Content Planning: Building a Long-term Vision for Awesome Content

Content Planning: Building a Long-term Vision for Awesome Content


Before we begin, let’s take a
moment to revisit the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey
has a similar corresponding marketing funnel, and when both
are used side-by-side, I like to call them the “marketing
machine.” The marketing machine relates each buyer’s
journey stage to a corresponding marketing funnel stage; the
awareness stage relates to visit and lead, the consideration
stage relates to marketing qualified lead, or MQL, and
sales qualified lead, or SQL, and the decision stage relates
to opportunity and customer. These funnels are designed to
help you visualize and guide a prospect through the stages of
the buyer’s journey so that you can effectively measure your
funnel and provide a tailored message to that prospect at
their particular stage in the buyer’s journey. It’s
important to understand the relationship between both
funnels because they’re working toward the same goal;
attracting your prospects, converting them into leads,
closing them into customers, and eventually delighting them,
turning them into evangelists. A marketing machine is not
developed overnight. It takes a lot of time and planning to
build. This is where long-term content planning comes in. So
what’s involved in developing a long-term content plan? There
are three steps you must take to create a long-term content plan;
setting marketing goals, auditing or assessing your
organization’s initiatives and assets, and identifying the
buyer’s journey for your buyer personas. The ultimate objective
here is to have a unifying document you can use to keep
track of your long-term content marketing initiatives. First,
let’s talk about setting your marketing goals. By setting
marketing goals, you can develop a long-term vision and
short-term motivation. Goals help you organize your time and
resources so you can make the most of your content creation
efforts. Each piece of content created for a marketing
initiative should be tied to a goal that’s also directly
related to the overarching goals of the organization. This will
help you stay laser-focused with the content creation process.
Let’s take a second to think about this. If your company’s
quarterly customer goal is 15 new customers and you know the
number of leads needed to generate 15 customers is 50
leads, and if you know the number of website visits needed
to generate 50 leads is 1,000 visits, then you need to take
into consideration the content needed to hit your visits goal.
Each goal you set should be a SMART goal. That is specific,
measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. A
potential SMART goal example could be increase quarterly site
visits by 20%. That’s 5,000 per quarter to 6,000 per quarter
by the end of the year. The second step in creating a
long-term content plan is auditing or assessing your
organization’s initiatives and assets. Your audit is going to
consist of two parts. First, auditing your content assets,
and second, auditing your event-based priorities. Let’s
begin with the content audit. Your goal with the content audit
is to identify all of the marketing assets you have at
your disposal and potentially identify gaps or opportunities
in your content strategy. There comes a point for every marketer
who has been generating content for a while when they realize
they have no idea where all of their content is or how much
they actually have. Content has likely been created by you, your
predecessors, or other individuals in the marketing
department, including subject matter experts from other
departments, and is scattered just about everywhere. By doing
your content audit, you’ll be able to identify resources that
you already have, which could save you hours of content
creation time in the future. No use in duplicating your efforts.
When it comes to documenting a content audit, there should be a
place for you to insert all of your assets and properly
categorize them based on content title, buyer’s journey stage,
marketing funnel stage, format or type of content, which buyer
persona this is targeting, and any additional notes that
provide value or context. Now, it’s time to do some digging
for content assets, such as guides, worksheets, or sales
collateral. I’d recommend systematically combing through
the following dark corners where content can typically be hiding,
like that old file manager or marketing folder on your
computer. Ask your sales team what type of collateral they
use. Check in with the more tenured employees (you’ll be
surprised at the wealth of knowledge here). Pore through
your customer relationship management system, also known as
a CRM, and your content management system, also known as
a CMS. Okay, I think you get the picture here. Let’s take a
look at a content audit from a HubSpot customer by the name of
Maren Schmidt. Maren offers advice and resources backed by
more than 30 years of experience working with young children.
Notice how Maren already has content spanning the awareness,
consideration, and decision stages of the buyer’s journey
for multiple buyer personas, and each piece of content
