Your Content Plan in an Hour or Less

Last time, we discussed how to create a content marketing strategy to keep your content marketing going smoothly. In that article, I promised you that we’d talk about creating a content plan this time around. So, without further mucking about, let’s get to it. Give me an hour, and you’ll have a content plan to put all that strategy we came up with last week to good use.

Finding Your Topics

You’ve got a list of TYPES of content you’d like to produce, and who will doing the producing of it. Now, we need to get down to the nitty gritty and decide just what TOPICS that content will address. And our content plan will keep it all in one place so everyone can refer to it and know what’s what and where.

Here’s a little tidbit takeaway for you…98% of the bloggers who abandon their blogs, and about 75% of the content marketers who throw in the towel on content marketing do so because…they run out of things to write or talk about.

They suffer from topical burnout, and it kills their efforts, forces them back into strictly outreach, typically paid marketing methods, and it has been known to spell the death of more than one small business’s dreams.

YOU aren’t going to do that, because YOU are going to know how to find an almost endless supply of meaningful, relevant, audience-serving topics that they’ll come back for again and again. And by using a content plan, you’ll know what you’ve covered and what you still need to create.

Step 1: Find the Questions

Open the KeywordTool. This lovely little critter allows you to see what questions are commonly used in searches at Google, YouTube, Amazon and several more. Type in your keyword – you can see I used “content marketing” and voila! It returns a list of real-life, someone-typed-in-and-searched-for questions. This is just a small portion of the return I got, by the way. I had to scroll and scroll and scroll to get to the end.

Any and all of these, just about, would make fine blog or Tweet content for us here at Bloomers, wouldn’t you say? And using your main keyword or topic, you’ll find a nice fat bunch for you, too.

Now, we’re not finished….Go to Quora. Again, search for your main topic or keyword. You will again find real, honest-to-goodness questions posted by real, honest-to-goodness people. And you’ll also find the answers to them, too, which can come in handy for research purposes when you aren’t quite certain you’ve got everything tucked away correctly in your brain.

You can see the top three results for my search in the image below.You can also see the expert level of answers Quora questions often get, so you know your source is top notch should you need to brush up on something a bit.

You can repeat this process on Reddit, as well. And before you’re done, go back to KeywordTool and check out some returns from Amazon. Those are good titles and/or products to use for reviews and product comparison content.

Step 2: Find the Categories

You should, by now, have a fine fat list of potential questions to answer, products to review, topics for producing content you KNOW you’re readers want. Now, we have to DO something with those. Study them carefully and divide them up into 6 to 8 (NO MORE than that, please!) broad categories.

These are the categories for your blog. They are the divisions in your YouTube channel. They are the subsections for your podcast. They can also serve as a catalyst for other content, too. Know someone who’s great in an area related to one of them? Invite them for an interview or a guest post, or add them to your “influencer” efforts.

Your categories will help with corralling all those great topic ideas you’ve just uncovered into more manageable, content-plan-ready content.

Creating Your Content Plan

This is both the easy part, and the part that can make your brain tired, so be warned and ready. Have a drink and maybe a snack nearby. This can take a while, especially when you’re new to creating a content plan.

Step 1: Plan Your Topics

Take a look at that list of topics. Create a “production order” for them. In the filming industry, a production order is the order in which the various scenes are shot. And that;s exactly what your production order in your content plan – the order in which the topics will be covered, the order in which each one will be addressed.

Write them down, in their proper order. Put them in a spreadsheet. Create a calendar. Just get them down somewhere, somehow, that makes sense and is workable for you, and anyone else who might be helping to create content. At Bloomers, we prefer a calendar type critter, but that’s just us.

Step 2: Plan Your Format

Unless you’re a one-trick pony type content marketer, you’ll have various formats for your content. Tweets, blog posts, podcasts, infographics, email goodies, white papers, videos – whatever. You get the idea. (And if you ARE a one-trick marketer, fix that. NOW.)

Take a look at that production order. Decide on each topic will be unleashed upon the world at large. That statistical report – perfect for an infographic. Those guests you want to interview would make great podcasts or blog posts, right? And the behind-the-scenes looks would be fabulous videos.

There are a few things to consider when working your content’s format into your content plan.

  1. Your current efforts – expansion is good, but don’t spread yourself too thin, so stick primarily with what’s working now
  2. Your current audience – again, branching out is good, as long as you keep your current fans happy
  3. Your capabilities – let’s repeat one more time – don’t spread yourself too thin, especially if your content team consists of just one or two people – don’t plan more content than can be created relatively stress-free
  4. Your “mix” – variety is good, if fact some would say variety in content is essential to creating and keeping a wide, engaged, interested audience – don’t go too heavy on any one type of content unless your audience wants it

Step 3: Plan Your Publishing

The last thing to do with your content plan is to plan when the content will be published. Blog posts? Twice a week is good for the team? Great! And a few infographic or image-heavy posts thrown in here and there? Even better!

Daily tweets or pins or ‘Grams? Is Buffer or Hootsuite or some other automated tool ready to go? Awesome!

That white paper for lead generation? How can that be worked in? What deadline works best for it? The end of the month? Superb!

