Putting out fresh, relevant content is more than a good idea for companies — today, it’s a vital step in achieving business success. Through content, you can engage prospects and customers, boost search results for your website, enhance branding, and more. So how do you get started? It all begins with building a content calendar that is based on your overall content strategy.
Here’s a look at how to map your content to the sales cycle — for both current and prospective customers — and use this information to create a strategic content calendar.
Step 1: Look at your sales cycle
The first step in creating your content calendar is to understand the phases of your company’s sales cycle. Say you’re a commercial cleaning company. Ask yourself how people become your customers. Do they find you through pay-per-click ads on search pages? Television advertising? Word-of-mouth referrals from other clients? Talk to your salespeople and find out what your typical lead-to-conversion cycle looks like. Say it’s typically online marketing from your sales team, followed by an in-person meeting with interested parties, and then personalized sales packets that propose custom cleaning plans. You’d want to identify key demographics in the timeline, such as new leads (the people seeing your online ads), interested prospects (the people who contact you for more info), new customers, returning customers, former customers, etc. These will be the categories to which you allocate topics.
Take time to learn as much about these different areas as you can. If your new leads come primarily through online ads, spend time finding out about the prospects who respond to them. Once you’ve gathered data on these groups of clients, you’re ready to start planning the content you will target them with.
Step 2: Brainstorm topics and align them to categories
After you’ve nailed down the stages of prospects in your sales cycle, your next step is brainstorming topics for them. If you are a commercial cleaning company, think about the concerns that facility managers may have that would prompt a visit from your salespeople. For example: Are they worried about whether or not you’ll be able to manage the damage from heavy traffic in their hallways? Are they concerned about LEED certification issues? Bam! You’ve got ideas to fill your content calendar with topics that address their needs. So your list for this stage of the sales cycle might look like the following:
- Keeping Your Facility in Stunning Shape
- How to Make a Strong First Impression in Your Entryway
- What Happens When You Have a Last-Minute Cleaning Emergency
- How to Manage Weather Damage to Your Carpeting
- The Ins and Outs of LEED Certification
- Sustainable Cleaning Practices
You’ll devise lists like these for each stage of the sales cycle. Once you have exhausted all your ideas, you can move to step three.
Step 3: Set your content calendar
Pull out an actual calendar, either on paper or online, and start scheduling content into it. There are many different types of content, so don’t think the list should be only blog topics, or only email newsletters, or only pay-per-click advertising. Consider all these different types, too:
- Case studies
- Social media updates
Again, talk with your salespeople to find out the best frequency, time of day, day of the week, etc., for delivering your content, and plan your content calendar accordingly. You can also ask them for their advice on building your topic ideas into useful content that will serve your audience’s needs. So, for example, your topics that cater to interested prospects might need to be seasonal (i.e., relating to different weather damage in different seasons, etc.). Consider the following factors:
- How seasonality affects your business
- Industry trends, conferences, events
- Timing of new product launches
- Company news and announcements
After you’ve taken the three steps outlined above, start putting your content into place. Write the articles, make the videos, schedule the ad campaigns, and so on. Monitor the results of your efforts, and continually refine and adjust the type and schedule of content accordingly. For example, if you see prospects are responding especially well to your eNewsletter but less to your pay-per-click ads, focus more attention on newsletter content.
There’s no better time to start
What are your thoughts on content strategy and scheduling? Have you been putting off creating a content calendar for your business because of a lack of understanding, lack of know-how, or other roadblocks? If so, it’s time to do something about it. By using the simple steps outlined above, it’s easy to put a plan into place.
To learn more about the essential building blocks of a successful content marketing strategy, read “Managing Content Marketing,” by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi
Cover image courtesy of Straight North