Any company embarking on building and growing its digital brand needs to have a content creation calendar. After all, success is no longer about randomly creating content. Instead, it’s about having a forward-thinking plan, defining when content will be created, and most importantly, outlining the internal and external resources you’ll need to take your company’s content to the next level.
Unfortunately, most companies take a passive approach to their content. These are the enterprises that don’t fully comprehend the role that content plays in marketing to today’s customer. They don’t track lead generation from their content, don’t leverage social media, and don’t understand the role that today’s customers play in cultivating, sculpting and defining a company’s brand.
On the other end of the spectrum are those companies who are well-aware of the importance of interacting with customers in real-time, who understand that forging a solid digital reputation and brand comes from well-structured and engaging content. It’s that structure that is provided by the content creation calendar; benefiting from collaborative efforts to make your content stand apart has to be something that’s scheduled and planned accordingly. What are some of the critical steps to putting this calendar together?
1) Defining Your Market Niche
Some refer to it as defining your target audiences. Some call it outlining your customer personas. Regardless of what it’s called, you have to clearly outline who your content is meant for and how that content should be structured for maximum effect.
Start by defining what you consider to be your ideal customer. Next, summarize what their main concerns are and how your content can best address these concerns. Finally, understand where your customers are online and what social media platforms they use.
The following is a list of the all-important questions you must answer, along with some key points to consider when thinking about your target audience.
- What type of market are we focusing on? Do we service business markets, consumer markets or government markets?
- What type of content appeals to our audience? Videos are important, but so are e-books, whitepapers, customer case studies, graphs, tables, spreadsheets, images, and product descriptions.
- What social media website or forum best suits our customers? Not all social media is the same and not all social media websites engage the same audiences.
- Match your social media strategy to the type of market you service.
- What internal resources will you call upon to create content? You want your content to appeal to all of your customer personas and decision makers. This often involves calling upon different professionals and employees within your company that can provide the type of insight and viewpoint most appreciated by your potential prospects.
Come up with a list of internal resources matched to the positions those individuals have. Next, outline how their insight can be incorporated within your content.
2) Define “Engaging” Content
“Engaging” is an overused buzzword when it comes to content. Ultimately, “engaging” means different things to different audiences. What one consumer considers engaging might not apply to another. Again, this all has to do with the type of market and industry you sell in. Make it a point to understand that not all customers want or appreciate the same type of content.
While an argument can be made that all customers love video, it simply goes without saying that infographics, tables and graphs aren’t appreciated by all customers just as bright and vivid imagery isn’t as appreciated by others. Therefore, be sure to clearly define what engaging and thought-provoking means to your audience.
3) Identifying Content Topics and Subtopics
The best approach to content creation is to define one all-encompassing topic and then branch out by itemizing future subtopics, ones that require the input of multiple team members and ones that can be planned well in advance. Start with a well-known subject as it relates to your market and then separate the subtopics by how that overriding topic applies to the different types of decision makers, or customer personas, your company sells and services.
An example might include a company that provides sales training services and wants its content to appeal to prospective customers looking to upgrade the skillset of their sales team. The main topic would include not selling on a product’s price, while the subtopics would include negotiation with C-level executives, selling on a value proposition, defining a product’s features and benefits, and finally, negotiating terms and agreements.
4) Creating the Calendar
There are several options available when it comes to putting your calendar together. You can download a content creation calendar online, put one together in Google documents, use Microsoft word, or use an excel sheet. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you put the calendar together or where you get it from. What does matter is that you allow ample room for critical notes and information within the dates of the calendar. Remember, you’ll need to call upon multiple internal resources within your company in order to put together the kind of content that appeals to your audience. As such, your calendar has to have more space that just having a date; information about the type of content, who it’s for, and who will produce it, are critical notes you need to include within specific dates on your calendar.
5) Accounting for Special Dates
Why are dates so important when creating content? Simply put, it allows you to plan content specifically tailored for these upcoming dates. These dates might include trade shows, conferences and exhibits. They might include holidays and or dates where your company is launching a new and improved product or service. Or, these dates might include special dates devoted to professionals or associations within your industry. Regardless of what these dates mean to your company, having them on your calendar means you’ll be able to pull in the appropriate resources and properly plan how and when content will be created.
6) Topic Discussion: Brainstorming
Having these dates laid out will simplify how you and your team brainstorm topics and subtopics. In fact, without those dates on the calendar, coming up with relevant topics will be much more difficult. Sit down with your team and use those special dates to come up with interesting topics. Next, brainstorm ideas and approaches amongst all team members so that you’re covering all your bases and appealing to a wide audience.
7) Allocating Resources
Having special dates and brainstorming will ultimately help with allocating your internal and external resources, in addition to defining specific teams for creating content. However, it’s not just about having employees and co-workers who are able to produce well-written content. It’s really about knowing what resources you’ll need in terms of putting together videos, customer case studies, infographics, tables, e-books and everything else that goes towards engaging your customers.
8) Content Creation
Keywords are still important when creating content. However, those keywords and phrases must fit naturally within the content. The best strategy is to write the content first and then place the keywords after. This is in stark contrast to how content was created in the early days of search engine optimization (SEO) where keywords and keyword-sentences were forced into content in an attempt at influencing organic SEO.
If your content is well-written, and put together in a way that engages your specific audience, then they’ll share that content through social media. Again, keywords are important, but today’s users are able to easily spot when a company is keyword stuffing and or trying to influence organic SEO versus those companies who are truly interested in producing thought-provoking insight.
9) Defining Performance
Defining and measuring performance is critical to duplicating efforts. You need to define what type of content produces the best kind of leads, where those leads originate from and the type of content most likely to be shared on social media. Your content is a relevant source of low-cost leads, so be sure to define how you’ll measure the performance of individual posts.
10) Measuring Metrics, Data and Return on Investment (ROI)
Finally, you’ll need to define a way of measuring your content’s ROI. The aforementioned step points the way to determining what content produces the most leads and gets shared through social media. However, this last step involves much more than that. It involves understanding what your customers are saying and doing at this very moment with the content you’ve created. It involves understanding your website’s bounce rates and which landing pages perform best. Come up with a set of criteria that helps to define ROI so that you know what content works best.
In the end, having a successful content strategy must involve a content calendar. Your website and company blog can become an endless supply of leads. However, success isn’t about producing content simply when you have the time. It’s about having a plan, defining what content is needed and why, and most importantly, bringing together like-minded individuals and professionals in order to create the kind of content guaranteed to be shared online.