The only content planning guide you need. Never run out of high-performing content again.
Whether you’re a seasoned business or just starting out, whether you sell products or services, great content remains the best way to connect with your customers. Content is your best marketing tool for conveying your offering no matter what your marketing goals are.
In this article I’ll share my proven processes and insider tips to simplifying your content plan so you can focus on making captivating content without the struggle. Read on for a guide filled with practical, usable tools and my free downloadable content planning template. Let’s get started.
What is content marketing?
“Content” is simply the marketing term for any piece of media that you use to talk to the world as a business or brand. Content marketing is how you let people know who you are and what you sell, engage your potential customers, and keep people coming back by creating social media posts, videos, articles, podcasts, or any other media.
With content that captures the attention of your target market, you make sure that people think of your business when they decide to buy.
Why plan your content?
Have you ever quickly pulled together a post for Instagram just to get something ‘out there’? Do you keep meaning to commit time to your email marketing but you’re not sure what topics to talk about? Or maybe you spend lots of time crafting beautiful content but don’t seem to be getting the results you want?
Having a content planning process empowers you to create better quality and more consistent content than ever before. You’ll be more efficient with your content creation and you will see a return on investment for cheating a solid content strategy.
Read on and I’ll show you how to go from panic about what to post this week to an approach that will leave you brimming with content ideas that communicate your brand and connects with your ideal customer.
Set yourself up for content marketing success by understanding your audience
To get started, I highly recommend reading my article on how to develop your Ideal Customer Persona and completing the exercise as a prelude to planning your content.
This will help you understand who your target market is, where they live online, and help you select what types of content you will be most likely to get the best results from.
The best performing content delivers two important marketing goals. Firstly, it tells a story about your brand in a way that resonates with your customers. Secondly, it delivers a clear and consistent message to prospective and current customers to help influence their decision making and hopefully get them to buy from you.
A good content plan involves a number of steps. Once the initial planning process is complete, you’ll have a roadmap for the next phase— creating content!
What is a content pillar?
The first step in your content plan is creating your content pillars. A content pillar is a substantive and informative piece of content on a specific topic or theme. To get started, think about what the brand is passionate about and what your audience cares about.
Having content pillars will make the content planning process easier by helping you to find the best angle for each piece you decide to publish.
What would your audience type into a search engine? This can be things that are directly related to what you offer but also parallel interests that they might have.
Mine might be “digital marketing” but could also be other topics related to entrepreneurship.
The purpose of content pillars is to
○ Help you to stay focused on what your audience wants
○ Ensure your message is clear
○ Deliver consistency to your audience
Remember, people are more likely to buy from a person than a corporation. If you’re a product-based business you can still include content about your values and even personal content about the founder or your team to ensure that personal touch.
How to create content pillars for your brand
So how exactly do you go about it? The first step is to understand where you are currently doing well and which areas you can develop further.
Here’s where you can start to find inspiration for your content pillars:
1. Your website
You probably spent many hours developing your website, now’s the time to use that legwork. Look again at the content on your website and evaluate which content is performing best.
Your website backend or Google Analytics page will tell you which pages are doing the best. If you haven’t set up your Google Analytics account yet, it’s not too late to get started. Google Analytics is a completely free web traffic analysis tool that gives you access to detailed information about the visitors to your website.
To view metrics for a certain page on your website, go to Google Analytics, click on “Behavior” followed by “Site Content” and “All Pages.” You can sort the views by Unique Pageviews and see what content is working well. You can even check traffic for specific URLs.
You might find that your “about” page is doing well. This means that your visitors want to know more about you and your brand. If your product pages are doing well, you can talk more about your offerings.
2. Social Media
Each social media platform you use provides free analytics about your content. Use these analytics to see what topics resonate with your audience and note down which topics and categories perform the best.
2. Email Marketing
If you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage your email list, you can review your email open rates to see which topics get the highest engagement.
What questions do you get asked most frequently? This could be from DMs from customers who are yet to purchase, or post sales feedback that you get from customers who have bought your product or service. If you happen to have a community on Facebook or have held a pop-up sale, you can address the questions you most often get asked. It’s likely that if one person has a question others are curious about the same things!
Now it’s time to brainstorm!
Common pillars include:
The more specific you can make your pillars, the easier your roadmap to killer content will be. To do this it’s helpful to have your business goals in mind.
Let’s take the example of Amy who runs a business selling nutrition advice. Amy would like to sell her new ‘2023 Kickstarter’ package, which is delivered via a new application.
Amy is looking to set up her 5 content pillars to make her marketing more efficient. First, Amy does some sleuthing. She reviewed all her marketing data to develop her customer persona.
Amy’s Content Pillar Creation Process
Action 1: Identify Key Terms
Amy found that the key search terms for her website were:
○ Meal Planning
○ Losing weight
○ Having more energy
Action 2: What are customers asking?
