The physical health and incredible athletic capabilities of human beings rely on one thing; that seemingly simple line of flexible collagen, vertebrae, and disks that run through the center column of our bodies which we call, “the backbone.”
The more scientists study the human spine, the more they come to realize how complex and integral our spinal nerves, fluids, and bones are to the basic functioning of every bit of our anatomy.
Without a spine, you’re just a pile of gelatinous mud. In fact without a spine, you’d likely still be a prehistoric fish who never evolved to life on land.
If used efficiently, your content calendar software can serve the very same purpose in your marketing, as your spine does to the everyday functioning of your body. But all too often, editorial calendars and/or content calendars go underutilized and are not managed to their full potential.
Well for one thing, marketers are just too darned busy. In our recent content planning research, nearly 60% of respondents reported being too busy to proactively plan and collaborate. In addition, respondents reported “developing a comprehensive content marketing strategy” was a top challenge.
Whether you are looking to learn what content planning is, exactly, or you just want to kick the tires of a content calendar platform with a demo or free trial, you’re in good company. Because according to our research, 80% of successful marketers use online planning tools.
So does content calendar software solve all your content strategy and planning problems in the click of a button? Absolutely not.
But with careful planning, your content calendar software can become the backbone of your marketing, streamline your content processes, and improve your overall marketing ROI. Adding a new tool to your content marketing software stack is just like any other marketing tactic, it requires a strategy to be successful.
The teams experiencing success with content software have already taken the steps to ensure that their content strategy is solid, their workflow is baked and they have a plan for onboarding new technology.
Here are three ways to make content calendar software the backbone of your marketing.
Inject Your Content Marketing Strategy Into Your Content Calendar
Before you go beating yourself up for your lack of content strategy, know that only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy. Yet, a documented content strategy is integral to the success of your content marketing efforts. Without it, your content creation is likely to be random and reactive instead of being a strategic element in meeting your business goals.
The same research linked above found that most content strategies included:
- Content mission and a differentiated story/value to deliver
- Well-defined business goals for content
- A process to align with other sales/marketing initiatives
- Deep understanding of audience needs
Each of these elements requires a consolidated content calendar to be effectively executed against. Here’s how to make it reality:
The Godfather of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi, is a strong proponent for developing a thoughtful content mission. He was sharing insights as early as 2012 on how to effectively develop your mission. According to Joe, a content mission has three key elements:
- The core audience target.
- What will be delivered to the audience.
- The outcome for the audience.
Your content mission drives the different topic categories and types of content you’ll produce, as well as the frequency at which you publish.
One of the great things about content planning software is that you are able to regularly address each of the categories and produce the type of content you’ve committed to in your content strategy. It also ensures you publish at a regular cadence, instead of publishing in overwhelming spurts as content is completed and approved.
How do you know a piece of content is successful without having defined business goals? Vanity metrics like the number of shares or likes may put a smile on your face, but they aren’t necessarily an indicator of successful content.
Each piece of content you create should have clear KPIs. Start by developing goals based on benchmark performance of your current content and your business objectives. This way you can see what is (and isn’t) resonating with your target audience which should impact your content plan going forward.
Integration With Other Business Initiatives
Has your team ever been left scrambling to come up with a last-minute blog post in support of a sales or marketing initiative that wasn’t on your radar? Since most organizations have a separate, centralized content marketing team, this can easily happen.
By creating an integrated calendar that includes initiatives throughout the organization — not just the content team — you can get ahead of issues like this. When used in conjunction with recurring editorial planning meetings, a centralized calendar allows the content and graphic design teams to be aware of activities they’ll need to support.
Deep Understanding of Audience Needs
Effective content speaks to the needs and concerns of its audience. But not everyone on your team has the opportunity to participate in sales calls and get to know your customers on a personal level. One way to share audience information organization wide is to develop customer profiles or personas.
The preferences for the type of content and channels they prefer, as well as their objectives and problems, can all be addressed through your content calendar.
