Mapping Your Content Marketing Plan: Interview with Michele Linn, from the Content Marketing Institute

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Embarking on a new business venture without a well-structured plan would be a risky endeavor.

Just as a solid business plan is essential for success, a comprehensive content marketing strategy is crucial to navigating the path towards effectiveness and profitability. So why would you dive into content marketing without a plan or a way to know if it’s working?

In this article, we’ll navigate the importance of creating a content marketing plan, with the help of Michele Linn, VP of content at the Content Marketing Institute.

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    The Path to Success is Good Planning

    Data show that planning is more important than ever when it comes to creating content to meet business goals. Though 83% of marketers have a content marketing strategy, merely 35% have taken the critical step of documenting it, according to the “B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America” report by the Content Marketing Institute.

    Michele Linn, Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute, underscores the practical value of having a clear plan. She emphasizes that a robust content marketing strategy elucidates the “why,” “who,” “what,” and “how” behind your actions, offering a compass to gauge success. Unlike campaigns with fixed start and end dates, content marketing is an ongoing, continuous process. In her words,

    “In very practical and simple terms, [you] need a plan so you [know] why you doing what you are doing, who you are helping, what you are going to do, and how you will measure success. Content marketing isn’t a campaign in the sense that there is a start and stop date. Rather, it’s an ongoing process.”

    Data from CMI reveals that 60% of B2B marketers with a documented content marketing strategy report effectiveness. According to Linn, the act of documentation is pivotal. New research indicates that those who document their strategies outperform those with verbal or nonexistent plans. In essence, a plan is the key to success in content marketing.

    Michele adds that:

    “The act of documenting your content marketing strategy is absolutely critical. In fact, our upcoming research shows that those who document their content marketing strategy are far more effective than those with a verbal strategy — or no strategy at all. In short, you need a plan if you want to be successful.”

    Defining Content Goals

    A plan will provide a blueprint for content marketing, but the content itself will ideally drive your company to meet marketing and business goals. Linn put forth several questions that need to be answered before creating a content strategy and establishing the goals.

    “While your plan can be as complicated or as detailed as you would like (and what makes sense for your team.” She recommends starting with two core components:

    1. Impact on Business Goals: Content creation shouldn’t be arbitrary. Rather, you need to articulate how you want the content to ‘move the needle’ in your business.
    2. Mission: A content marketing program necessitates a mission encompassing your target audience, the value you offer, and the actions you seek from your audience post-consumption.

    To narrow down the business goals, think about the priorities of the company. Linn points out these questions as business goal examples:

    • Do you seek to heighten brand awareness?
    • Is building an email list a priority?
    • Are you nurturing prospects along their buyer’s journey?
    • Is converting the audience into paying customers your focus?
    • Are you aiming to retain and increase purchases from existing customers?
    • Do you aim to transform customers into advocates?

    Balancing Action and Planning

    You have outlined the content goals, so now what? The challenge lies in finding the equilibrium between strategic planning and actual execution. Linn advises against getting caught in planning paralysis while also cautioning against haphazard content creation.

    She advises anchoring yourself to your goals and mission while developing content. Analogous to journalists aligning their stories with audience interests, content marketing’s aim is to resonate with the prospective customer’s concerns. The question “Why does my audience care?” steers content creation, in sync with the overarching goal.

    “There is definitely a balance between planning paralysis and simply doing. You don’t want to spend too much time trying to create the perfect plan (because there isn’t one), but you also don’t want to ‘throw stuff out and see what sticks,’” Linn says.

    Linn advocates focusing on the fundamentals: goals, mission, and core audience. Evaluating content against these parameters determines its priority. The plan should encompass the digital platforms used, each platform’s message, and the central hub where traffic and followers are directed, typically a website.

    Internally, you can tell if your planning process is a success if your team is all working towards the same goals and creating content that fulfills your mission. Everyone should be evaluating the content through the same ‘lens,’” she adds.

    Planning for the Long-Term

    Content marketing is an ongoing thread that interweaves analytics, business goals, advertising, and other organizational facets.

    Linn underscores that content marketing isn’t a one-off campaign; it’s a perpetual process. She draws a parallel to campaigns as central themes running through content marketing, guiding the creation of specific content pieces.

    “Content marketing isn’t a campaign in the sense that there is a start and stop date. Rather, it’s an ongoing process. However, if you consider a campaign to be a key theme that will run through your content marketing program (some call it a pillar), I would identify what that pillar is and then create the individual plan for the specific pieces of content from there.”

    Content Planning to Drive Results
    by idealaunch via YouTube

    Evaluating Success

    Enlisting stakeholder support is vital in content marketing, but it’s equally essential to assess whether the plan aligns with the goals. The planning process’s success is gauged by the cohesive efforts of the team in creating content that fulfills the mission.

    Continuously revisiting goals and gauging content initiatives against them determines if they’re on track. Improved results signal effective planning, highlighting alignment between strategy and objectives.

    In a world where content is king, Michele Linn’s insights illuminate the path to crafting an impactful content marketing plan. A documented strategy not only steers clear of pitfalls but also serves as the foundation for content that resonates, engages, and drives business success.

    Interview with Michele Linn,

    VP of Content at Content Marketing Institute

    Content Marketing Institute's Vice President of Content Michele Linn


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