At our content marketing agency, one of our board members references a great quote in nearly every meeting we hold: “We don’t have a long-term strategic plan, but we are always strategically planning.”
This philosophy is so important in content marketing (and in business) because to be successful in either, you have to be agile.
Take our company: Had we had stuck to an extremely strict, inflexible strategic plan when we started Influence & Co. five years ago, we very likely would not have expanded to new cities like Kansas City, St. Louis or New York City, because it “wasn’t in our plan.”
In the same vein, had we planned our content-marketing strategy a year (or more) in advance, we would have missed out on timely, relevant topics -- like influencer marketing -- because 12 months ago, it wasn’t on our radar. In fact, it was on very few people’s radars 12 months ago; search interest in that very topic has more than doubled since this year began.
The key to a successful content plan is not your team’s ability to develop and stick to a long-term strategic content plan, but your ability to always be strategically planning content that works for your goals.
Why quarterly planning?
The Content Marketing Institute has reported that documenting your content plan has a positive impact on the success of your efforts, yet only 32 percent of B2B marketers have a documented plan. So, sitting down with your content team and putting your own plan on paper will set you ahead of the game And breaking that plan into three-month campaign chunks can put you even further ahead.
My team has found that planning three months ahead lends us enough time to fill our editorial calendar without rushing or scrambling, and it leaves enough room for us to quickly adjust our plan so we don’t miss out on timely events and topics.
For a solid base of content that will help you build out a content marketing funnel that boosts conversions, you’ll need about 19 pieces of content each quarter:
- Six guest-contributed articles published in online publications that reach your target audience
- 12 blog posts that live on your blog and further educate and engage that audience
- One piece of gated content, like a white paper or template
This funnel of content is simply too much to create on the fly, and it doesn’t work to just multiply by four and plan it all a year in advance. Now, your company may be different: If your team knows in January what will be timely and relevant and compelling for your audience in December, kudos.
But if not, quarterly planning will be your best bet.
Here’s how to actually document your quarterly plan.
When it comes to documenting your plan, I suggest starting from the bottom of the funnel and working your way upward using an interactive map and funnel.
Think through what you want the reader to download from your site, and brainstorm that topic first. This piece of gated content can then act as the jumping-off point for the rest of your content.
Take the broad sections of that gated content, and create your 12 blog posts from there. These topics should be educational and encourage the reader to learn more by downloading the content.
After you have your blog topics, brainstorm your guest-contributed articles, and determine who is the best person on your team to author those pieces of content for those external publications. You’ll want these articles to be a bit more general and not at all promotional because the point is to educate and engage your reader, not perform a hard sell.
Once you’ve brainstormed all of your topics, map out how each of them will interact, which guest-contributed articles will link to which blog posts and so on.
Here’s what your plan might be missing.
Many marketers will stop right there. And, admittedly, if you're one of them, you'll still be far ahead of 65 percent of all marketers -- those without any documented plans at all. But, sometimes, what you forget to include can derail the success of what you do include.
Don’t forget the following in your quarterly strategy: an editorial calendar to schedule when and where you’ll publish content; a distribution checklist to maximize the reach and success of each piece you publish; and a knowledge bank to help you store, organize and easily access your team’s unique expertise that will be key to your success.
As we near the end of Q2, now is the perfect time to start planning your next content campaign. Use these tips to get started on yours today.