Build Workflows Around Your Calendar & Train Your Team
Content workflows are the linchpin of your content execution strategy. It takes time to ensure each step of your workflow is documented, with a specific person in charge of each production step. But spending this time up front ensures crucial steps — such as uploading the published content to your sales library — aren’t overlooked.
A documented set of workflow steps, with assigned deadlines, allows your team members to better collaborate. An effective content calendar will allow you to see the various competing deadlines your team members have, and adjust them to allow enough time and attention can be devoted to each task — no more piling six content reviews on the proofreader or CMO at 5 p.m. on a Friday!
Prioritize and Schedule Incoming Requests
Every content team fields regular content requests; some great, and others not so great. When these requests are sent via email to disparate team members, they can easily get overlooked and turn into last-minute fire drills.
That’s why it’s a best practice to use your content planning software’s content request and ideation tools as your primary request intake method. This ensures no request is lost in an overflowing email inbox, and keeps any one team member from becoming an incoming work bottleneck.
If every request coming into your team is top priority, then nothing is a priority. Your Editor-in-Chief, or another designated team member, needs to be designated as The Prioritizer. Like the Terminator, this person will be tasked with balancing a need to act with executing against their plan (in this case, your content marketing strategy).
Your Prioritizer should be the only one to add projects to the editorial calendar, to ensure the best use of the team’s resources. This person should also have a defined escalation process for handling internal pushback from business stakeholders who don’t take kindly to having their request deprioritized.
When your content team was just starting out, it’s entirely possible that you could sit down at your keyboard, bang out a piece of content, hit publish and call it a day. But as your organization grows, so too does your content creation workflow.
Luckily, you can use your content planning tool to define who needs to sign off on content, and in what order. You may have specific SMEs on tap to review specialized content, legal and compliance review, or other one-off reviewers for special situations. Instead of keeping all these variables in your head, create workflows that reflect each of these various content or topic review workflows.
Publication and Promotion
Once your content has made it over all the reviewer hurdles, it’s ready to be published. Your publishing workflow is more than just hitting the publish button in your CMS. It typically includes adding relevant metadata to the content in your CMS, such as the meta description, tags, SEO keyword, social sharing descriptions, etc.
But wait, there’s more! Your publishing workflow should also include the promotion workflow for the content. What social channels will you share it through? Does it need to be pushed to your sales library? Should it be added to a specific nurture campaign?
Outline all the activities that need to take place after the content goes live to ensure you make the most of the content and ensure a wide distribution. And your content calendar software can help with all those pesky details.
Content Calendar Software Adoption Starts With Celebrating the Small Stuff
Technology adoption doesn’t happen overnight. Well, unless you’re Snapchat or Slack.
But you’re not.
Your process will take time. That’s why it’s important to have a well-thought out onboarding plan in place before implementing your content calendar software. Already using a content calendar app? Don’t fret. Ongoing software usage training will still help your team immensely.
The most obvious component of your onboarding plan is training. Most, if not all, of the vendors in our space offer some sort of hands-on training session that can be customized to your team—take advantage of it!
Contact the vendor and be upfront regarding your team’s primary obstacles or objections to adoption, and let them work with you to devise a customized training program that addresses and overcomes those challenges. If your team is geographically dispersed, consider having the training be held in person at your HQ. That turns a mandatory training session into a team-building opportunity.
Your onboarding plan should also be clearly communicated with all stakeholders before implementing it. By sharing the strategic reasons behind your selection of the platform, plus the outcomes you’re expecting it to provide, it’s significantly more difficult for tech-averse team members to justify refusing to get with the program.
As your team works through its software adoption growing pains, make sure to celebrate the small stuff. Showing your team the time-savings and other wins attributed to the software can go a long way in gaining their support. Provide frequent updates to the team due to the visibility you’ll have regarding workloads and content assignments. Point out the data it provided that you are using to make your content scheduling decisions.
Start Planning for Your Content Calendar Transition
Your content calendar software can truly become the backbone of your marketing. But, only if your team uses it to its full potential. By following these guidelines you’ll give your team back many hours that used to be spent in frustrating email exchanges and managing version control. And, you’ll ultimately be in a great place to begin your journey toward a future-proof content strategy.
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