How to Plan Your Content Marketing Calendar

Running a small or medium sized enterprise can be a really tough affair. Your marketing needs are as real and urgent as those of any multinational, but your marketing budget is either minuscule or non-existent. But the good news is, you don’t need to have an astronomical budget to reap big rewards for your marketing efforts. With dedication, commitment and some healthy dose of creativity, you can take advantage of content marketing calendar and the free content marketing tools that are readily available, to take your business to the next level. Actually, I’d love to add one more service for editing, it’s needful for perfect articles.

Creating a good content calendar for your business sounds like the best resolution in the coming year. But, building one from scratch is a task that seems complicated but one, that can actually be straightforward. After all, the further ahead you plan for your business, the better placed you are to produce high-quality content that promotes your brand. The plan might be weekly, monthly, or quarterly based on how your industry moves.

Do this and you will have a wonderful 2017 with a consistent flow of content to drive massive traffic to your website. Here is the ultimate guide to creating a perfect content marketing calendar.

Set a Timetable for Your Content Releases

Surprisingly (or not), many content marketers aren’t the best planners. We scramble last minute to fulfill our publishing commitments or worse yet, lag behind and go radio silent on our readers. As a result or poor planning, our content marketing strategies become a reactive efforts of throwing together what ultimately becomes disconnected pile of assets. With this disconnected pile of assets, we’re unable to measure the efficacy of our program because, well, it’s not a program. So how do we change that? We plan our editorial calendars correctly!

First things first. It won’t help you to jump into planning your editorial calendar without the necessary inputs. Below is the checklist of information you need BEFORE you start:

  1. Mission Statement
  2. Content Categories
  3. Content Topics
  4. SEO Keywords
  5. Editorial Guidelines
  6. Imagery Guidelines

If you have these six items, we’re ready to start planning. Putting together an editorial calendar requires a few different phases of planning. Ideally you should be planning your calendar on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis, taking different aspects into consideration for each.

The first step in the creation of your content marketing plan is to set a periodical timetable for your content releases. Depending on your market sector, this can be a daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annual affair, or a combination of any of the above or even all of them. The timetable for release of your marketing content is dependent on a number of factors, the key factor being the type of content.

Social media tools are very powerful marketing platforms for any business. Content posted here though tends to be short, catchy and sparse in details. An online presence on Facebook and Twitter will be key for short but regular updates, which can be a daily affair for example. Blog posts, on the other hand, address key areas of interest in the business in a more in-depth manner than a Facebook post or a tweet. As such, blog posts are best suited for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly updates, which are deeper in detail but limited to a specific area of interest or sector of the business.

Quarterly or semi-annual content, on the other hand, tends to be extensive in both breadth and scope. As such, they favor newsletters and magazines which contain detailed content covering different aspects and areas of interest in the business. Depending on your business needs, choose a timetable that will give your business optimum exposure during your periodical releases.

Quarterly

On a quarterly basis, you mostly want to think of timely events you’ll need to plan around. Consider any inflexible event such as industry events, company webinars or employee vacations. These are going to happen whether you want them to or not so best to proactively plan around them. For industry events, you’ll want to plan to do recaps of presentations or key takeaways and engage in the online conversation.  For your own company’s events, you’ll want to think of what content you can create to drive registration. For employee vacations, you’ll need to put coverage plans in place so there’s to lapse in your publishing cadence.

“Big rock” content is other major piece of your content strategy you’ll want to think about on a quarterly basis. According to Marketo, big rock content can be defined as, “These are your big kahunas, the large thought leadership pieces that not only illustrate your unique point of view, but that you can also break up and use to create smaller content pieces.” For this type of content, think whitepapers, customer videos, definitive guides, etc. This type of content should be planning on a quarterly basis for two reasons. First, big rock content should be extensive enough to fuel a quarter or month of supporting, smaller pieces of content, such as blog posts that drive to download a gated guide. Second, these large pieces of content should be highly differentiated from competitors, which requires a large investment in time and resources. For anything that is such high stakes, you want to allow yourself time for creativity in brainstorming something that’s going to provide tremendous value for your brand.

In the template below, we’ve allotted for four pieces of big rock content per quarter. This may or may not be realistic for your team, so at a minimum aim to create one per quarter.

Monthly

On a monthly basis, we want to think at a slightly more detailed level. Think about the cohesive theme or story your content is going to tell over this time period. One way to think about this is have weekly themes. An example theme for this blog could be paid distribution. Within that theme, I could discuss budget, vendors and case studies to fuel that week. Additionally, think about how the theme can fit within that planned piece of  big rock content.

At this cadence, you’ll also want to plan out your articles’ titles and descriptions. Thinking about this information on a monthly basis allows you to think of how each piece of content will fit together and complement each other. When writing the description, you should be sure to include what value each piece of content will provide to your audience.

Ownership is also an important component to be discussed and assigned monthly. If your program uses a small network of freelancers, you’ll be able to assess the bandwidth of your contributors and project managers. Monthly calendars also give guest contributors enough notice to prepare around their existing commitments.

