Who needs a plan?


“A plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel” – E Blackadder

In a recent survey we carried out on content marketing, fewer than one in ten firms said they have a documented content marketing plan that everyone adheres to. Worrying.

The majority of firms (62%) said they are ‘working on’ their plans, while 15% admitted they have no plan at all. Scary.

The survey also backed up our suspicion that for many firms, the content marketing plan only exists in the heads of the marketing team or, perhaps worse, is documented but then shut away in a desk drawer to gather dust. Wasteful.

And it’s not just our survey – according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 benchmark report, 36% of all UK marketers do not have a documented plan and 11% have no plan at all.

Here are some things to think about before working on yours for next year.

Make sure there’s action in your action plan
The most important thing to remember about content marketing plans is to actually have one! And then make sure you don’t leave out anything important.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s definition, content marketing is first and foremost a process. This is an important word. It’s strategic not reactive; it suggests a road map to a shared goal. It implies smart and rigorous planning.

Build in some slack and flexibility
Have a plan B, and C, and D…

If the recent US election has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected, or at least be prepared to respond to it. Yes, you’ll need an editorial calendar built around the annual cycle of events important to you client base. You’ll need a regular schedule of ‘hero’, ‘hub’ and ‘hygiene’ content.

But you also need to keep a keen eye on the news agenda and be flexible enough to respond to events and issues around you.

Clearly define your audience
Always be audience-specific. Always be relevant. Does this really need saying? Well, yes, in our experience it probably does. Too many businesses seem to be wedded to the megaphone approach.

But there’s no point shouting in a metaphorical empty room – or even a crowded room if the people in it aren’t interested in what you’re saying!

If you can’t put yourself in your audience’s shoes, find someone in your organisation who can – or better still, go and ask the audience.

Work the channels
It’s noisy out there. So harnessing relevant content and sharing it in compelling and digestible ways is the goal. 

Once you’re clear on who you want to talk to, make sure you have appropriate conversations in the right environment. It’s not just what you say and how you say it, it’s where and when. 

Look at all the options to get your content seen and heard in the right places. And make sure your content format matches the channel.

Remember that your audience is on a journey to becoming someone’s client – whoever that ends up being – so help them by mapping your content and channels on to their journey.

Measure it – ideally in monetary terms
Anyone can measure clicks, likes, re-tweets, impressions or downloads.

These may be important metrics, but the real return on investment in content that most of your fee earners will be interested in will be measured in cold, hard cash.

Don’t forget the end-game: driving profitable customer action. 

Have an idea generating machine
Coming up with great content ideas is a creative process, but it’s still a process – it doesn’t happen by chance. 

So you need a systematic approach to identifying the hot topics that will push your audience’s buttons. And this needs to take account not just of the client’s perspective, what’s happening in the external environment and the intellectual capital of your people but, critically, what your competitors are doing.   

Identify your content barriers
Finally, while you’re developing an actionable plan, don’t forget about the things that might put a spanner in the works when it comes to implementation.

Best intentions usually get let down by a lack of one or more of the following: time, internal marketing resources, appropriate expertise in content creation or budget. 

The trick is to be honest with yourself and the rest of the organisation about which of these are insurmountable.  

So what’s the best content marketing framework model bringing all of this together in a plan? Our favourite, unsurprisingly, is one we made up ourselves. It’s called the Content Engine and if you’d like to know more about it, please get in touch.