The correct implementation of a content marketing plan is crucial to achieving good business results in an increasingly saturated market. Content marketing is extremely effective at generating leads and conversions. Websites with blogs attract 55% more traffic and are effective for branding and thought leadership.
How does an organization create an effective content marketing plan in 2023? That is the question we will answer in this practical guide. First, let’s dig into some of the definitions of content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a powerful marketing methodology used to build trust, maintain close relationships with an audience and drive sales and revenue. The key is to create content that entertains, inspires, educates, connects, or delights viewers. This way, you can stand out from your competition, increase your brand’s popularity, and grow your business.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
A content marketing strategy is wrapped in the ideals set forth by an organization around how they wish to use the content as a marketing vehicle to provide value to a prospective buyer persona throughout that buyer’s journey.
A content marketing strategy is a plan used to create, distribute, and measure the effectiveness of online content. It includes everything from brainstorming ideas for topics and pieces to planning how you’ll publish them.
What is a Content Marketing Plan?
A content marketing plan is a roadmap that outlines how you will create, distribute, and measure the effectiveness of your content. It includes everything from developing a strategy to selecting the right tools and tactics.
The purpose of a content marketing plan is twofold: first, it helps you track your progress and stay on track with your goals. Second, it guides the creation of high-quality content that meets specific needs and targets market segments. A good content marketing plan should be structured to be updated as needed (and modified as new information arises).
Several factors should be considered when creating a content marketing plan: your business objectives, target audience, media landscape/rangeability, brand positioning/voice, budget constraints/engagement goals.
Once you have determined these key points, you can begin to develop an outline for each phase of the content plan (acquisition+, development+, distribution+ measurement).
Steps to Success with Your Content Marketing Plan
An effective content marketer always relies on a content marketing plan to ensure success. Content marketing is complex, so having a plan is critical to stay on point so you are not chasing success.
Step 1. Get organizational buy-in
One person does not usually build a successful content marketing plan but is highly collaborative. Before you get to this point, you should start by creating an exciting marketing idea and formulate some goals and objectives around it so you can ensure that the investment gets results. Creating a successful marketing plan includes defining how much it will cost to create content, how to use it, and how to measure it.
Narrowing down your content topics will make it easier to comply with all the external requests you may receive.
Content Marketing Tip: Remember to explain why you will make the content, how it can help improve the company, and who will be responsible for the results. You need to be on the same page organizationally to succeed.
Step 2. Develop your brand story
Now that you know you are creating a content marketing plan, you must define who it serves and why. Identify your target audience and drill down to the pain points you’re trying to address. It doesn’t matter if you’re building your personas, archetypes, or ideal customer profiles. The most important thing is that you focus on answering the following questions:
- What is the customer’s problem?
- How do you solve that problem?
- What is the customer’s current state?
- What is the ideal future state of your customer?
Creating a straightforward brand story will significantly benefit your content campaigns by creating a unified message to share across all your content campaigns.
Step 3. Identify key social channels
While some marketers believe that content should be created for as many platforms as possible, concentrating on too many channels can lead to failure. Instead, identify the three most popular social media networks where your audience interacts and find ways to create compelling content on each.
By analyzing which content formats are popular, you can determine which ones work best for your business. Content types that typically resonate best will vary by channel, so if identifying three networks proves difficult, try identifying three top content types that work well for the brand, and that will likely define the channels you use.
- Video: Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram
- Images: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest
- Written Content: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Reddit
- Audio Content: Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud
Content Marketing Tip: When creating new content, you should use the three social media platforms mentioned as your primary distribution channels. You’ll be able to repurpose content across channels outside your top three.
Step 4. Conduct issue research
You must fully understand your audience’s most significant pain points. It would help if you combined the topic research processes to translate this into your content. There is nothing better than engaging in direct communication with your customers.
Keyword research is a good start if you don’t have access to these conversations. In addition, you can access Quora or Reddit to identify the most frequently asked questions within your niche. Consider joining online forums, Facebook groups, and other online communities to discover trending topics of conversation.
Depending on your niche, a forum or two will likely unveil many answers to your users’ interests. Use these to research the issues and solutions being posed.
