Content marketing is a crucial component of any successful business plan. Effective content not only helps drives growth but serves as an intricate aspect of audience engagement, allowing marketers everywhere to reach and interact with their users in a way that provides value as well as showcases an organization's expertise. From traditional written content such as articles for a company blog, to more modern forms of content such as infographics or videos, content marketing collateral forges a connection between companies and their users.
With any successful content marketing plan, a cohesive content marketing editorial calendar is usually the foundation. Not only does it outline what's expected within a given time frame, it allows you to develop a strategy for accomplishing all of your content-related objectives. By planning ahead you can ensure that all the forms of content you want to include in your initiatives are accounted for.
While the importance of a content calendar is widely known, creating one that can effectively drive your entire content marketing plan often requires some effort. We've looked to our internal team of experts that frequently work with content calendars, as well as consulted with some external experts to discover unique tips that have helped to shape successful content marketing programs. Consider our top ten tips when it's time to build a content calendar for your business:
1. Consumption On An Individual Level
Photo Credit: KLP.com
With drastic shifts in how users are consuming information, the importance of engaging the audience with content that is tailored to personal needs is becoming increasingly important. Marie Still, VP of Marketing at AAMP, shares her tip that has enabled her company to produce both high quality and effective content that reaches the audience at all stages of the buyer journey:
"We use the McKinsey Loyalty Loop to guide our content strategy. When we are planning for the month, we are creating content for all points on the path to purchase. For example, if we were just creating content to drive awareness we could fall into the leaky bucket scenario where we are gaining new customers but not gaining loyalty; on the other side of that coin, if we are creating content just for our loyal customers then we run the risk of not attracting new buyers and hindering growth."
-Marie Still, VP of Marketing, AAMP
2. Don't Be Afraid of Change
When you have the goals of your content calendar clearly outlined, it's easy to see what material is playing an instrumental role in accomplishing those objectives. If you see that something isn't working, change it so that you're better reaching your content goals advises Bryn Dodson, Content Specialist at Blue Fountain Media:
"It's valuable-if not critical-to experiment with different types of content. But make sure you have a strategy in place before you start your calendar, and you stick to your strategy long enough to assess how it's working. If it's not meeting your goals, don't be afraid to change it."
-Bryn Dodson, Content Specialist, Blue Fountain Media
3. Utilize Employee Insights
Discovering innovative topics that will be of interest to your audience can be difficult. For many organizations, it can feel as though the topics you cover are redundant with each passing month. Try consulting those who know your business and audience better than anyone else for unique ideas. Jennifer Rosenthal, Community Manager at Pearson suggests reaching out to your employees for ideas when it comes time to create your content calendars:
"Our goal when creating content is to produce resources that will be interesting and/or useful to our target audience. So, we've started to create internal employee resource groups to provide insights into what themes and content topics are relevant to our audiences. We learn a lot about what content themes resonate by listening."
-Jennifer Rosenthal, Community Manager, Pearson
4.Tailor Content for Each Audience
Depending on your business, you may have several audiences with different preferences or user behaviors. It's important you have content that appeals to each of them says Matt Woodruff, Social Strategist at Ogilvy & Mather:
"For brands with multiple target audiences, tailor each piece of content specifically for one of these groups. This way, you are ensuring that your content is as relevant as possible and the consumer can more easily see the value for them.You can take this contextualized messaging a step further by creating different targeting groups for each audience using paid social. The targeting options available on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are very sophisticated, allowing marketers to extend their CRM efforts outside of their existing customer base."
-Matt Woodruff, Social Strategist, Ogilvy & Mather
5. Plan Keywords in Advance
With a tool like Google Keyword Planner, you can see which relevant terms are going to have the highest search volume, and plan the subject of your content around what users are searching for. This way, you aren't simply creating high-quality content, but you're creating content that a significant amount of users want to find says Austin Paley, Director of Corporate Marketing at Blue Fountain Media:
"The beauty of a content calendar is that you can pre-plan out every facet of what you're going to write about. This doesn't just mean having deadlines set up and different types of content appropriately spaced out - it means you can take the time to plan out what the title of the piece should be. This is important for SEO - it means that you can figure out what target keywords you want to go after ahead of time and then tell your writers (whoever they may be) what keywords they should be thinking about as they write. This doesn't mean they have to use it x amount of times or try and stuff it into their header tags - it just helps prime them as to what specific topic they should be focusing on. Doing this goes a long way towards helping to create great content that is also created with keywords in mind."
