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Creating Your Content Marketing Plan: A How To Guide

A successful content marketing plan takes an understanding of what your target audience. DemandJump shows you what your customer's are looking for and and tells you exactly what content to create. Save time and create better content - get started today!

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Content Marketing Plan

Sometimes when you’re getting started on a content marketing plan, it can feel a bit like a treasure hunt. You know what awaits you in the chest buried somewhere on the island, namely an engaged customer-base and better sales conversions. But how exactly do you get there? This is where content plans come into play. This process can help you to identify exactly what steps need to be taken in order to implement your marketing strategy and reach those important heights. 

Let’s take a look at all of the steps involved in a content marketing plan, some content plan examples, and how it all ties together in answering the question, “How do you write a content plan?”

What is a Content Plan?

Content marketing plans are the collection of any marketing assets or data research steps that are needed to implement your marketing strategy. Because this is such a wide net, you may wonder, “What goes into a marketing plan?” The answer could be many things, including:

  • Keyword research
  • Audience research
  • Blog topics
  • White paper topics
  • Social media posting schedules
  • Email marketing plans
  • Editorial Calendar

Content marketing plans will differ based on the overall marketing strategy of the organization. However, the point, here, is to assemble a collection of everything that would be necessary to implement or execute a content marketing strategy. Content marketing plans should be available to anyone involved in the marketing process, from executives to copy writers. 

Additionally, your content marketing plan template needs to remain a living document. While you may be feeling inspired about how your company or brand is going to stand for value, truth, and genuine care about your potential customers, you’re still attempting to pull off a very difficult trick, namely figuring out how to talk to maybe thousands or more of people you don't know in a way that they like and feel comfortable engaging with.

So, it’s safe to say that there are going to be some revisions as it goes on. For instance, you may revisit the plan three months down the road to review your search rankings and social media advertising plan, only to find out it’s not performing the way your team predicted. But when it’s established that you’ll be adding to and changing up areas that need improvement, it’s much easier to view these missteps as just a chance to get better. 

At its core, this is what content marketing plans are all about. You’re not drafting a memo to your team about invoices. The process of strategizing in a documented and regimented way is almost like journaling, in that it provides space to learn more about who you are and what you’re doing.as a company. And, while this is risking some major levels of annoying repetition, it all comes back to your audience. By putting things in terms of always centering their perspective, and asking yourself and team questions like:

  • Who is your audience and how can you help them?
  • What do you want your content to accomplish for readers?
  • Where will you be reaching them in their buyer’s journey?
  • When do you think you’ll be able to potentially convert readers to lead?
  • Why is this competitor blog so popular and ours isn’t?
  • How can we do a better job of identifying pain points without being salesy?

Now, you may be wondering, “What is the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan?” The answer can be found by looking more closely at the intent of marketing strategy versus marketing plans. A content marketing strategy is intended to answer the whys, whereas the content marketing plan answers the how. If we think about an automobile, the strategy would be the general look or feel of the car; in terms of the content marketing plan, this would be the engine—making content itself the fuel that drives the car forward. In general, think of the content marketing plan as being the heavy lifting and preparation that allows an organization to reach its goals.

Keys to Content Marketing Planning: Understand Your Audience 

Before you’re able to perform any of the tasks or steps of marketing planning, you first need a healthy understanding of the audience you’re speaking to. Imagine you’re speaking to a room full of potential customers; what would you say to them? Would you be able to adequately sell your brand’s products or services without understanding what they need, or how they got to you? Of course not! Anyone involved in sales will tell you that the key to capitalizing and converting leads is asking questions to better understand what kind of needs they have. In a sense, that’s what audience research does for you, it allows you to get a better grasp on who you’re speaking to and what they need. 

This is what we call audience analysis. When done correctly, you’ll be able to create personalized content that speaks to specific pain points, target and retarget materials to help convert leads more efficiently, and widen your audience for specific posts. In fact, audience analysis can even help related areas of business such as product design or sales, as they’ll be able to better understand and communicate what the needs of an audience are. 

In order to understand an audience, there are a number of processes that can be of great help. Most of them are going to rely on data, data, and more data. You can generate these through a number of different paths.

  • Demographic research, such as location, age, gender, income levels, and other general information on the folks who are consuming your content.
  • Customer surveys that ask questions about your product or service, as well as larger questions that help to determine the motivations behind a purchase or engagement from a customer.
  • SEO research, which helps you to see how customers find you and other competitors online. While content marketing is about crafting personalized content that speaks to customers on a more personal level, those efforts mean nothing if they’re not reaching the right people.
  • Buyer personas, which give you a chance to get inside the head of customers and readers and organize their pain points into a format that feels easier to read and use.
  • Social media activity, where you can look at quantitative elements like the number of shares, likes, and reactions, as well as more qualitative elements like what those comments are saying, and how others are talking about your brand.

Audience analysis also helps you to identify your key performance indicators (KPIs) and what success in marketing strategies look like. These are the metrics you’ll be tracking going forward, as well. Not only does this help to handle the often-difficult task of establishing that all-important ROI, it generally sets achievable goals for your team. Once a content marketing strategy is up and running, it can be very encouraging to see just how close you are to achieving your first big benchmark. 

Content Audits

When approaching content marketing planning, one of the very first steps that needs to be taken is performing a thorough content audit of your website or general marketing materials. This is both a qualitative and quantitative process. On one level, you’re looking to create a documented list of all the materials you currently use in a marketing process; this helps to ensure you have an accurate snapshot of how you speak to readers, and can save you from later creating content that mimics these pieces and generally saying the same thing twice. 

