Content Marketing Made Simple: How to Use Content Planning to Increase Your Content Output
If you’ve made it to this article you’re probably vaguely familiar with the concept of content marketing. But what is content marketing? And how does it differ from regular marketing?
Let's start with regular old marketing.
Marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
Content marketing relies heavily on content to sell a product or service. What do we mean by that? Well, think about the content from your favorite company or service.
Why is it your favorite?
Is it just because you like or buy the product or service it sells? Or is it the way they communicate? The content that they create, how they engage with their audiences?
Chances are if you’re like most people, it is the story/communication behind the product or service that grabs your attention. Then, once they have your attention, they can start selling to you.
But creating great materials for content marketing is easier said than done.
You can’t just create content and expect that people will respond to and engage with your content. It has to be relevant. Whether it’s funny, informative, instructive, it has to provide value to your users. You must not hit your users/buyers over the head with “selling” language.
Rather, content marketing is meant to generate interest or excitement around your brand, with the thought that if they know and love your brand already, they’ll be more likely to buy from you. If you can provide value before you've even sold anything to them? That's where you want to be.
Especially now, when attention spans are shorter and users are constantly inundated with content, yours must stand out. Creating strong content will help you do that.
Content marketing is defined as “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
Let’s break that down.
Content marketing can be any material that informs or excites users/buyers on your brand. This could be mailers, newsletters, blog posts, videos, TikToks, Instagram posts, podcasts.
If you didn’t notice, a lot of what we listed lives in the digital space. While content marketing doesn't have to be digital, more and more of our lives are conducted on the internet, and content marketing that capitalizes on that will experience more success.
Think about the problem that your product solves. Think about why your potential customers might turn to your products. What are their pain points? What would they consider a success?
If you provide helpful content for your target audience, that goes a long way toward persuading them to choose you over a competitor.
The Content Marketing Institute makes it clear: content marketing is about your audience.
Let’s take an example from quite a few years back. Picture this: the year is 1888, and you’re a doctor. You want to know the best way to treat a wound. And luckily enough, there’s a company putting out a publication with exactly that information. They share the best practices of the time, with a lot of helpful information that you needed. They just happen to be the ones trying to sell you the bandages.
Johnson and Johnson released a publication called Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment aimed at the doctors who would need to buy their bandages.
They provided information that helped to inform the doctors, quell their pain points and subtly promote their product. (https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/07/history-content-marketing/) And 1888 is not even the earliest example.
Content marketing has been around for a while. So there's a lot of it.
But the key to good content marketing is to solve your buyers’ problems.
You can do this in a variety of ways!
Whether you sell hammers and have created a podcast about the best construction materials and how to build a birdhouse or you've written a step-by-step guide that you share over social media. There's a lot of ways you can share that information with your users in a way that solves their problems.
But is content marketing right for you?
Content marketing can be quite time-consuming. Not only do you need to create a plan for your content but you have to spend time creating it as well. And if the content isn’t good, if it isn’t engaging for your audience, then you'll have wasted your time. So you need to make sure you give appropriate attention to creating content to make sure it is up to snuff!
If you’re not giving content marketing your best, then you may as well stop doing it— because it will take everything you’ve got to be successful with it!
There’s a lot of competition for attention. Between other companies doing content marketing and those paying to get eyes on their content. So how can you make sure you get the right eyes on your content.
How will you make content that resonates with your buyer persona?
It’s always good to map your user’s journey.
Why did they come in contact with your company in the first place?
What was the initial need that brought them to your webpage, your store, etc.?
What objections do they have about buying your product?
If you know each step in their journey, you can create content that nurtures them as they go through each stage of their decision to buy your product/service.
Knowing everything about your intended audience gives you power. It helps you to create content that speaks to them in a persuasive way, rooted in their circumstances.
There are three stages in a buyer's journey. If a buyer goes through each of these steps, then they've decided to buy from you. That is any business' objective, to get prospects from stage 1 to stage 3.
Stage 1, Awareness:
This is the first time your customer learns about your product, the first time they become aware of your company/business and what you do. Content marketing is great for this. Informational content helps you reach potential customers and introduce them to your company. They may not be ready to buy or even be thinking about buying but now they will have you in mind whenever they do.