Those videos? Should we wing it and do em live on Facebook? Or practice a bit, polish our presentation, and then create a video channel? Or just do a better LiveStream than most? Put those a bit further down the line, while we iron out the details, please.

What you should have is a production schedule, a publication guideline, for your content when you’re done.

Wrapping Up

Your spreadsheet or calendar or other document is now complete. You’ve got a list of topics, how those topics will be presented, and when. Congratulations! You’ve created your first content plan!

One word of caution before we wrap this thing up…ONLY plan 60 to 90 days at a time. Why? Several reasons:

  1. The less content planned, the less time spent planning it, and the less overwhelmed you’ll be.
  2. A shorter plan allows for addressing current topics – why write a blog post six months’ from now about a topic that matters TODAY? And that evergreen content can be postponed in favor of content focusing on a big event that’s happening or did just happen.
  3. A shorter plan allows for more frequent measurement of your content’s performance. If they didn’t respond too well to that lead magnet, wouldn’t it be better to know and replace it with a new one in 3 months, than have it sit there not performing for half a year or more?
  4. A shorter plan allows for changes to be made quicker. They really love the new videos and have asked for more? Great! Add that to the content plan NOW by switching some topics from blog posts to video chats.

Your content doesn’t have to be elaborate or complex. And creating it doesn’t have to be some scary, unknown drudge of a task. You CAN plan 2 to 3 months of content in less than an hour. Just remember, all the planning in the world doesn’t do you any good without implementation.

Soooo, set the clock, turn off the phone, get your tools ready, and spend the next hour creating your content plan.You won’t regret it. And if you find yourself in need of help, in either the creation, or the implementation, of your content plan, contact us here at Bloomers. We’ll be happy to help!

Creating Your Content Marketing Strategy in an Hour or Less

content marketing strategy

You’ve heard about the need for content marketing. You’ve probably also heard the need for a content marketing strategy. And then there’s a whole other critter called a content plan. (we’ll get to that in our next post.)

Why Bother?

Is all this strategy and planning REALLY necessary? Nope. Not at all. Unless you really want to succeed at your content marketing efforts, that is.

All right, so WHY is it necessary?

Because without a content marketing strategy, your content marketing efforts are a ship without a rudder, a journey without a map, a quest without a hope of victory. Your content marketing strategy is the guide to the planning, production, promotion, and performance evaluation of your content. It’s helpful from beginning to end. Producing content without one will most likely be a recipe for pure disaster.

So, unless you want hours of wasted effort, and days spent wondering why your content isn’t gong anywhere, take an hour or so, follow these steps, and create your very own content marketing strategy.

Step 0 – Gather Your Stuff

Like any good explorer, you shouldn’t head into strategy planning without being fully prepared. here’s a short list of the bare necessities to have on hand before you start your content marketing strategy session:

  1. something to write with or type on – use a good old fashioned pen and notebook, or open EverNote, or One Note,or a Google doc. I don’t care WHAT it is, just have something handy to record your plan
  2. your business goals/objectives – your content marketing SHOULD be a part of how you plan to reach those goals, so having them handy to refer to once in a while is crucial
  3. something to drink and if necessary, a munchie or two – hey, we’re talking an hour or so here. Keep the snacks and sips close and you won’t have to interrupt the strategy brain train once it leaves the station

Now you’re ready to start getting down to work. Depending on how involved your content marketing is, or plans to be, in an hour, you’ll have a content marketing strategy ready to go.

Step 1 – Write Down Your Goals

These goals have nothing to do with how many retweets, likes, followers, hits on a web page, or “going viral”. Your content marketing goals should align with, and help achieve, your overall business goals. Things like:

  • increase leads
  • improve brand awareness
  • drive traffic back to your website
  • drive readers to a landing page
  • maintain/nurture the customer following you have

Now, these goals should be measurable, and that’s where the metrics come in. Of all those mentioned in the intro to this section, the only one that’s REALLY a measurable figure worth tracking is the hits on a certain page. All the rest are “vanity metrics” and really, really, yes REALLY don’t matter.

But you can count the number of new leads you get and compare it to the old one. You can track the number of people who are new customers. Analytics will tell you about traffic to your site or to a certain page. And your email list, your blog reader stats, and your repeat customers will show you how well you are doing at retaining your current (and hopefully growing) base.

So, take about 5 to 10 minutes and jot down some goals your content marketing can help achieve this year.

Step 2 – Who Is It For? Where Are They?

When creating your content marketing strategy, after your goals, the next big item to settle on is the audience who will be consuming your content. Answer the following questions:

  • Who is the ideal customer for your offerings?
  • Who makes up your audience right now?
  • Is there any audience dissonance? Do you have readers/followers who AREN’T your ideal?
  • What new audiences would you like to try to reach?

Now that you’ve identified your “peeps”, ask yourself the following three questions:

  • What types of content do they like to share (format, length, source, style)?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • How do I best reach them there?

Knowing WHO you are creating content for is crucial to successful content marketing. Knowing the kinds of content they get jazzed about, and where they can be found are also crucial. Adding audience details to your content marketing strategy will ensure that you are creating content that appeals to the RIGHT audience in the RIGHT way, in the RIGHT place.

