If you’d like to drive growth with content marketing, stop. Content for content’s sake isn’t the answer.
What you do need is a strategic content marketing plan that keeps you focused and consistent. So content creation doesn’t become a burden — and your content drives measurable results.
Keep reading for the four-step process we use to create a personalized content marketing plan that’s both achievable and scalable.
The 4-Step Content Marketing Plan
A successful content plan has four steps:
- Develop your voice and brand.
- Create a strong content strategy.
- Set up your workflow.
- Work the plan.
Notice that you don’t start creating content until step #4. That’s for a reason.
Content marketing is an investment. It takes time and energy to create content that attracts your audience, builds relationships, and drives sales.
It’s also a slow burn. It can easily take a year before you start seeing results. That’s a year of doing the work with little or no reward, trusting that it will eventually gain traction and take off.
Truth is, those early days can be brutal. But if you’ve got a strategic plan, you can trust the process. You’ll continue making the right motions, which means you’ll gain traction quicker and see results sooner.
So how do you develop your plan? Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Develop your voice and brand
Before publishing a single piece of content, you need to know how you want to show up to the world.
Think of Coca-Cola. Their iconic red and white logo and uniquely shaped bottle are recognizable anywhere.
Another good example is “the Queen of Facebook” Mari Smith.
When she launched her brand more than a decade ago, she choose a few simple things to hang her brand on:
- Teal and bling for her visuals (today, she’s more flexible with colors)
- Her Scottish American accent and friendly, helpful tone
- A singular focus on Facebook
These choices made her memorable. The quality of her work ensured she stayed that way.
That’s your goal as well. When someone reads your words or sees your video, they need to immediately identify that content as yours.
So rule #1: Your voice and brand need to be unique. You may admire what others are doing, but you won’t succeed if you imitate them.
Create something that’s unique and different. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What’s the right look and feel for my brand? Do I need to show up as the expert, or am I bringing people along for the ride?
- What’s my voice? How formal or casual do I need to be?
- What’s my brand personality? Am I funny, serious, or something in between?
Keep in mind, your brand is more than your color choices. Yes, they can create visual consistency, but they’re far less important than your message and personality.
Also, don’t spend too much time on these decisions. You can tweak them over time.
For now, try to create a persona that fits your founder’s personality, the industry you service, and your target audience. The right choices will help you build rapport and trust quickly.
Step 2: Create a Strong Content Strategy
Once you know how you want to show up in the world, it’s time to develop your content strategy.
- What are your goals? What action are you trying to drive?
- How will you achieve your goals?
- What are your best channels?
- What will you talk about and how often?
Goals: What and why…
In content marketing, everything starts with your goals. You need to know what you’re trying to achieve, so you can develop a plan that works. A few examples: traffic, ranking in Google, driving subscriptions or leads, or building a community.
You need to choose one north star goal that guides everything you do. You may also choose one or two secondary goals.
Once you’ve set your goal, you can begin coming up with ideas for achieving that goal.
At this stage, you don’t know what will work. Based on what you know about your product, your audience, and what your competitors are doing, you’ll need to create some hypotheses.
This is the foundation of a successful content strategy. Every piece of content is essentially a test. Your job is to create, publish, and track results and tweak your plan.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Be creative about how you structure your content marketing plan. And test everything.
If your goal is lead generation, you may need to focus on lead magnets, webinars, or social media.
If your goal is website traffic, you may decide to focus on SEO blogging and guest blogging.
Where you publish depends on your audience. For most new content programs, I recommend starting with one primary channel and distributing it across your other channels.
For instance: Write a weekly blog post, then share it on social media and email. Or focus on social media to build your audience, and then use what you learn to build your blog.
It’s always a good idea to start small and grow over time. Once you’re comfortable with your plan, you can add other formats and channels.
Velocity: How often…
How often should you publish? There’s no hard and fast rule.
Keep in mind, this is the least important part of your content strategy. But you do need to decide how much content you can create while maintaining your quality standards. Maybe it’s one blog post a month, one video a week, or a daily TikTok.
Set a frequency that’s realistic and gets the job done without consuming your life.
This is the core of your content marketing plan. So take some time to think about how you’d like to approach content marketing. The document your plan in a spreadsheet or document.
Step 3: Set Up Your Workflow
A good content marketing workflow has five steps:
- Content creation
- Quality control
Content marketing demands a steady stream of ideas. Most brands use keyword research as their guide. But keyword research isn’t your only source of good ideas.
Think about the questions people ask before or after buying your product. Think about the issues that confuse people, or the bad advice your competitors share.
Content marketing is your platform for thought leadership. So share new ideas, personal revelations, and industry news.
If you’re launching a new product, focus your content on the challenges your product solves. Build interest in advance with content that relates to your offers.
Content creation is time-consuming. It’s a good idea to hire a team member or agency to own your content marketing plan.
That gives you consistency and helps you maintain your voice and message. It also ensures you create quality content on a regular basis.
Before publishing any piece of content, it’s a good idea to review it for quality, brand alignment, and messaging.
Blog content often goes through editing and stakeholder review before being published. But even if you have a one-person content team (and even if that person is you), you should set up a system for reviewing your content.
It can be as simple as writing one day and reviewing your work the next. By reviewing your content with fresh eyes, you’ll catch typos and non-obvious mistakes.
Publication and distribution
You need eyeballs on your content to get results. Publishing on one channel is rarely enough. Think about how you can repackage, recycle, and share your content to be sure it gets seen.
For example, promote blog posts in email, social media, and other channels. Talk about it in a video or podcast. Link to it from other blog posts. The idea is to multiply your efforts by distributing your content across channels.
Step 4: Work the Plan
This last step is not really a step. But if you want to succeed with content marketing, you’ve got to execute.
Commit to the routine of content creation. Set deadlines — and meet them. Show up for your audience, wherever they hang out online.
Remember, it takes time to get results. You’ve got to be consistent, and you’ve got to stay on track. Your content marketing plan should help you do that.
So what are you waiting for? There’s content that needs creating.