Sam Beddall

How To Create A Content Marketing Plan That Works

by Sam Beddall on April 16, 2020

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The goal of content marketing is to educate, inform and persuade our ideal audience that your brand is the best. In order to do this we create and share relevant written, visual and audio content that will engage and inspire people to buy our products or services. It is our job, as content marketers, to provide enough value in the form of great content that potential customers forget all about other brands and become loyal to us.

According to HubSpot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing to drive sales and increase their presence in search engine rankings. Creating powerful and engaging content is extremely important but how do we get it to stand out from the crowd?

Gone are the days when any old content will do. Now that online shoppers are more savvy we need a well thought out strategy. Follow the steps below to create a content marketing plan that is guaranteed to grow your business.

1. Define your goals

Before you do anything, set a top level goal for your content marketing that encompasses a wider view of what the business is trying to achieve. Create a content mission statement if that helps nail down the key areas of focus. Consider why you are creating content in the first place. Do you want to make more sales? Are you looking to improve your SEO, social media presence, or maybe even find more cost efficient marketing strategies? Define your mission in as much detail as possible. Use the SMART goal criteria to help. 

2. Decide who will consume your content

Once you have a top level mission for your content marketing, it’s time to decide your target audience. It’s tempting to say ‘everybody’ but this rarely works in practice. The most effective content is tailored to specific audiences, with specific intentions, and it resonates because the message is personal. Split your target market into different types of customers. Create archetypal characters that mirror your real audience and inform what content will work for whom. We call these marketing or buying personas. HubSpot has a simple marketing persona development worksheet to help you get started.

3. What problem does your content solve?

Now that you know your audience it’s time to address the problems or challenges that they face. Look at the different stages of the marketing funnel and decide where your content sits. It’s important to create content that actually solves a problem or answers a question. Don’t get stuck in the loop of creating content for no reason, or because a competitor is doing it. Really understanding and being empathetic to the needs of your customer is what makes effective content marketing so powerful – imagine that you are sat opposite a customer and trying to help him or her.

4. Narrow your focus to relevant channels

When you have a good idea of who and why you are creating content, it’s time to look at relevant channels. These can include ‘owned’ properties, such as your website, social media properties such as Twitter or Instagram, and also third-party channels that you don’t own, such as online magazines or other publications. The list of potential channels is large so do your research and decide a) the places where your audience hang out the most, and b) where your customers go to get their information. Look, also, for the presence of influencers in your niche. Where they are a lively and engaged group of target customers is likely to congregate. 

5. Decide what types of content you want to create

With the who, why and where established, it’s finally time to start generating some content ideas. HubSpot has a fantastic blog ideas generator to get you thinking along the right lines, but you will want to think beyond just blogging. What videos could you create? What visuals and infographics will encourage shares on social media and get people talking about your brand? With the resources and time that you have available, could you start a podcast and invite industry influencers to come and talk about their experiences? Your audience, their preferences, and the goals you have already set will provide a sturdy framework for your brainstorming. 

6. Establish KPIs

You could argue specific KPIs should be set sooner but we believe that content brainstorming is best done with limited restrictions. When you have a strong list of content ideas, and have narrowed it down to the most feasible ones, you should set KPIs that will help measure your progress. These KPIs will vary according to the channel. Perhaps you want to grow your Instagram following by 15% in the next three months? Maybe you want 1000 views on each article before June next year? Make sure your KPIs are aligned with your objectives. They need to be realistic and attainable, yet challenging enough to push your team to excel. In this article, the Content Marketing Institute goes into more detail about content marketing KPIs.

7. Estimate budget and team capacity

Now that you have a solid idea of what content you are planning to create, start thinking about execution. Do you have everything you need to deliver the content marketing strategy you are proposing? Ask yourself questions such as: Who is responsible or accountable for this piece of content? Are there any tools that could help us create and track the performance of our content over time? Consider the business cost of extra talent – copywriters, videographers and content strategists are all valuable assets. Find out the cost of freelancers if you don’t have the capacity in-house. Ensure every piece of content is mapped out with costs, timings (production and marketing), and also allocated to the right person.

