3 Steps to a Content Marketing Strategy For Online Course Businesses

Content planning for an online learning business (a business that offers signature courses, cohort-based programs, or transformational programs) isn’t complicated. Still, it also isn’t easy to implement in a day. You’ll find it’s much like creating your course content in the first place!

You need a roadmap; it provides direction, guidance, and navigation to reach a desired destination. When you created your primary offer, you likely followed a plan and then tweaked it along the way until it became the proven, established offer you now have. Creating your content strategy is the same and requires both strategy at the beginning and testing along the way, till you have a proven evergreen content plan.

What is content strategy?

Marketing is an essential element of a business’s plan that can help it gain traction with its best clients, and for most online businesses, content is a large part of that. Content strategy is content planning, creating, delivering, and organizing of content to meet specific marketing goals. A successful content strategy involves:

  • creating content that is both good quality and relevant to your target audience.
  • managing and organizing the content properly so that it can be found when needed
  • a planned effort that focuses on providing value to customers with engaging content.

The “failure to plan is a plan to fail” mantra exists for a reason! Businesses can ensure their online presence is successful by having a clear plan and knowing what type of content to create. Content isn’t an option for the elevated online business; establishing a content strategy is a must.

Content strategy is essential for courses, cohort-based programs, and many other online service providers who need an easy-to-follow system for creating compelling content. Knowing how to develop and execute a content strategy can help established businesses create valuable, evergreen content that will lead to better, easier launches–and increased success and profit lines as a result.

Step 1. Identify Your Audience

Identifying your audience is part of the foundational brandscaping process. Your target audience should represent the ideal client avatar–a person or a group of people that has the highest chance of becoming your best client. If you’ve created an established, profitable offer or course before, this is work you’ve already done in the past.

Something you might not have done yet, though, is take a hard look at what kind of client your best client is. Traditional marketing breaks them down into two categories:

B2B stands for “business to business.” It means when one company sells things or does work for another company rather than selling to an end consumer. If you’re thinking about house-building materials, for example, B2B is a screw manufacturer selling product to Lowe’s.

B2C stands for “business to consumer.” This means a company sells straight to the product user rather than a middleman. In this scenario, that screw manufacturer has their own website, and you’re buying screws from their website, not the big-box home improvement store.

But there’s a third category you need to know about–because many online businesses fall into this category. I first heard about B2E businesses from Maggie Patterson at Small Business Boss. While technically small businesses, a business of one to up to about 5 on the team is more than a small business; they’re a micro business. B2E stands for “business to entrepreneur.” This would refer to a situation where a business provides goods or services to an individual who runs their own business. For example, a company that provides accounting services may offer its services to a self-employed contractor who runs a business. 

Why your best client category matters to your content strategy

For B2B clients, it is important to remember that their buying process may be longer than for B2E and B2C clients since they require more research and consideration before making their final decision. They may have multiple decision makers, accounting departments that have to sign off on budgets, or other hurdles to the buyer’s journey. On the other hand, B2E and B2C clients are used to buying coaching or courses online, so they may not need as much time when considering a purchase.

B2E clients are marketing savvy since they’ve been marketing their businesses. They’ll see through general promises and generic benefits, but respond well when they see marketing that speaks to their unique problem.

Finally, B2C clients are less likely to make large online purchases due to the lack of trust or experience in online learning. Appropriate content can allow them to consider there’s a solution to their problem that’s worth investing in, if you create and publish that content in a timely, strategic manner.

Identifying your target market is important to know who you are marketing to and will help guide you in creating successful social media marketing campaigns tailored toward them. The content you create will speak to them.

Step 2: Three Tips For A Better Content Strategy

In the beginning, most people approach social media–and content marketing as a whole–with a bit of a spaghetti-on-the-wall strategy. Of course, that’s no strategy at all! When I say all of marketing is a test, the test isn’t to figure out which strand of spaghetti sticks, but to strategically test along the way.

Established online businesses have figured out quite a bit when it comes to which social posts do well for them–but their content strategy as a whole often has a lot of gaps and doesn’t work cohesively to fill their programs between launches.

Make your content stand out from the crowd, rise above the social media “sea of sameness,” and ultimately set up your business for long-term success by creating a personality-driven marketing machine. To do this, we employ a 3-step process to identifying and creating cornerstone content that’ll do some heavy lifting in your marketing.

Design Your Personality-Driven Marketing Machine

When it comes to creating content, you need to have a plan in place that is both strategic and personality-driven. Here are three tips that will help you hone in on your content strategy:

strategic content in a personality-driven marketing machine

A: Strategic Content Planning

Leaving behind the spray-and-pray marketing approach requires strategic content, which means planning out what content you’ll create. There are three components to cover here:

  1. Foundational brandscaping
  2. Intentional dissemination of content
  3. Choosing impactful topics

As with all marketing endeavors, we start with foundational brandscaping–who your best client is, as already covered, and also what the client journey looks like for them. The problem you’re so uniquely attuned to solving in an elevated way for your best client is part of that foundation upon which you’ll create content; this is what makes your best client different than the hormonal health coach up the road–and this is one of the things you’ll capitalize on in your content.

