By Neil Patel published February 6, 2017

Working on Your Content Marketing Plan? 9 Components to Consider

content-marketing-plan-9-components

Building an overall brand story is essential to effective marketing, and doing so online can be achieved by mixing a little business operations with journalistic procedures.

Documenting a content marketing plan can be simple, and it must be done. Here are nine essential components to consider.

Documenting a #contentmarketing plan can be simple, & it must be done, says @neilpatel. Click To Tweet

1. Set a tiered goal

Every successful business plan starts with a set of tiered goals. Set quantifiable annual, quarterly, and monthly progress goals so everyone knows what to aim for. One article per day is the minimum goal you want to meet, in addition to at least three posts on each social media platform. These posts are meant to build on the story of the daily article – think of them as the special features on a Blu-ray disc.

When the article is automatically promoted on each social media channel, three posts of conversational subject matter are necessary to keep the social media channels feeling fresh and active.

Don’t worry too much about how much direct traffic you get from each individual post, but do include daily, monthly, and annual traffic in your content marketing and social media reports.

2. Quantify ROI

The only way to know something isn’t working is to quantify it. Lead generation and sales should increase by a certain percentage by the end of the year. Any increases to the content marketing budget should reflect an appropriate lead generation and sales increase by the end of that fiscal year.

It’s important in marketing to track quality and production numbers for operational purposes. You wouldn’t print 1,000 coupons without accounting for usage. Results for every published post should be documented.

You wouldn't print 1,000 coupons w/out accounting for usage. Document results for every post, says @neilpatel. Click To Tweet

Documented production and quality numbers allow marketing managers to be proactive instead of reactive by identifying weak links in the system when ramping up to 10 or even 100 posts per day.

3. Determine content purpose

Before you create content, you need to identify the reason for the content. The internal focus ultimately is to drive sales, but content marketing isn’t salesy content (I’ll come back to this point later).

Content should be focused on creating a brand image and telling a story. How you tell your story is your choice, which centers on two types of content – evergreen and topical.

Evergreen content is a general truth or comment of the human condition like encyclopedic or academic knowledge – it’s a topic that is always (or almost always) valid and current no matter the year. Topical or time-related content is about current events like news, reviews, and gossip. For example, “corrupt politics” would be an evergreen topic, while “2017 political candidates are corrupt” would be topical content.

Evergreen content is easier to write for long-term editorial calendars, but topical content can drive spikes in traffic. The problem is the interest in timely content fades as the event becomes less current.

Consider implementing an RSS feed to curate current event topics in a sidebar (or on social media) while featuring evergreen content on your website and app.

4. Create an editorial calendar

To keep things running smoothly, it’s important to create a monthly and annual editorial calendar. Use it to work ahead and understand ultimate deadlines while working on multiple projects.

It’s important to create a monthly & annual editorial calendar to keep things running smoothly. @neilpatel Click To Tweet

With a documented content marketing strategy, in a week you can easily create a three-month plan and plan time to create one or two more quarters in those three months.

An editorial calendar is a quick map where anyone can see the progress on every content project in the pipeline. A formal calendar process also makes changes and updates simpler and less stressful endeavors.

5. Generate clickable titles

If you used a headline such as “Businesses Teach Helpful Things,” you’re unlikely to attract many readers. “12 Business Lessons from Successful Company Owners” would draw more clicks if you wanted to write an evergreen and general article on business. “10 Regulations Everybody in the (Your Industry) Should Know” is even more specific and likelier to get more clicks.

While listicles attract clicks, you don’t have to focus on them. Some content marketing tools like Quora can be great for determining what content people will want to click on.

6. Contract writers, editors, and graphic designers

Once you have an editorial calendar filled, it’s time to hire writers, editors, and graphic designers to execute it. While an in-house editor is best, you can contract one. You also can hire for the project so you can see someone’s skills before hiring him or her.

Graphic designers should be tasked with creating high-resolution and thumbnail images to go along with each title as well as infographics and images to include in the article. (Don’t forget to ensure that the editorial calendar includes at least one image for each piece of content telling the overall brand story.)

In addition to crafting the text content, writers can research statistics and related data for infographics.

Editors are tasked with deep reading and fact-checking all the information. Fact-checking is the most vital component of any content marketing strategy. While marketing managers still should review all materials, most errors should be caught in the editing process.

Fact-checking is the most vital component of any #contentmarketing strategy, says @neilpatel. Click To Tweet

7. Document procedures and training

Detail the procedures for every job in writing. That way when you expand (or have to replace someone), it’s easy to keep the process going.

Documented company policies and departmental procedures allow everybody to understand how they’re performing based on what’s expected. Meet with your team often to ensure that they’re all on the same page and updating procedures on a regular basis.

To make information more digestible to everyone on the team, create templates, training manuals, and job aides. Provide notepads and pens, encourage process improvements, and engage everyone using these in-house marketing materials.

8. Promote and backlink

There’s no point in publishing content if nobody is promoting it. You can link multiple social media accounts within your content management system to automatically publicize your content as soon as it’s published.

There is no point in publishing #content if nobody is promoting it, says @neilpatel. Click To Tweet

Also, don’t just publish or share content that links to your site. It’s important in your search engine rankings to link to other reputable resources. Also, if you are a guest blogger, you can link back and forth to your published articles on your own and other sites. Consistent linking allows visitors to browse your brand story seamlessly across channels.

9. Do not sell

You have a shopping cart on an e-commerce site. You have a phone and an office. That’s where you sell. Content marketing is not the same as marketing content. Everything you do in content marketing should be to educate, entertain, or inform.

Everything you do in #contentmarketing should be to educate, entertain, or inform, says @neilpatel. Click To Tweet

You want to create content that provides real value to your audience. You’re not knocking on their doors to sell vacuum cleaners. If someone wants your opinion on a vacuum, and you happen to sell them, give your honest opinion on what to look for and demonstrate your advantages. Don’t offer to sell a vacuum to them, just talk about dirt, carpets, new advances in technology, recent movies, and pop culture.

Then excuse yourself, tell them to have a nice day, and hand them your business card. They’ll come back when they need someone like you. That’s content marketing.

Conclusion

Content marketing is an important part of any marketing strategy. Too many businesses struggle to quantify and document a content marketing strategy.

By setting goals and building a creative team around a solid editorial calendar, a brand story can be built. Documenting processes and achievements allows the projects to be quantified and show a legitimate ROI.

By creating informative content that’s strategically placed throughout the web, businesses can generate warm leads and increase sales.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

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