How to Create a Credible Content Marketing Plan
A good marketing plan is a credible marketing plan. The best content is newsworthy, actionable, frequent, clear, consistent, attention‐grabbing, persuasive, and accurate — no small undertaking. In fact, a lack of content is one of the biggest challenges facing CMOs today and is the thorn in their side when it comes to using their marketing technology efficiently.
Before embarking on a content marketing program by writing articles, blogs, news releases, white papers, and more and then pushing them out via social channels in hopes that some will get noticed, put together a plan that you can stick with every single week. A good first step to an effective plan is a marketing communications audit.
Perform your own marketing communications audit by first gathering examples of the ways in which you communicate with customers and the market in general. Include everything anyone sees, hears, or even smells and touches, including traditional advertising, mailings, web communications, packaging, signs, and so forth. Don’t forget to add snapshots of public communications — or lack thereof — on your building and vehicles to the pile of samples.
After you have your samples of all the ways in which you communicate, create a spreadsheet or table with each type of communication down the left side as labels for rows (for example, blogs, trade magazine guest articles, news releases, and LinkedIn posts). Then create columns for the following items:
- Your estimate of what you spend per year on that type of communication (for example, copywriters, PR Newswire feeds, and bloggers)
- The frequency (quantity) of that communication, rated as very low, low, medium, high, or very high
- The clarity of each communication (does it make its point sharply, quickly, clearly, well?), rated as very low, low, medium, high, or very high
- The consistency of the communication’s message (does it reinforce a clear theme that can be seen in the other communications, too?), rated as very low, low, medium, high, or very high
- The stopping power of the communication (in other words, how attention‐grabbing it is), rated as very low, low, medium, high, or very high
- The persuasiveness of the communication, rated as very low, low, medium, high, or very high
- The ability of the communication to reflect your ESP, rated as very low, low, medium, high, or very high
- The reach among current customers
- The reach among highly qualified consumers
- The number of shares, likes, retweets, pins, and so on that you get from social friends and readers
- The number of mentions or inclusion achieved for materials sent to news media to include in their news stories or feeds
- Review periodically to see which topics, themes, stories, and ideas pay off the most, and then replicate often.
Quantity and quality are equally important in content marketing strategies. The goal of quantity or frequency is to get your marketing message out repeatedly to the majority of people in your potential market. On the flip side, quality is the effectiveness of the communication and its value to readers in terms of providing them something they’re inspired to act on and potentially contact you to discuss further. The trick is to create high‐quality communications for your own channels that others will want to include on their channels as well.
Here are some tips for increasing and managing the frequency of your content distribution:
- Create a monthly theme calendar for your content. Your themes should cover objective topics, like how to select a CRM system, how to get the most out of your data analytics, or nutrition tips for your tween who won’t eat veggies.
- Promote white papers on all your social channels. Introduce your expertise and encourage prospects to opt in for future emails or research papers from you.
- Break out your monthly theme into four story angles and create weekly posts for all your channels accordingly. Make every post point to a landing page with more information that readers can download in exchange for providing an email address and one other thing that may be important to you, such as work title or purchase cycle for your product.
- Seek out new media that offer prime exposure at a very low cost. You can place ads on these new media sites that drive people to your blog or other site for your content. Weekly ads to promote your content elsewhere will help your readership levels and hopefully up your lead generation.
New media — whether new social networking sites or blogs or more traditional outlets that are just emerging on the scene — are a bargain until they mature, so take advantage of the low cost of advertising with them. Facebook ads are still quite reasonable, as are ads on newer channels such as Instagram and Snapchat.
- Promote your blog and website constantly. URLs for your blog and website should be in all email signatures for all staff members, on all digital ads you purchase, and in all content you distribute to third‐party publishers. Invest in search terms that will drive web browsers to your sites.
- Use QR codes to draw mobile customers to your website or attract leads and upsell with special offers. Link QR codes to product demo videos, useful web content, brief surveys, or other links to your company news and resources that show your expertise on matters associated with your brand.
- Work the news media appropriately. If you send a press release every week to news editors, you’re likely going to lose their interest and respect. News media wants news, not promotional messages disguised as news, which they are very good at picking out. Sending a press release once a month, as long as it fits the topics they cover, is a good frequency to keep your name alive with the media for when they need a subject matter expert on your topic and for getting mentions about your brand in news sections.
Press release topics to consider as part of your content marketing mix include
- Business news, such as product expansion, new locations, sales growth
- Personnel news, such as new hires and promotions
- Partnership, merger, acquisition news
- Charitable or volunteer projects that impact communities
- Information about new studies, research results, consumer trends, and so on