On the other level, though, a content audit allows you to take that understanding of what you’ve been saying to an audience and how well it connects to your overall marketing strategy. This qualitative approach is essential in preparing your marketing plan. This is because your planning process will seek to understand where your strengths and weaknesses may already be. For example, if you’ve already produced some successful infographics that have led to genuine lead conversions, you may be able to skip creating these, or even to make those more central pieces of a content plan and then write blogs and social posts that are designed to drive to the infographic. In general, content audits give you a snapshot of what you’ve already done and how well (or poorly) it has helped you to achieve your goals. 

So, how do you do a content audit? Let’s take a look at some easy-to-follow steps in this process: 

  1. Gather Content: The first task is to gather all your existing posts and marketing materials in a single place. This would include blogs, white papers, infographics, social media posts, email marketing chains, and anything else that you currently use. 
  2. Organize Content: After you’ve gathered all of these pieces of the puzzle, you’ll want to organize them in an easy-to-understand order, with information on things like its creation date, its title, its length, and the channels it was posted in.
  3. Analyze Content: From there, it’s time to review their performance metrics. This part depends on what approaches you’re already tracking in an attempt to review your marketing efforts; you may be looking at how well it’s performing in terms of SEO, or whether it’s generated a good amount of contact from customers, or even if it has led to lead conversion.

Your content audit process will help you to identify where some of those gaps already exist, and therefore can give you a good understanding of where it needs to be beefed up. But it’s not all bad news! Your content audit for a marketing plan shows you where you’ve already seen great success. This means that you may be able to save yourself from unnecessary work, especially in the case of longer written pieces or spending money on producing video content when you already have that taken care of. If a marketing strategy is a puzzle, a content audit lets you know the pieces you already have and which ones you need to create.

Creating Content Marketing for An Audience

Now that you have identified your audience and audited your current content, it’s time to start brainstorming for the missing pieces. This is where the content creation component comes into play. Your task will now be to look at the places where you’re coming up short in delivering messaging and then to think of ways that you can make up in these areas. 

A great way to approach this is to identify what the goal of each piece of content is. Is it supposed to educate the reader on the impact your product or service has? Is it a more general blog that breaks down the way your industry works? Or is it a more emotional piece that is designed to appeal to their feelings about their own pain points? 

A great approach for this kind of work is to think of the content marketing funnel. Shaped like an upside-down pyramid, this funnel breaks readers, customers out into three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Readers at each of these stages have different needs, and though it may be a form of generalization, this can help you to create content that speaks to each of these goals. 

  • The Awareness category is where most individuals will first come to find you. The readers and consumers here know that they have a problem, but probably don’t know why they’re having it or that your company and product even exist. Therefore, the content you’re creating here needs to speak to these needs. Think of your Awareness posts as being about general education, thus providing your audience with direct value that feels very personal and not sales-y. This is where good SEO research is imperative.
  • The Consideration stage is when things start to involve your brand. The readers and consumers who have reached this point understand the importance of solving their problem, and that you are one of several options they have for addressing those issues. The topics you come up with for this stage should be centered around giving them an idea of how your brand fits into the industry.
  • The Decision stage is one that requires you to think of closing the loop from a sales perspective. This is a time when audience members know the ins and outs of their problem, as well as how or why your brand fits into the solution. Think about creating content topics that deliver emotional messages about how your brand works on a personal level, what sets you apart from the rest of the pack, and gives them an idea of what it would be like to work directly with you. They should also have more direct calls-to-action, such as asking for contact information or to schedule a meeting with your sales staff

In general, you are looking to create content topics that are not only engaging but effective in delivering your message for content marketing strategies.

Creating an Editorial Calendar for a Content Marketing Plan

The final step in content marketing planning is establishing how the work will be managed and distributed online. This is similar to creating a content plan for social media, such as deciding what channels certain posts will go on, the frequency of posting, retargeted posts, and just generally visualizing the how, where, and when of the content plan. You also need to decide who will be working on what content. Don’t settle for soft commits; one of the biggest problems in executing content marketing strategies is getting people to write a blog or film a video when they have other jobs to handle. They may be subject matter experts, but if you’re serious about producing unforgettable, enriching, and resonate content for your audience, it may be worth looking into partnering with a creative content marketing agency.

There is the option to hire someone in-house, but keep in mind that this is an upfront cost that may cut into your current marketing budget. In the case of boutique creative agencies, you may be able to work out a discounted price for a portion of the work or a payment schedule that doesn’t require benefits, salary, and insurance the very first day on the job.

Create a chain of command when it comes to executing this plan. We cannot stress this enough! Content marketing strategies are often a lengthy process, and even if you had an awfully specific and direct conversation with a coworker about them handling scheduling social media posts, they may forget it. One of the points of the content strategy is to have a documented and on-hand guide that clearly states what is expected and who is responsible for what. Lastly, it can also cut down on uncomfortable situations between coworkers at the same level and further that comfortability by asking about hierarchy. Just spell those jobs right out in the document itself.

DemandJump Powers Your Content Marketing Plan with Data

In order to properly create your content marketing plan, you need to supply it with data that informs you about your audience, your competitors, and your marketing efforts. This is where DemandJump comes in. Our platform provides detailed data reports that not only can give you an idea of where you stand, but show you where content marketing efforts can take you. Save time and create better content - start your free trial today!

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