How to create a content marketing strategy plan

The thought of starting to create content, if you haven’t already, can be daunting. It’s such a large undertaking and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. However, if you break it down and create a comprehensive content marketing strategy plan, you can make production manageable. The following tips should help you get started.

Outline your aim and goals

Before anything else, you need to decide what the overall aim of your content marketing efforts is. Think about your company mission and consider how content could help you work towards it. Then, break this down using the SMART framework: you want to identify goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example, an aim could be “to be seen as a thought leader in technology-driven pet accessories”. SMART goals for this could be “to appear on the first page of Google for the search term ‘automated dog feeder’ by 1st August 2016” and “to grow an email list of 1,000 subscribers by 1st July 2016”. With clear goals, you’ll have tangible targets to work towards and easily be able to measure your successes.

Identify your buyer personas

Now you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to look at your target audience. To see results, you need to identify who you’re creating content for, this will determine the kind of content you produce and your tone of voice. You should have about three to five detailed buyer personas. You can get started with buyer personas with this beginner’s guide or by using Hubspot’s template and guide. Typically, you’ll want to find out more about your existing customers by speaking with them, doing surveys and looking at your site’s traffic.

Research where your personas go

In order for your content marketing activities to be effective, you need to know where your prospects go online. This will require some research. In a similar way to your initial persona research, it’s a good idea to speak with existing customers. Ask about their online habits – what sites they visit most often, their favourite blogs, the social media platforms they use and more. This will help you decide where you need to concentrate your efforts in terms of the kind of content you create and how you promote and distribute it. For example, a seller of keyboards for developers may find that many of their potential customers spend time on Reddit, so it could be worth growing a presence there.

Evaluate existing content

Next, take a look at any existing content you have. You’ll want to do a content audit to see areas you’ve done well with so far, and areas that have been lacking. How in-depth you need to go will depend how much you’ve produced so far. Basically, you want to list all your content, how much traffic it has produced, how many leads and sales it has generated, the keywords you used and engagement generated. See which pieces of content have worked well for you so you can create content on similar topics, or utilising the same keywords.

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CMI’s template for content strategy statement

Note the kinds of content you want to focus on

So you know what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re creating content for and what areas you’ve been successful with so far – you can use this knowledge to decide what kind of content you want to focus on going forward. You can choose from a world of options, including blog posts, infographics, videos and reviews. Think about your personas, what they’d like, and how different content could help you achieve your goals. For example, say you’re aiming to sell tractor attachments and your buyer persona is Tom, a young farmer who uses the internet to help his dad make the best purchasing choices for their farm. You could create a series of blog posts that review the latest bale spikes in detail and honestly.

Take a look at your team and their capacities

For a content marketing strategy to be effective, you need to understand your capabilities. Consider who will be working on your content, whether it’s just yourself or an entire dedicated content team. You’ll need to be realistic about what you’re able to do, so think about what you know, your strengths (e.g. would you be better at writing informative blog posts or creating an image using Photoshop?) and your other responsibilities. This will give you an idea of how much content you’ll be able to produce on a weekly or monthly basis, without over-stretching yourself. If your time is limited and you have the resources, you could outsource most of your content marketing.

Make an editorial calendar

By now, you should have a good idea of what you’re going to do, so it’s time to create an editorial calendar. Ideally this should be a spreadsheet with columns for the content type, title, goal, creator, deadline, distribution/promotion channel and any other important details. You can use an existing template to make things easier. Then get creating!

Once you’ve started publishing, you’ll need to promote your content through various channels. It’s a good idea to have a promotion workflow, which will ensure this important step is never missed. When a piece of content is published, you could email coworkers about it, share it on social media, forward it to your email subscribers and contact influencers in the hope they’ll share it.

Monitor and tweak

So you’re writing, publishing and sharing content on a regular basis, but it doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor how your content is doing and make changes to your plan if necessary. Analytics tools are essential for this. At the very least, ensure you have Google Analytics set up and configured properly so you can see important data about visitors to your site. Keep your eye on how content is performing and try to spot any trends; you can then tweak your plan to reflect content that has done well.

Useful templates

To make planning easier, there are many templates available. Buffer offers one of the most comprehensive, along with detailed steps you can follow. You’ll also find a straightforward, fast, one-page plan by Uncommon.ly here and an excellent content marketing strategy package for B2B companies by Velocity here.

Don’t put off writing your content marketing strategy plan any longer – get started today!

Image courtesy of Pieter Schouten

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