How To Create A Content Marketing Plan
Building a Content Marketing Plan
The first thing to note and remember when it comes to building a content marketing program, is that there is no cookie-cutter "one-size-fits-all" template. Each business is unique, and has a distinct marketplace and competitive profile. What's more, each business has a specific budget, which obviously impacts priorities and possibilities.
Yet with this in mind, there are some core pieces of a robust, results-based content marketing program. These include the following:
Step 1: Developing a Content Strategy
Developing a content strategy covers the following activities:
- Creating a vision that answers fundamental questions like: "what do we want to achieve?", "where do we want to be in 3-5 years?", "how are we going to get there?"
- Defining target audiences and buyer personas by analyzing demographic data (who and where they are) and psychographic data (what they feel and want).
- Perform a comprehensive content audit by inventorizing, organizing and tagging all existing content (e.g. topic, channel, length, product, buyer persona, date, etc.), and then evaluating success and performance to see what works vs. what doesn't.
- Set goals that are in alignment with the "SMART" approach (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).
- Analyze and, if necessary, re-invent or recalibrate the corporate brand voice and overall messaging strategy.
Step 2: Map the Buyer's Journey
Mapping the buyer's journey covers the following activities:
- Brainstorming key questions that target audiences are asking, with a particular focus on their aspirations and "pain points."
- Identify all members of the buying team. Research by Gartner has found that in typical organizations of 100-500 employees, an average of 7 different professionals are involved in a single purchase decision. And even for B2C sales, businesses often need to engage and impress more than one person (e.g. couples, families, etc.).
- Identify content that is best suited to different phases of the buyer's journey (it's ideal if this content already exists in the ecosystem, but if not then it can certainly be created). The phases of the buyer's journey are: awareness (researching and learning), consideration (evaluating different businesses), decision (choosing a partner), and experience (post-sales happiness or unhappiness).
Step 3: Create and Publish Content
Creating and publishing content covers the following activities:
- Building an editorial calendar, which can range from relatively simple to quite complex.
- Crafting original, compelling, well-researched and target audience-centric content based on the editorial calendar. It's vital for this content to be created by qualified professionals, or else it can damage rather than enhance brand equity. For example, blogs should be created by professional writers, infographics should be created by professional graphic designers, videos should be created by professional videographers, and so on. Businesses that don't have any or all of these specialists in-house can easily outsource some or all content creation to a reputable online marketing agency.
- Enforcing strong content governance, which ensures that all content is aligned with brand standards, messaging strategies, and compliance requirements (if applicable). Governance also ensures that production is in alignment with the editorial calendar.
- Publishing content per the editorial calendar, and to the appropriate channel (e.g. blog, social media, third-party website, etc.).
Step 4: Analyze, Report, and Optimize
Analyzing and reporting covers the following activities:
- Identifying the appropriate set of metrics and key performance indicators (KPI), which can include traffic metrics (e.g. pageviews, unique pageviews, time-on-site, time-on-page, bounce rate, etc.); engagement metrics (e.g. likes, upvotes, applause, comments, shares, backlinks, etc.); conversion rates (e.g. # of new leads in the pipeline, # of new sales contacts, etc.).
- Generating reports to clearly target specific information needs. This is a critically important yet often overlooked element. Without good data hygiene, businesses have an overwhelming amount of content marketing information, but precious little insight and actionable business intelligence.
- Optimizing metrics and tracking based on ongoing performance, in order to maximize ROI (e.g. discovering that even though Pay-Per-Click ads are driving the most site traffic of all sources, blog posts are ultimately generating the most qualified leads in the pipeline).