How to Create a Useful Content Marketing Plan in 6 Easy Steps

Image credit: Karla Mora

After being in the workforce for a few years, I decided to pursue a master of business administration degree. I had the grades, the experience, and the essay covered. Four letters stood in the way of my getting accepted at Southern Methodist University:

G … M … A … T.

The folks at SMU said my application looked great. Now, I just needed to score around 500 on the GMAT to get in.

Set and achieve a goal

Oh, boy. Not an easy task, considering my not-so-great experience with the SAT. Not giving up, I recalled reading about Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. He’d write his goals 15 times a day.

Taking a page out of his book, I wrote, “I will get a 600 on the GMAT.” I wrote it 15 times a day, every day until test day.

Why 600 not 500? A football coach said he makes touchdowns a goal rather than a field goal. (No pun or punt intended.) With touchdowns, you aim for seven points. If you get only get a field goal, three points are better than zero. If his goal were to settle for field goals, then he’d cut his chance of scoring at all. So I aimed beyond what I needed without being unrealistic.

It worked. I came darn close with 490 and got into the program. Had I used 500 in my daily affirmation, I might’ve scored 400.

Score with a content marketing plan

The same approach applies to doing content marketing without a plan. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2019 research, 62 percent of B2B content marketing top performers have a documented content marketing strategy. Of the least successful performers, only 16 percent have a documented strategy.

I think we can agree that it’s important to have a content marketing strategy. The problem is creating one, without knowing where to start, analysis paralysis, and being plain overwhelmed. It’s just like facing a messy garage loaded with boxes and junk.

Where do you begin?

Get started with this simple 6-step content marketing plan

Start small. A little something is better than nothing. And you can add to it, as you get comfortable with each step. It’s like checking the mail and taking care of it on the spot: trash, file, or act. Leave it on the counter, and it’ll sit there collecting a few new friends.

Here are the painless six steps to get you started.

1. Identify content marketing goals.

Capture what you want your company to achieve in six to 12 months.

  • Build brand awareness.
  • Connect with influencers and customers.
  • Educate prospects and clients.
  • Nurture leads.
  • Cross-sell and up-sell other services.
  • Provide customer service.

2. Describe your target audience.

Building a persona representing your ideal client helps you keep that person in mind during content creation. Add the following information about the person.

  • Name.
  • Age.
  • Job title.
  • Company details.
  • Industry.
  • Pain points.
  • Problem that you solve.
  • Where you find this person online.
  • How the person prefers to get information.

3. Write down questions your prospects and clients ask.

These will be your starting point for creating content and will tell you what prospects want to know, so you can move them to the next stage of the customer-decision journey.

4. List the types of content you will create.

Spinning off content into other types saves you a lot of time and gives your content marketing efforts a bigger bang for its buck. You can create the following types of content:

  • Blog posts
  • Guest posts
  • Guides
  • Curated content
  • Videos (Bonus points if they’re subtitled/captioned)
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews
  • Tutorials
  • Presentation slides
  • Infographics
  • Frequently asked questions

Let’s say you have an email newsletter. The feature article in the email newsletter can turn into a webinar. You can also repurpose the article into a series of blog posts, a presentation you post in SlideShare, and a guide that requires completing a form to download it. (Gated content.) This gets you an email address and other information to add to your growing email list.

Because you repurpose the content, you get new names, as people find your content in different places. Next time you create new content, post an update in social media and send an email to your list to let people know about it.

5. Make a simple editorial calendar.

Don’t make yourself crazy with the editorial calendar. Think of it as a publishing schedule that lists when you’ll publish the webinar recording, blog posts, guide, and so forth.

Here’s a simple one that worked for one client. It had just four columns:

  • Topic
  • Month
  • Call to action (CTA)
  • Keywords

Expand it to include content type. The key here is to create one that you’ll maintain and use. Remember, something is better than nothing.

6. Create a checklist of places to promote the content.

Modify this checklist for your company and then reuse it every time you create new content.

  • Twitter. (Once or twice a day.) Test different headlines.
  • LinkedIn company page. (One-time post.)
  • LinkedIn personal account. (One-time post.)
  • Facebook. (Once a week.) Test different images and introductory copy.
  • Email list. (One-time post with a second send to those who didn’t open the first one.)

That’s it. You’re done. You have a content marketing plan.

What about ROI and metrics to let you know if this content marketing strategy is working? They’re important, yes. But I promised you an effortless content marketing plan to ensure you document it.

Don’t let the idea of creating a content marketing plan overwhelm you. Just take one step at a time.

Start with your marketing goals. That’ll take fewer than 10 minutes. You can handle that, right? Once done, do the next step, and you’ll knock out your content marketing strategy before you know it.

To make sure you document your plan and put it to work, you could do a daily affirmation. Write “I will create, implement, and evolve a content marketing plan” 15 times a day. Heck, 10 will do.

Something is always better than nothing.

Download the Content Marketing Plan template for your use.

Need a hand with your digital and content marketing? Please drop me a line.

Image credit: Karla Mora

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