Weekly

On a weekly basis, we want to think about tactical execution. This is the most granular level of planning and the most important aspect is to make sure all pieces of content are correctly tagged and organized within your CMS. Although it can be a pain, this will make future content audits and analysis much, much easier.

At the most basic level, you should tag each piece of content with the appropriate categories, topics and SEO keywords. Doing this will allow you to see if you are covering all categories, topics and SEO keywords relatively evenly. If you notice a significant lopsidedness, adjust your editorial calendar accordingly.

Another helpful tag for your content is the buyer stage that piece supports. Top-of-funnel content should be broader, shareable topics that relate to a large audience. This type of content should answer your prospects’ early-stage questions such as, “What are the best paid distribution methods?” Middle-of-funnel content should be slightly more niche to your expertise, products or services and be more substantial. Bottom-of-funnel content should be fairly promotional and speak to your brands offering. Customer case studies are the most common type of this type of content. To ensure you’re providing content that moves the reader through the buyer journey, be sure you have the right ratio in your content library. 60-70% should be top-of-funnel, 20-30% middle-of-funnel and 10% bottom-of-funnel.

Tagging the desired action for the reader after he or she consumes your content will help you see if it is converting properly. Maybe you want the reader to subscribe, continue reading, sign up for a webinar or visit a product page. Recording this in your system will give you a deeper understanding of how people are interacting with your content and better inform your editorial planning efforts moving forward.

While these are important planning benchmarks you should be considering for your program, there is no exact science to an editorial calendar. Every organization and team operates differently and have different publishing commitments so the key is to test what works best for you. For more information and a customizable template to plan your own editorial calendar, download the SlideShare below.

Assign Milestones for Every Release

Now that you have settled on a timeframe of how regularly you will be releasing marketing content, you need to come up with a schedule of each release and assign it a specific date on the calendar of the coming year. Generally speaking, a goal is always easier to achieve if it is encompassing a number of milestones, which allows you to gauge progress and make adjustments in unexpected changes. For example, if you realise that your social media posts have a bigger reach and better client engagement than blog posts, you can increase the frequency of social media posts by borrowing catchy parts of the blogs too when the appetite of your followers, with links to the full blog posts to improve the blog engagement.

Decide Who Will Do the Release

You have decided on the type of content that you will be posting in your marketing endeavours, and put in place a year-long timetable for each post, so what next? Well, you need to come up with a concrete plan on who will do each of these content releases. Unfortunately, not every other business owner is creatively endowed. If you fall into the category of those who lack ability or skills in the creative department, it is time to go forum shopping for the appropriate professional content creator, be it a social media strategist, a blog writer or a copywriter/editor.

Online content platforms offer a perfect solution for business owners who find themselves in this kind of a dilemma. Just come up with guidelines on the type of content you need to deliver, and the substance of each and pay a professional to deliver the same in no time. For the creative, it is time to take initiative and come up with a stock of content that can see you through at least two months, just in case you get swamped by the daily grind.

Broadcast Your Content

The next step in the actualization of your content marketing plan in your start-up is to decide the means to be used in the dissemination of the content developed. You can either opt to use targeted marketing for your content sharing, or mass marketing. With targeted marketing, you share your content with a pre-determined list of customers or potential customers, while in mass marketing, you share your content as widely as possible with the general public and hope for a favourable response. If your business has a dedicated client database and a customer mailing list, you can use targeted marketing for your existing customers and mass marketing to reach out to potential customers.

On the other hand, if your business lacks a client database or a mailing list, you need not worry at all. Invest time and effort in a mass marketing content sharing campaign, and within no time you can build a formidable database of potential clients based on feedback received. At the end of the day, your choice of content dissemination method will be determined by the client contact information available to your business. The core difference between content shared in a targeted way and content shared to the masses lies in the search engine and social media optimisation done on the content. Mass marketing requires content that is highly optimised to attract the maximum possible hits while targeted marketing content can take a more natural form.

Measure and Evaluate the Success or Failure of Your Campaign

The final step in setting up your content marketing calendar is to come up with an evaluation standard to measure the success or failure of your marketing campaign. The core aim of marketing for a business is to gain new clients or customers and get feedback from the existing ones so as to put in place mechanisms to ensure their retention. Embarking on a content marketing campaign and putting in place a content marketing calendar is a good way to go, but you need to have specific targets that you hope to achieve at the end of the process. Put in place measurable objectives to be attained within a specified timeframe, so that you can gauge the effectiveness of your timetable progressively.

Well, the effectiveness of a content marketing calendar will be dependent on the quality of the content shared, and your commitment to ensuring that the content is shared in a regular and sustainable manner. So in this coming year, take up the challenge, set up a simple content market calendar for your business, then watch it grow and reap dividends from your efforts.

1 thought on “How to Plan Your Content Marketing Calendar

  1. Great tips planning a content marketing calendar! It’s very important to have content that is strategically released versus “on the fly”and it saves a great deal of time so you can concentrate on other things.

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