A content marketing plan is a must-have and one of the top content marketing trends of 2020.
Surprisingly, only a few marketers know how to create a content marketing plan. Why? Probably because content marketing became such a key marketing practice only in recent years.
In fact, more than 60% of businesses don’t have a content marketing plan/strategy. That means that the majority of businesses are creating content without a clear strategy in mind.
If you are one of those businesses, you’re in dangerous territory, because you run the risk of creating content that does not align with your business goals and brand values.
As content creation is becoming a key component of marketing efforts, creating a solid plan/strategy is more than a trend, it’s a necessity.
Content Marketing vs. Content Marketing Plan/Strategy
Before we dive into the 10 steps for devising a content marketing plan, we should go over some terminology.
The goal of content marketing is to create and distribute content that is valuable and relevant to a specific audience. The goal of a content strategy/plan, however, is to be detailed exactly about how this will be done.
10 Steps for Creating Your Content Marketing Plan Easily
- Clearly Define Your Mission and Goals
- Establish Your Current Position
- Assess Your Audience
- Establish Your KPIs
- Divide and Conquer
- Identify Your Best Content Channels
- Gather Your Forces and Ideas
- Let the Fun Begin and Create Content!
- Market and Disseminate
- Measure and Reflect on the Results
1. Clearly Define Your Mission and Goals
Your mission and your goals steer the direction your content will be heading.
Here are some examples of goals you can set for your content marketing:
- Brand Awareness: The increase of brand recognition in potential customers, including their awareness of the product and service associated with your brand.
- Customer Engagement: Refers to the way that customers interact with your contact and brand. Customer engagement is especially high for interactive content.
- Brand Loyalty: The dedication and positive feelings that customers have for your brand, motivating them to purchase repetitively.
This is the basic formula for building a mission statement for your content, you must outline/define:
- The main target audience: For example, other marketers, teachers, shoppers, entrepreneurs, or families…
- What will be given to them: State what your target audience will receive. Will it be advice? Information? Resources?
- The outcome for the audience: How will the audience benefit from your content? Will their businesses grow? Will they see an improvement in something that they care about?
2. Establish Your Current Position: Your content marketing plan baseline
When you look ahead, by defining your goals and mission, it’s time to look back and assess your content over the last year.
What have you accomplished? What needs improvement? What did you like? What did you not like?
As long as the content fits your mission and goals, you can consult tracking tools like Google Analytics to understand which content was read most often.
You know which content was read most often based on:
- Page views: how many times the page was seen
- Average time on page: how long people spent reading the content
- Exit rate: how many people exited your website at that point (40.31%) which gives you the number of how many people continued on to other pages within your website (59.69%)
As you can see, our Volkswagen Brand Positioning post has a high average time on page (12:11 minutes) which indicates that our audience likes to read about real life examples.
Such data points can provide you with some kind of starting point for drafting and developing your content marketing plan.
3. Assess Your Audience
You need to know your audience. It’s as simple as that. In order to cater to their needs, you must know their needs, problems, and desires. This way you can create content that is useful to them.
If you don’t know too much about your target audience, you can create user personas. By developing specific profiles, it’s much easier to actually create content for them.
Assess Audience Segments and Categories
Another approach you can take, to quickly get a picture of your audience, is to check out Google Analytics. There, you can see basic demographic info for your existing website traffic. You can see the user’s gender and age, for example. You can also see the distribution of the users’ geographic location. In the images below, we see where the website users are in the USA (left) and Germany (right):
Also, a user report is generated based on the website audience. The users are divided into two groups, those at the top/beginning and those at the bottom/end of the conversion funnel. This report lets you know the market that the audience is from, as well as their interests:
Such information is useful because it gives you insights into what content you need to create.
4. Establish Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Time to talk about KPIs, everybody’s favorite abbreviation. KPIs can be as broad or as specific as you want, but you should track them over time. You can track KPIs based on behavior that’s at the beginning or towards the end of the sales funnel. Since you are working on a content marketing plan, your KPIs should generally relate to the content you are creating. Here are some KPIs that you can use to specifically measure your blog content:
- Overall visits: Indicates the overall amount of traffic you receive to your blog.
