According to Benjamin Franklin, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” These words of wisdom can apply even to content marketing. By researching and planning, a business can help ensure its content strategy succeeds at driving organic traffic and generating inbound leads.
Set Your Mission and Your Goals
The first step to laying out a solid foundation for any content plan is deciding on the overall mission and goals.
The mission statement is there to help ensure all content created serves a defined purpose. The mission statement should outline factors like the target audience, the types of content used to reach the target audience, and the benefits the target audience will derive from the content.
The formula to create a mission statement for a business can be broken down as such:
At [COMPANY NAME], we provide [TARGET AUDIENCE] with [TYPE OF CONTENT] to help them with [BENEFICIAL OUTCOME].
After that, you should also define any goals associated with the business. Some of the most common goals include:
Establish Your KPIs
To know whether goals are being met, you must use key performance indicators (KPIs). This helps keep all goals specific and measurable.
KPIs allow a business to know when goals are being achieved by having milestones to keep track of. In general, most KPIs use numbers to measure success. For example, maybe a business wants to gain 10,000 new email subscribers in a month or perhaps see a 25% increase in site traffic after ten days.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your target audience is key to creating relevant and valuable content that will resonate with them. There are three key reasons to define the target audience:
- Ensures you create the right content for the right people
- Gain a deeper understanding of what benefits content should provide to the target audience
- Increases conversions
There are several steps you can take to help pin down the target audience:
Research the demographics
The first factor a business needs to know is the demographics. This can be collected from web analytics, email subscriber analytics, and also social media analytics.
The data collected should include the:
- Key interests
Look at both quantitative and qualitative data. By identifying the key characteristics of current customers, a business can better understand who they should be creating content for.
Receive customer feedback
A lot of insight can be gained from collecting feedback from current customers. By surveying customers, a business can begin to understand what it’s doing well, what needs improvement, and the type of information customers want from the business.
Construct buyer personas
Once both demographic data and customer feedback have been collected, the audience should be segmented to create buyer personas. This will help the business create personalized content to meet that target group’s specific wants and needs.
The buyer persona should include this information about the customer:
- Pain points
- Behavioral motivators
- Preferred social channels
- Position in the sales funnel
- Job title and role
- Marital status
Assess Your Current Position
When a business already has some content published, it’s a good idea to look into whether it is helping to meet any goals or not. Performing a content audit will help with this.
- Strengths and weaknesses in the content strategy
- What content can be repurposed
- Content gap opportunities
- Popular keywords within content
Performing a content audit can be fairly time-intensive and will involve tasks like logging all content pieces, assessing how effective each piece is, comparing it against competitors, and more.
Figure Out the Best Content Channels
After creating buyer personas and performing a content audit, a business should start to get a general idea of where its target audience hangs out.
To double-check this information, a business should make use of Google Analytics. This web analytics tool can show the various social networks where content is being shared on.
With this data in hand, a business should choose the platforms that are performing the best and target those for social media engagement and shares for content.
Decide on Content Types
There are a myriad of content formats to choose from for a business. Examples of just a few include:
- Case studies
- Email newsletters
- White papers
However, instead of randomly choosing a format, a business should instead take the data it has gathered thus far from its target audience research and content audits to decide what format will work best.
The most popular approach is to publish blog posts to the company website and then to repurpose and share this content to other sites.
Identify and Allocate Resources
Even the most high-quality content will flounder if there’s no plan in place.
Depending on the size of the business, roles should be allocated for who is in overall charge of content production as well as for those who are responsible for delivering each individual content piece. Whether a business decides to do content production in-house or outsource will also affect this.
Next, a business needs to know what human, digital, or physical tools and resources it needs to produce content. For example, if a business wants to start a YouTube channel, then it might need to purchase equipment for its in-house team.
After that, the content-production process should also be clearly defined. So, for a blog post, that process might look like this:
- Create an outline
- Have the outline approved
- Write the post
- Add images
- Have the post edited
- Get approval on the post
By ensuring a content-production process is in place, a business can help streamline content creation and enable consistency.
Create a Content Calendar
No content plan is complete without a content calendar. A content calendar will help a business map out when and where to publish content. Without a content calendar, it can be easy to fall into the trap of procrastination.
So, if a business wants to have a consistent workflow for content production, then it is essential to use a content calendar. There are several different tools you can use to help in the creation of a content calendar, such as Google Calendar, Google Sheets, CoSchedule, Asana, Monday, and more.
When filling out a content calendar, examples of the type of information to be mapped out include:
- Ideas for content
- Content topics
- Assigned writers, editors, publishers, and schedulers
- Publish dates
- Content channels to post on
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how detailed the content calendar is. As long as it serves the purpose of streamlining workflow and ensuring consistent production and publication, then it is achieving the desired result.
Once all the prior research has been done, such as understanding the target audience and the goals of the business, then you should have a firm grasp on what type of content needs to be created. For example, maybe you now know, in certain spaces, customers prefer blog posts of over 1,500 words that provide how-to information.
Once you know what topic to tackle, keyword research should be the next step before diving in. Identifying keywords will improve the SEO of the content and improve its search ranking. Knowing what keyword to prioritize while writing a blog post, for example, will impact what direction the content goes.
Also, be sure to consider what type of tone should be set for the content. The tone used for the content should help reflect the brand’s personality.
Distribute and Market
After content creation is finished, the next step is to ensure it is published onto the appropriate channels and advertised. Where the content is being published should already be decided during the content calendar planning phase.
For example, once a new blog post goes live on the company website, perhaps it will be mentioned in an email newsletter that goes out weekly. This helps to engage subscribers who have already shown an interest in content from the business. Making a post on Twitter about the latest blog post or directing a new site visitor to the latest blog post can also help to market the content.
Once the content plan is put into action, it’s time to measure the results to see how successful it is. This is where the business will refer back to the specific KPIs chosen at the start of the content plan to see if goals are being met.
There are various tools and methods a business can use to measure results. One is Google Analytics, which will give details on site performance. Another way is to make use of Google Alerts to see how often and where content is being mentioned and shared.
By monitoring progress and measuring the results, a business can make alterations to its content plan to always stay ahead of the curve.
Every Business Needs a Content Plan
When it comes to running a business, efficiency, organization, and meeting benchmarks are imperative. By having a detailed content plan in place, a business can better understand its own goals, its target audience, and the type of content it needs to create to appeal to prospective customers.