Do you ever look at other brand’s websites, emails, blog posts or social media channels and think to yourself: “how do they do it?”
While it may seem like magic, the truth is, brands who seem to “have it all” in the content marketing dept. aren’t just casually throwing up images or sending you random emails — there’s a TON of detailed work and careful planning that goes into content plans that look completely smooth on the outside.
As a SEO content creator for many years, I was afforded the luxury of learning the ins and outs of content marketing, but sympathize with those who are still struggling to figure it all out. Because really, it’s not that hard, you just need to understand the basics.
My goal is to teach you the basics of content, so you can go into your launch feeling confident, not kooky.
As we get into this, I will talk about the idea of viewing your business as a living and breathing ecosystem with many connected parts, rather than a giant mess of unrelated items.
What is a content plan?
A content plan is the detailed roadmap that outlines the specific content pieces that you will produce and deliver according to your content strategy. It includes the topics, titles, keywords, formats, deadlines, responsibilities, and distribution platforms for each content item.
A content plan answers the questions: when are you creating content, who is creating it, how are you creating it, and where are you promoting it. A content plan is based on your content strategy, your editorial calendar, and your content resources.
Hubspot’s 2021 State of Marketing report reveals that savvy customers engage with 3-5 pieces of content before reaching out to sales. This underscores the need for a focused, strategic content approach that educates, solves problems, and builds trust at every touchpoint.
Think of your content plan as a GPS for your marketing team. It maps out content destinations (blogs, social media, email), the vehicles you’ll use (CMS, SEO tools), and even the fuel (analytics software) to propel your journey. This organized approach streamlines creation, eliminates chaos, and fosters seamless collaboration – a win-win for both content creators and your audience.
Content Plan Vs. Content Strategy: What’s The Difference?
The relationship between content strategy and content plans are symbiotic. A Content strategy provides the overarching vision and purpose, while the content plan will take that vision and transform it into actionable steps.
Without a content strategy, a content plan lacks direction and may not effectively contribute to your overall goals.
While on the other side of the coin, without a content plan, a content strategy remains a conceptual framework with no practical implementation. Combined, they drive successful content marketing campaigns and ensure that your efforts are aligned with your strategic objectives.
A content strategy is one that takes your company’s goals and uses content as the main means of achieving those goals.
For example, one of your business goals might be to increase brand awareness (and thus revenue) — to accomplish this, you might utilize an SEO-focused content strategy to boost your website’s visibility in the SERPs and drive visitors to your products or services.
New business owners might assume a content strategy is not necessary, but that’s far from the truth. Producing high-quality content to meet your customer’s needs can help you build trust with new audiences and succeed in the long run.
A successful content strategy is, in essence, the cornerstone of your attract and delight stages in the buyer’s journey. You can also use a content strategy for sales enablement and overall customer satisfaction in addition to recruiting new prospects to your business.
Without a content strategy and content plan in place, you’re basically winging it. The problem with winging it is that it’s very hard to guide prospects into your funnel and along the buyer’s journey in a systematic way without gaps.
Even if you have a good understanding of content strategy, ad hoc work will lead to the strategy being lost in the quicksand. So, write it all down. Make it real.
Example Of A Decent Content Strategy
At the very highest level:
- Content to build awareness. This generally looks like stuff like industry trends. If someone consumes this content, they’re likely the same target market as your client, but they might not have a need now.
- Differentiation content. This is useful for people actively searching for a solution…. “Everything you need to know before you buy your next widget” this content is often gated so the organization knows who is currently shopping.
- Social proof testimonials… case studies. The theory here is once someone feels like your company might be a good option, they want to know someone in the same situation who made this decision and it worked out awesome.
Beyond the three types of content are the challenges of the client: do they need help with 1, 2 or 3, based on lead volume and closing percentages, the budget they have, and which channels their customers are consuming content on.