Otherwise, you’ll be talking to the wrong crowd, or worse, simply talking to yourself. It’s worth 5 to 10 minutes to suss out the who and where.

Step 3 – What Are the Best Types of Content to Create?

Well, in less than half an hour, you know WHY you are creating content and WHO you are creating it for. Next, you need to move on to the best type of content you need to be creating.

First things first – look back at your goals. Got any “top of funnel” goals that need to appeal to a big audience? Stuff like increasing leads or signups, or improving brand awareness? Start there. (a lot of content marketers make the near-fatal mistake of STOPPING there. You won’t.)

Top of funnel, new peeps oriented content is fairly common and somewhat easy to create. It’s the short video on your home page introducing you and your stuff. It’s a survey, quiz, or giveaway. It’s a guest post. It’s your own blog with its tutorials and “base level” explainers. It’s the “hey look at me!” stuff that nearly everybody on the planet is doing on social media, from LiveStreams to simple everyday posts.

Adding top of funnel content to your content marketing strategy should be quick and easy. It’s “daily social media posts” or “weekly blog posts” or “bi weekly video for YouTube tutorial channel”. It’s most likely the stuff you’re already producing, so keep at it.

Middle of the funnel content can be a bit more difficult. This is the content that has to convince them to open their wallets. It can consist of product demos, getting a product reviewed by a major influencer, a targeted campaign on social media, white papers, webinars, and live events – either virtual or really in person LIVE.

Just because middle of the funnel content is a bit tougher and more time consuming to create does not excuse you from adding it to your content marketing strategy if your goals call for it. You have to convert every lead into a paying customer somehow, after all. MoFu content is the best way to do it short of a personal sales pitch.

Which brings me to BoFu – bottomĀ  of the funnel – content. You’ve closed the deal, now what? You need content to keepĀ  them coming back. These can be email newsletters or honest-to-goodness in the mail box newsletters, behind the scenes looks – either video or blog content, a regular podcast, and consistent social media postings. All of these, when done with the existing customer in mind, can create a group of raving fans any boy band would be thrilled to fight off.

Take the next 20 minutes or so and brainstorm different types of content you can create to help meet your goals and keep your audience happy.

Step 4 – Who’s Doing What, and When?

This is kind of where the rubber meets the road, or at least the team meets the content, when creating your content marketing strategy. You have to determine who will create what content and when it will be published. If you are a one man show, that may mean outsourcing some of your content, or rearranging existing routines to allow for adequate time for content creation.

For a team, it may be as easy as deciding Jack is the strongest blogger, while Samantha has the best video game in town, and you can’t beat Jen and Steve when it comes to graphics. Or, you may have to take a few minutes and dig a little deeper – maybe Jack can script some mean video content while Steve provides the whiteboard doodles. Don’t be afraid of challenging team talent, or of listening to your team for new ideas. They are a creative bunch, after all.

You may realize that you don’t have time or budget for all of the content you’d like to create. That’s alright. Really. Declutter your brainstorm list and either do one of two things – choose that which will have the greatest impact, or choose that which will reach the most goals with the least effort. Sure a podcast or video channel would probably increase your awareness and your leads, but would tweets you can schedule 10 or more all at once have the same effect? Can’t afford to outsource your white papers? Monthly blogging retainers can be much more cost effective in terms of content created.

Take about 5 minutes and decide who’s doing what, and either when or how often (for recurring content like blogging, podcasts, and social posts) it will be published. You can get really nitty gritty with this in you content PLAN. For now, general “ideas” will do.

Step 5 – How Will They Know It’s There?

You should now know who you are creating content for and why. You should have written out what types of content, where and when (approximately) it’ll be published, and who’s behind the creation of it. All that’s left is the promotion of that content.

A combination of paid and free, organic traffic is best. Yes, I know, content marketing is mostly an inbound game, but sometimes you need to boost the game and bring in a ringer if you want to reach the top of the scoring charts. So, you’ll need to decide, again just briefly, generally, which efforts are worthy of a marketing budget behind them.

By adding promotional efforts to your content marketing strategy, you can plan and prepare for the expense. You can better measure ROI. And you can determine whether or not a future endeavor is worth pursuing by having past performance as reference. That first paid traffic boost to the new podcast didn’t do so well? Was it the audience, the podcast itself, or the platform for the paid ads? What can you change in the next round of ads? Or should you just drop the idea altogether, as the blog, the email newsletter, and Twitter are bringing in a ton of listeners already?

Take your last 5 to 10 minutes and look over your content ideas. Find those that are worthy of paid promotion, and those that can or will do fine without it. If you need to, do a little research on how much budget is typical to see the results you want. (HINT – it’s never the same, but there are ballpark figures out there…) Then, decide how and where your content will get its promotional efforts.

That’s It. Congratulations!

Take a sip. relax. Kick back in your chair. You’re done. You’ve got a workable content marketing strategy in front of you. That didn’t hurt, did it? And it didn’t take much more than an hour if you were properly prepared. It will certainly help. You won’t just be creating any old content “just because”.

Next stop….your content marketing PLAN. On to part 2!