Developing a content marketing plan may sound like a daunting task – but if you are organized, it’s actually fairly quick to put together. Typically, this takes our team about 2 hours to do each quarter. There are multiple ways that you can approach your content marketing plan – and any one version isn’t necessarily better than another.  Below I have detailed my preferred method as a guide to help you get started.  I feel like it is scalable and easy for everyone involved to understand.  It keeps all involved parties unified and working towards the same shared vision.

7 Step Guide to Content Marketing Success

Step 1: Create a table or spreadsheet

I like to create content plans in a word doc, but a spreadsheet works as well.  Enter the following values down the first column:

  • Audience
  • Motivations
  • Digital Locations
  • Topics
  • Reach Tactics*

Step 2: Identify who you are writing your content for

Before going any further, you need to understand who you are writing content for.  This may or may not be specifically your personas (if you have them).  I like to split it out by job titles of my customers/prospects because someone at a manager level will likely be looking for content that is different than someone at a director level or C-level.  These labels go across the top row labeled Audience.  Don’t feel limited here, but also don’t overwhelm yourself by getting too granular.

Your table should look something like this now:

Step 3: Determine your audience’s motivations

This is a great time to pull others into this process.  Sales, product development, customer support, and account managers are all great resources that have insight into what the customer is thinking.  Start to brainstorm around what their motivations are.  What are their pain points as it relates to the business or product you are offering?  If you have personas created, you can pull it from there.  Otherwise, just start listing them out with enough detail so that anyone looking at this document understands what you mean.  Feel free to put down multiple motivations as well.

Step 4: Figure out where your audience spends their time – online and offline

You need to know where your users hang out so that you know how to reach them.  Do they use LinkedIn or Facebook?  What magazine or publications do they read?  What tradeshows do they attend?  Prioritize these locations as far as number of people reached or authority and credibility they provide.

Step 5: List the most relevant topics

At this point, you need to start looking at the audience and motivations, and think of content topics that are directly related to that audience and what their motivations are.  This is critical so that you and your staff don’t go off the rails creating content that isn’t relevant. Stay focused and don’t worry about listing every possible topic.  Generally, the most important topics will be at the top of everyone’s mind.  The ideas generated in the first 15 minutes are going to be the ones that are most relevant.

Step 6: Put it all together

At this point, you know who you are writing for, what motivates them, where they get their information, and the topics of interest.  Now it is time to create the titles of the content you want to create, where it will be posted, and who will create it.

For example:

  • How to create a content marketing plan? – internal blog post – Jess
  • Getting the most mileage out of your marketing budget – LinkedIn article – Mike

Do this for all of the topics that you wrote down earlier.  You should have a pretty robust list of content needed that can be related to your specific audiences you are trying to target and what motivates them.  Identify what will be a blog post, a white paper, an email campaign, etc.

Step 7: Map it out in a content calendar

Now that you have done all of this great work, it is time to put it on a calendar.  Think about any special events that are happening and if any of the topics are relevant to it.  Spread out the work among the team so you don’t overwhelm any one person with lots of assignments at the same time.  Make sure you are addressing all of your audiences across the time frame vs. having all content for a single audience in one month.  This process should easily give you enough content to put together for a quarter, if not longer.

 

After going through this exercise the first time, it should only get easier because you likely won’t need to completely reinvent the wheel on steps 1-4. The most common pitfall that teams run into when creating a content marketing plan is overthinking it. Trust your gut and don’t worry about making everything perfect. Once your content is created and out in the world, you can begin to measure your reach and success and simply adjust your plan as needed next quarter.

*Reach Tactics are activities that build awareness and visibility of your brand, products and services in areas beyond your primary corporate website.