|By Mike Sweeney
|January 10, 2013 04:48 PM EST
Putting together a content marketing plan is no walk in the park. While there is no such thing as a standard content marketing plan, our particular process typically involves hours of discovery and research, a 40 – 70 page written document, a 20 – 30 slide presentation, and then delivery and discussion. This is a 20 – 30 day process for most.
So what should you do if you are forced to simplify and expedite that planning process to meet some type of deadline? Or what if you are experiencing planner’s block, or having trouble getting started with your content marketing planning process?
First, be very afraid. Done right, content marketing planning should not be condensed.
Now, take a deep breath and start addressing the following topics.
Answer the 12 questions that should guide your content marketing plan.
These 12 questions will warm up your planning brain. Some of these should be very easy to answer, providing some layups to get your confidence up.
For instance, don’t overthink a question like “What’s the goal?” Start simple with something like “Increase lead generation using content marketing.” That goal is certainly not specific enough for the final plan, but you can come back to it and refine it later. Remember, we’re just getting things down on paper now to help you overcome planner’s block.
Put together your core business themes.
What are some of the things you want your audiences to think about your company and its products and/or services?
A simple example: We want our audiences to think that we employ the most talented people in the data and analytics space.
Start with 3-5 themes, and move on.
Build out your content pecking order.
There are hundreds of types of content to consider, but since we’re simplifying and expediting, take a look at the Content Marketing Playbook. Decide which forms of content are relevant to you, and then rank them in order of priority.
One tip: Consider splitting up your priority list into anchor content (very important, but more difficult to produce) and supporting content (also very important, but less difficult to produce). Most companies need a mix in order to truly succeed with content marketing.
Create a quick editorial calendar schedule.
Editorial calendars can be scary. Necessary, but scary.
To alleviate that initial fear, swap out “calendar” for “schedule” and make a list that looks something like this:
- Blog posts – 1x/week
- Case studies – 1x/quarter
- eNewsletters – 1x/quarter
- White papers – 1x/year
That list will provide a nice starting point – you can come back and turn it into a full-blown calendar later.
Determine who your primary and secondary writers are.
Your primary writers are the ones you can count for frequent, solid content. Your secondary writers are the ones you can count on for infrequent, solid content.
Be brutally honest with yourself here. You don’t have to configure your content marketing dream team just yet, but you need to know who you can count on to help.
Decide which keywords you’d like to own.
One benefit of content marketing is its ability to make a significant impact on search engine optimization (SEO). Based on the list of themes you made above, use a keyword research tool like Google AdWords to research and compile a list of keywords you’d like to own. These may be product or service-oriented keywords, category-oriented keywords, or theme-oriented keywords.
With 78% of B2B buyers starting their buying process with a web search, you will want to make sure your content is optimized to rank on these target keywords.
Come up with a simple tracking system.
Alert! This is a topic that lends itself to overthinking.
Remember, we’re simplifying and expediting. Don’t start building out complex reporting structures for your content, or licensing tools that you may never use.
Decide how you want to measure the success of a blog post against another blog post, a webinar against another webinar, or a white paper against another white paper.
If you’re not sure what you should be tracking in the first place, check out the Field Guide to the Four Types of Content Marketing Metrics.
Brainstorm a master list of topics.
This should be the fun part. You have your themes and your target keywords. Now sit down and start creating the list of potential topics to cover. You’re still in the “no bad idea” stage, so make the list exhaustive and whittle it down later.
A few ideas on getting started:
- Spend some time reading material from companies and individuals you admire – this always inspires content ideas.
- Ask salespeople what their top 10 prospect questions/issues are (and how they respond to those questions/issues); those questions and answers make for excellent content.
- Ask your customer service people what their top 10 customer questions/issues are (and how they respond to those questions/issues); those questions and answers make for excellent content.
Consider this merely a starting point.
These eight steps will get you through planner’s block, and may help you build a quick and simple plan, but they should not be viewed as a replacement for a full-blown content marketing plan. A complete content marketing plan involves exhaustive coverage of planning, creation, optimization, distribution, social media, reporting/analysis and more.
For more on this topic from Right Source and other industry experts, download our free content marketing eBook: How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.
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