4 Reasons To Create A Content Plan
A content plan acts as your roadmap, guiding you towards your content strategy goals. This organized approach brings numerous benefits, including streamlined content marketing efforts.
Streamlines And Improves Your Content Marketing Efforts
Ditch the planning guesswork and dive straight into crafting compelling content. A well-defined content plan acts as your roadmap, saving you precious brainpower for what truly matters – creating sharper, more helpful pieces in less time.
Sharing your plan with your marketing or content team. Suddenly, delegation becomes a breeze. Each team member knows their role crystal clear, and covering for each other is seamless. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Planning is a team sport, a chance to tap into diverse perspectives and uncover hidden content gems you might have otherwise missed. So, go ahead, gather your crew, map out your content journey, and watch your creation process rocket to new heights.
Keeps You From Losing Focus, Procrastinating, Or Postponing Things
Winging it with blog posts, podcasts, and videos might work for a hot sec, but long-term consistency? Forget it. A rock-solid content plan is your secret weapon, providing a roadmap for pumping out fresh content week after week.
Here’s why it’s a game-changer:
- Teamwork makes the content dream work. A plan keeps everyone on the same page, ensuring smooth collaboration and avoiding that “who does what?” scramble. No more last-minute heroics, just a well-oiled content machine.
- Time is precious, content creation shouldn’t steal it. Got a million things on your plate? A plan helps you prioritize and chunk out tasks, so you can create without sacrificing your sanity (or sleep schedule).
- Goals with eyeballs on them are goals more likely to get achieved. Writing down your content plan makes it real, tangible, and stares you in the face, keeping you laser-focused and on track. No more content ghosts floating around in the ether.
Helps You Budget Your Team’s Time
Conquer the “not enough time” monster with an editorial calendar! Plan your content strategically, budget your team’s resources, and stay flexible.
This trusty calendar keeps your content ship sailing smoothly, even when unexpected waves arise.
Breaking news? No sweat! Reschedule less urgent content and ride the wave of timely opportunity. Steer your content strategy to success with an editorial calendar as your guide.
Identifies Content Improvement Opportunities
A detailed content plan dives deep into the specifics of what you’ll create. It’s like a treasure map, helping you uncover untapped topics and angles that fill the gaps in your existing website’s offerings.
As you put your plan into action, analyze its performance along the way. This feedback loop reveals valuable insights for improvement. Did a specific format generate the most leads?
That’s gold for informing future content creation! Is your current publishing frequency leaving prospects wanting more? Amp up the cadence next time to keep them engaged.
How To Create A Killer Content Plan
Before you can captivate your audience, you need captivating content. That’s where a strategic content plan comes in. It’s the fuel that fires your marketing engine, ensuring you have a steady stream of high-quality content to promote and share.
Define your goals
Forget aimless content creation – your goals are the compass guiding your strategy and measuring your progress. They dictate the formats, topics, and even the marketing channels you conquer.
Want to ignite social media engagement by 30%? Craft compelling, original content and strategically share it across platforms. This is the power of SMART goals:
- Specific: Precise targets trump ambiguity. Set goals so clear you can practically taste them.
- Measurable: Blindly throwing content isn’t enough. Track your progress, analyzing metrics like shares, comments, and clicks to see what resonates.
- Attainable: Dream big, but keep it real. Set challenging yet achievable goals to fuel your drive.
- Relevant: Ensure your goals seamlessly align with your broader organizational objectives.
- Timely: Set deadlines that provide enough runway for success without letting momentum wane.
With SMART goals guiding your content journey, you’ll attract, engage, and ultimately convert visitors into loyal fans. So, unleash your inner strategist and map your path to content marketing domination!
Know your budget
While investing heavily in content can fuel impressive results, it’s not the only path to success. For content marketing newbies, starting small with a focused approach might be wiser.
Consider launching a company blog for organic reach through SEO and prioritize understanding your audience to craft targeted content.
This lean strategy ensures your plan delivers a worthwhile return on your time and budget. Once consistent progress starts taking root, you can confidently scale up, diversifying your content across multiple channels.
