5 tips for creating a successful content plan

Lack of an effective content marketing strategy is the No. 1 barrier to a B2B marketer’s success, according to a recent Ascend2 survey. The report found almost half of marketers don’t have an effective strategy in place. The five following bits of advice can help B2B marketers either build a plan from scratch or fine-tune an existing one.

1) Set business goals

The first step in nailing down a documented strategy is to determine the elements that differentiate your company from the competition. Come up with at least a couple of unique selling propositions that show how your business stands out from the crowd and that help you tell a bigger story. Brainstorm compelling content around these points.

It is also important during this stage to define business goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your content? Is it lead generation? Brand awareness? Customer retention? This step might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to figure this out. Each piece of content you create must push this goal forward.

2) Write an editorial mission statement

I am a big advocate of creating an editorial mission statement to help your content team stay focused on goals. Getting a handle on the big picture – why you do what you do – can help your team rally around an overall vision. It also helps you stay on track and prioritize. If what you’re doing doesn’t fit your editorial mission, then you’re doing something wrong.

To craft an editorial mission statement, first identify your core audience, the kinds of content you want to provide and the value that content will provide. Your mission statement should tell everyone who you are and why they should care.

An example of an editorial mission statement:

Tequia Burt’s content blog is the B2B marketers’ go-to resource for top-notch content marketing strategy, analysis, how-to pieces, blogs and great advice. She will help you face your biggest challenges and prepare you to adapt to an ever-changing B2B marketing landscape.

3) Define your audience

Once you’ve zeroed in on your mission, it’s time to drill down into who your audience is. How can your content help them?

If the idea of creating a working buyer persona has you fretting, take a step back and keep it simple. First figure out your audience’s likely job titles, their interests, their locations and their content consumption habits. Narrowing this down can help you personalize your content and make it engaging for your buyers. It can also help you determine the best channels for sharing content.

4) Establish content roles

Many organizations don’t have the budget that big enterprise companies have. So how can you act like a 5-person team with two people on staff? First things first: One of you must be the editorial lead who guides your content strategy. This person will manage the editorial process, writers and editors, as well as content projects. They will ensure that editorial, strategy and design mesh well and stick to the mission.

One of you must be the dedicated content creator, the person responsible for writing, curating and posting content. If even a two-person team is out of reach, consider hiring a freelance journalist to help pick up the slack. Outside experts, bloggers and your own brand advocates can also serve as contributors, helping you beef up your content roster.

In some situations, the editorial lead will also have to write content. The trick here is balancing that workload with a strong hold on the editorial mission. If the editorial lead is too focused on deadlines, they may lose sight of the overall strategy. If this starts to happen, you’ll need outside help. Keep those freelancers on speed dial.

5) Create an editorial calendar

I am a fan of editorial calendars. As a journalist, I believe in firm deadlines. It gives you a schedule for posting blogs, research, social media and other content, so you’re not left trying to think of a great idea at the last minute. However, don’t go overboard. A three-month plan will give you plenty of elbowroom to adapt your message to current industry news and trends.

An editorial calendar also can encourage much more focused thinking around the kinds of content your audience wants to consume. One of the worst things a content marketer can do is create a piece of content just for the sake of creating a piece of content. Another recent study, this one from Forrester, found B2B buyers also want less, but more targeted content. Half of the participants in the survey said vendors give them useless content, and two-thirds report that vendors give them too much of it. Using these tips can help you avoid giving your buyers too much of a bad thing. –Tequia

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