Why build a content plan? Building a content plan offers a number of benefits:
- Taking a systematic approach to producing content means you are more likely to achieve your marketing goals.
- It increases the chances of you creating content consistently.
- It avoids you having to brainstorm ideas at the last minute to meet a publishing deadline.
- Your content will form a coherent body of work, so the whole will be worth more than the sum of its parts. That will likely lead to a wider audience for each piece.
- You can drive traffic to related content by highlighting what is coming next or linking to previous posts that cover a topic in greater depth.
- It will help you evaluate your progress and implement lessons learned along the way.
- It will help you demonstrate the value of your content to relevant stakeholders.
1. Set goals.
It is important to set goals so that you can focus your efforts. Content with the goal of raising awareness is likely to look very different to content aiming to maximise conversions, so you can assess progress and tell whether your strategy is working or not. These should be SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely - so not "increase website traffic", for example, but "increase website traffic from new visitors by 10 per cent by December 1".
2. Know your audience.
This will determine both what content you create and which channels you use to distribute it. Customers are a good place to start - who are your best customers? Who buys your products? Who buys a competitor offering? Is there a category of audience you are deliberately trying to avoid, for example a customer with insufficient budget for your products and services? You can gather information about your customers and potential customers through a number of sources. Speak to sales and marketing colleagues, use web and social media analytics tools and review both formal and informal customer feedback.
3. Develop customer personas.
Once you have this information, you can use it to create personas - pen portraits of prospects and customers that will help you understand what motivates them, their pain points and challenges. Without personas, you can easily end up guessing what content your audience wants, which means you are more likely to create content about what you know rather than about the information your audience is looking for. Each persona should include information about job role, demographics, background / education, goals, challenges, common objections and which media and social media they like to consume.
4. Analyse the customer journey for these personas.
How do your customers come to buy your services? The customer journey can help identify current sticking points, reduce the length of the sales cycle, reduce costs, even improve customer satisfaction scores. It will also help you identify what content might be missing, because different types of content do different jobs.
5. Content audit.
Resist the temptation to reinvent the wheel by disregarding what you already have. Often, you will have more material than you think. Also consider what content you can get through desktop research or a quantitative or qualitative survey. Try to make content topical, say something new or contrary to received wisdom.
6. Event-based audit.
Look at your upcoming events / monthly priorities – these may inspire ideas or suggest the best timing to publish your content.
7. Competitor audit.
How well does your proposed content compare to that of your competitors? What types of content do they have? What channels do they use? How often do they publish? You should also seek to identify any gaps that neither you nor your competitors is targeting, and assess whether these areas would be of interest to potential customers.
8. Identify the right content for each stage of your personas' customer journeys.
For example, at the Awareness stage, an e-book might be the most appropriate content offer, whereas at the Consideration stage a questionnaire would work best. Finally, at the Decision stage, you could offer a free consultation. Think carefully about what your call to action will be and how best to incorporate it into the content.
9. Create Content Calendar.
This will be a breeze after all this preparation. Identify which content you will publish when.
10. Create content.
Decide who does what, identify the tools and resources you need to succeed, and agree the process of creating content - who needs to research, write, edit and approve it.
11. Apply SEO.
Optimise the content for search engines in terms of:
- Use and application of keywords in headings, body content, meta data and alt tags
- Adding internal links to other relevant content
- Adding external links as references or in support of the content
- Acquiring backlinks – get links to your content from other websites
Armed with your knowledge of your buyer personas, now push the content out on the most appropriate platforms.
13. Evaluate and optimise.
Using the goals you set at the start of the process, assess the results of your efforts so far and tweak the approach accordingly.
For advice about creating a calendar of content that raises your profile and generates leads, please contact Sam Rudland at email@example.com