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Content strategy scoping questions list (47-ish in total)

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Content strategy scoping questions list (47-ish in total)

Since I'm knocking on the door of turning 40 years old next month, we're not going to do the math on how long I've been creating content strategies for B2B and B2C brands – let's just say "long enough," and call it a day, shall we?

What makes the development of an SEO content strategy so exciting (at least to me) is that it's as much an art as it is a science; a strategic business objective as much as it is a feat of dazzling sorcery.

That's because, the content strategy owner, you're tasked with creating the inbound roadmap that will (in theory) bring traffic, leads, and sales to your company's doorstep. You need to create space for increasing brand awareness, educating and engaging the masses, establishing thought leadership and authority, and enabling sales. 

πŸ’₯ Related: What the heck is great content anyway? (HubHeroes, Ep. 2)

Again, this is all very exciting ... and also, all of this "excitement" is often why you'll find me staring into the depths of a spreadsheet at 2 a.m., pondering the inevitable heat death of the universe. Because, in those dark, caffeine-addled moments, that seems more pleasant that trying to understand how I'm going to balance out all of the competing priorities into one, harmoniously synthesized strategy. 

It's a lot of pressure! 

Creating a properly scoped content strategy is a balancing act

To craft that harmoniously synthesized content strategy for your company, you need to balance a lot of different priorities – leadership, sales, your broader marketing team (if you have one), service, and more. But how do you do it? By asking the right questions (of the right people and/or teams) in order to properly scope your content strategy.

To make your life easier, below you'll find a categorized list of questions you can pull from to scope the content strategy of your dreams.

πŸ”₯ Read now: The last SEO content strategy guide you'll ever need

Which questions you choose will depend on a wide variety of factors only you know – your size, your place in the industry, your strength in the marketplace, your position on your team, who needs to approve your strategy, how many departments you need to consult, how much your content marketing is designed to support sales and service, and so on. 

But generally speaking, the categories of content strategy scoping questions fall into these buckets:

  • Questions to ask yourself
  • Questions to ask your marketing team or marketing leader
  • Questions to ask leadership
  • Questions to ask sales
  • Questions to ask service 
  • Questions to ask your audience

Also, you don't need to ask every single one of the relevant questions every time you sit down to make a strategy. For example, while I would encourage you to be asking the questions I suggest for sales at least once a month (if not more), you may only sit down with someone in leadership once a quarter. 

So, don't freak out. Every month you don't need to set aside an entire week to go around your company to get answers to the 47-ish (I'm paid to write, not count) questions I've outlined for you. Be smart and strategic.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let's dig in, shall we?

Content strategy scoping questions (by category)

Questions to ask yourself

Like someone older and probably much wiser once said, you can't love anyone until you learn to love yourself. The same thing holds true for your content strategy, friends. You can't ask anyone else questions before answering a few for yourself. 

Now, again, some of these may pertain to you, some of them may not. And that's OK! If some questions clearly don't apply (or you already have answers for them), move right along. If, however, a question puzzles you, I'd recommend looking at it a little more deeply before dismissing it outright.

  • Do you know who your internal stakeholders are in developing your content strategy?
  • Do you know who has final approval on your content strategy?
  • Do you know what sources or data you're expected to gather and review in the creation of your content strategy?
  • Do you understand your department's current objectives and greatest pain points? 
  • Do you know the KPIs by which you're currently being measured as a marketer/marketing team? (E.g., organic traffic goals, MQLs, etc.)
  • Do you have a clear picture of what kind of content strategy deliverable is expected of you? (E.g., a recommended editorial calendar, an executive summary of recommendations.)
  • Do you feel empowered to autonomously conduct the research and interdepartmental outreach (as necessary) to create your content strategy?

Questions to ask sales

I originally had this section a little further down because, initially it made sense to talk to your internal team first and stakeholders (if you have any) and maybe even leadership. 

But I've moved sales up to this second spot, because if you literally talk to no one else in your company, please for the love of every cannoli in existence, talk to sales. I cannot overstate how important it is that you talk to sales.