Strategic content planning also involves intentionally disseminating content across social platforms, websites, and other channels. It’s like a farmer scattering seeds on freshly tilled soil. The farmer has a plan for spreading the content and is intentionally distributing it. This can be done through a content system that allows you to plan out what to say, where to say it, and how to show up with content. This type of content planning involves thoroughly researching how your best client likes to receive information, knowing each platform, and understanding the types of content that will work best for each one.

  • Do they love video content?
  • Do they prefer short-form video or long-form?
  • Or do they always click right past the video and go straight for the transcript?
  • Are they listening to your content while running errands? Maybe, even if you love video, you can create a podcast for them.

Finally, you need to cover the content topics that carry your best client along a journey. Thoughtfully choosing topics based on how they play together and how they stand the test of time (so you can evergreen them later) will give your content more impact. By doing this, you can make sure your message reaches the right people in the right way. Strategic content planning helps ensure your messages are clear and consistent so your brand stands out from the competition.

showing up in a personality-driven marketing machine

B: Show Up With Your Whole Self

Showing up with your whole self means more than being physically present–it means coming with the desire to help your audience. Priming your audience for a launch means showing you care about their outcome; it means showing you don’t view them as just an audience member, but as members of your community. This requires a spark of service and a “service over sales” attitude.

Create content that passes the “what’s in it for me” filter. Before you publish anything, look at it from that 10,000 foot view as if you are your best client and ask, “What’s in it for me?” You might be shocked at how often your content doesn’t really pass that test. It sells your offer but doesn’t share why that offer matters to the best client. It doesn’t provide the value of giving them a deep realization, a quick win that helps them see your solution really can work for them.

Dedicated action is what will keep you showing up consistently, by having a frequency, quality, and message consistency that stands the test of time. You’ve based your content plan on your foundational brandscaping, of which your core values carry you throughout your whole business.

You showing up also means you show up with your own voice, made up of your beliefs, stories, and pop culture references that help you make connections with others. So don’t just have a presence online; show up with your whole self and remember that every one of us has something valuable to add to any conversation. Your voice matters! When you do this, you set your business up for long-term success over short-term virality, which rarely repeats.

C: Measure Your Content and Hone Your Content Strategy

After creating a content plan and committing to showing up, it’s time to start measuring the results and tweaking your content into an evergreen content plan that fills your program between launches. Honing your content strategy finally gets you off the content creation hamster wheel!

Creating a content strategy is important: measuring your content is essential. And if you’re not a numbers or a data person, hire someone to worry about the data for you. The Content ROI Dashboard is my solution to the data problem: because you’re likely publishing content in so many places it’s a huge task to gather the insights and analytics on them all. You may do it once, maybe even twice, but measuring quality of the content regularly isn’t on most micro businesses’ priority lists. The best way to ensure that your content is doing its job (providing leads, not just likes) is having an all-in-one marketing control center that lets you compare apples to apples.

honing it in in a personality-driven marketing machine

Once you have a way to synthesize all your content reporting data, it’s time to start looking at content insights. That is, what content is doing the heavy lifting in your business.

  • What platforms are performing well and allowing you to build relationships that move your best clients along in the buyer’s journey?
  • Which platforms are not resulting in lead-generating activity?
  • Which platforms are generating a lot of views, but not any further action?
  • Is TikTok actually bringing people to your course?
  • Are Instagram Reels working better than feed posts?
  • Which platforms are no longer worth your time?

Again, if you’re struggling to answer these questions when looking at your content analytics, it’s time to hire help in this area.

Finally, it’s time to start multiplying your efforts. You can take the content insights and add new subtopics following good performers’ lead. Revisiting existing content from new angles with new stories, analogies, and case studies can fill in the gaps. Adding new hooks will help attract new segments of your audience that didn’t resonate with the old hook. All of this depends on knowing the kind of content that works for your already.

Step 3: Evergreen Your Content Strategy and Repeat

Step 3 of the content creation process is to create evergreen content. You’ve already multiplied previous content with new angles. Effective content cannot be lost to the quick burn of social media! Now it’s time to create an evergreen plan you can rely on between launches or in times of crisis–or even just busyness. Most content distribution tools have ways to schedule in advance; some allow for easy repetition of quality content.

The world has embraced online learning. Being a part of it is easy when you’ve started with strategic content, delivered it in your voice, and measured to hone it in.

the personality-driven marketing machine online course business content strategy

Following the three elements to a personality-driven marketing plan sets you up to create strategic and evergreen content that brings in leads consistently, instead of simply “spraying and praying” with low-quality content that simply ticks the box on your task list. Don’t just focus on short-term virality as this doesn’t bring in long-term success; hone in on your unique voice and try to create content that resonates with potential clients over the long term. Show up with dedicated action and a spark of service, and you will be well on your way to creating excellent, evergreen content.

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