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Why you Need a Content Plan (and how to Create one)

The vast majority of businesses engage in content marketing but, according to data from IMPACT, the fraction of those who have a documented content plan is around 40%. Funnily enough, the proportion of those businesses who rate their content marketing as ‘very effective’ is around 40% too. We doubt that’s a coincidence!

In fact, a content plan will include analysing your results, so the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.

Here is a simple eight step plan for organising your content plan.

 

Understand the 5 goals of content marketing

Not all content is created for the same purpose so before you start creating, it is important you work out exactly what your goal is for each piece of content.

Your goals should fit into one of the following five categories: driving traffic, finding leads, converting leads, raising brand awareness or retaining/up-selling existing customers.

If driving traffic is your primary goal, your focus will be on maximising your search engine visibility with well optimised blogs and web pages.

Lead generation requires offering content of value so that readers will be willing to give you their email address. E-books, informative articles, white papers and free templates can be effective for this type of goal.

To convert leads into customers, you may need to focus on case studies and product or service reviews. Extracts from e-books can be used to prompt a lead to buy the full product.

Content that can be used for raising brand awareness include fun and informative blog posts, social media articles and seasonal pieces. Whatever content you create should usually be light and positive in tone and shareable with the potential to go viral.

Content for retaining and up-selling may include autoresponder emails.

 

Create a marketing persona for each piece of content

The more targeted your content is, the likelier it is you will achieve your goals. One of the best ways to hone in on your target audience is to create a marketing persona. This will help you to connect your product or service’s benefits to your audience’s needs and to find out when and where they hang out. For example, if your persona is a busy parent who uses Facebook to connect with their peers, an article on time management, shared via Facebook just after the school run (at around 9am) might flag their attention.

To save time creating marketing personas, Xtensio provide some well-presented persona templates.

 

Audit your existing content

Next, go through each piece of content on your website and take action to identify the following:

  • Content that can be removed.
  • Content that could be updated.
  • Content that could be consolidated (e.g. articles with highly overlapping content and targeting similar or the same keywords).
  • Content that is performing well and could be further leveraged.
  • Any gaps in content

The work you’ve identified can then be planned in in priority order to tighten up your current website and prepare the ground for new content.

The free Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool is useful for auditing content.

 

Check out the competition

If you have a direct competitor for your audience, it is a good idea to research their digital marketing activity. What content are they putting out there? Is it attracting engagement (likes, social shares, etc.)? What type of content do they prefer?

Tools which can help in collecting this intel include Rival IQ, which offers a free trial, and the Screaming Frog tool mentioned in the section before.

 

Get brainstorming!

Before you begin creating your actual content, you are going to need some ideas. If you have identified content gaps or a particularly popular topic, you will still need an interesting angle to approach it from.

Again, there are online tools that can help you to explore different options. These include Moz Keyword Explorer, BuzzSumo Question Analyzer and Answer the Public.

 

Choose your content type

Content is anything you provide for your audience for them to engage with. So instead of restricting your activity to writing blog articles and sharing social media posts, consider what other forms of content your visitors might respond to. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • How-to guides
  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Slideshows
  • White papers
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Polls
  • Interviews
  • Opinion pieces

One strategy, used to good effect by some marketers, is releasing one long-form piece of content (e.g. an e-book or in-depth article) every quarter and then taking bits from it to create multiple smaller pieces of content. For example you might reformat a couple of pages of your e-book as a slideshow or take a case study from an article and make a short video from it.

This is sometimes referred to as the turkey method because of the multiple ways one big tasty bird can be enjoyed over Christmas (roast dinner, salad, sandwiches and, of course, a delicious broth!)

 

Load up your content calendar

Once you know what content you’re going to post and in which formats, you will need to schedule the creation and posting of each piece using some kind of content calendar. Remember to use your marketing persona to identify when and where your customers are likely to be active. There is no point posting a tweet at 2pm on a Wednesday if your target audience prefers to keep in touch via Facebook on a weekend.

We then strongly recommend you use the magic of automation so you can set up social media posts in batches and allow them to run automatically according to the schedule you set. Hootsuite is a great platform for this.

Keep an eye out for Vu Online Social Media Marketing Training courses where you will get a full induction into Hootsuite and also get to see Vu Online’s content calendar in action.

 

Study the results

Finally, you need to check out your analytics to fine tune the process. Have you achieved those goals you defined at the outset? Can you refine your marketing personas based on the hard numbers (e.g. perhaps your post school-run content does slightly better at 10am on a Monday rather than 9am as you initially guesstimated).

Once you’ve made any strategic changes you can go back to the brainstorming stage and start working on your next killer piece of content.

 

 

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