Planning: a critical step, surely, on the road to success. But how do you plan your content planning? What strategic steps does a team need to take to ensure their content planning is headed in the right direction?
We hear this question, and other similar ones, all the time at Divvy. The appetite is there — the hunger and passion for content marketing are genuine — and companies are stepping up their content game. But we also recognize when teams haven’t quite flushed out (and documented) the “why” and the “how”.
So, let’s get into it… Here’s a simple “Content Planning 101” guide that discusses several preparatory steps that teams should consider to set up a solid content planning foundation.
1. Know What You Want to Achieve
To begin in the right way, you need to have the end in sight — or at least you need to have some objective in mind. Without this vision, you run the risk of quickly losing your way and ending up adrift in the ocean of content possibilities.
Don’t let this happen. Instead, spend some time with your team considering what you want to achieve with the content you are creating. Perhaps you want to improve the perception of your brand in key areas by becoming an authority in your field. Maybe you want to increase organic traffic to your website through SEO, or you want to streamline your sales funnel.
Whatever it is, identify it, write it down, drill it into your team’s heads, and start working towards it.
2. Define Metrics for Success
Source: DivvyHQ Analytics (example)
Now that you know what you are aiming for, you need put in place a set of metrics and parameters by which to measure your success. Let’s say you want to increase direct traffic to your website:
- How are you going to measure this?
- Do you have the proper analytics in place to capture the data?
- What’s your current baseline?
- How much of an increase would you consider a success?
- What time frame do you expect to be working with?
No matter what KPI or metric you are wanting to track, answer these questions and stick to these parameters. You can always reassess your metrics — and your objectives — at a later date, but try not to “move the goal posts” until you’ve given your content initiative ample time to gain traction.
3. Know Your Audience
Think of content as a product, and think of your audience as customers. It shouldn’t be too big a leap — your audience SHOULD be your customers, or at least potential customers, anyway — and adopting this mindset will help you to start delivering exactly what they need.
Once you have a vague idea, you can start researching personas. Personas paint a clear picture of your ideal targets and answer such questions as:
- What does your audience want or expect from you?
- What interests them?
- What struggles do they currently face?
- What are their long and short term motivations?
Gather this information and craft personas that your team can reference regularly to inform content ideation and ongoing content planning.
4. Start Auditing
It’s likely that you are not entering into the world of content marketing with an empty content coffer and no experience behind you. You’ve probably already spent time, effort, and a fair amount of money on creating content, and so it is right that you should look upon these existing content pieces as assets with real value.
So, performing a content audit early in your process is a smart investment of your time. You don’t want to throw away the content that you (or a predecessor) may have already produced, but you do need to be brutal as you analyze what has performed well in the past and what hasn’t — what fits with the brand you have created and with the objectives you have in mind going forward.
5. Get Your Infrastructure in Place
No matter the size of your content operation, your initiatives need to be supported by a certain amount of digital infrastructure. By this I mean tools and platforms that support the process of content planning, production, delivery and performance monitoring of the content you publish.
Every company that produces and publishes content ends up with some form of “content marketing tech stack” that typically includes the following:
- Content planning, collaboration and project management tools
- Content/creative production tools
- Content management system
- Email/Marketing automation platform
- Social media publishing/management platform
- Analytics platforms
6. Start Mapping Your Content
Now you can begin the real meat of the planning procedure. Get your creative team together, bring all the information you have already gathered about your audience and your objectives, and get to work mapping out a winning content plan.
And just to be clear, this is not a one-time meeting. You should be conducting regular planning sessions and staying aligned with your strategic direction. This is the only way that you will be able to give your audience exactly what they need when they need it.
Remember to get everyone involved. Of course your content writers, filmmakers, and other creatives are key, but so are the customer-facing personnel who have a unique insight into the customer experience. Put instant messaging and video conferencing solutions in place too, if necessary, to help your remote teams to get involved with content collaboration.
Content Planning 101 – BONUS TIPS!
Cool Tools to Track Trends & Brainstorm Ideas
There are a wealth of tools out there to help you fill up your content calendar with inspiring topics. Consider tools like HubSpot Idea Generator and BuzzSumo to assist as you brainstorm ideas or look for unique angles that not only tick all the boxes of your strategy, but also propel you directly into the heart of the online conversation.
Remember that new solutions are produced all the time, so make sure that you stay on top of this to make sure your digital toolbox is always at its best.
Diversify What You Offer
From blog posts to videos, to podcasts, infographics, and such digital assets as eBooks, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to the type of content your audience may find valuable. Remember to mix it up as best you can — your users will respond well to this kind of diversity of choice.
Want to Go Deeper?
This simple guide is just scratching the surface in helping marketers get a proper content planning regime in place. If you’d like to go even deeper, we’ve developed a 42-page ebook called “The Definitive Guide to Planning a New Content Initiative” that is about as thorough as anything you’ll find online. Download it today!