Focus Your Content with Strategic Content Planning
Clients tell us that content focus is one of their biggest marketing challenges.
Small business owners and nonprofit executives struggle to create consistently high-quality, relevant, and useful content for websites, blogs, and social media. Once they get started on these platforms, the need for content grows and grows. Most of them are not writers. They are real estate agents, chief marketing officers or CEOs, and other small to medium-sized businesses.
Facing deadline pressure, they post random, only vaguely related bits of content. Or they don’t post, and their social media presence stagnates.
Yet, few management activities deliver a greater return on investment (ROI) than strategic content planning.
We show clients how to reclaim hours of precious time by sitting down once a quarter to map out all their content that will live online. Some companies plan for up to a year. However, for many small enterprises life moves fast. They may find a quarterly plan all they can manage. There may be a business need to stay current with what’s going on in the world. For a social enterprise, foundation, or nonprofit, their issue or policy platform may become an element of some breaking news. Yet a well-conceived quarterly content plan helps them stay on track, and offers flexibility if things change.
Planning 3-12 months worth of content for delivery to customers is an investment that allows you to:
- employ focused thinking
- think thematically; identify the broad, important themes
- put yourself in your customers’ shoes – and plan content to help them
- batch your time, since you’ll only have to do this once a quarter, at most!
Content Planning Basics
Quarterly strategic content planning is a form of time batching. Not only is it efficient time management, it’s the best way to focus your mind on what you need to communicate most.
Alongside the many other levels of business planning, successful organizations make time for strategic content planning. These days, that includes planning and managing digital content, everywhere they have a presence.
Failure to plan is a mistake. And, on the flip side, the opportunity is tremendous. Can you make customers an offer they can’t refuse? Make them laugh? Or give them a solid reason to return? Happy customers put money in your pocket, tell others about you, and help your company grow! Strategic content planning will help you generate a steady flow of the right ideas to make authentic connections with these people.
How Do I Make a Content Plan?
You’ll need to put aside some time – say, half a day. Yes, you’ll have to plan for time to plan.
The way a board of directors will periodically go off together on a strategic planning retreat, you’ll benefit from doing one (or both!) of two things:
- take a day each quarter and make your broad content choices
- hire professional content writers to bring objectivity and originality to your shop
In the first instance, you’ll be looking at your content with an eye to understanding the whole: “the view from 30,000 feet.”
In the second instance, the first time you hire writers you’ll need at least a half-day as well. But you’ll need to do that only once; after the initial planning session, the job should be mostly theirs.
A large variety of tools can help you generate topic ideas that apply to your industry. Using these, put yourself inside the mind of your customer. Then choose topics that relate to the product you sell.
You will aim to do one or more of these 3 things:
- educate or inform
- entertain or intrigue
- inspire to action
Focus Your Marketing Energies. Work Better With Teams.
With a good plan, leading teams of people is always easier. Your product managers, sales, and communications folks have different jobs. But you set a common agenda with your content plan, and create harmony.
With a plan that’s split into quarterly themes, your teams can work independently yet all stay on message. Planning can also be bi-annual, or annual.
Analyze and Segment Your Target Customers
If you need to segment your customer base – and most businesses should be doing this – content planning will help you target each group effectively.
Focus content on the needs of each segment – maybe in some cases it will be the same content, structured different ways. (For example, some may be more technical than others. Or, some will be video while some will be infographics.)
Since not all your customers have the same needs or interests, thoughtful content planning helps make sure you serve them all.
Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse Your Content
Once you start planning, you’ll see that the big topics in your industry present lots of opportunities for related content.
Tell the same story in a blog post and later condense it into a short video clip. Post a shorter version to LinkedIn or Medium – or an industry trade platform.
You can also use the same content, but present it in multiple formats.
Use Lots of Content Formats if You Can
People take in information in different ways. Strategic content planning requires that you serve them in multiple formats. Multiple formats make sure everyone can understand your message.
Possible formats: words, photos, videos, and devices like infographics and memes. Some businesses diversify their methods, using:
- books and ebooks
- media relations to appear often in the news
- guest appearances on podcasts
- original video that’s clear and easy to understand
All these formats may be seen by different folks, so don’t worry about having too much. They all build the value of your digital properties. Search engines will recognize rich content, and start to drive traffic, then sales.
Finally, you don’t have to be the only voice that speaks for your company. Invite others to collaborate. Link these with your content theme for the month, and let other voices help elevate your brand.
Invite guest bloggers. Let key employees have a turn. Run a contest that lets a happy customer write a post. Or ask a member of a foundation your company supports.
Share your platform to others in your local business community. What goes around tends to come around.
Educate readers about your industry – or adjacent services they can use.
Today, “influencer marketing” is a huge and growing industry. Got celebrities in your town? Give them a platform (e.g., your blog) to talk about something they care about and share a little of their fame. (See also: partner marketing or influencer marketing.)
Make Content Planning a Habit
We believe that once you’ve done it, you’ll always do it. Combine good solid content planning with a social media ecosystem that can spread the word about your content and you’ll be “cooking with gas!” Not all digital marketing has to be complex. Certain basics have to be in play, however. Getting the audience, developing content they love, and having strong channels for communication has built a devoted tribe for many a small business.
So get started or get help. We’re always available to talk through your project or give you a quote.