-Austin Paley, Director of Corporate Marketing, Blue Fountain Media
6. Research Unique Ideas
Before you begin your calendar, you should be doing research on various topics so you know what's already been over-covered within in your space. The topic you wish to write about may not have a lot of data to support it, or you may discover that a variation of that subject might be a better fit explains Heather Ferguson, Content Manager at Main Path Marketing:
"Make sure to research each topic before you commit to writing it sometimes you will find that the topic you've picked has been covered many times and is not unique enough to provide you with value. Other times you will find that there is not enough easily accessible information and that writing the topic would be very difficult to cover without some in-depth research (this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's better to know in advance and give yourself enough time!). If you do find a topic that has been covered extensively, is there any way to build on it? Perhaps you can update the concept with recently discovered information, or apply it directly to your line of business."
-Heather Ferguson, Content Manager, Main Path Marketing
7. Competition and Quality
Conducting competitive analysis to see what peers in your industry are producing is important for any content plan. Even if you can't produce as much content as your competitors might be-you might be able to produce far more valuable content, which will benefit your company much more in the long run highlights Alex Reichmann, CEO at iTestcash.com:
"One trick I have for content creation is to see what my competitors are doing. Are they putting out content daily, weekly, monthly? Also how can I "up" what they are doing? If I can put out better content at a less frequent rate I consider that an advantage over putting out content for the sake of content. I think quality content that will engage users can be important when putting out articles and marketing them."
-Alex Reichmann, CEO, iTestCash.com
Any good content calendar recognizes dates or special events that play a role in the lives of the target demographic. Paying attention to what's important to your users and reflecting that awareness in your content is important for any successful content marketing plan says Brian Pitre, Marketing Manager at Blue Fountain Media.
"Incorporate seasonality and take note of holidays or special days that are relevant to your industry or business as you develop your content calendar. Understand the audience you're messaging and pay attention to cultural trends or events that are of significance to them. By building these events into your content plan, you can leverage timeliness to ensure that your messages are resonating well with your audience, and begin fostering both credibility and trust."
-Brian Pitre, Marketing Manager, Blue Fountain Media
9. Update Old Content
Aside from creative, fresh content, your content calendar should save room for some repurposing or updating of old content. If you have old articles that perform well, make sure your calendar is allowing time to make them more relevant shares Carly Fauth, Head of Marketing and Outreach at Money Crashers:
"Base part of your content calendar on the purchasing habits or other habits of your current customers. If a certain topic area is quite popular with your readers, devote more content to that area. Do the same for your top-selling products, if you have them. Devote part of your calendar to updating already published posts. If you did a piece on the top gaming systems for 2012, add that to your calendar so it can be refreshed for the current year."
-Carly Fauth, Head of Marketing and Outreach, Money Crashers
10. Ask Yourself Four Questions
Determining the perceived value your content will provide readers should serve as the foundation for your content calendar. Cameron Conaway, Content Marketing Manager at Flow describes the questions his team asks themselves before they start actually curating content:
"There are seemingly infinite content calendar plugins and apps. Most of them do help teams keep a consistent schedule, color-code writers or topic names, and much more. But I've always liked to create four separate calendar columns to keep our team's core values and content mission at the heart of each piece we create: What, How, Why and Who. What core value does the piece exemplify? How does it provide "Youtility" for our target audience? Why would our target audience share it? Who do we hope to influence?"
-Cameron Conaway, Content Marketing Manager, Flow
Content Marketing Editorial Calendars Build Strong Content Results
Regardless of the vertical that your business is a part of, a successful content marketing plan is crucial for effectively reaching your audience. However, in order for your content to foster the kind of results you want, a content calendar is key. By aligning all of your efforts into a cohesive and well thought-out content marketing editorial calendar and incorporating some of the above tips as you begin developing it, you'll be setting up your content marketing plan for success.