How to Build Your Content Marketing Plan from the Ground Up

Content marketing has long been one of the most effective online marketing strategies. It’s organic, low-cost, and better at generating excited, engaging customers than more direct forms of marketing. The downside, if any, is that it takes a little more effort than throwing money at paid ads or getting on sales calls.

Starting from scratch always looks daunting, as there’s a lot of work before your content marketing machine begins producing results.

Read on and we’ll share just how you can craft your content marketing plan from square one, no matter what type of business you’re in.

Identify Your Goals

The most important thing for your content marketing plan is to understand your goals. You’re going to create and publish content, but why?

It could be to drive sales for your product or service. It could be to position your company, or yourself, as an authority in your chosen field. Alternatively, you could want to improve customer retention by educating existing users.

Your content marketing goals make a huge difference for your overall plan. They will affect the type of keywords and topics you go after, the tone of your content, and how you distribute content. That’s why it’s essential that this is the first step of your marketing plan.

Know Your Target Audience

Next, you need to know what kind of people you’re aiming to reach with your content. You need to be able to speak to them effectively, in a way they’re likely to respond to.

You’ve got to know their struggles, wants and needs, so you can craft content that makes them sit up and pay attention.

When you know this, you can also call out your target audience in the post title, like this example aimed at remote teams:

Set Up Distribution Channels

“Build it and they will come” is a lie. If you create content without considering how it’s going to reach people, your plan will go nowhere.

As part of setting up your content marketing plan, you should include a plan for distribution and promotion. Map out how people will get to your content.

This could be:

Or anywhere else with an audience.

If you’ve already done the previous step and identified your target audience, you should have some idea where and how they consume content. You can use this to figure out the best channels to promote your content.

What Type of Content to Produce

Content marketing is not limited to blog posts. There’s a wide variety of content types.

Your strategy may focus on video content. It could be podcasting. You could produce infographics, slides, quizzes, even apps.

Going deeper, each medium has different kinds of content. Written content could be short or long-form blog posts, e-books, or emails. While video content could be in the form of YouTube videos, long-form webinars, video courses, and more.

Consider that your audience may consume a particular type of content more than others, and some channels are best served for certain forms.

You may also choose to produce content on the same topics, in different mediums, like this example, which replicates the blog post in a video version:

Outline Target Topics and/or Keywords

Now you want to look at topics for your content.

It’s important to know your goals, who you’re creating content for, which channels you’ll use for distribution, and what type of content you’re creating before this step.

Once you’ve done that, you can start building a master list of content topics. You’ll want to do this in line with:

  1. What your audience wants to see
  2. What’s likely to help you reach your goals

For example, perfect topics for a software business would be something addressing your target audience’s pain points, and how your product can provide a solution.

If SEO is part of your content distribution strategy, you’ll also want to research keywords. Find out what people are searching for on your chosen search engine, and create topics tailored to these search terms.

Identify Priority Topics

Finally, realize that not all content topics or keywords are created equal, and you shouldn’t address each topic with equal effort and resources.

There are likely to be a small handful of topics that have a lot more potential to drive results. These are the topics that are highly relevant to what you do, as well as those with a lot of demand (i.e. high search volume on Google).

Identify these priority topics, and make them a priority. Put extra effort into content creation, and significantly more resources into promoting your content, as the payoff is likely to be much more than other items on your content calendar.

Executing Your Content Marketing Plan

Once you’ve laid out your initial plan, it’s time to execute on it.

The two most common mistakes in content marketing are poor planning or poor execution. Nail both of these, and you’re likely to achieve your goals.

Here are some things to consider at the execution stage.

Content Calendar

One of the biggest inefficiencies in content marketing comes when you don’t have a rigid publishing schedule set out.

Each piece of content ends up taking too long, and you lose time in between projects trying to figure out what’s next.

Plan out the topics you’re going to cover, when, and who will be responsible for each, at least a month in advance. To help you and your team create and stick to a content schedule, you may want to try out a content calendar template.

This will help keep your content team on a consistent publishing rhythm, which is necessary if you want to see results.

Content Production & Promotion SOPs

Another way to maintain consistency and efficiency is to set up standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your team.

This cuts down a lot of the time it takes to get started on a new project, as well as inefficiencies in handing a project from one person to another.

Be particularly strict on creating and following SOPs for content promotion. You should have, at the very least, a checklist to follow to promote every piece of new content – whether this is an SEO checklist or a list of places to reach out to pitch your new blog post. 

Assessing Results

You, of course, need to assess your results and figure out if your marketing plan is working or not.

How often you sit down and review may vary, depending on the type of content, and your goals. With email marketing, for example, you can regularly check things like open rates, click-through rates, and replies to see how you’re doing. But with Google SEO, it may take a few months at least before you know if it’s working or not.

Similarly, your content marketing plan may be chasing long-term goals, and thus it takes a while to figure out if your efforts are making a difference.

Just make sure when you review your results, you do so with the goals you initially set out in mind. It’s easy to tunnel in on things like traffic, open rates, and views, but most of the time these are vanity metrics. If you want to know if your content marketing plan is working, you need to look at what really matters – sales, trial signups, or whatever it is that really signals success for your business.