set up sales later on,” Josh continued.
With this strategy, you have a mix of content that drives traffic through high-quality keywords and engaging content that educates, entertains, and inspires your customers.
However, if you are funded or prefer to focus on branding first, you could approach content like how Nancy does at House of Wise.
“House of Wise is a CBD brand aimed at women, and we have products in four main categories: stress, sleep, sex, and strength. It makes sense that our content is written by women, for women, on the topics of stress, sleep, sex, and strength (workouts),” she shared.
The direction you start with depends on your brand, your strategy, and your overall business goals. Down the line, most ecommerce blogs will have both types of content being published regularly.
5. Create a distribution strategy
Planning how you’re going to share and promote your content is key—and yet, many folks forget to include distribution in their content strategy.
Even more alarming is that only 33% of B2C content marketers use data when planning their distribution strategy.
Julia Perez, VP of Marketing at OWYN explains why this is problematic, saying, “You do not want to spend time creating a great blog post and not get the most out of it. Repurpose it across email, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram stories, and especially Pinterest. If it's right for your brand, you can also experiment putting paid ad spend behind it across Google, Facebook, or Instagram for a top-of-funnel strategy.”
So what should you do? Test these channels, find out what works, and then double down where you see the best results when distributing your content. Data is important, but you can only use it if you take the time to test your strategy.
3 brilliant ecommerce blogs to inspire you
Did you know the average B2C marketer only dedicates 26% of their marketing budget to content marketing? However, the most successful content marketers dedicate 40%.
Keeping that in mind, let’s check out some DTC brands that are doing content marketing well. These are brands that are clearly dedicating time and money to building a content empire.
ThirdLove’s blog features a lot of great content that covers three essential components for a DTC blog: it’s product-led, customer-centric, and super helpful.
Unlike many brands that write “blog” in their navigation menu, ThirdLove takes a different approach and calls it “Learn.” According to Taylor Coil, putting “learn” in the navigation menu makes sense because the brand is playing the role of an expert—not a performer.
“Thirdlove gave ‘Learn’ an icon, which no other navigation link has, to give it prominence. You don’t ship a UX move like that unless your content is working for your business,” she explained.
For brands investing in a blog strategy, getting users from the blog to product pages is always the biggest challenge. ThirdLove is a great example of how to do this well. The brand has a breast shape dictionary, which directs people to its fitting room quiz.
The blog also talks about fit issues and solutions, lingerie care, how to measure your size, and how to wash your bras. They also share stories from women, such as parenting tips and celebrating other female founders. Each of these articles shows off relevant products at the end. When clicked, it directs users to the appropriate product category.
2. House of Wise
I mentioned earlier that House of Wise shares a lot of community-focused content. The blog is called “Wise Reads,” and it dives into topics around CBD, questions about sleep and sex, relationships, and it highlights stories about women.
According to Nancy, this approach has helped with overall newsletter engagement: “Our newsletter open rates have always had very high open rates, but when we started adding more links to our editorial content, we saw clicks and conversions go up as well. Our emails became far more dynamic when we started featuring content and not just using them as a marketing platform.”
Another part of House of Wise’s content strategy is to feature brands they love. They’ll interview the founders and write about their story as an editorial piece for the blog.
“This leads to larger partnerships with those brands. It's a great way to start a conversation with a brand or expert you want to work with,” she explained.
Julia Perez worked on RSPNutrition’s blog, a brand selling clean, innovative nutritional products for active people, busy professionals, and fitness enthusiasts. The blog is broken down into three core subjects: recipes, nutrition, and training.
With this type of content, the brand focused more on answering search queries and using the blog as a traffic tool. You can see this in the topics covered; here are the titles of some of the most recent posts:
- How to get better sleep in 2022
- Easy and effective tips to treat muscle soreness after a workout
- The 6 best post workout snacks and supplements
“We've seen that capitalizing on high volume search queries related to our brand, industry, and competitors have generated the best new traffic.” - Julia Perez, VP of Marketing at OWYN
Right now, RSPNutrition is ranking for almost 3,000 organic keywords and has driven over 15,000 backlinks to their content. The monthly estimated traffic according to Ahrefs is just under 6,000 views.
This is a good opportunity to drive users from the awareness stage to the consideration or decision stage in the buyer's funnel by recommending products in RSPNutrition’s content, which they do. At the end of each article, they recommend products that customers can add to their cart directly from the blog page.
Start your blog today
So, you have the deets on how to create a strategy, and you even got a chance to review some amazing content from DTC brands—are you ready to get started?
The most difficult part about content marketing is that it’s definitely a long-term investment, which means you should get started ASAP so you can start laying the foundation for success.
If you’re still unsure about it, here are some last words of wisdom from Tracey:
“Blogging takes time to work, and it takes time (and money!) to create. Invest in it for at least one year to see results, and the biggest results might even come later than that. If you aren't willing or ready to do that, then maybe focus elsewhere until you are.” - Tracey Wallace, Director of Content Strategy at Klaviyo
If you feel that you need a shorter-term solution to getting new customers and retaining them, word-of-mouth marketing—referral marketing, affiliate marketing, and influencer marketing, might be a good medium to get that growth going while you work on content on the side.