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How to make a content marketing plan: 8 steps to success

A successful content marketing plan will promote your business to the right people so you can increase leads and convert them into sales. However, developing an effective content marketing strategy can be challenging for businesses that are just starting out or don’t have much experience in the field. In this article, we take a look at how to make a content marketing plan by asking some common questions to help you get started.

Firstly, what is a content marketing plan?

Man stood in front of a whiteboard with a strategy marked up

Content marketing has the primary aim of boosting your presence and brand awareness online via activities such as regular blogging, social media marketing/posting, video production, and SEO (search engine optimisation).

A content marketing plan is a coordinated strategy which details the techniques you will use to promote your business through content (both written and visual) and how often you will do it. A content marketing strategy may also involve an email campaign, blogger outreach or affiliate links on other websites.

The trick to a great content marketing plan is to create content regularly, but also to have core pieces of cornerstone or pillar content that will be timeless and continue to generate traffic or deliver leads long after it has been published, such as a free ebook, template or guide.

How to make a content marketing plan: 8 steps to success

If you want to put together a sound content marketing plan, there are a few steps you need to follow. Start by answering these questions:

1. What is the aim of your content marketing strategy?

For example, do you want to increase brand awareness? Get more traffic to your blog? Generate more leads? It might even be more specific, such as increase sales of a particular product or service, or increase followers on a particular social channel.

Whatever your aim, make sure it is as concrete as possible – following the SMART principles can help (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound), but the Content Marketing Institute/MIT Sloan suggest using FAST (Frequently Discussed, Ambition, Specific, Transparent).

2. What are the most appropriate strategies for achieving your goal?

By this we mean the content channels you want to optimise. This starts with what kind of message you want to get across and who your target audience is.

For instance, if you want to start ranking for keywords, you need a blog strategy which develops posts around those low-competition keywords (long tail and query-based – i.e. questions for topics – tends to work better and you may have noticed is a strategy we follow on the Copify blog).

If you want to increase social engagement, your strategy is going to be focused on a mix of content such as polls, competitions and conversations.

Your chosen strategy will require an understanding of your target audience, because there’s no point creating blog posts when your demographic traditionally reside on social channels.

3. Who is your target audience?

To reiterate, there’s no point in pursuing a content marketing plan if you’re pitching it to the wrong people. It’s important to identify who are the people you want to see and read your content. Some questions that might help with this include:

  • Who do I want to talk about my business?
  • What would they be interested in hearing about?
  • What problem or question do I need them to solve for me?

Understanding your target audience is usually a step taken at branding stage for your business, but it’s possible you may have a wide audience base and be looking to target one segment to market a specific product to.

4. How often should I publish new content on a regular basis?

Over the shoulder of a woman organising her calendar on a laptop

The answer will depend on what type of content you are looking to produce more of. For instance, it’s usually best to publish on your blog weekly at a minimum – at Copify we blog at least twice a week. The reason being more regular posting encourages Google’s spiders to crawl your site more regularly, making it more likely to indexed faster. Neil Patel offers a good overview of Google indexing and crawling.

If you’re publishing social media content, you’ll probably want to be publishing at least 6 times a day throughout the day. This is because unlike web page content which is more static, social feeds are constantly being updated so you want to ensure you’re maximising your chances of being visible. Also, tailor your posting times around the points in the day or week that your audience is more active (your social media analytics can offer more insight into this).

5. Do you need to perform a content audit?

If you’ve already been publishing content for a while, performing a content audit can help you to see what you have published previously, how you can improve it (updating a post might be all that’s needed) and where the gaps are in your strategy. It can also offer some insights about what does and doesn’t work with your audience so you can hit the ground running.

6. What should I post about?

This will be informed by what the real message of your content marketing strategy is. Do you want to promote your CSR (corporate social responsibility) policy as part of brand awareness? Are you looking to raise interest in a new product or collection? Perhaps you simply want to distinguish yourself from your competitors by showing your USPs? Knowing your message will help you brainstorm ideas for your content across your preferred channels.

Variety is key, so try to switch up what you postand share, particularly on social media. Videos, infographics, behind the scenes photo shoots, memes, polls and live streamed events all keep people engaged.

Note that if you’re looking to increase leads you may also want to provide free tools, downloadables, podcasts or tutorials. The best content marketing plans get rewards by offering something of value to customers, so think about your company’s specialisms and ask yourself what you can give for free. If you’re not sure where to start, research your competitors to see what they’re doing.

7. How will I publish and manage my content?

To start publishing, make sure you have researched the best content management system (CMS) for you. Many companies use a WordPress blog but there are others out there that make blogging easy.

For social, make sure your accounts are up and running. It may be cumbersome to try and post across too many channels so while you’re starting out focus on one or two.

You’ll also need to decide on a blog schedule, so think about how often you want to create new content, who will write and publish it and how long each post should be. You may need to put together a style guide and policy document for your marketing team/freelancers to follow. There are many scheduling platforms available that allow you to stack up blog posts or social media posts to ensure you’re able to post around the clock without burning out.

8. How will I measure my results?

What will success look like to you? This is important. You’ll need to accurately measure how you’re doing against the goals you set up at the outset. If they aren’t working as planned, reassess them. The kinds of metrics to measure your content marketing plan against include page views, bounce rates, social shares and likes.

It’s also important to be realistic and aim for a specific figure so that if, for example, you increase your followers by ten at the end of the first week but you’d planned to increase by fifty, you know whether your strategy is working as you’d intended.

Examples of successful content marketing plans

Here are three examples of content marketing strategies that proved a great success:

1. A successful article-based content marketing strategy

Adobe has had a lot of success with this in the past and is continuing to do so. They’ve partnered with various influential bloggers to create quality content on creativity that’s inspiring for both general readers and thought leadership pieces on the wider tech industry. Their CSR policy is evident from their blog, as they create timely articles around trending environmental topics. Each post also ends with a call-to-action to try their software for free to encourage leads.

2. A successful social media marketing strategy:

Clothing retailer Boohoo have a reputation for being completely on-brand and offering everything their customers want across social media. Mixing up their sales-based product content with contests and general celeb-focused posts and memes, they post constantly, making their posts unmissable in follower feeds and generating a sense of urgency. Best of all, they know exactly who they are talking to (the 16-24-year-old market), working with influencers and using a conversational tone to position themselves as a confidante to that audience.

3. A successful brand awareness marketing strategy

If you’re operating in a saturated market, sometimes you have to think outside of the box to get your commonplace product seen and talked about. One company that used content marketing to raise their brand awareness was Blendtec. In their ‘Will It Blend’ marketing campaign, they use YouTube to post videos of their blender blending everything from the iPhone 6 Plus to key fobs and golf balls! This is a lighthearted and attention-grabbing campaign that creates a real talking point and opportunity to go viral. But the shock factor also helps raise awareness about Blendtec as a contemporary and daring competitor that is willing to evidence its product’s durability and quality.

Next steps

A content marketing plan will underpin all of your content activity so it’s important you give it the time and attention it deserves. If you’re interested and want to learn more, Buffer has a good content strategy template to help you take your planning further.

Remember, your content should work hard for you, so although it seems like a lot of steps to get started, once you’ve found a formula that works and writers who are passionate about promoting your business, this will shine through and encourage more engagement, traffic and leads.

Header image: Photo by airfocus on Unsplash 

Embedded images: Austin Distel on Unsplash, Soundtrap on Unsplash, Blendtec YouTube

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.

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