Creating a Content Marketing plan isn’t a walk in the park but it could mean smashing your business goals. This type of plan allows you to produce valuable content that attracts, nurtures, and converts your ideal customers.
Below, I’ve outlined a step-by-step guide for creating an inbound content marketing programme for your business. But before you start putting your strategy together, it’s important to know that my outline isn’t a band-aid fix. Every content plan needs to be unique to your business, because it’s dependant on your goals, buyer personas, overall business strategy, and even on the people implementing the plan.
With that in mind, I hope you enjoy the seven steps to develop an inbound content marketing plan outlined below. If you have anything to add to my plan or questions about a certain step, let me know in the comments below.
Your step-by-step plan to content marketing
1. Define goals
Every strategy has an outcome, and you need to know what you want yours to be. What do you want to achieve with your content marketing or even with the particular piece of content you’re working on currently?
Are there different goals that require multiple strategies?
You want to get as granular and specific as you can in this first step, because it will govern the rest of your content marketing strategy (or it should). Try to come up with SMART goals . This means identifying one or more key performance indicators (KPIs) that you want to reach, set a date as to when you want this to happen by, and briefly record how you expect this to affect your business’s growth. Your strategy might only have one goal, or many, but it’s important to flesh out each one as much as you can.
Resources for setting up your content marketing goals are:
- How to Set SMART Marketing Goals
- Marketing Metrics Benchmarks and Trends
- Metrics for Measuring Marketing ROI
For your content marketing plan to be successful, you will need to be accurately targeting the correct audience. Who are you producing content for? That’s where buyer personas come in.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Having your buyer personas developed means that you can base your content around their likes, dislikes, pain points, goals and personalities.
Building your buyer persona consists of recording information about your ideal customers in a unified document. You’ll have to ask questions like: “What are their demographics?”, “What role do they work in?”, “What are their personal preferences in receiving marketing?”, “What are their objectives?”, and more. Having accurate buyer personas means that your content will be more targeted and valuable to readers, which should result in better quality traffic and higher conversion rates.
Resources for building your buyer persona are:
- How to Build a Tech Buyer Persona
- How to create buyer personas
- 20 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas
3. Action a content audit
Before you dive into a brainstorm session on what content to create, look back and see what’s worked for you in the past. Of course, a content audit is only helpful if you have historical content and data to look back on.
Conducting a content audit means more than simply understanding which content types are most successful (although it does form a part). Beyond knowing whether or not to produce blog posts, eBooks, or in-depth website pages, you’ll need to know:
- How best to distribute your content, which keywords you’re already ranking for and which could use a boost,
- Who is visiting your site most regularly,
- Which topics lead to the most conversions (remember, traffic doesn’t necessarily denote value – conversions are valuable to you, because you know the visitor enjoyed your content enough to take the next step).
Resources for actioning your content audit are:
- 6 Tips to Kick Off Your Content Marketing Strategy
4. Brainstorm ideas
Fire up those brains and get thinking. Now’s the time for brainstorming topic ideas. Before you simply dive in and come up with trendy and hot topics, remember to base your brainstorm off the data you’ve collected in the first three steps.
You’ll want to come up with several primary topics (primary keywords) in this initial brainstorm. These should be overarching themes that you’ve outlined as valuable to your buyer personas, great search opportunities, and will nurture leads down the conversion funnel. In the next step, we explain how to take your ideas from this brainstorm further.
Here are some handy tools for brainstorming key topics:
5. Cluster your topics
It’s now time to decide which primary topic your campaign will address, and then to shoot off secondary topics/keywords from this.
This is a second brainstorm, or an extension of your first brainstorm. You’ll end up creating a web of linked topics that support one another and can provide links to each other, but all point towards your primary topic. This is called a topic cluster.
Successfully producing content to a topic cluster makes your website the go-to resource for that primary topic. You don’t simply write a blog or two on your primary topic – you cover that topic holistically with all of its pain points, and in various content formats. This not only encourages users to stay on your website (as you’ll own all the resources they need), but it is also strongly rumoured that search engines favour websites who successfully “own a topic”.
6. Decide on your Content Types
You’ve got your primary and secondary content topics, and you’ve almost completed briefs for your content producers. But which format will you choose to bring these topics to life with?
There are numerous formats to choose from. I’ve listed some of them here for you to consider:
- Blogs (opinion pieces, lists, checklists, reviews, etc.)
- Earned media (guest blogs, press releases, external content, etc.)
The most important thing when choosing your content format is that the decision should align with your overall strategy.
For instance, if you’re trying to attract visitors to your website, then you want a format that will succeed at that (blogs, videos, infographics), but you’ll want to avoid other gated formats that might chase people away (like eBooks and whitepapers). You might be looking to nurture and convert your current website visitors, though. In that case, you’ll want to think about eBooks and whitepapers. It’s all strategy dependent.
However you decide to assign your content topics to their format, simply make sure that it aligns with your overall strategy and takes you one step closer to your defined goal.
7. Don’t forget to choose your CMS
Don’t forget that your content can’t do everything for you. You’ll still need a management system in place to create, optimise, publish, analyse, and update your content as you move forward. That’s where a content management system (CMS) comes in handy.
There are various CMS tools around, but we recommend using HubSpot as a holistic marketing software. In their software, you can plan, produce, publish, and measure your results all in one place.
Another content management system to consider might be WordPress. In one of our previous infographics, you can discover the benefits of HubSpot vs WordPress.