8. Draw up a production calendar

If you followed the last step you are halfway towards this already, but now is the time to create a full calendar for your content marketing. In as much detail as you can, explain the how, what, why, where and when of your content. Not only will this give you clarity on what can be a complex undertaking, it will also allow you to identify gaps in your content marketing plan and weaknesses in the content itself. When drawing up your production calendar, include the following: the stage of the marketing funnel the content is being created for, the content format, the person in charge of production, deadlines for first and final drafts (as well as allocations for revisions), and also the date and channels that will be used for promotion. There are some simple editorial calendar templates available here.

9. Create

You’ve come this far and you have a good idea of what you want to do and what you will achieve. Now comes the part where you actually create the content you’ve done so much prep work for. Before this happens, however, consider your brand tone of voice and how you want the world to perceive your business. Are you an edgy, casual B2C brand, or a more corporate-focused B2B company? It can be easy to hit the wrong note with ill-thought out content so take your time in nailing down the actual ‘spirit’ of your brand before investing in content that will live forever on the web. Finally, understand the psychology behind developing brand loyalty.

10. Distribute and market your content

With your content created and ready for public consumption, it’s time to get it in front of the right people. By this time, you will know the channels and corners of the web where your target customer spends most of their time. Set up a schedule or even a paid media strategy to ensure your content meets the right eyeballs. That could mean using social media, paying for advertising space, or sending a targeted email to segmented pools of data – whatever you need to do. Use tools such as BuzzSumo to generate key insights and identify influencers who could amplify your reach. Reach out and add value to them and build relationships. If your content is the best (which it should be), people will want to get involved.

11. Measure results

Dig out the KPIs you set before you started creating the content. Have you hit or even vastly exceeded your initial goals? Perhaps you haven’t hit your targets yet and you need to think again about what sort of content works for your audience. All feedback is valuable feedback – one of the great things about content marketing is that you can always change direction and try again. Study the data from tools such as Google Analytics, or dig deeper into the reach and organic rankings of your content with premium tools such as SEMRush. Last but not least, ask your customers what they think. Did what you create help them? Did it inform their buying decision? Loyal customers and people intrigued by your brand will be only too happy to offer feedback.

12. Keep improving

English historian and mathematician John Finley once said, “Maturity is the capacity to endure uncertainty”. And that’s exactly what content marketing is. You can’t be sure what will work all of the time, or whether it will keep working. Customer habits change and so do the ways we consume information. The very least we can do, however, is to endeavour to always help our customers as much as possible with the content we provide, and to also strive to improve based on the feedback we receive. If we do these two things over the long-term, we cannot possibly fail.

Key takeaways:

  • Content marketing is extremely important – 70% of all marketers are currently investing in content marketing.
  • Defining ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ people will consume your content is almost as important as, and will inform, the ‘what’ (what content you will produce). 
  • Establish relevant channels and KPIs early so that you know what you are striving to achieve. 
  • Consider the costs and capacity restrictions of your proposed content – do you have the talent in-house or do you need to outsource?
  • Creating a detailed strategic plan will lead to much better results that content produced on a whim.
  • If you fail to distribute your content after you have created it, it will almost certainly fail to produce a positive ROI. 
  • Measuring results and improving on feedback is the name of the game – content marketing is for life, not just for Christmas. 

If you would like to speak to our content team for more content marketing tips, or personal advice on how to create a complete content marketing strategy for your business, please drop us a line at hello@cognitionagency.co.uk.

Alternatively, fill in the contact form and one of the team will get straight back to you.

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Sam Beddall

This post was written by Sam Beddall

Sam is a content manager and writer with a background in advertising. He combines his passions for writing and helping businesses to grow by supporting clients in delivering powerful and authentic messages to their audiences.