How to create an amazing content marketing plan

Estimated reading time
10 minutes
4th September 2017
Author: Etienne Clergue
Posted in: Content production, Strategy & planning

Discover below how to simply and effectively design a successful content marketing plan in line with your business objectives.

Click to read How to create an amazing content marketing plan

Get ready to structure a content marketing plan

The plan’s the thing

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately not many of us have the luxury of living life on a whim in search of it. We need to put some degree of thought, structure and planning into pretty much everything we do.

“87% of B2B content marketers use content marketing but only 37% have a documented plan” – CMI B2B Content Marketing, Benchmarking, Budgets and Trends 2017

Would you consider taking a road trip without at least first charging your mobile device, downloading Google Maps, ensuring there’s cash in the wallet, change of clothes and basic sustenance?
You might harbour dreams of doing a Kerouac – but let’s face it, not that many of us could cope with the reality.

So why do so many content marketers still not have a fully defined content marketing plan in place? Findings from CMI B2B Content Marketing Benchmarking, Budgets and Trends 2017 reveal that although a whopping 89% of B2B marketers use content marketing, only 37% of them have a documented strategy.

A further 41% state that they do have a content marketing plan … but crazily … it’s not documented.

Percentage of B2B Marekters Who Have a content marketing plan

When you don’t document a plan, you cannot measure its effectiveness and the rest of an organisation struggles to understand and contribute towards goals.

The danger of leaving your content to happen-chance is that although the outcome could be fortuitous it could also be bad … very bad.

So defining some sort of plan and documenting it before embarking on a content journey would seem like, well, common sense.

It doesn’t have to be complex, costly, cover too long a period of time, be too time consuming to generate or written in stone. In fact ensuring your content marketing plan remains flexible to improvements increases its chances of success.

“Without strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff.” – Arjun Basu

For those of you that are maybe struggling to put that all important plan in place, or review and update the current one, here are a few guidelines to get you going.

Set realistic goals

Understanding your own agenda

In the first instance it will be crucial to tackle the ‘why’. Why have a content marketing plan? And to do this you will need to develop a sound understanding of your organisation’s overall business goals.

Simon Sineck’s Golden Circle TED Talk gives a perfect demonstration for the importance of defining the ‘why’.

Inevitably for many organisations, a top of the business ‘objective’ will be a profit increase. Establishing what goals are to be hit to achieve this is a challenge. You could focus on account acquisition, customer retention, an increased profit margin, a mix of all three, or something else entirely.

The next tier of consideration is likely to include some or all of the following; lead generation, customer experience, employee satisfaction, brand awareness, brand reputation, product innovation, and improved service offering.

Once you have grasped the essence of the overall objectives, you will need to understand how your organisation’s marketing strategy aligns to the business goals. In essence, your content strategy should mirror your marketing strategy – except that it specifically relates to content.

ASK YOURSELF

  • Which campaigns are in progress or coming up?
  • What is the purpose of those campaigns?
  • What are their time scales and KPIs?
  • How much budget is allocated and what are the ROI expectation?

Research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute has determined that those marketers with a documented content marketing plan are:

  • Far more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing
  • Feel significantly less challenged with every aspect of content marketing
  • Generally consider themselves more effective in their use of all content marketing tactics and social media channels
  • Were able to justify spending a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing

INCLUDE REASONS

Outline the reasons for creating content in your documented plan. Why are you doing it (e.g. increasing brand awareness, increasing audience reach, educating, entertaining)? What value are you hoping to provide to both your audience and your business through its generation?

CONSIDER RISKS

It is worth including any risks involved or obstacles you are likely to face. These may include things such as cost restrictions, skill limitations, time restraints. By documenting these, you will gain clarity on potential routes to take in tackling such hurdles.

CELEBRATE SUCCESS

Establish what the success of your content plan will look like. Perhaps it is increased business leads, audience, or engagement. But by how much and, most importantly, how will you measure it?

“There is no content strategy without measurement strategy. Before embarking on a content initiative, irrespective of medium or platform, it’s important to know what you want to achieve.” – Rebecca Lieb, Content Marketing Analyst and Author

Kids celebrating success

Tackling the ‘how’

Start your (planning) engines

Creating a content marketing plan doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some basic pointers to take on board and get you started. However, remember there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Work with the understanding of what is important to both your organisation and your audience.

“Content Marketing is a commitment, not a campaign.” – Jon Buscall, Former Head of Moondog Marketing

Understand your audience

Buying personas should already be identified and in place for your overall marketing strategy. It is often worth revisiting them regularly with content generation in mind to expand or refine your audience.

Undertake in-depth research into who you are reaching out to and get to grips with exactly what is valuable to them, what they read, and what problems they need solving.

Look at your organisation’s overall customer journey too. Tailor content to the different stages of their journey that could help to inform, educate and impact decisions.

Keep a content audit

Review what content your organisation has historically produced will be important for defining what is worth promoting or updating moving forward. This includes everything from website to blog posts, thought leadership to social media, email lists to campaigns.

Even if your content hasn’t been closely monitored yet, there will be some indications of whether it works for your organisation or not. Anything which performs well or has relevant potential is worth keeping, refining, and improving upon. Ditch the waste and be prepared to experiment with new channels and formats.

Remember your brand story

Reflect on the message do you want to get across to the public, which should be aligned with the overall business objectives.