My hope is that most of you are nodding along right now, but if for some reason you're not, hear me now – if you're not creating content that generates revenue (i.e. SALES), you're not doing your job. Every single piece of content you create should be traceable back to a very specific business objective or sales goal – even top of the funnel stuff.

Now, here's what you talk about:

  • How helpful do you think our content is in the sales process?
    I asked this question once of my sales team at IMPACT ... at first they were really nice and trying not to invalidate our work. And then someone said, "You guys are creating really quality content – so I use at least 1-2% of it in the sales process."  In case you're wondering, THAT IS NOT A GOOD THING.
  • What questions are you hearing from prospects in discovery calls? 
    That's right, it's time to take a page out of They Ask, You Answer, because every single one of those questions is a blog or video topic, no matter how bottom-of-the-funnel it is. And before you knock bottom-of-the-funnel content, remember BOFU content is what closes deals, folks. Also, if you've ever wondered WHAT sales enablement content is, it's this content.

Those two above are the most important questions you can ask sales, because they will tell you how effective your current content is and also exactly how you need to enable your sales team.

Here are a few other questions I love to ask where, again, each answer you get is a topic you put into your strategy, based on the urgency of the need:

  • During the sales process, where do you experience the most objections? (E.g., pricing of a particular product, your specific methodology or process, etc).
  • What questions, when asked by a prospect, tell you they're not ready to make a purchasing decision or be talking to sales?
  • If you could snap your fingers tomorrow and have a blog article or video at your fingertips that would immediately help you close more deals faster, what would it be and why?

Questions to ask your marketing team or marketing leader

If you're a team of one, (a) I salute you, and (b) this section doesn't apply to you, so you can jump right to the next section. If, on the other hand, you're a marketer or content strategist embedded within a larger marketing team, you definitely want to pay attention.

πŸ’₯ Related: What is a growth strategy really? (HubHeroes, Ep. 6)

Over the past eight years, I've worked as a solo content strategist, a content leader within a multi-team marketing department, and a content strategist within a more flat, single marketing team. So, I know first-hand that when you have more than one person in your marketing team, they may have important insights you need to keep in mind.

For example, if you have dedicated people in seats like:

  • Demand generation manager
  • Events marketing manager
  • Social media and community manager
  • An SEO specialist (content or technical)

You'll want to ask questions like:

  • What demand generation goals do we have in front of us?
  • Are there any areas within demand generation where we're lagging behind and should be performing better?
  • What events do we have coming up in the next (30-60-90+) days where you need support?
    • Will you need us to create educational content that organically leads new potential attendees to the event?
    • Will we need to plan for speaker spotlight articles or other promotional content leading up to the event?
    • Will we need to plan to create wrap-up or recap content?
  • What are the most common questions we're getting from our community on social media?
  • Have you gleaned any actionable insights from our social media community about the content we've created so far?
  • From an organic SEO perspective, is the content we've already published performing as expected, or are there pieces we should surface for immediate historic optimization?
  • Are there any recent Google updates I need to know about that may influence the scope or substance of the content strategy? (E.g., Google's most recent helpful content update.)

If you report to a marketing leader – like a director of marketing, VP of marketing, or Grand Poobah of Leads and Magic and MQLS – here are some of my favorite questions to ask:

  • Where and when specifically do you want to be involved in the content strategy development process – for feedback and final approval?
  • Who are the other stakeholder (in our team or outside our team) you believe need to weigh in on the development of this strategy?
  • Are you the only person who needs to approve this strategy, or are there others I need to consult? 
  • If there are multiple people I need to consult, who do I consider to be final approval?
  • Based on our current team/department KPIs, where do you believe our primary focus should be for content?
  • Are there any second- or third-tier priorities that also need to be accounted for in our strategy?
  • What content that's already published isn't performing as well as you had hoped?
  • Is there anything you want me to keep in the back of my mind while I create this strategy, no matter how abstract or broad?