Step 5. Assign topics and formats to your content funnel
Now you need to organize your ideas into an achievable content program. Mapping a customer’s content journey allows you to create content that will have the most significant impact on driving business results.
An easy place to start is to think about the content funnel, which is divided into the top of the funnel (attraction), middle of the funnel (opportunity), and bottom of the funnel (conversion) content.
Content Marketing: Top of funnel content (TOFU)
At the top of the funnel is the awareness phase, where high-value content is created for a broad audience that needs help to solve their problems. They need to know the solution to their problems and are willing to learn more about a specific issue that concerns them.
Content creation in this funnel stage includes how-to’s, infographics, social media, thought leadership pieces, listicles, blog posts, email marketing, checklists, e-books, and foundational SEO content.
Content Marketing: Middle of the funnel content (MOFU)
In this phase, your audience has a specific problem and is looking for a solution. Whether a particular solution or not, your content should be educational, but it should also gently mention the answer you are offering. You can cover your niche topics in more depth throughout this stage.
Content creation in this funnel stage consists of case studies, customer success videos and testimonials, product overviews, guides, and more.
Content Marketing: Bottom of funnel content (BOFU)
During this stage of the process, your audience is ready to buy. The key is to offer content that helps your audience understand the value of your products and services and that yours is better than your competitors. They will likely have narrowed the field down to 2-3 finalists and will qualify you in several ways.
Content creation in this funnel stage consists of product sheets, product demos, comparison charts, certifications, associations, leadership, financial well-being, and customer reviews.
If you’re able, start the content mapping process. Categorize all the content topics you’ve gathered in these three funnel stages. Make sure that the high-value content is given the most attention and resources.
If you are finding severe content gaps, you might need to conduct a content audit to see what you have and need to create. Don’t be alarmed; most companies will find they have medium to significant content gaps during a content audit. You will want to conduct the content audit. Otherwise, your content marketing efforts will be limited, or you’ll quickly run into a content deficit.
Step 6. Create Measurable KPIs
Some KPIs matter a lot, while others do not. To create highly compelling content, focus on the metrics that make the difference in results. But it’s a balance. Overthinking bottom-of-the-funnel conversion metrics can cause you to be myopic and take your mind off creating an engaged audience for the long term.
Below are some of the most popular, meaningful, and often tracked key performance indicators. This list assumes your content strategy targets lead generation and increasing sales. If your goals and objectives differ, only some of the key performance indicators listed below will apply.
Content Marketing TOF KPIs
- Website traffic
- Social shares and engagement
- Email subscribers
- Inbound links
Content Marketing MOF KPIs
- Cost per lead
- Growth of leads
- Website traffic to lead ratio
- Channel traffic to lead ratio
- Conversion rate
Content Marketing BOF KPIs
- Lead matriculation – Lead to MQL to SAL to SQL
- Sales response time
- Sales growth
- Quote to closed customer ratio
- Lifetime customer value
Step 7. Establish processes
A successful management process for a content marketing strategy has three critical aspects: an editorial calendar, brand guidelines, and a reporting chain. An editorial calendar is an essential tool for the content team. A project board, a spreadsheet, and an editorial calendar to organize roles, responsibilities, deadlines, and project status.
Content Owner: Who produces the content? Who owns publishing, reviewing, and approval?
Draft and publication date: When is the first draft due? When is the blog post published? What’s the average duration of the production cycle for various content types?
Topic: What is the topic of the article? What is the focus keyword of the article? What is the title of the article? What is the length of the article? What’s the angle being taken or the content creation?
Content draft: How will content circulate: Via Google docs, Dropbox, a project management tool, or a content management system?
Published URL: What is the final URL for the post that will have the most impact?
Project status: (overdue, reported, in progress, editorial review, scheduled, published)
Everything mentioned above is necessary to keep in mind for your editorial calendar. Others might be applicable depending on your particular use case. Some less essential but nice to have elements are:
Funnel stage: What stage of the funnel is the content intended to support?
Content type and subtype: Is it a video, audio, reel, slideshow, long-form written content, short-form written content, etc.?
