Content Marketing Plan

How to create a content marketing plan that works (plus a bonus checklist)

Posted under Content, SEO, Social Media

Writer’s block. It’s the bane of many content marketers’ jobs. It leaves them sat at their desk, fingers poised over the keyboard, anxiously waiting for an epiphany saying: “That’s exactly what my customers want to read!”

But any smart content marketer will know that writer’s block should never put the breaks on content creation – because a content marketing plan should be firmly in place.

In fact, the benefits of a content marketing plan go beyond helping you beat writer’s block. It will also benefit:

  • Integration of marketing communications channels
  • The use of new formats and techniques
  • Completion of projects from start to finish
  • Workload management
  • Team management and input

Over 58 percent of B2B marketers are planning to increase content marketing budgets over the next 12 months. If you’re one of that 58%, it’s likely you’ll need to manage more content marketing streams. Voila, creating an effective plan will help!

In this content marketing plan guide, I’ve pulled together the key factors that I think every content marketer should keep in mind when creating a content marketing plan.

However, I’ve not included a template for a content plan simply because every marketing team should create one that works for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to content marketing.

Whatever format you choose for your plan, make sure it is written down and accessible to your whole team. Consider using Google Drive to make the plan easily updateable by multiple team members at once – another benefit is that you can track changes that have been made.

Write down your SMART objective

Before putting your ideas into a plan, outline what you want to achieve through content marketing.

Look at your higher-level marketing strategy and drill down to how content marketing will contribute towards that strategy. Then put together your content marketing objective:

Objectives

Be specific: Outline what you want to achieve with content marketing – is it to increase conversions on your website? Build brand awareness? Generate leads? Improve loyalty? And who exactly is your target audience for your content?

Make it measurable: How do you plan to measure the success and failures of your content marketing plan? Look at several different ways to measure different successes:

  • Encouraging brand awareness may focus on social engagement
  • Increasing loyalty and retention may aim for a low bounce rate
  • Improved rankings could contribute towards awareness and engagement
  • Generation of new leads could be measured via pages per visit and conversions

Is it achievable? Look at the time your team has available to dedicate to content marketing and if their skills meet the creativity and flair needed.

Ultimately it will take time and skill to achieve great results through content marketing, and an agency can really help. Find out more about content marketing services.

Keep it relevant: Content marketing is all well and good, but you’ve got to steer it in a direction that will help your business achieve its marketing strategy and support the wider corporate strategy.

There’s no point in just being ‘good at content marketing’ and a rare few reach the status of being a brand publisher (in fact more often than not it shouldn’t be your goal, have a read of this Moz blog: You don’t need to be a brand publisher to win at content marketing).

Put a timeframe in place: Continually measure the results of your content marketing plan but also put a timeframe on your plan. Try dividing your plan by week, month and quarter. Include specific times to report on how the content marketing is progressing.

Segment according to channels

Not only should your plan be segmented according to what week you’ll be creating what content, but it should also be segmented according to the marketing communication channels you plan to use to host and distribute your content.

Identify your target audience for each channel. Only distribute content relevant to that audience via that channel.

Consider including channels such as:

The content you choose to create, however, may not be right for your website. And that’s okay! For example, in my last blog I took a look at the benefits of hosting video content on your website or via a social media channel like YouTube or Vimeo. Explore options on where to host your content.

On the flip side, not all content that you create for your website needs to be blog material. Consider creating a useful resources area on your website for more evergreen content such as downloads, whitepapers, research, guides and more.

Forward thinking

Make your content marketing plan work for you now, and in the future. Look at areas of your business (or perhaps services or products), which you want to focus on and make them a quarterly ‘theme’ for your content marketing.

By outlining the content you want to create, and when you plan to create it, you’ll beat writer’s block and manage your workload.

In your content plan, block out each of the stages of content creation across a sensible timeframe. For example, when creating a blog you may include the stages:

  1. Research blog subject and complete keyword research
  2. Draft blog
  3. Approve blog
  4. Upload

Colour-coordinate your plan too, to help you oversee what’s being achieved:

Green can signal ‘completed’
Orange can signal ‘work in progress’
Red can signal ‘delayed’ or ‘cancelled’

Allow room for manoeuvre

With all that forward thinking, it’s also important to leave room for ad-hoc tasks and pieces of urgent work that will crop up from time to time. Be ready to promote and support specific business needs at the drop of a hat with content for social media, email marketing and your website.

Don’t miss out on great opportunities simply because you feel tied to your content plan.

Regardless, whenever ad hoc work comes in ensure it still fits with your corporate strategy and content marketing objectives.

Be ambitious and creative

Create your content marketing plan as a team. Brainstorm ideas as a group and bounce ideas off each other. Bring your ideas together and then put them into the plan.

However, don’t stop your creative thinking there. Be ambitious and pick up on new trends on a regular basis. Integrate them into your plan as soon as possible if you think they’re really going to work for you.

Stay abreast of the upcoming trends by reading industry blogs – the Content Strategist by Contently is a good place to start.

If you’re still really stuck for ideas, give some online tools a go: What to Write is fun and it can offer some great inspiration.

Added Bonus: A post-content creation checklist

Hopefully, with all those steps behind you, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong content marketing plan. But here’s a little bonus to make sure your content has legs after you’ve created it.

These steps are important for user experience, SEO and PR after you’ve created content. Check each one every time you’ve finished a piece of content:

Content checklist

Before uploading:

☐ Is your content formatted so it’s easy to read and SEO-friendly? Read Dawn’s blog on balancing user-friendly and SEO copy for more advice on this.

☐ Have you checked spelling and grammar? Well-written content is now a necessity for search engines.

☐ Have you included appropriate images?

☐ Is this content well placed on your website or third-party platform? For example, should it be a blog, resource or news story?

☐ Have you checked the URL? Does it need to be shortened?

After clicking ‘publish’:

☐ Share the content via relevant channels, to the right target audience.

☐ Include a link to the content in your email signature if relevant.

☐ Reach out directly to blogs who might find your content of interest.

In the long term:

☐ Don’t simply forget about your content. Update it if new information comes to light, upgrade downloadable content, add in new statistics, include new images etc.

☐ Monitor. You should always track the success of your content – look at Google Analytics, social signals and engagement. If your content’s not getting the traction you hoped for, see if you need to change the placement or improve the keyword optimisation.

☐ Keep on promoting. Use different messaging and use current affairs to promote your content on an ongoing basis.

Louise Barrett

An English graduate from the University of Exeter, Louise has worked for PR agencies in London and Leeds, with in-house marketing roles at Merlin Entertainments and Care.com.

Loving the challenge that comes with spanning both digital and more traditional marketing channels, Louise has a CAM Diploma in Marketing Communications and is an Associate of the CIM.

An avid ice hockey and football fan, Louise spends many of her weekends supporting her teal and green teams. In the off-season, you’ll find her shaking off those match day nerves with yoga and outdoor bootcamp classes!