Questions to ask company leadership

Now, whether you choose to dip into this well of questions is entirely up to you. I've worked in places where leadership wan't really involved in the day-to-day workings of marketing, and I've also worked in highly collaborative environments where even folks in the C-suite were enthusiastic and engaged in the content strategy development process. 

Additionally, some of these questions may be ones you dig into when you're a more mature content organization, if you're currently just starting out. Whatever your situation may be, I trust y'all to discern which of these questions you should be exploring with you're company leadership if it makes sense to do so.

As a note, some of these questions are broad by design – the very first question is an example of that. If probed to be more specific or someone replies, "How do you mean?" simply respond by encouraging them to interpret the question however they'd like.

Your company leaders are big picture thinker, and you'll increase your chances of striking actionable gold by giving them a wide berth to riff with your initial question. It's then up to you, though, to bring it home with clarity through great follow-up questions (as needed).

  • How do you feel about the content we're creating?
  • What are the most pressing business objectives or areas of the business (e.g. a specific service/product) that I should focus on as I develop this content strategy?
  • Are there any pivots or changes I need to be aware of?
  • Are there any new spaces, potential target customer profiles, products, services, or solutions on the horizon that I should create space for?
  • What other teams do I need to be speaking to, so their needs are fully represented in this content strategy?

By the way, you may have noticed I didn't include anything about their perceived value around content creation, because that speaks to a much larger buy-in problem. If you've got concerns that your leadership is struggling to catch the vision of inbound (content or on the whole), talk to George, he can help you out. 

If you're working at a smaller company where you can see a CEO who is struggling to step fully out of day-to-day operations (sales, in particular) so they can focus on their big picture work, here are two key questions you can ask:

  • I see you're often still needed in sales conversations – why is that?
  • What questions are being asked by prospects that seemingly only you can answer? (Every one of those questions is a content strategy topic, and every single answer of theirs is the substance of your content.)

Finally, if your content strategy is exploring avenues to establish thought leadership or position anyone on your leadership team as conversation drivers in your industry, you should ask questions about thought leadership, specifically, as needed – are they feeling supported in the content creation process, how can they be more enabled to publish thought leadership, what's on their mind, and so on.

Questions to ask your service or solutions folks

A number of different people or teams can fall into this category – your customer service team, those in charge of actually delivering the service or product, etc. Basically, you want to talk to anyone who deals with PAYING CUSTOMERS, rather than people you're trying to convince to buy.

If you're wondering why that is, I recommend you take a listen to this episode on the HubSpot Flywheel model – delighting your CURRENT customers is as important as attracting new ones. It's much easier (and more cost-effective) to drum up revenue from current customers than to create new customers.

Again, some of these question may not apply. For example, if you sell physical products, questions around adoption of a methodology or service-delivery onboarding don't apply to you. Use your noggin', I trust you to make the right call.

  • Do our clients struggle at all with our onboarding process?
  • What questions do new clients or customers have when they first start working with us that often don't get addressed by sales?
  • What are the most common problems you see with adoption?
  • What are the most common reasons why our clients churn? (E.g., were they unclear on commitments required?)
  • What are the most common problems you see with customers after they make their purchase?
  • Do our clients know coming in:
    • What their first month will look like?
    • What their first 60 days will look like?
    • What their first 90 days will look like?
  • Where do you see the most opportunity to educate our current customers?

Finally, don't forget to ask your audience a few questions

Ultimately, although creating content is meant to help you achieve your goals as a company, if you're not creating content with an audience/customers-first mindset, you have a problem. 

If your content isn't helping your idea customers solve their biggest problems, answer their most pressing questions, or make smarter decisions faster, on their terms, your strategy will always fail to fully deliver on its true potential. 

Because your content should be built around the worries, fears, desires, needs, and challenges of your audience, NOT YOU. 

So, periodically, check-in with them however you see fit – through social media, in conversations with current clients or customers, or even through a marketing survey – to see how you can be of better service to them through your content.