Recognizing that content marketing is a discipline, even a lifecycle of activities, the second step in developing a content marketing strategy is planning. Step one is goal setting, so this post is going to assume you have already set clear goals and are ready to jump into content marketing planning mode.

Planning your content marketing campaign revolves around creating the right content, for the right audience, and distributing it in the right places at the right time.

  1. Defining your core audience – Who will you be creating the content for?
  2. Creating the right content – What type of content will you be publishing?
  3. Putting content in the right places – Where will you be distributing your masterpieces?

Defining your core audience

While it is tempting to adopt a “boil the ocean” (anyone with a pulse) approach to who you are trying to reach, the savvy marketer will distill a large audience of prospects and customers into individualized segments. This means you can plan for publishing different types of content for different types of buyers. Planning appropriate content for each of these segments will add breadth to your plan, but also allow you to go deeper in each segment and remain more focused.

Let’s consider breadth and depth for a moment. The breadth comes from the variety of customer categories, or segments, you sell into. Some segments may be synonymous with industry verticals. Depth represents the diversity of interests of your buyers and important influencers within each of those segments.

  • Segment your target audience. Not every content marketing piece will appeal to every prospect or customer.
  • Include content ideas that span far and wide (breadth). Variety is the spice of life.
  • Plan for mapping appropriate skills with requirements. Partnering with an agency may be required if you don’t have the skills internally (i.e., video, copywriting, graphic design, etc.)
  • When planning your content creation, involve creative contributions from a variety of employees from all parts of your organization, but have a centralized strategy and review process.

In the Altimeter Group’s report, Organizing for Content, there is a section outlining how larger enterprises need to designate a formalized content marketing coordinating hub (“center of excellence”) that coordinates content creation strategy between the marketing department and business units. Marketing is most likely orchestrating your content marketing strategy, with various employees tactically delivering on the creative content. Dismissing a centralized governing body could lead to a disorganized scattershot approach.

Creating the right content

Here’s the fun part. Planning the right content is going to mean putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and thinking about the challenges they are facing and the aspirations they have. The right content can come in a variety of flavors. Keep it authentic, authoritative, and worthy of sharing.

What are some of the business concerns that may be tangential, yet related, to your core product? Plan for content category themes and topics that could be associated with your brand and products. This may mean planning content that strays outside your traditional core product area, but this can be very successful when within the interests of your audience.

Case Study: In April 2013 Perrier launched a campaign to help associate its drinking water with being a party beverage option, where Perrier is facing stiff competition from alcoholic beverages. Perrier built a creative content campaign called Perrier Secret Place (a 90-minute interactive film that works like a video game) that invited visitors to vicariously experience the ultimate party through the eyes of 60 different characters living out different fantasies. The result? More than 12 million “lives” were lived via the party characters.

Although your company may not have the budget to create a feature-length film, the idea is to think big, start small, and act now.

Putting content in the right places

You’ve defined your audience and you’ve planned your content themes. Now you need to find the right places to put your content. Identifying the best places for distributing your content will align with where your target audience spends time online. Adopt a testing mindset, and be prepared to pivot your content marketing distribution based on data and results.

  • Ask your customers where they spend their time and be there first
  • Allow your content distribution plan to pivot based on the results you are getting
  • Start modestly, and test vigorously

Content distribution can be accomplished through traditional channels as well as more avant-garde avenues. Examples of mainstream digital content marketing distribution are your website, email marketing, social media and search engine marketing. Increasingly, the constantly connected mindset is affecting how consumers snack on digital content, so having a mobile strategy wrapped around your content distribution plan will ensure you are reaching a fast-growing and engaged set of consumers.

Building key performance indicators into your content makes your content marketing efforts measurable and traceable back to engagement and conversion. This will ultimately lead to more revenue as you can focus on the most responsive platforms.

In Summary

Can you already envision your content creation opportunities expanding? Can you feel your brand evolving into a media company? Content marketing is a long-term project that requires cogent planning. But it doesn’t need to be a daunting task if you plan accordingly and take it one step at a time.

Dedicating the right people to the planning phase will ensure your organization develops a scalable and systematic approach to content marketing. Planning an effective content marketing strategy will help keep you and your organization on track for organizing an effective editorial calendar, the next step in the content marketing lifecycle.