4 Key Secrets to Success
- Don’t wing it. Randomized or “gut instinct” marketing tactics are often unsuccessful compared to those that are well thought out.
- Have a distinct goal. A content plan is only efficient if guidelines are clear and a common goal is agreed upon.
- Know your audience. Understanding consumer wants and needs will help you design a better content plan.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
This is a quote from one of literature’s most beloved characters, Bilbo Baggins, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Fellowship of the Ring.” In this scene, an aged Bilbo reflects on his many past adventures as his nephew Frodo Baggins listens.
In the series, both Hobbits embark on great adventures without much of a plan to guide them. The element of uncertainty makes for great storytelling, but not for great marketing. While the idea of just going with what “feels right” has its appeal, it doesn’t cut it when it comes to high-performing campaigns and brand management. This is why content planning is the secret to creating a detailed (and adventurous!) path to success.
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The Who, What & Why of Content Planning
Content planning refers to the process of creating objectives and workflows for a marketing asset or series of assets. It includes the development of content from ideation through execution and encompasses the creative stakeholders who will create the content. An effective content plan will allow you to prioritize tasks, stay organized, keep your messaging consistent and respond effectively to shifts in a campaign’s performance throughout its lifecycle.
Content planning involves a number of elements, including:
- Documenting production and content workflows: This ensures everyone is using the same process, which eliminates the risk of doubling work or creating roadblocks.
- Shared calendar: Much like having a shared map of a geographical region, a shared content calendar with high scheduling visibility across departments keeps everyone in sync and encourages dialogue.
- Human resources: Effective content planning requires a smooth onboarding and training process for employees. The clearer your process is from the get-go, the less friction you’ll encounter during high-stakes situations that require high levels of collaboration.
- Analytics and optimization: Tracking and measuring metrics as they evolve throughout a campaign — and in its aftermath — and applying those insights to content creation will allow for more strategic engagement with buyers and their pain points.
Having a clear content plan composed of uncluttered tools and systems keeps content powerful and distinctive. When your process is well-defined, it’s much easier to keep your feet on the ground and avoid getting swept off the path.
In addition to allowing content to shine from a marketing perspective, content planning also optimizes the time, talent and effort of the people generating said content. Workflow efficiencies resulting from distilled processes open space and time for creative brainstorming that would otherwise be eaten up by the inevitable roadblocks created by ambiguity.
But there’s more to having a successful content plan than just wanting one. Beyond the who and the what of content planning, as we’ve just described, we must consider the why.
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What Makes a Content Plan Successful?
The main objective of a content plan is to optimize the production of assets and ensure that all content produced aligns with business goals and an overarching content strategy. It is the bridge between strategy and execution.
A rigorously implemented plan allows leaders to entrust projects to teams throughout their organization, knowing that shared clarity around goals and systems will ensure proper execution. An organization might have the most brilliant strategies in mind but, without effective planning and execution, those ideas will be strangled in a bog of inefficiencies and scattered processes.
Put it this way: A content strategy without a content plan is like beginning a trek without a map or appropriate footwear. You might have a final destination in mind, but the means to get there — directions and reliable shoes — have been sorely overlooked.
The Unexpected Benefits of Content Planning
Beyond the obvious benefits of organization and delegation inherent to good content planning, there are unexpected benefits that can make a big difference.
- Key insights: Knowing your audience and their needs is key to ensure an impactful planning effort. Thoughtful content planning — which involves building a detailed buyer persona — will lead to higher customer engagement and feedback rates, providing valuable insights that boost acquisition and retention.
- Natural alignment: Smart content planning creates new opportunities for creative alignment across company departments. The clearer the vision and plan, the easier it is to ideate and dream big around that thesis.
- Maintaining and generating engagement: Content planning supports the visibility and legitimacy of a robust brand identity while allowing for the dynamism of distinctive ideas to be cycled in when optimal. Every piece of content is used iteratively and built upon, leading to increased reach and engagement. Audiences, even those previously leaning toward competitors, will be captivated by the continual stream fresh ideas circulating from a well-defined brand that owns its identity without being held hostage to it.
- Continual ROI: Unlike outbound marketing and paid advertising, the outcome of content planning has real staying power. As long as content assets are relevant (and properly engaged), they’ll be a driving force in achieving marketing success and generating conversions.
Content Planning: The Bridge Between Vision & Execution
“Not all who wander are lost,” said Gandalf, a wizard from Tolkien’s universe who befriended Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
In this quote, he meant that things are not always as they seem, and that searching is part of evolving. However, when applied to business practices, too much wandering gives way to uncertainty and the dreaded “random” aspects of marketing that clutter and cloud the path to successful, meaningful business operations.
An informed content plan removes the element of uncertainty from content operations and thereby opens many more paths to success. When you know where you want to go and how to get there, the adventure isn’t any less meaningful — it’s just more sure-footed.
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