corresponds to a specific lifecycle stage. Additionally,
Maren has many different types of content formats to offer her
buyer personas, like an ebook, a study guide, and a webinar. Note
how Maren uses the “Notes” field to explain the contents of
her content offer, though she may not need this for each piece
of content in her audit. Now that Maren has documented her
assets, she’ll be able to refer to this audit in the
future to pinpoint what content she already has and how it can
help with future content creation initiatives. The second
part to completing your audit is to conduct an audit on your
event-based initiatives. What I mean by this is you’ll need to
take into account any upcoming projects, priorities, or events
that might involve content creation. Doing this exercise
will help you identify content that could support each
initiative, but also, and more importantly, it can give you an
opportunity to see how you can connect this content back to the
buyer’s journey through an inbound marketing campaign. An
event-based audit should be organized by the following
areas: upcoming priorities by month, initiative overview,
theme, prospective blog post topics based on buyer personas,
and an inbound marketing campaign that ties together your
efforts. Take a look at what Maren did for her event-based
audit. You can see that Maren has a few events and workshops
that she might need content for. You can also see that the
content is grouped into an overall theme for the next three
months with associated blog topics that integrate with an
inbound marketing campaign called “Preparing Your Home
the Montessori Way,” which is an ebook. Try and imagine for a
minute if Maren only planned the month, initiative overview, and
theme without keywords and blog post topics that associate with
a relevant inbound marketing campaign. Yes, she would have
noted that there are a series of events coming up in the next few
months, but she would have missed out on the opportunity to
tie everything together with a series of blog posts that could
lead to a relevant content offer that would provide value to her
marketing machine. Simply adding these two columns maximizes your
content potential and forces you to think bigger than just the
events at hand. There’s one last important step needed to
create a sustainable long-term content plan and that’s
identifying the buyer’s journey for your buyer personas.
Remember, you’re creating content that’s meant to
attract and pull your buyer personas through every stage of
the buyer’s journey: from the awareness stage where it’s
more problem-based, through the consideration stage where
you’re discussing a solution, and ending in the decision stage
where you’re recommending next steps. Simply identifying this
content will give you ideas to work with in the future. But
before you can identify the buyer’s journey, you first
need to know your buyer personas. Keeping this in mind,
let’s take a look at one of Maren’s buyer persona’s,
Montessori Mom Meena. Here’s an overview of Meena as a buyer
persona. Meena’s a devoted mother, a working professional,
and married with at least one child under the age of six.
Meena wants to understand child development and do what’s best
for her children, understand how to set limits for behavior, and
have effective communication tools to use with her children.
Meena’s challenges are her children won’t listen and she
has to deal with tantrums, all of which overwhelm her as a
parent. Maren knows that Meena uses Google to find answers to
problems she’s looking to solve. Great. Now that you
know who Meena is, let’s take a look at what the buyer’s
journey might look like for her in more detail. To start, you
know it’s important for Meena to do what’s best for her
children, so what about an awareness stage ebook that lists
parenting problems you can avoid. This is something that
would bring value to Meena’s search. Then, once Meena’s
been educated on parenting problems to avoid, what about
following up with consideration stage information like a
questionnaire regarding family needs to help her understand a
possible solution – in this case, Montessori. The
questionnaire outlines both the needs of the child as well as
the parent. But maybe Meena needs a little more information
that will lead her to the decision stage, something that
educates her more on how to best prepare for Montessori. What
about a free consideration stage workshop that explains how to
prepare your home the Montessori way? That could do the trick.
And now that Meena has found a solution to her problem, she’s
ready to make a decision. What about offering Meena a one-hour
strategy consultation to discuss next steps for her child and
Montessori? Sounds about right. That’s an example of a
complete buyer’s journey. A buyer’s journey is
ever-evolving. The more you learn about your buyer personas,
the more you’ll be able to refine the buyer’s journey and
grow it over time. But it starts with first identifying the
content needed to complete the buyer’s journey, which you can
then plan over the course of a year to keep your content
creation sustainable.

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