Determine your tone of voice and keep it consistent across ALL content that your organisation delivers. Your messages and how you deliver them will drive the reputation of your organisation, and so it is important to take the time to work these through.

a word cloud focused on content marketing plan keywords

“Creative writing and visuals are essential for the human side of SEO, because they attract links, shares and engage visitors to become buyers.” – Lee Odden

Brainstorm appropriate content ideas

Encourage the whole business to contribute and ask your customers what they would like to see generated. This ensures you know what exactly is valuable to them. Not everything is going to be relevant or possible to execute all at once so create a knowledge bank that you can tap into at anytime. Then, keep updating, refreshing and adding to it. In this way you’ll always have a resource on hand to back up content marketing efforts.

Once topics have been identified, it is easier to work out what to focus on, when to deliver, and which content channels to utilise [blog posts, social media, website, podcasts etc.]. Channels and content which is already performing well for your business will be most pertinent, but be ready to trial others. Learn how to re-purpose your content across a variety of channels too. Get creative and maximise your content creation efforts.

SEO’s important role

Do your keyword research and incorporate core ones in your copy to help increase reach. Be careful though; it will be important not to litter your content with keywords just for keywords sake. That would only serve to dilute the message, as your audience can easily spot what you are trying to do which ultimately act as a complete turn off. Make sure keywords only enhance the relevance and value you provide.

Frequency and consistency

Determining when you will create and deliver content will also be a key feature of being able to measure it.

Work with what is realistic for your business and team in terms of budget and resources as it will be important to maintain consistency in order to grow your audience. For example, if you plan to blog weekly – make sure you deliver. Then your audience will begin to expect it and look out for it.

Begin your workflow by drawing up a basic editorial calendar. It doesn’t have to be complex or reach too far into the future. Key elements to include will be topic, author, type of content, delivery channels, completion and publishing dates. See below for what the CMI include in theirs.

CMI example of a content marketing plan

Also investigate the growing number of content marketing management systems that can help you with your planning, scheduling and monitoring of your content efforts.

Content creation and publishing

A key element of your content plan. How are you going to make your content stand out and engage your target audience? Expectations these days are high when it comes to impact. You’ll need to incorporate visual imagery, rich media, and interactive elements if you’re going to get ahead of the competition and keep your readers’ attention.

“70% of content marketing leaders are increasing investment in marketing technology.” – Curata

Lee Odden is a B2B marketing strategist, author, international speaker, and CEO of TopRank Marketing. He encourages a focus on “visual content, more creative storytelling, and interactive content contribute to experiences that inform and create an emotional connection with buyers. Brands are still creating more content, but it’s held to a higher standard by customers.”

When it comes to publishing you’ll need to ensure that you are optimised across all platforms and that your content is easy to share via all major channels.

It can become prohibitively expensive to outsource content creation so spend time to look for tools that can help. You can find plenty which are cost effective, have great UX, and require little or no training.

Bear in mind that if you are looking for a one stop shop, include in your criteria a platform that has a smart, granular, in-built analytics package.

Creation, publishing and reaching content marketing plan goals

Paid promotion

This is only effective when applied with a specific aim of driving sales, rather than the aim of attracting interest. Keep things less pushy in-your-face ‘buy, buy’ buy’ and more ‘please read, this is interesting, you may learn something’.

More and more marketers are aligning their content marketing efforts to their overall advertising campaigns. This helps ensure that their content reaches an already defined target audience. Do not worry – if valuable, relevant and engaging, your content will be received well.

Measure, learn, improve

Finally, don’t forget to document how you plan to measure your content marketing efforts. Align your content metrics with those of your organisation’s key performance indicators to ensure they match overall business goals.

Measure, learn, improve your content marketing plan

Use tools with strong and insightful analytics packages. The more in-depth insight you can achieve, the greater the learnings and scope for improvement. Look for tools that can provide you with specific page performance, engagement metrics (what does your audience interact with, what do they share) and the ability to track individual reader journeys.

Now you can avoid being part of 87% of B2B marketers surveyed by Forrester, who said they struggle to produce content that truly engages their buyers.

Consider how you will tackle the top five skill-sets missing from today’s content marketing teams: content creation; content marketing leadership/strategy; promotion; performance management/metrics orientation; subject matter expertise. [Source: Curata]

Refine and refresh

Your content marketing plan needs to remain flexible. Be prepared to review and improve on a regular basis. Use what you learn from your content performance to do more of what works and strike out what doesn’t. Creating a living document which is accessible to all involved is a great place to start. Lastly, don’t forget to keep asking ‘why’.

“If your website was a city, there would be a highway of visitors flowing through it. But if you don’t know where that highway is, you don’t know how to guide traffic. You don’t know where to put the billboards.” – Andy Crestodina, Cofounder & Strategic Director at Orbit Media Studios

Five key take aways to consider

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’. Each organisation’s content marketing plan will be different and dependant on your business objectives.
  • Understand the ‘why’. Your content marketing plan should cover both your business and customer needs and the role content will play in helping to meet these.
  • Document your content marketing plan. This will give clarity to goals and also enable effective measurement of content success.
  • Share your content marketing plan with other teams within your organisation, especially sales. Having the whole business on board and aligned will increase chances of success.
  • Measure the effectiveness of content. Refine and improve, then subsequently review and update your content marketing plan on a regular basis.

Do you need help with your content marketing strategy and delivery? Get in touch with our content specialists

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