You wouldn’t sink money into a new business without some kind of plan in place to support it on a path to profitability, would you?
Only the foolhearted would start a company without a business plan. So why would you dive into content marketing without a plan or a way to know if it’s working?
Good Planning = Path to Success
Data show that planning is more important than ever when it comes to creating content to meet business goals. Eighty-three percent of marketers have a content marketing strategy, but only 35 percent have documented it, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s report “B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America”.
“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,” said Michele Linn, Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute.
“Content marketing isn’t a campaign in the sense that there is a start and stop date. Rather, it’s an ongoing process,” said Michele Linn, Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute.
CMI’s data show 60 percent of B2B marketers with a documented content marketing strategy say they are effective.
“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,” she said.
— Content Marketing Institute (@CMIContent) October 1, 2014
What are the Content Goals?
A plan will provide a blueprint for the 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 said, “I would start with two things:
1. What business goals do you want this content to impact? It’s not a good idea to simply create content for the sake of having content. Rather, you need to articulate how you want content to ‘move the needle’ in your business.
2. What is your mission? Every content marketing program needs a mission, which is who you are going to help, what you will deliver to them and what your audience can do once they have consumed your content.”
To narrow down the business goals, think about the priorities of the company. Linn pointed out these questions as business goal examples:
– Do you need to raise awareness for your brand?
– Do you need to build your email list?
– Do you need to nurture prospects along their buyer’s journey?
– Do you need to convert your audience to paying customers?
– Do you need to retain customers and/or increase their purchases (up-sell/ cross-sell)?
– Do you need to convert customers to evangelists?
Balance Your Efforts
You have outlined the content goals, so now what? Can’t you just sit down and write or simply post to social media?
“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 said.
The goals are in place to keep you grounded. Keep coming back to them when you’re developing content. Much like journalists who work an angle of a story that answers the question: Why does my audience care, your content marketing’s angle is to work toward achieving the overall goal and answer the question: Why does my prospective customer care?
“My suggestion is to focus on the basics: your goals and your mission, which includes your core audience. At the very least you can ask yourself: ‘Is this piece of content supporting our mission and will it impact our business goals?’ If not, it’s not likely something that you should prioritize,” she said.
The plan for your content forces you to think in simple terms as part of the overall process. That plan should include what digital platforms you’re posting to and what the message will be on each of those.
“On a related note, you also need a ‘hub’ where you can point all of your traffic/social followers. For most people, this is their website. You need to get that in order before you spend to much time creating a content outreach plan,” she said.
“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 said.
Planning for the Long-Term
Content marketing is a thread that links analytics, business goals, advertising, and other relevant company departments. It’s a continuous part of the business operation, much like the accounting or sales departments.
“Content marketing isn’t a campaign in the sense that there is a start and stop date. Rather, it’s an ongoing process,” Linn said. “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
In addition to getting stakeholders on board to support the content marketing effort, everyone needs to review the plan and measurements against the goals to see if the plan is working or whether it needs to be revised.
“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,’” Linn said.
Then there’s those goals again. Circle back to assess whether or not the content marketing initiatives that goal. “Of course, you can also tell if your planning is working if you see improved results with the goals you have identified,” she said.