The thing about “marketing” is that it’s a word that covers a BROAD topic. There are SO MANY DIFFERENT tactics and actions that fall under “marketing” which can sometimes create a bit of confusion. A lot of people tend to use the same phrasing to refer to different things. For example, content marketing is a type of marketing, but not all marketing is content marketing!
When it comes to doing content marketing right, you need a strategy, a plan, and a calendar because content strategy isn’t the same as a content plan which isn’t the same as a content calendar. Confused yet? No worries because this blog post is all about making it clear … so keep reading!
It’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we mention “content marketing,” so to start, let’s look at the definition provided by the Content Marketing Institute: Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Examples of content marketing include:
- Social media posts
- Lead generators (“freebies”)
- Case studies
- White papers
- Etc. …
But, without a strategy and a plan, content marketing can easily become the equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it’ll stick. It’s not efficient and it gets messy quickly!
In a nutshell, your content strategy defines how and why content will be used to achieve the set marketing goals (which, of course, are designed to help achieve the over-arching business goals.)
The most crucial thing to remember is that it’s best to approach content marketing more like a marathon than a sprint. Your strategy will lay out the path that will take you where you want to end up. The reality is, it could take 6 or 12 months to get where you want to be, especially if you are relying on strictly organic results (vs Pay Per Click (PPC), for example.)
It’s important to remember that your target audience is comprised of people. People who need to be nurtured, engaged, and respected — over time — if you want to gain the “know, like, trust” factor which leads ultimately to them converting to a customer and buying what you’re offering.
The benefits (ROI) of playing a long game with content marketing can be great, but it is dependent on you consistently creating valuable content that rests on a clear strategy. With this approach, you can …
- Achieve ranking in Google
- Build trust with consumers
- Earn new leads
- Convert leads into customers/clients
Your strategy is the guideposts you follow to stay on the path which leads to the end result you want. Your strategy should include research, your goals, and the messages and themes you want to convey to your audience. Having a strategy that you can refer back to keeps you on the path. When new ideas pop up, the strategy will let you know if that idea supports the strategy or if it’s an idea that needs to be kept for another time. It helps prevent those reactionary decisions/tactics/actions that can occur when trying to solve a problem but that don’t support or serve the overall objectives.
Let’s look at themes as a way to understand how strategy can guide your content marketing efforts. By creating “themes,” you can then identify the topics and subjects that fall inside those themes (in your planning stage). For example, here at MACG, we could decide on the following themes: Branding, Websites, Blogging, and Email Marketing. We may assign each theme to a Quarter. This helps decide what content needs to be created for our blog, emails, and social media.
Our strategy could be to focus on first gaining new branding clients, then converting some to website clients while also attracting new. Then, the strategy lays out how we then need to move to focusing on gaining blogging and email marketing clients. One theme flows into the next.
See how a strategy like this can create the steps along the path?
Once you have the strategy in place, it’s time to create the plan. Your content plan is when you decide …
- What you’re going to do
- When you’re going to do it
- Where you’re going to do it
Using the example above, we’ll look at one of our themes, let’s say Branding, and then identify all the topics that could fall under it. You quickly will see there are a LOT of topic options! Everything from how to choose a brand designer, to the steps you follow in the process, to color theory, to what questions to ask and answer before starting a branding project, or even how do you know when it’s time to refresh or rebrand? And the options continue on …
Then, you take those topics and decide what format is the best way (given who your audience is and where they show up) to convey your knowledge about those topics to your audience. You decide …
- What (blog, email, social media, video, webinar, speaking, etc) you’re going to do
- When you’ll do it (e.g.: i it’s for Q1, is it in week 1 or week 8?, etc)
- Where you’ll do it (the what helps determine the where, but please note — you do NOT have to be on ALL the platforms!)
Once you have this mapped out, it’s time to start putting it all into an editorial calendar.
Content Calendar (a.k.a. Editorial or Digital Marketing Calendar)
An editorial calendar can help you, and everyone else who’s involved, keep on track to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. It becomes both the warehouse and the distribution center of your content. A good calendar system will include the actual messaging/copy content, graphics, URLs (links), videos, etc that will be posted for each of your channels, as well as the exact dates for when to publish.
An effective calendar allows you to follow the plan and share content that reflects and supports your brand … which builds your following and then assists in converting those followers and fans into customers. (Our 11 Reasons to Use an Editorial Calendar gets into more detail, so check it out.)
Once you’ve set expectations with your audience, you’ve got to maintain them. If you start out emailing once a week, but then stop for a month, you start to lose credibility. A content calendar can help keep you on track because you’re never sitting down with no idea what you’re writing or creating. The plan lays it out for you and the calendar is where it’s captured, waiting for you to put it into the format you decided upon.
A calendar also allows you to schedule your content out ahead of time. This saves you time, but it also means you won’t miss time-senstive communications, say the launch of a new program or product.
And a calendar also means you can more easily access content you shared last month or last year. Repurposing content is a great time saver! (Again, read 11 Reasons to Use an Editorial Calendar to learn more about why using an Editorial Calendar is a good idea.)
Putting it All Together
If the prospect of creating a content strategy then a content plan and then a content calendar is overwhelming, we’re here to help. Or maybe you love the strategy and planning part, but writing and creating content is too much … we can be your content writing partner. Whether it’s help with a piece of it or the whole shebang, we love helping our clients reach their ideal audience through high-value content.
If you’re simply curious or you’re ready to get some help, schedule a call with Deb and let’s see how we can make this all a lot easier for you.