Content is king, and with so many different channels to distribute content, the ability to engage and convert new customers has never been greater, especially for small businesses.
While most small businesses recognize content marketing as an essential part of their growth, a recent study by Service Direct shines some light on the importance of developing an actual content marketing plan.
Only 61% of small businesses have a documented plan for how content marketing will help them achieve their business objectives.
This stat is probably not surprising for anyone who has worked at a small business.
Marketing efforts in small businesses are often made in a somewhat ad hoc way, especially when it comes to distributing content across various channels and social media.
But what impact does that haphazard approach have on the success of those content marketing efforts?
When it comes to success rates, the survey revealed the stark difference in success between small businesses with a documented plan and those without.
As data shows, your chances of success are much greater if you have an actual documented content marketing plan.
What is a content marketing plan?
A content marketing plan is a playbook of how a business plans to win at content marketing.
It is a document outlining the business strategy with their content marketing efforts, including but not limited to the objectives, activities, and timeline to achieve them.
A content marketing plan should guide the team on everything regarding content, from the tools for production to ways to make the content stand out to their target audience.
Why is it important to have one?
Content marketing works best when you have a plan.
Documenting your marketing plan is the first step to identifying the best marketing tactics and channels to showcase your product or services.
More importantly, it keeps everyone on the team on the same page. Instead of creating a post on the fly, you will have a vault of ready-made content to schedule.
Here are five specific reasons why you need a content marketing plan:
- Clarity for better productivity. Planning your content marketing process can help you move from chaotically creating content to building an effective and organized system.
- Cohesive branding across multiple channels. You can produce consistent content from blog posts to social media that aligns with your brand messaging.
- Targeted content to boost sales. Understanding why you are creating content and who you want it to reach can extend the impact of your content efforts on the business.
- Content for every stage of the buyer’s journey to attract audiences, nurture leads and keep them in the marketing funnel.
- Maximize content marketing ROI by tracking key metrics to refine your marketing effort and make informed decisions.
Now that we have covered what a content marketing plan is and why you need one, it is time to move on to how to create your own.
How do I build one?
It doesn’t matter how big your company is. When developing your content marketing framework, you must answer all the questions about your content.
1. Set your business goals
What is the purpose of your content marketing? Is it to generate brand awareness, build trust, or sell? Content marketing can help your business achieve all these goals and more.
However, setting ONE clear goal for your content marketing efforts will give your team a better sense of direction when creating content.
Your team will understand what CTA to include and how their content marketing efforts play into the bigger picture.
2. Define your target audience
Who are you producing content for? The core element of an effective content marketing plan is knowing who you are speaking to.
You can quickly determine your target audience by analyzing your existing customers or social media followers. But most likely, you will have multiple audiences.
Understanding the different needs, interests, preferences, and behaviors can help you build more personalized customer connections in your content.
3. Select publishing channels
Where is the content being published? Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter are some channels that can get the best reach.
While developing content for all potential channels can be tempting, remember that managing your content team’s energy and resources is vital for sustainable, long-term success.
Choose to focus on publishing channels with the highest potential and build a solid foundation before expanding to the next.
4. Research your competition
Who are your content competitors? You may already be aware of the competitors for your product or service, but it can be pretty different regarding content.
Content competitors are businesses that provide content for the same target audience and compete with you for their attention.
Conducting a competitive content analysis will allow you to assess your competitor’s content strategy and refine your own marketing strategy.
Review their messaging and tone to develop your unique selling point. Craft out your brand voice and values that will set you apart from your competitors.
5. Topic and keyword research
What kind of content are your target audience looking for? Knowing how your audiences search for your product or services can help reach them.
Start by analyzing which keywords your competitors are targeting and how they are performing for each keyword.
Likewise, you can also utilize various content topic generators and keyword tools to discover high-volume search phrases or buyer keywords to include in your content marketing strategy.
6. Create consistent, high-quality content
How do you define quality content? Though users ultimately decide on your content quality if they offer any value, you can take a few steps to ensure your content quality.
One is to understand the best practices for each platform.
Take video content, for example. YouTube prefers longer video content, whereas TikTok favors punchy, shorter videos of around 30 seconds.
To consistently produce high-quality content across multiple channels, you must ensure your team understands the expectations and has the required skills to fulfill them.
Ideally, you can also create a quality checklist to review your content if it meets the benchmark. This can include simple criteria like using active voice or if the content offers value.
7. Schedule your content calendar
When is the content being published? The ultimate purpose of a content marketing plan is to ensure that your marketing activities are performed timely to achieve your business objectives.
Creating a content calendar is the most effective way to visualize your content marketing assets and allocate resources appropriately.
Map out the blog posts, email newsletters, podcasts, or case studies across the timeframe and adjust your expectations accordingly.
8. Content promotion and engagement
How do you boost your content visibility? Your content marketing effort is useless if no one engages with them. You need to promote your content to increase its visibility.
So, you can use email sequences to send a newsletter to your subscribers or post the news on social media channels. This will help drive the initial traffic that your content needs to perform well.
Likewise, you can also repurpose your content into other content types to generate more views and engagement when you promote it on multiple channels.
9. Track and analyze your content performance
How do you know if your content marketing works? Identify the key metrics you need to track to see if your content marketing efforts are paying off.
Analyze your content performance by tracking engagement metrics, conversions, or SEO outcomes and optimize them to maximize the results.
Content marketing is effective, but not all content created is equal. Every business should start with its goals and develop a content marketing strategy.
For a small business looking for rapid growth, avoid having too much on your plate.
Remember, the purpose of a content marketing plan is to set your priorities and create a fully functional content marketing strategy that can generate the best results.
So, start planning today to achieve success with your content marketing.
About the author
Matt Buchanan is the Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Service Direct, a technology company that offers local lead generation solutions for service businesses. He has 15+ years of expertise in local lead generation, sales, marketing, and building and executing growth strategies. He lives in Carbondale, CO where he and his wife spend as much time as possible outside with their 3 children.