Determine Your Target Audience
Identifying your ideal audience is like unlocking the secret door to content success. Whether you’re aiming to welcome new faces or deepen bonds with existing customers, tailoring your message for the right ears makes all the difference.
- Existing Customers:
Know your regulars? Leverage your customer experience to craft “avatar Avatars!” These fictional profiles, built on insights into their priorities, challenges, and quirks, help you personalize content that resonates. Imagine a content feast curated just for them, smooth onboarding courses, or targeted loyalty programs – all born from understanding their unique journey.
- New Horizons:
Ready to welcome new friends? Here’s where your imagination takes flight. Craft persona profiles (“buyer personas” in marketing speak) that embody your ideal newcomers. Consider their demographics, interests, and even online hangouts.
Think foodie Facebook groups for recipe demos, or professional LinkedIn circles for business hacks.
Identify Customer Pain Points And Challenges
Understanding your audience’s needs is the bedrock of captivating content. After all, who wants to listen to someone droning on about things you already know or don’t care about?
So, how do you tap into those problems yearning for solutions? Here are some potent strategies:
- Dive into Online Hubs: Seek out relevant forums, subreddits, and social media groups frequented by your target audience. These virtual water coolers overflow with discussions about their challenges, offering a treasure chest of insights.
- Mine Blog Comments: Your existing content can be a goldmine too! Analyse the comments on your blog posts – often, readers raise valuable questions and express pain points directly related to your niche.
- Tap into Customer Voices: Surveys and direct conversations with current customers are powerful tools. Ask open-ended questions to uncover their biggest struggles and how they currently seek solutions.
- Learn from the Competition: Research your competitors’ websites, content, and social media channels. What problems do they address? What keywords do they target? Pay attention to their audience engagement to see what resonates.
- Harness the Power of Reviews: Online reviews hold a wealth of unfiltered feedback. See how customers describe their experiences, both positive and negative, to identify common pain points and desired outcomes.
- Unlock the Knowledge of Your Teams: Your sales and support teams are on the front lines, interacting with customers daily. Leverage their valuable insights into customer challenges and concerns.
Audit Your Existing Content
Before embarking on a brand new content plan, consider the gems already hiding in your archive. A content audit helps you rediscover forgotten treasures and uncover hidden potential.
- Repurpose And Refine: Breathe new life into older posts by updating them with fresh insights, optimizing for keyword relevance, or repackaging them in engaging formats like videos or infographics. Saving time and resources, you’ll boost the performance of your existing library while enriching your audience’s experience.
- Uncover Hidden Gold: Beyond repurposing, an audit reveals gaps in your content coverage. Perhaps a crucial audience pain point lacks addressing, or an outdated post needs a refresh. These insights illuminate your content roadmap, guiding you towards topics and formats that resonate deeply with your readers.
Generate content ideas
Sparkling Content Ideas: Now it’s time to ignite your content creation with insightful customer understanding.
Here’s a winning approach; group your problems and keywords into thematic “buckets” – each brimming with specific content ideas tailored to address customer needs. Got a stellar customer support team? Bring them into the brainstorming room! Their frontline insights are invaluable when crafting content for existing customers.
This strategy ensures your content hits the target, leaving readers informed, engaged, and (perhaps most importantly) satisfied.
Decide what types of content to use
Armed with your brilliant content ideas, the next hurdle is choosing the perfect format. Just like reading preferences, content consumption styles vary widely. Videos might captivate one audience, while blog posts or podcasts resonate with another.
The key lies in identifying the best fit for your message and target audience. Don’t underestimate the power of data! If you have analytics from past content, it’s a goldmine for picking winning formats.
Learn from what sparked engagement and, crucially, what fell flat. This data-driven approach sets you up for content that truly connects.
