To bring clarity to your activities you need to design a content marketing plan. This will help you understand what content to create, how it can be delivered through your channels and how frequently you should create it.
Before jumping right in, you’ll want to consider some questions:
- What content will be of real value to your customers?
- How will your content align with your messaging architecture?
That’s it. Build a list of the core topic categories you want to cover, then break these down into a separate list of sub-categories. This approach will help you to focus on what really matters. Keep the list targeted and niche and don’t stray too far into irrelevant territory. A tight content structure will also help your website get indexed. That means enhanced SEO, means more visibility, means more traffic.
Create multipurpose content
One of the things about building a multi-channel content marketing plan is that there’s a lot of content to create. If you try to tackle every post individually, you’re going to expend a lot of time and energy. Instead, think about multipurpose content.
The way to tackle this is by starting with long-form content and working backwards. For instance, I might begin with a whitepaper that spans a full subcategory. If it’s a big 10,000-word piece, it will take me the better half of a week. Then throw in a few extra days to format into a booklet, create some fancy artwork and design a gated landing page. Sure, it’s top-notch content, but it’s taken a long time to produce. Luckily, I planned to give it legs.
Definition – Multipurpose content
(noun) Content designed to be reused and reformatted, perhaps by structuring it so that it can be easily transferred and manipulated.
Next, take your blogs and start pulling them apart. Look for punchy subheaders, quotes, cool graphics and key points. All of these items can be rehashed as social media content. To save time, design post templates and just drop the content straight in. For each blog, you can probably squeeze out at least five posts. And there’s no need to start from scratch for every social media channel, just resize your assets to the right spec for each.
And what about email marketing? Well, you’ve already got tonnes of content available. Throw in a few blog headlines, images and links and any interesting feedback from social media, plus the whitepaper/ebook and suddenly that monthly newsletter looks almost complete.
Linking it all up
All that hard work at the start paid off. A single whitepaper has become ten blogs, 50+ social media posts and a good handful of emails—enough content to fill most SME marketing calendars for a couple of months.
(Note: that doesn’t mean you should post it all at once! Spread it out with reactionary posts and other topics so your content doesn’t become monotonous.)
You don’t have to start with a whitepaper, you might want to go large with an ebook. Or host a long-form podcast that covers multiple subjects, then transcribe the audio and reframe it as a blog series. Maybe create a long explainer animation for your website then break it down into 15-second clips for social media. Perhaps build an infographic and cut up each stat and fact for email. Or design a portfolio and rehash each case study as a blog and break up the testimonials as yet more posts.
The added-value benefits
Not only does this approach save tonnes of time when producing your content marketing plan, but it also streamlines the management of your marketing strategy and activities. Moreover, it helps you focus content and build a keyword strategy for each topic. But the best thing: because the content is structured and complimentary, it’s easy to cross-link and integrate to create compelling marketing funnels.
In our whitepaper example, social media and emails drive traffic to blogs. Blogs contain internal links to each other (both in the copy and in the ‘recommended reading’ section below). This extends the user journey and reduces the bounce rate (more SEO kudos points for us). Each blog also promotes the gated whitepaper. And the download form triggers the addition of content to a mailing list and CRM system.
Our unwitting social media browser is now a qualified lead. Over to the sales team.
Plant and nurture evergreen content
In the same way a comedian rehashes and refines their routine, long-form content shouldn’t be made for one sitting. Evergreen content is anything that you can recycle over and over, squeezing maximum value from the same ideas.
One of my favourite podcasters/bloggers/marketers/authors/YouTubers is Tim Ferriss. Not only is he able to cover so many specialities (mainly by using multipurpose content) but he’s also able to deliver a constant bombardment of quality content. Having subscribed to his many channels for over a year, it dawned on me that 90% of everything he was posting was recycled content. By that point, I’d already bought all the books and reviewed all his courses.
(Tim is a master of marketing efficiencies. One of his tactics is to use a set number of profound interview questions and ask leading entrepreneurs, athletes and icons to answer them in the same order. Each response becomes an essay in a book which he simply tops and tails with a personal note. It’s exceptional content for minimum effort.)
“As a business owner, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of being busy, and being busy is not necessarily productive.”
—Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur, author and podcaster
The thing is, the vast majority of your content will slip through the net. It’s not that the content wasn’t interesting or relevant, it’s just that the world is a busy place. Most of your audience won’t have seen it the first time around, so it makes sense to send it their way again once a little time has passed.
But writing evergreen content is about more than squeezing value. It’s about constantly reviewing, updating and optimising your content to offer more value and drive more traffic. This is particularly true of your best-performing posts. These deserve the most attention as they’re doing the most work. Make a habit of reviewing and recycling this content on a frequent basis. Blogs that haven’t performed well can be forgotten.
By analysing content performance you can refine your content topics with data-led feedback. Refreshing your content this way is a sure way to ramp up your SEO. So nurturing those evergreen seeds should be a key part of your digital marketing strategy.
Hitch a ride on trending content
While using multipurpose, evergreen content is great, leave room for what’s new. This will keep your content marketing plan fresh and relevant while providing an opportunity to piggyback off trending topics. Also, you never know when inspiration is going to hit. I find my best ideas come out of the blue. When that happens, everything else should be pushed aside while your channel that inspiration.
Of course, it’s important to look out for topical news that you can reframe for your audience. As ever, this is a time-consuming process—and one that you can streamline.
Your source of trends and inspiration
Keep an eye on your favourite news and blog outlets by using an RSS like Feedly. Here, you can select your favourite media channels and bloggers and add them to a list. This means that track of hot content all in one simple and convenient place. You can create multiple lists on Feedly to research each of your brand’s categories.
BuzzSumo is a tool that lets you find the most shared content and trending influencers on social media. You can use it to analyse which content performs best for any topic and find trending news.
As a source of news, I’d also highly recommend using Tweetdeck, is a dashboard for managing Twitter accounts. This gives you an overview of trending topics and helps you discover top hashtags too.
For a more proactive approach to your content marketing plan, there are certain seasonal topics that you can plan for. Most businesses are planning for Christmas, Black Friday and Valentine’s Day well in advance of their campaigns going live. There are likely to be special days and events that your content is particularly well suited to.
The sprinkle of subtle sales
While 80% of content should provide value for your prospects, 20% should be designed to advertise your products and services.
Get the balance right and your audience won’t mind seeing the occasional promotion. In fact, if they’ve come to recognise you as a reliable brand that they can trust, it may be welcomed. Here’s a list of sales content that you can add to your plan:
- Glowing case studies and other forms of UGC.
- Your latest product offering.
- Changes to your services.
- Limited time offers and promotions.
Creating your content marketing plan
Now you know the kind of content to create, it’s time to develop your content marketing plan. I tend to use three variations.
1. The annual plan gives an overview of monthly objectives, content themes, campaigns, product/service changes and promotions, plus upcoming news and events. This is a simple, bare-bones plan that is used as a reference point when structuring long-term thinking.
2. The monthly plan goes into greater detail. It gives a summary of all the content going out on a day-by-day basis. The plan also takes into account which channel will be used, what the desired action will be and which customer segments will receive the content.
3. The social media plan has its own tab due to the frequent number of posts. Again, this is a day-by-day breakdown of content featuring all the social media platforms which I intend to use. Here, I write the actual copy for each post (include all links and hashtags) and add a reference to what image will be used with the post. I also use a separate tab to keep track of trending news, themes, influencers and hashtags to incorporate into the plan.
P.S. You can also use Asana to plan your comms for a more digital approach. Just remember to select each channel as a separate project so that you can toggle between them without getting overwhelmed.
Scheduling the content
Time to deliver all that hard work. Make the burden a little lighter by scheduling it in one go. Rather than logging into every social media channel a few times a day to create each post manually, you’ll want to use a scheduler.
There’s a wide mix of social media scheduling tools available to the marketer. Hootsuite and Buffer are my top choices because they both bring all your social media marketing channels under one roof. I tend to bulk upload a couple of weeks’ activity in one go, then just log in to check for engagements and latest trends.
They also help you monitor and analyse your platform’s activity. They are particularly handy when managing multiple social media brands because you don’t have to flip between accounts.
Most decent email marketing platforms and Content Management Systems will also allow you to schedule activity. This means that if you have a lot of content to post or need to get ahead then you can.