- Blog traffic sources: Let’s you know where your blog traffic is coming from, whether it’s from social media sites or organic searches.
- Number of published posts: An important marker as more published posts are associated with more traffic.
- Top Posts: Gives you an insight at what posts are in high demand.
- Exit Rate: The number of visitors that exited your site after being on that page.
- Email subscribers: Email signups have been shown to be the closest measure of conversions and monetary success.
- Organic traffic: Organic traffic is the whole point of having a blog, thus it’s important to have a KPI reserved for this.
- Organic landing page visits: It’s also important to know how many times your landing page/blog is discovered as a result of organic traffic. This is measured as ‘entrances’ in Google Analytics.
- Average pages per session: Let’s you know the average number of pages a user is going through per session.
- Average time on page: Gives you the average time spent on a blog post. If your blog post is averaging 20 seconds, they are probably not benefiting much from your content. If that is true for you, try adding a better “benefit promise” at the start and write a great “lead intro” to ensure that people understand what value your content brings them.
Establishing KPIs is important for your content strategy because it gives you insights on how your content performs over time.
5. Divide and Conquer: Content marketing plan efficiency
In this section, we will discuss how to divide and conquer your strategy. You divide by choosing all the content types you want to produce. You conquer by considering the customer journey and ensuring that content helps them throughout every step of the way. As Michael Masterson puts it in his book Great Leads, always ask yourself “What does your customer already know?”
Choose Content Types
The following content types are particularly popular:
- Blog Posts: A growing blog base is one of the keys to success. If your blog is full of unique content that can’t be found anywhere else on the internet, you’re off to a good start. According to an article published in the Journal of Applied Business and Economics, a successful blog can lead to many positive outcomes, including: new business contacts, speaking engagements, increase authority, and new business opportunities. [a]
- Social Media Posts: Social media posts are a great way to boost engagement across your target audiences. They are also a means of getting your content distributed.
- eBooks: eBooks are a powerful form of content since they are associated with high outcomes in lead generation. They have the additional advantage of boosting credibility and strengthening your brand.
- Case Studies: A case study analyzes a particular project, company, or campaign. Then, solutions are recommended and possible actions for implementation are outlined. Furthermore, elements that were key to the project’s success or failure are highlighted.
- Landing page copy: Your landing page is another example of content. Probably a
- Email marketing copy: Also, your email marketing is a vital piece of content marketing as it is a way to communicate with your customers.
- Video: Video is gaining a lot of popularity as a way to deliver information. It is popular amongst consumers for its potential to be entertaining and engaging.
- Infographics: Infographics are eye-catching, visual representations of themes related to your product, service, and audience’s interest. They are popular because they can be attention-grabbing.
- Presentations: Presentations have recently increased in popularity because they use a professional format for presenting content in a neat, sequential order.
Consider and Build for the Customer Journey
Ultimately, the content you create is meant to improve your traffic, leads, and conversions. But, not all prospects are the same. You will also have to consider at what point of the customer journey the content is being encountered. Thus, the content you create should also fit and be appropriate for specific moments of the customer journey.
For example, someone that is at the journey’s end will be interested in content that showcases your product/service. While someone at the beginning of the journey would be more interested in broad/general content.
Google, for example, is using the following journey (top to bottom). See their article to learn more.
6. Identify Your Best Content Channels
After you establish who needs your content and what the content will be, it’s time to determine where to post it.
Decide how often you will send out emails. Decide on which content will be shared on social media only and which will go to your website’s blog.
Your choice will be made based on your audience’s preference. For example, if you are interested in targeting females that enjoy DIY activities, you might want to put more time towards Pinterest. But, if you are more interested in gaining the attention of entrepreneurs and other professionals, LinkedIn is a better bet.