Figure Out How To Produce The Content
In-house content production shines when you already have a dedicated crew. But for most marketing teams, juggling existing tasks with content creation can be a stretch, and scaling up with new hires takes time and budget.
Freelance writers offer flexibility, letting you tailor your team to your workload. However, managing freelancers can be an extra time commitment, and inconsistent deliverables or missed deadlines are potential bumps in the road.
That’s where agencies come in. They handle your content needs seamlessly, minimizing team workload. While the initial investment might be higher, it’s often offset by their expertise and efficiency – they’re like a built-in marketing team without the onboarding hassle.
Create Your Editorial Calendar
Remember that editorial calendar we talked about? It’s your content creation’s secret weapon, offering a clear-as-day view of who’s tackling what, when, and where. Think daily to-do lists, weekly checkpoints, and monthly milestones, all mapped out for maximum impact.
Got your killer content concepts lined up and format-chosen? Now’s the time to make that calendar sing! Fill it in, schedule each piece across your chosen channels, and voila – you’ve got a content roadmap ready to guide your team to success.
It’s that simple, that powerful. Remember, consistency is key, so let your calendar be your content creation compass, keeping your audience engaged and coming back for more.
Promote your content
Fresh content is only the first step—you need an audience to engage with it. That’s where digital marketing shines, helping you leverage diverse channels like email, social media, and SEO to drive targeted traffic.
But what’s the optimal mix? Deciding the right blend of organic reach through email and SEO, social media buzz, and strategic paid campaigns like Google Ads depends on your goals, target audience, and content type. Experiment, analyze, and refine your approach for maximum impact.
Measure and analyze
The ink’s dry, the pixels are live, your content is out there! But your work isn’t over. Tracking and analyzing content performance is crucial.
By regularly monitoring engagement, you can fine-tune your strategy, optimize existing pieces, and fuel future content creation with data-driven insights.
How to assess and improve your content plan
In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, continuous iteration is key. As such, regularly revisiting your content plans to analyze successes and stumbles can be a game-changer.
These insights fuel smarter future content strategies, propelling you towards audience engagement and goal achievement. Let’s explore some effective techniques for evaluating and optimizing your content planning.
Install and use analytics software
Unlock website insights with Google Analytics, a free powerhouse platform. While tracking website traffic is valuable, take it a step further by setting up conversion goals to measure how your content generates leads and sales.
For even deeper analytics, consider paid solutions. Remember, tracking both traffic and conversions is key to understanding your content’s true impact.
Look at the right metrics
The marketing metric jungle can be overwhelming. Sure, every metric offers the potential for big rewards, but many are mere mirages depending on your content’s purpose. Wasting resources chasing meaningless numbers is a surefire way to stall progress.
For example, a traffic flood might look impressive, but if that audience disappears after reading, it’s like admiring empty plates. In this case, traffic takes a backseat to conversion rate, your true measure of engagement and progress.
This laser-focused approach lets you optimize content for genuine impact, not just fleeting clicks.
Note which assets and channels perform best (and worst)
Once your content gets some mileage, identify star performers by analyzing their engagement. These top dogs hold valuable insights into your audience’s needs and preferred formats.
Keep these winners close: repurpose them into different formats (transform a killer email sequence into a comprehensive blog post, for example). They can even serve as content creation blueprints, guiding your team to replicate their success with a “more of this, please!” stamp of approval.
Track which channels deliver the highest content ROI. Double down on the channels that amplify your voice most effectively, focusing your investment and efforts where they reap the greatest rewards.
Without a rock-solid content strategy as your foundation, your content marketing house will always be shaky. But simply having a strategy isn’t enough. You need a bulletproof content plan to consistently execute it and hit your goals.
The secret sauce? Knowing your audience inside and out. Understanding their pain points, aspirations, and information appetites is crucial for crafting content that truly resonates. This deep understanding makes generating, producing, and promoting content feel like a smooth stride, not a stumbling crawl.
Struggling to build a content plan that propels your organization toward marketing glory? Let’s chat!