Ever find yourself panicking as you try to figure out what you’re posting on social media that week? Maybe you wish you could better align your content marketing efforts with your business goals?
You need a content marketing calendar.
Developing a content marketing calendar takes some upfront effort. However, it is ultimately well worth the time you put into it. Among other things, a content marketing calendar helps you:
- Set goals and adjust them according to business needs
- Understand how your content efforts line up with other marketing and business initiatives
- Bring sanity into your life
I know it can feel overwhelming when you start to put to put together your calendar. Start with these five tips to help you focus your efforts and you’ll be well on your way.
1. Look at the Big Picture
The first thing you need to do when putting together your plan is to look at the big picture. Start by asking the following questions:
- Who is our ideal audience? (If you haven’t already developed audience personas, you should do so.)
- What are the broader goals that my organization is trying to accomplish this year?
- How should we divide our efforts in terms of lead generation, lead nurturing, reputation building, and relationship nurturing?
- How should we divide our efforts in terms of top, middle , and bottom of the funnel visitors?
Beyond the confines of your own organization, you should also think about more global considerations such as:
- Time of the year – Seasons and weather might affect the content you produce. Moreover, it might affect which audiences are best to target when. For example, you might target retail companies a few months before the holiday rush or you might target healthcare organizations a few months before insurance renewal season begins.
- Holidays – Your offerings might change according to which holidays are happening. Do remember to be sensitive to the fact that there are many religions and national holidays around the world. This is particularly important if you are attempting to reach a global audience.
Lastly, don’t forget about competitors. Check out their content marketing channels and see if there are activities or topics that you aren’t already touching on that would make sense for your organization to cover.
2. Develop a Deep-dive View
Once you’ve developed your high-level plan, it’s time to break it down into more detailed pieces. Figure out:
- How can I break my big picture goals down by quarter?
- Within each quarter, what kind of content might best support those goals?
Remember that within each quarter, you will have specific marketing and product activities planned. Consider such questions as:
- What events will we be attending or running?
- What is the target audience at each event?
- What influencers, analysts, and media persona will be attending each event?
- How far ahead of time do I need to start working to develop relationships with each influencer, analyst, or media persona?
- What kind of new product or service features and functionality will we be releasing?
- When are those releases planned for?
- Which audience will be most interested in those new items?
- What social media channels do those people use?
- In what format does that audience like to consume new material?
For further inspiration, check out this great article, “52 ideas on topics that you can leverage to create shareable content”.
3. Mix and Match Your Content Marketing Efforts
Different people respond well to different kinds of content. Some are more visual, some want very detailed and technical material, others want a snappy video or a funny quote or two. Moreover, some prefer material they can browse through themselves and others prefer live service. The trick is figuring out how to match what your organization has the ability to produce with what your audience is looking for.
While you shouldn’t aim to develop monster loads of content if you don’t have the resources, you should develop content in a variety of formats. Remember, you can start with a foundational content piece (for example, a blog post), and repurpose it into several other kinds of content (like a video, slides, an infographic, and a tip sheet).
In addition, you must consider which channels are best for disseminating your content. Questions to ask include:
- Which channels does my audience prefer?
- Which channels work best for each type of content we are developing?
- How can I best encourage my audience to interact with my content?
- How can I make my content more shareable for each channel I want to hit?
Of course you also likely have a range of content that you have developed in the past. Don’t forget to include those wonderful items in your plan. Evergreen content can be a very strong source of interest to your target audience. You can even spruce up some of your older pieces by adding:
- New graphics
- New facts, ideas, or tips
4. Be Flexible
You may not be able to predict everything for the entire year on your content marketing calendar. For example, your company might develop some of its features or offerings based on customer requests throughout the year or you may be a startup and where you think you will go by the end of the year might have no bearing on reality.
In fact, revisiting your calendar at the beginning of each month is a critical part of your content marketing efforts. You need to make sure you are on track and to tweak your plan as necessary. It is more than likely that for even the most organized and established company, things will change throughout the year.
For example, you might make adjustments based on:
- New product, services, or feature release dates
- Unexpected news events
- Trending social media topics
- Newsjacking opportunities
- New customer stories or breakthroughs
Be flexible. It’s key to your success.
5. Set Aside Time for Live Conversation
Finally, remember that content marketing isn’t just about sticking to a plan and following it like a robot. There should always be live interaction opportunities. Audience engagement is key!
Here are some ways that you can make real-time marketing a reality:
- Reach out to folks via social media and recommend interesting articles based on their conversation topics.
- Join in Tweet chats that afford opportunities to post links.
- Run polls that update in real-time. Even better, use the results of your poll to create new material.
- Hold live video conversations through a one-on-one video chat.
- Use your social media efforts to drive guests to a live-action visual engagement session using cobrowsing or screen sharing.
Ready, Set, Create!
With your content plans laid out, you’re now ready to create! You now have a way to show others what you are accomplishing, focus your time and efforts, and take the guesswork out of the content marketing process. Mazel Tov!
Have any advice you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below or Tweet me up at @HollyChessman.