By Jodi Harris published December 29, 2016

15+ Essential Content Marketing Tools and Templates for Strategy, Planning, and Measurement

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Love the fresh start you get after the holidays, but dread coming back to the office knowing just how much pressure you’ll be under to make up for all that lost time? The CMI editorial team feels your pain, so we put together a little seasonal present to help you hit the ground running – without undoing the stress-busting benefits of taking some well-deserved time off.

We’ve collected some of our most popular strategy, planning, and measurement templates to help make your content marketing efforts easier to manage throughout the year. You can also access additional templates for creating, distributing and sharing content that we published earlier this week.

Strategy

While it’s always exciting to create content that gets a lot of views, “likes,” shares, or downloads, these actions don’t always have a direct impact on your business’ bottom line. If you want your content efforts to achieve the results your stakeholders expect, it’s essential that you develop and document a content marketing strategy.

To achieve the results your stakeholders expect, document a #contentmarketing strategy says @Joderama. Click To Tweet

In fact, in our 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research, we found that 61% of the most effective B2B marketers are those who have a documented strategy that their teams can reference on an ongoing basis.

Need to build your strategy from scratch or just ensure that your current efforts are properly aligned with your business goals? The following templates will guide you through the key steps in the process:

Core strategy

While there are no one-size-fits-all processes for developing a content marketing strategy, three core components should frame all of your content efforts: your business goals, your target audience, and the needs of that audience. This Mad Libs®-style template created by Meghan Casey is a fun way to fill in the most relevant details.

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Get the template: Keep Your Content On-Strategy With This Single Statement [Templates]

Mission statements

A content marketing mission outlines your company’s reason for creating content and the priorities and perspectives to uphold in pursuit of that mission. Use the worksheet to hone the unique content marketing value your business will provide.

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This template is part of our e-book: Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program: Why, Who, & How

Audience personas

You also need a template for documenting your personas. Fill in the blanks with the key information you’ve gathered or create a similar form with the information that’s most useful for your business.

persona-template

This template is part of our e-book: Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program: Why, Who, & How

Planning

Once you know what you want to accomplish, you need to figure out how to get it done. Your plan is one of the five fundamental elements of content marketing and, as such, it should cover everything that happens within your team to enable remarkable content – i.e., all the details that are invisible to your audience but set the stage for content they’ll love.

Like your strategy, content marketing plans should be customized to the needs of your organization. But, on the whole, content planning typically focuses on three key areas: your team workflow, your editorial processes and guidelines, and your systems.

A #contentmarketing plan should focus on team workflow, editorial guidelines, & systems says @Joderama. Click To Tweet

Editorial guidelines

At a minimum, your editorial planning process should outline the defining characteristics of your brand identity (as it relates to the content you will publish), the preferred voice and style of your content, and the editorial standards governing your content efforts.

Use the publishing guidelines cheat sheet below to determine and document this information.

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This template is part of our e-book: Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program: Why, Who, & How

Content workflows

A content workflow outlines the individual tasks involved in producing a piece of content along with the routing process to ensure that each asset moves through all stages of production as smoothly as possible. While you will likely need to adjust your workflow to account for all the various content formats you create, the template shared by Robert Mills can serve as a jumping-off point.

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Get the template: How to Define a Workflow That Keeps Content Production On Track

Content request form

Even the most efficient teams can’t always accommodate every request for content, especially in large enterprises. Use a content request form, like this one shared by Gina Balarin, to help your content team prioritize projects, schedule tasks appropriately, and manage the expectations of external teams that rely on them for content creation assistance.

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Use a #content request form to help teams prioritize projects, prioritize & schedule tasks via @GBalarin. Click To Tweet

Get the template: 9 Questions to Help You Prioritize Content Creation [Template]

Customer journey maps

One of the biggest challenges in content planning is to come up with content ideas that will resonate with consumers, but also will contribute to your business’ strategic goals. Customer journey maps like this one originally shared by Marcia Riefer Johnston can help you identify the needs of your audience personas at each given stage in their buyer’s journey – which will make it easier to determine the content topics, story ideas, formats, and channels to leverage in your outreach.

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Customer journey maps help identify needs of audience at each stage of buyer’s journey. @marciarjohnston Click To Tweet

Get the template: Why – and How – to Map Out Your Customers’ Journeys [Template]

Content decision-making

Unless you have a magical content engine that’s capable of bringing every idea you have to life, you will need a way to prioritize the ones that will strike a strong balance between business benefit and audience value. The decision-making matrix shared by Meghan Casey is a simple way for your team to self-determine which ideas are most worth pursuing. Rate your ideas on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 considered a perfect match) for each column. If an idea scores a 3 or less, maybe it should be left behind.

decision-matrix-template-blank-600x217

Get the template: Keep Your Content On-Strategy With This Single Statement [Templates]

Multichannel content marketing

When you are ready to publish content on more than one platform or to expand your program to target more than one audience persona, you may prefer to use a more scientific approach to selecting topics and delivery channels. This multichannel content marketing planner from Lisa Copeland uses data-driven insights to help ensure that you are delivering the right content to the right people at the right time – which is particularly useful when you need to report to executive management or other company stakeholders.

