Have you ever thought to yourself, “I need a crash course in Content Marketing 101”? Or maybe you’ve been 10 pages deep in a Google search and thought, “What is a content marketing plan, and why do I need one?”
You’re not alone in that.
Many startups and small businesses are looking to jumpstart their content creating efforts, but a lot of them stumble out of the gate and second-guess themselves. This often results in lackluster content that doesn’t meet business goals and doesn’t draw in new readers. The truth is, many of these organizations fail at their first attempt at content marketing programs because they spent little to no time on a content marketing plan.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 76% of B2B marketers say that, compared with 2015, they will produce more content in 2016. In theory this is great. Content is essential to business success online, so creating more valuable content has the potential to increase sales lead quality, sales, and conversion rates (rated by B2B marketers as the top three most important metrics.)
There are some problems, however.
The CMI also found that fewer B2B marketers had a documented content marketing strategy compared to the previous year and 27% assessed their content marketing strategy as being “young” and were challenged by creating a cohesive strategy and measurement plan.
And don’t think that these issues are limited to B2B organizations. Plenty of B2C businesses face the same challenges and stumbling blocks when it comes to content creation.
You wouldn’t strike out on a cross-country drive without at least bringing up Google Maps on your phone, so why jump into content marketing without a content roadmap? You may not crash and burn, but it won’t be an easy journey.
So, are you ready to get an edge not eh competition and turbocharge your content marketing plan? Let’s start with the basics.
Content Marketing 101: What Is It?
There are as many different definitions of content marketing as there are content marketing blogs, but in its simplest form content marketing is creating something of value in order to attract the attention of your customer and build a relationship with them.
Here’s another definition:
“How a brand creates, delivers, and governs original or curated content to attract and retain customers, positioning the brand as a credible expert and, ultimately, motivating a change in behavior.” – Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing differs from traditional advertising in that creating a relationship and starting a conversation is more important than the direct sell. It is through this relationship-building that a brand can establish itself as an authority and inspire customers to do something – whether it is to keep interacting, make a purchase, or another goal.
The buyer’s journey has changed. In most cases, by the time a customer reaches you, they’ve already done a fair amount of research into their problem and are looking for solutions. In addition to online research, they’ve also probably reached out their networks for an opinion – and this network can include the woman in the office down the hall, or the man on Twitter that lives 1,000 miles away. You want to be another weapon in this prospective buyer’s arsenal. You want to be the resource he goes to and ultimately the solution he chooses in the end.
We’ve already mentioned that content marketing can help you in this process – now let’s talk about the strategy.
What is a content marketing plan?
A content marketing plan is the map you will follow to success. It includes all of the ingredients you’ll need for your company’s content marketing recipe, and it should focus on the first half of your overall content marketing strategy: developing content designed for audience engagement and inspiring changes in audience behaviors.
Having a documented content marketing plan helps many marketers increase the effectiveness of their programs. When you have a plan, you feel more confident and better understand the why’s behind what you are doing.
Essentially, the content marketing plan is an outline of your objectives and your audience paired with a proposal of how you will meet these objectives and audience needs with content.
What goes in a content marketing plan?
There isn’t a be-all-end-all template for content marketing plans. Your content marketing plan will be as unique as your business itself. However, there are a few common things to take into consideration when building your plan:
- What the company needs to accomplish in the next year
- Growth targets (e.g. profits, revenue)
- Avenues for growth (e.g. new products, upsells, acquisition, new customers)
Brainstorm additional goals and objectives that are specific to your business and add them into the plan. When you understand these distinct goals you can then ideate on the content that will help you achieve them.
Now, what should you put into your plan? Here are a few of the essentials:
What do you want out of the content? Why are you bothering with content marketing in the first place? Do you want to capture more leads? How about drive sales? Maybe you want to build brand awareness or educate consumers.
You’ll make a much easier time of the rest of the process if you define your goals first. It also helps you to avoid the pitfall of creating content just because you’ve heard it’s the thing to do.
Who are you selling to or trying to reach? Define your perfect customer(s) and write a bit about them, such as their motivations, their challenges, and where they hang out online. When you understand your audience, you’ll understand what they are looking for – and then you can give it to them.
What types of content will you create? Common content assets include blog posts, eBooks, tutorials, newsletters, white papers, infographics, videos, etc. The list goes on and on.
Think about the types of content you are already producing. How can you branch out? Is there a way to leverage your current content and turn it into something new? For example, if you have a wealth of blog posts you can repackage them into an eBook.
Where will you distribute your content? Pair this with the audience research you did in a previous step. Go to where you audience is and share your content on these avenues.
Your plan, just like your content marketing program, doesn’t end with the content. You’ll need to plan out how you’ll measure the success of your content. Is it helping you meet your business goals? Are you seeing traffic growth in your analytics or are your social shares increasing? Decide what metrics you want to track and choose your preferred method for measuring them. You can use this data later to develop new content and update your content marketing plan.
At first glance, setting up a content marketing plan might seem overwhelming, or maybe even boring, but your business will benefit in the long-run if you put one in place today. It will allow you to produce stronger content, which will then translate into stronger relationships with your customers. All aspects of your content program will benefit from having a plan in place.