Stage 2, Consideration:
Now your customers know about your product and they are deciding whether or not they need it. They’re thinking about your product in the context of their day-to-day life and deciding whether it is something they need. In this stage, you want to see just how interested your potential customers are. You’ll want to create content that is useful to your audience and helps you to gauge their interest: something like an email newsletter or an informative infographic. Show audiences you’re knowledgeable while capturing an email address from them. If you can create content that is informative and helpful for audiences, they'll know they can trust you. You won't need to work as hard to gain their trust in the decision stage of the buyer's journey.
Stage 3, Decision:
Now they have decided whether or not to buy your product or service. You can include a call to action in your content here, all they need is that one final push. At this point, they should have all the information they will need to make a decision. Putting a call to action here makes it convenient for your user to buy, whereas putting it in earlier content could feel pushy to your users. Having a CTA before your audience is ready could be detrimental.
But you don’t necessarily need to be creating content for just these phases in the buyer's journey. You can also reach people who may not ever buy from you.
But if they like what you’re doing on social media or the online sphere in general, they may share with friends, colleagues, family— widening your reach. Raising awareness is another important piece of content marketing.
You can create a lot of different types of content, from videos to podcasts, to eBooks to infographics, case studies, blog posts, social media posts (the list goes on).
But how do you create that content and stay on top of it in a way that isn’t overwhelming to your business? As we mentioned above, content creation can take a lot of time and energy if it is done well. Is there a way to streamline the process?
While there’s no magic trick to help you stay on top of content creation, planning out your content ahead of time can help you to get a handle on it so it seems less overwhelming.
Without a plan, your content will lose intention. Your message will be lost with the random pieces of content that you put out. Specificity and intentionality help your content to be successful and ensure it doesn't get lost in the internet shuffle.
So let’s talk about how you can stay on top of your content plans.
Monitor Engagement: Keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Luckily, most social media platforms today have analytics built-in. You can see which of your posts worked, which didn’t, which posts had a lot of views, but maybe not as much engagement, what time your audience was online, and a lot more. Your analytics are a huge piece of the puzzle in your success. If you know what works, you can stick to it and stay away from creating content that doesn’t work quite as well.
Goal Setting: Decide who you want to reach with your content. Are you trying to reach an entirely new audience? Do you want to convert at least 200 prospects to buyers? Are you trying to raise awareness around a campaign? Do you want to increase sales for a specific product? The content for each of these goals would be quite different, so before you create anything, decide what your goal is for the content you'll create.
Define Success: How do you define success? Well, it depends on your business goals. The content you create varies based on your goals and so too will the metrics you use to judge their success. If you're trying to raise awareness you may just look at the impressions your content has gotten -how many eyeballs you've reached, rather than paying attention to things like click-through rate. If you want to convert prospects, you’ll most likely use your CTR (click-through rate) to measure success. Decide what metrics you want to monitor to judge success.
Create a budget: You need to know how much you can spend on the creation of content because that will likely impact the time you can spend on creating your content and what type of content you’ll be able to create. This will also impact whether you decide to promote your content or if you plan to let it be and see what happens organically.
Content: You’ll also need to decide what types of content you’ll create. This can depend a lot on what type of company you are in. For instance, if you’re a production company creating videos, the most natural medium for you would be video. The best way for you to sell to your customers would be to show the power of video. But you don’t necessarily want or need to stick with just one type of content. Mixed mediums work best. When in doubt it can sometimes help to look at your competitors to see what types of content they have created, what is working well for them - because you're in a similar niche it might work well for you too. You can also look at where your competitors are lacking because that might be an opportunity for you to own the space.
Have a Process: It helps to have a standardized workflow for the creation of your content. If you already have one, you should make sure you regularly review your process. Are there any snags in the workflow? Is there anything you can streamline? Where are you getting held up in the process? Knowing your process inside and out will help you to avoid any bottlenecks that could hinder your success.
There’s a lot that goes into creating successful, engaging content for your content marketing efforts. It can feel overwhelming and pointless when there are so many people competing for online attention. Remember, consistency and planning are the keys to your content marketing success. If you can master content marketing, expect to see your audience skyrocket.