Her most FAQs centred around:
○ Meal planning
○ Having the right information
○ Quick and easy results
Action 3: Selecting Content Pillars
Amy is now ready to select her content pillars. Based on her research, Amy’s 5 content pillars could be:
○ Meal planning
○ Weight management
○ Healthy lifestyle
○ Understanding nutritional value
○ Building confidence
Note that each content pillar arms Amy with a slew of subtopics to cover. For example, for “Meal planning”, her topics could include:
○ Tips on planning for the week
○ Templates to make planning easier
○ Benefits of meal planning
○ Guide to reusing ingredients
○ Time-saving hacks
○ Top 3 mistakes when meal planning
○ Case study on how meal planning helped a previous client
Did you see what we did there? When done right, content pillars are really magical when it comes to generating topics that are relevant to your business, targeted to what your audience, and likely to create an engaging brand voice that your audience will keep coming back for.
Connecting what your content is about with how you communicate it is a process that will elevate your content and deliver consistency every time. Write out your brand values on a cheat sheet and post it up in your favourite writing spot. Mine’s on a sticky note right on my monitor.
Building a Strategic Content Marketing Plan
Picture this, your family is ready to go out for a nice meal together. Everyone’s dressed and ready to go, you get in the car and drive to a beautiful park, you get out your picnic blanket and basket and you find uncooked burgers and no BBQ pit in sight. Everyone’s hungry and you’re nowhere near a restaurant.
You wouldn’t inflict this lack of preparation on your family and with the next section on setting goals, neither will you find yourself unprepared when you sit down to create your content!
Step 1: Start by setting goals
Your goal will likely depend on where you find the majority of your audience is right now in their customer journey. Here are some examples of goals:
○ Increase reach and awareness
○ Encourage consumers to consider your range of products/services
○ Get your customers to convert (buy, sign up, subscribe)
I like to plan my content monthly but you can select a time-period that’s comfortable for you, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly.
Which will you focus on for the next month? I find choosing 1 or 2 goals per month is the sweet spot. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Step 2: Review seasonal events
Taking seasonal events into consideration when you plan your content helps you take advantage of trending topics that your audience has on their minds. Meet them where they are with your take on these events. You can look at HubSpot’s social media holiday calendar and Clear Voice for ideas.
Make note of events such as:
○ Seasonal celebrations
○ National/local holidays
○ Commercial events such as Black Friday sales
○ Holidays and celebrations*
Map these out on your calendar and watch it fill up in no time.
Step 3: Use your content pillars
It’s time to make those content pillars work for you. Take your 5 content pillars, and select which pillar you will focus on. I recommend focusing on 1 content pillar for a series of posts.
Next, list content ideas—the subtopics under your pillar—that match up with your marketing goal for the month.
Research shows that your audience needs to see the core message 7 times before they will absorb it so you can say the same things, just make sure you use a variety of examples and vary the type of content you produce to keep things fresh.
Bonus! Useful tools for content ideas:
● Answer the Public
● Hubspot Blog Topic generator
● Ubersuggest Content Idea Generator
● Portents Idea Generator
Step 4: Split into evergreen and seasonal content
We covered seasonal content but there’s another type of content to consider. Evergreen content is content with no expiry date and often, this is where you get to tell your audience more about your brand.
Here are some examples to get you going:
- How to use your product
- Why you started your business
- Quotes that communicate your brand values
- Case Studies
You want to have a mix of evergreen and seasonal content for a well-rounded content marketing plan.
To see what this looks like in practice, let’s take a look at Amy’s content:
○ Guides on weight management
○ Quotes/testimonials from previous clients
○ Meal Planning checklist
○ Services offered
○ 2023 key trends
○ Seasonal produce and how to use it
○ Content to sell new kickstarter package
Let’s sum up to bring it all together
1. Choose one business/marketing goal for the month
2. Identify seasonal events to capitalise on
3. Write to your content pillar themes and topics
4. Balance Evergreen and Seasonal content
Top 5 Biggest Takeaways
1. Take time to research and articulate your customer personas
Information is the best place to start. To best use the steps I’ve outlined in this article, start with setting up your Ideal Customer Persona. I have a handy guide with everything you need to do this here.
2. Develop your core content pillars and topics
Having an overview of how the topics you create content on will help you gain a clear direction for your content marketing and you’ll come across as a confident expert. It’s a win-win!
3. Establish a goal for your content for more purpose and direction
Working with a defined monthly goal will reduce the time you take to execute your content marketing and you’ll see the effects of your digital marketing sooner.
4. Use content pillars and layer on top seasonal events and promotional messaging
Balance your content and give your followers variety while maintaining your brand voice.
5. Find tools and a template that work for you to make the process easier
The best template is the one you use consistently. Whether it’s Digital Direction’s content planning template or one that you devise, use it consistently and keep on the lookout for more tools.
Need more support?
Would you like some help developing your own content pillars and topics? Book a 15 minute discovery call to see how we can work together.