Content update date: If the content is to be kept up to date, a trend popular with Google, when should the content be updated, and by who?
Content distribution channels: Will you use email marketing efforts to support the content? Will it be pushed out to social media? What other ways will you distribute content?
Having your brand and editorial guidelines in place will help ensure that the content you produce is consistent with your company’s values and voice. Be sure to include your brand voice, values, and prose, but simply having a list of do’s and don’ts is an excellent place to start.
Content Marketing Tip: Content production becomes easier with more thought and work put into the guidelines and processes that dictate how the content is written and its purpose.
Content Marketing Tip: A content brief is essential to a successful content marketing strategy. Creating content without knowledge of what is intended is difficult. If you outsource, it becomes even harder. A well-documented content marketing strategy makes it easier for anyone to understand what is needed and to contribute.
Step 8. Produce great content
Finally, it’s time to start producing great content that everyone can be proud of. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re creating high-quality content.
- What is the purpose of this content – is it clearly defined in your piece?
- What is the problem you are solving?
- How can your brand help?
- How is your content better than the content of your competitors’?
- What is your call to action?
- How long should the content be?
- How much is being invested in this content production?
- What’s the primary goal of the content?
- What is the KPI being put in place to measure performance?
- How will you distribute this content, and how often?
Step 9. Distribute relentlessly
While everyone knows that content is king, successful marketers know that distribution is most important, especially in this market saturated with content noise and everyone vying for the same audience.
Here are our seven favorite distribution strategies you can use for your content marketing campaigns today:
Create unique experiences on each social channel. People tend to consume very different content on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. Therefore, you must create original social media posts for each platform.
Quote experts and influencers and ask them to share the piece with their audiences as each article is published. This will build brand value and likely generate backlinks and, hopefully, exposure to new audiences.
Distribute your content to your email list through newsletters or promotional emails. If you have segmented audiences, message them differently in your email. According to Campaign Monitor, studies have shown that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than those without. Rich Relevance found that revenue is 5.7 times higher in emails that employ personalization.
Answer Quora, Reddit, and online communities’ questions and genuinely share the resource with them. These are some of the most valuable channels for written content and directly connecting problems with solutions.
Leverage paid channels to expand the reach of your content strategy but use it sparingly if you have a limited budget. Not having an expert to run paid campaigns has been a budget buster for many organizations.
Identify critical partners to cross-promote your content through their channels. Grow strategic partnerships if you feel you are lacking. Utilize your associations and certification partners. Business for you means business for them.
Incentivize your organization’s employees to share content with their networks. Employ gamification or other point-based systems that score sharing and provide prizes for those team members who support the company and brand the best.
Content Strategy Bonus – Optimize, delete or repurpose content. Content is only as good as long as it stays current and relevant. Some content is evergreen, and it is excellent to ensure that type of content is a pillar of your content strategy, but other content has a shelf life.
You have to consider that the lifespan of 80% of the content is short. That is unless you continue to give it life. Measuring KPIs for your content is the best way to monitor performance over time and to make decisions about its lifecycle.
You can take one of three steps:
- If there are opportunities for your content to improve, add to it, optimize it to rank higher in organic search, and ensure it’s better than your competitors.
- If your content detracts from other pieces, doesn’t contribute to your overall goals, or doesn’t serve a unique purpose, remove the content. Thin and old content should be regularly evaluated and pruned from your blog or content marketing plan if there is no longer a purpose.
- If you have content that brings exceptional value to your audience, consider repurposing it for other channels or smaller content formats. Repurposing content across content types is one of the best ways to support a content marketing strategy with a limited budget.
Are You Ready to Create Your Content Marketing Plan?
Producing content is about more than just writing about trending topics, no matter how exciting they may be. A successful content marketing plan is based on having your own content marketing strategy, which involves research, collaboration, and process management.
A good content marketing strategy involves the proper mix of business strategy, developing unique points of view, audience research, competitive research, process formation, production, distribution, measurement, and analysis. That may sound a bit overwhelming, but with a well-defined content marketing plan, it will run like a well-oiled content machine.