According to tradition, it was Benjamin Franklin, the father of content marketing, who said “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” While Franklin probably wasn’t referring to today’s content marketers, his words ring true for them.
And yet, the majority of companies that use content marketing don’t have a plan or strategy in place for their marketing. Just 40 percent of B2C marketers have a content marketing strategy, according to the 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report. It’s even worse for B2B content marketers: Just 37 percent have a documented content strategy.
Of course, if you don’t know how to put together a plan or strategy, it can be difficult to get started. Whether your brand is B2C or B2B, new to content marketing or struggling to see results from past content marketing efforts, here’s what you need to do to put together a content marketing plan.
Set a goal.
The first step when creating any type of strategy is setting a goal and naming objectives. What do you want your brand’s content marketing to accomplish?
It’s easy to get wishy-washy when it comes to your company’s content marketing goals. For example, “have people read content” is a weak, unclear goal. What will achieving the goal do for you brand, exactly?
A better goal is one you can measure, one that you can reach within a certain amount of time, and one that’s specific. This is known as a SMART goal. Examples of potential SMART goals for your content marketing might be:
- Increase blog subscribers by 10 percent within 6 months.
- Increase email subscribers by 1,000 by the end of the quarter.
- Boost website traffic by X percent over a period of X days.
- Boost leads by X over X months.
Research and identify your audience.
Once you know what you want your content to do, you need to consider who your content is going to address. Keep in mind that you might have a few different audiences, and that you need to create content that specifically addresses the wants and needs of each audience.
You can learn more about your audience by running surveys and completing buyer personas. Buyer (or audience) personas are in-depth profiles of specific types of people. You might have the “hip stay-at-home mom” as one of your personas, and the “trendy and ahead of her time 40- to 50-something single woman” as another persona.
The more you get to know your audience and what it wants, the better your results from content creation and marketing will be.
Consider your content.
Now’s the time to think carefully about your content. If you’ve tried content marketing in the past, this is the point where you can look back on already-created content and see how it performed. Did people gobble up and share videos, but largely ignore your blog posts? Did you write a bunch of blog posts, but not promote them on social or not optimize them for search?
If you haven’t made any content yet, this is the point where you’ll start to think of the types of content you’d like to create, or the type of content that will appeal to and resonate with your audiences. You’re not limited to one particular form of content. In fact, creating a variety of different content types might help you reach more people.
Create, promote, repeat.
Once you know what type of content you want to make and have a few ideas for relevant and appealing content subjects, it’s time to get cracking and produce that content. You can work with a team of freelance creators or use an in-house team for content production, depending on your budget and skillsets.
Your content marketing campaign isn’t over once the content is published, though. Now’s the time to promote it. Make sure the content is optimized for search, so that it will appear on relevant search engine results pages. Promote the content on social, both by posting it on your profiles and paying to promote it to targeted audiences. You can also recruit a team of influencers to help promote your content to their followers.
Once all that’s done, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, and create and promote more content.
Measure your results.
The final step of any content marketing strategy or plan is measuring the results to see how things have fared. Remember your goals and use them to guide you in determining what metrics to look at. For example, if you wanted to boost website traffic, check out your numbers after the content went out. Did you get more traffic as a result? If your content goal was to have more people subscribe to your newsletter, did you see an uptick in the number of subscribers afterward?
If yes, then your content is doing what you want. If not, then it’s time to think about what you can change. Maybe the call to action in the content wasn’t clear, or you didn’t include a link to your website, or clear subscribing information.
Although you might find success right out of the gate with content marketing, it’s common to expect to have to make some adjustments to your plan. Once you know what works and what doesn’t, your brand’s content marketing will become a well-designed, well-oiled machine.