Inspiration for content marketers is never far. With new reports, industry changes, and growing business needs happening every day, content writers can be prolific. In fact, 70% of organizations said they expect to create more content this year, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).
Budgets for content marketing are growing as well, representing even more opportunity. But it is still possible for content creators to run into a big challenge: What to create next? It’s a critical question and one that requires some strategic planning ahead of time. Almost 50% of organizations who report that their content marketing is unsuccessful point to problems with the content creation process as a reason for the failure, according to the CMI.
And who is asking this question about what to create next? Oftentimes, it’s just one person at an organization who is in charge of creating content. 55% of organizations report that only a small or one-person team serves all content needs, according to the CMI.
That small team, or in some cases, one person, is likely to be busy all the time. Is that person you? How can you be more strategic about content planning and creation? Being more strategic means more content gets used. But right now, according to SiriusDecisions, 70% of content isn’t being used!
In this blog post, find out how to plan ahead for everything when it comes to content creation, including where to get ideas, what to do with content once it’s done, and ways to make content more effective throughout the process.
1. Where are you going to get an idea for a new content piece?
So where do creative content marketers often get their ideas?
Look at your website analytics. Use these to determine what topics get more attention:
- Look into the ‘long tail’ of website search activity, where you can find actual questions people have typed into the search bar and used to find your site. Then you can answer those questions with your content.
- Checking website activity also lets you see what kind of content works best, such as how-tos or more graphical content.
- You can check your social media channels to see if people are asking questions or talking about your organization and then write content around that conversation.
- Analyze your email marketing in the same way, and see what content types and topics get the most engagement.
Get ideas from your co-workers.
- Discuss your product roadmap with your development team so you can plan content that will be needed for new messaging ahead of time.
- Talk to your sales team – after all, they engage with your audience every single day. Even something as simple as attending a sales demo can often provide great insight into what your potential buyers are thinking about.
- Share content with your entire organization, whether in an internal newsletter or some other form of communication. Doing this makes your content more visible, which will invite others to provide feedback and possibly new ideas you might never have thought of otherwise.
Do a content audit.A marketing content audit lets you see the existing scope of your content, evaluate the performance of that content, and find gaps in both of these. Locating these gaps will help you get ideas for content and prioritize your content creation efforts.
Track news and trends about your industry.
Tracking news and trends will alert you to new studies available, which can provide ideas, statistics and insights that you can include in your content with attribution. For example, if a new trend is emerging, you can write a blog post about it with your perspective on the topic. Google alerts is a perfect way to receive this information via email. Subscribe to newsletters that are offered by news websites in your industry as well. Aggregation sites like alltop.com are also useful for searching for the most popular news articles on a specific topic. Keep this information handy for when you are ready to write.
2. Who is this content piece for?
According to the CMI, 69% of organizations prioritize creating content for audiences versus content creation that just builds their brand. This is good news for content marketers, who can better prioritize their audiences when planning content.
47% of organizations say they use personas, according to the CMI. Does your organization use personas, and if so, can you determine what personas will be targeted with a particular content idea?
If you are not sure who a content piece is for, it’s important to regroup and assess who your audience is going to be. The CMI found that the top three ways marketers learn about audiences are, in order of importance, website analysis, keyword searching done by visitors, and employee feedback.
3. What content type are you building?
You may already know what format you want to use, such as ebook, infographic, research report, presentation, etc. But sometimes when you are working with a topic, you aren’t sure what the piece will look like until you start working on it. For that scenario, it’s helpful to know what content types work for different sales stages, audiences, and industries.
We analyzed a recent research survey with over a million content shares and views to see what content types were the most effective. We found that the most reliable content types at any sales stage were datasheets, presentations, and implementation guides. We also found:
- Blog posts, case studies, and videos are more likely to be read or viewed at later stages in the sales cycle.
- Ebooks are popular with both technology and non-technology companies. In contrast, videos are more popular with non-technology companies, but technology companies are more likely to read white papers and buyer’s guides.
- More senior-level buyers want to see videos, datasheets, and implementation guides. Junior-level buyers are interested in buyer’s guides, case studies, and white papers and are slightly more interested in blog posts.
4. How will you measure success of your content piece?
What’s the goal of your content piece? Determining this should be part of the content creation process, not an afterthought. Perhaps it’s an increase in lead, or brand awareness, or to keep your produce or service top of mind for potential buyers via lead nurturing. Whatever your goal is, have a way to measure it established before you ever publish. Lacking visibility into content performance is a common problem. Of organizations surveyed, 32% said they have problems with content measurement, according to the CMI.
A great way to measure direct ROI is through sales enablement tools. Once you give your content to sales, they are using it with an audience of potential buyers. Each time sales shares a content piece, and each time a potential buyer engages with it, you will want to know so you can measure this activity. This measurement gives you insight into ROI that is extremely valuable when you are trying to ask for content marketing budget. Sales enablement tools track sales shares and buyer engagement so you can see what is working and what isn’t. Then you can plan better content in the future.
5. How will you alert internal audiences about this new content piece?
There may be audiences internally who would benefit from knowing about your new content, but probably the most important one is the sales team. Sales should be the #1 champion of your content.
The problem is, sales reps often don’t know where to find content, and they end up spending too much time looking for it or creating it themselves. That’s why only 30% of content gets used. When you create new content, have a plan for sales to use it. In order to better alert sales about new marketing content, use a sales enablement tool.
A sales enablement tool will seamlessly show sales team members what sales stage your content piece should be used in, or other tags that you want to use, like industry or seniority. It will also use predictive analytics to show sales team members what content works in different sales scenarios. So if a new content piece is being engaged with by prospects, that data is applied so all sales team members will know it’s a successful piece and when to share it.
6. Which channels will you publish the content piece in?
After you have the idea narrowed down but before you start to create a content piece, consider where it will be published on your marketing channels. A few ways you can plan your content distribution are:
- Routing sheets – Do you need to create a routing sheet, which lists every possible channel? This is helpful if you have a lot of channels, but each piece of content needs to be treated differently. Then when your content is ready, simply use the routing sheet template to check off what channels the content should be used in. The routing sheet will also provide a record of where a content piece was sent out, in case you ever need to refer back when edits are made and you need to replace it with a new version.
- External publication – Is there a good opportunity for you to publish this piece externally on an industry website or partner website where it will be seen by prospective buyers? In this case, you may want to work with that website or partner beforehand to give them the opportunity to publish it first. Begin planning for this during content creation, not after, so you will be able to more quickly get the piece published once it’s ready.
Final thoughts on strategic content planning:
The goal of this content creation and planning strategy is to help you better contribute to your organization’s revenue through more effective content marketing. Remember to go outside of your immediate marketing area to work with others in your organization for content ideas. Collaborate with your sales team to get more content used in the sales process. Get ahead, stay ahead, and avoid drowning in daily tasks. Using these steps when you start a new content piece will help you be more strategic in your role.