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Use a #contentmarketing planner to capture data that lead to a solid content marketing plan. @LisaCCope Click To Tweet

Get the template: Data-Driven Content Strategy Meets Content Marketing [Essential Template]

Editorial calendar template

Once you have selected your top-priority topics and stories, you will need a way to manage the process of turning your ideas into full-fledged content assets. An editorial calendar is a great tool for tracking each element as it moves through your workflow and for keeping your team’s efforts organized throughout the life cycle of your content program.

CMI’s editorial team uses a multi-tabbed spreadsheet like the one below to make our editorial process more manageable.

editorial-calendar-template-2017

Get the template: Editorial Calendar Tips, Tools, and Templates

Content essentials

Another way to make your planning process more efficient and productive, as well as make the resulting assets more impactful, is to identify your content essentials: pieces of content that can fit multiple formats and be adapted to suit many purposes. Use the template below to organize your content creation efforts around these types of assets and ensure that they will be at the ready whenever you need to use them.

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Get the template: How to Find and Use Your Content Essentials: A Template and Step-by-Step Guide

Measurement

Though measurement is typically the final step in your content marketing process, it really factors into every other phase of your approach. This is why we always recommend establishing your measurement practices right at the start of your program, tracking and analyzing your results on a regular basis, and revisiting your reporting techniques periodically to make sure you are focused on the right performance metrics for your goals.

#Contentmarketing measurement should be in your initial strategy, not reported on at the end says @joderama. Click To Tweet

The following templates will help guide you through some of the most essential measurement processes.

Blog post tracking

As you start to produce more content, it’s handy to have a simple, scalable way to track what you published, the topics covered, and the results achieved. Using mind-mapping tools, you can create a snapshot view of your post titles, categories, and performance metrics. You can also use the tracker to collect additional content ideas as Roger C. Parker has done in the template below.

mind-map-blog-topic-categories

Get the template: How to Organize Your Blog Content with A 3-Step Post Tracker

Measuring success

It’s not enough to just create and distribute the content you think your audience needs. You must track and evaluate its performance on an ongoing basis. Follow the simple plan outlined by Cathy McPhillips for measuring content marketing effectiveness – including her KPI tracker template.

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Get the template: A Simple Plan for Measuring the Marketing Effectiveness of Content

Content curation measurement

Curation is a great way to maximize your content resources and get the most value out of every piece of content. However, it can be challenging to ensure that you are discovering, producing, and sharing the right information to make a positive impact on your target audience. Another helpful template from Roger C. Parker, the scorecard below can be used to gauge the quality and consistency of your curation efforts over time to ensure that you are moving in the right direction.

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Use a #content curation scorecard to gauge quality & consistency of curation efforts via @rogercparker. Click To Tweet

Get the template: 10-Question Content Curation Scorecard Every Content Curator Needs to Measure Success

Editorial reporting

We all recognize how important it is to communicate regularly with our teams about what content is working well, but those intentions can easily fall by the wayside when you become overwhelmed by all the other day-to-day activities you are responsible for. Following a systematic approach to editorial reporting – like the one that Michele Linn has created for the CMI team – can help make ongoing action a lot easier to manage.

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Communicate regularly with your teams about what content is working well, says @Joderama. Click To Tweet

Get the template: A Template to Simplify Your Editorial Reporting

Final word

Whether you are looking to start 2017 with a shiny new strategy or just wishing that your initiatives could be more organized, efficient, or effective, our tool set has something for everyone. But if there are additional templates you would like to see us provide in the future, add your wish list in the comments.

If you are serious about putting content to work in your business, you won’t want to miss the Intelligent Content Conference March 28-30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Register today and use promo code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As an experienced content management consultant, Jodi focuses on helping businesses analyze their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create and distribute relevant, engaging brand messages across multiple media channels and platforms. Jodi has developed and managed print and digital content projects for marketing, entertainment, automotive, health care, and biotech publishers, as well as for entertainment industry and media brands. Follow Jodi on Twitter at @Joderama.

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  • http://gearboxmagazine.com Brian Driggs

    Thank you for compiling this into a single resource, Jodi. I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there on the site, but altogether in one place? #bookmarked

    Solid reminders for content marketers at every stage of the game. I know I’m taking a moment to revisit my strategy and personas thanks to this. Feels better to publish with purpose than “because deadline.”

    • Jodi Harris

      Thanks Brian! I agree: If your content is being driven by the demands of your job, rather than the demands of your audience, you are doing content marketing wrong.

  • Diane Cecilia de la Cruz

    Thanks for putting this together in one place, Jodi! I’m a content marketer and this is a valuable resource that’s going to make my life a whole lot easier in 2017. I agree with you. A content strategy needs to be well-documented so we can keep track of our progress and performance.

    • Jodi Harris

      Thanks Diane. It’s also helpful to document your strategy so everyone who has a hand in creating your content (including outsourced talent) knows what their goals are and what standards they will be held to.

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