If you are considering LinkedIn, check out their recently published guide on how to create a content marketing plan specifically for LinkedIn. It has 16 chapters worth of free content!
As you grow your channels, you will encounter competition, of course. Thus, it may be interesting to explore new but growing channels to get more eyes on your content.
7. Gather Your Forces and Ideas: Content marketing plan must-do
Before setting out to create content, you must establish what resources you have.
Identify Resources & Teams Responsible
Content doesn’t just drop down from the sky, ready and perfect. No, someone must work hard to create it! So, for your content, you must be able to identify what resources you have at your disposal.
Can you create a video? Can you launch that comic series that you were discussing with your team during the last meeting? If not, you must factor in time to find additional help to make your workforce stronger.
You must also define who will be responsible for what and set up the teams that will coordinate to work with each other. For example, if you are setting up a video campaign, you must put in contact the videographers with the writers, if you have both in-house.
Consider how well certain types of content does as summarized by these published HubSpot statistics. Infographics are usually more shareable and engaging than product pictures. Posters do better than Whitepapers on LinkedIn, storytelling does better than purely sales posts.
Create a Calendar: Frequency of Output
Creating a calendar is a time-related step. Here, you decide how often you want to create and share content. Do you want to publish blog posts twice a week and a video once a week?
You can even be more specific and set up exact dates and times that you want the content to go live. Of course, the content that is about time-sensitive events, like press releases or events announcements, are the most important to get out on time.
It is difficult to have a content calendar where everything goes exactly as planned, especially if multiple people are required to work together on a piece of content.
Our friends at CoSchedule even have a fun SaaS solution for getting your content schedule organized.
Develop a List of Evolving Topics and Ideas
This list will be like your inspiration board. Here, you can have an ongoing list of all the topics you want to create content for. You can have a list of videos, blog posts, social media posts, etc. In this list, you add ideas as you go. That way, you never run out of inspiration for things to write about.
Topic clusters are a clever way to expand your content. Instead of focusing solely on keywords, you also consider topics/categories.
For example, instead of trying to target all keywords relevant to your brand, you prioritize topics like email templates, Facebook marketing, sales prospectives, networking, and lead generation.
By writing around topics, you improve your site’s architecture, ultimately helping Google to identify related content.
Sometimes, you hit a wall. Writer’s block is a problem of content marketing that we can’t ignore. What do you do if you hit a dead-end? There are many idea-generating tools that you can use to jumpstart your creative spark.
8. Let the Fun Begin and Create Content!
Now, it’s time for the fun stuff, the part where you actually begin creating the content. When creating your content, remember to keep all the other things established in mind, like your target audience.
While creating your content, you want to be as efficient as possible. Also, you want to be sure your content is on point and actually reinforcing your brand values.
Check out the video below to see how you can use FLASH AI to optimize your social media messages. In this 5-minute case study, we look at an existing social media message. To make the message more positive, we tweak a few words around interactively to get optimum results.
You just input the text and you receive an immediate and precise report on where you can improve.
9. Market and Disseminate
Once your content has been created, it is time to let the world know! You already established where to disseminate your content partially based on your decisions made in Step #6.
But, you still have to make your content live and distribute it via the most effective channels. If your content is evergreen and withstands the test of time, you can disseminate it to your social channels more than once.
10. Measure and Reflect on the Results
Based on the KPIs you established on Step #4, begin to measure the impact you’re making. This will inform your decisions and tweak your content to align with your audience’s needs. For example, if you notice a particular topic/theme is doing well, shift your efforts towards producing more related content.
Conclusion: Content marketing plan for the pros
A content marketing plan is a powerful way to direct your content marketing efforts. A comprehensive strategy is key for creating content efficiently and effectively.
By laying out your goals, resources, available channels, audience interests, and topics, you are leaving no room for errors. With a clear purpose and strategy, it will be easier and more efficient to create content for your brand and see the traffic and conversions go up.
But, remember, a content strategy isn’t static. It is dynamic because it reflects an ever-changing audience, thus, in order to be successful, you must update your plan periodically.