Sharon Tanton shows how to nail your content planning in three deliberate ways. Illustrations by Lizzie Everard.
You know that good content is the heart of great marketing today, but how do you get into action? What steps do you take to get up and running with content marketing? In the Land of Content there are many pathways and perils between your starting point in the Vale of Good Intentions, and your destination point – Bountiful Bay. That’s where you’ll be pulling in inbound leads by creating marketing that people love. Your journey will be smoother if you do some hard thinking on Pow Wow Plain first.
You need to begin with a content strategy, but what does that actually involve, and what are the steps you take once you’ve nailed the strategy? Creating and implementing a content strategy covers a series of activities that fall into three distinct phases, like the acts of a play. Like many good stories there’s a beginning full of hope, a perilous middle and an ending where you’ll live happily ever after.
You’re the hero of this story. Understanding the stages will make it easier for you to find your way in Act 1, navigate the tricky middle section and build your own “Happily Ever After” in the final act. So dim the lights, raise the curtain. “Content Marketing: A Three-Act Play” is about to begin.
Act 1: Making content marketing work
Our show opens on Pow Wow Plain – the place for some clear strategic thinking. You’re wearing a pith helmet. Exploration is your motivation for this opening scene. A carefully thought-through and written-up content strategy is your goal. (The pith helmet suits you, by the way.)
You’re at the start of a quest to find the answers that will unlock your story and show you the pathway to content enlightenment. All the information you need to create your content strategy is out there; it’s up to you to find it.
There’s work to do on your own business goals. What do you want your content to do for you? Who are the clients you really want to work with? What work is most fulfilling, both financially and happiness-wise? Why are you in business? What’s the change you want to make in the world? What’s your mission?
And there’s work to do listening to your customers. If you want to create content that connects it’s important that you understand their world and their challenges. What difference do you make? How do you help them? How do they describe your value?
Once you start questioning and listening, you discover that customer research is like panning for gold. You’ll uncover nuggets during this process that will form the foundations of your plan.
Putting together your new understanding of your business goals and your customers’ challenges leads you to uncover your content sweet spot. It helps you articulate your vision and purpose. During Act 1 you make a decision on the story you’re going to tell, the content you need to create, and how you’re going to share it with the world. You emerge from all the talking, listening and thinking with your content strategy documented, and the plot for your website and marketing content agreed.
The scene ends with you gazing along Wisdom Way towards Bountiful Bay with a clear plan in hand.
Act 2: Constructing your content plan
Act 2 opens at the start of Wisdom Way. You’ve moved into the construction phase. Gone is your explorer’s headgear, replaced by a hard hat. Act 2 is all about building your digital platform. It’s time to put your plan into action.
The discoveries you made in Act 1 will almost certainly have implications for your website. Whether it’s a fairly cosmetic affair of changing some of the wording on your website to make your services clearer, or a complete redesign so that you can share valuable content, there will be actions that you need to take to turn your website into the lead generating, credibility boosting, trust building machine you’ve planned. You’ll need to keep your wits about you as you navigate the tasks of putting your plan into gear.
There are many obstacles during this construction phase. After all the work putting together the strategy and the plan it’s easy to get sucked back into business as usual. Don’t get waylaid in Procrastination Lane. Be prepared for hold-ups in Nightmare Team Mews. A new digital platform is a change project, so be prepared for a bumpy ride.
Make sure you stick to the plan and implement the changes. Stay on top of it. You know what you need to do.
But, first, here are some words of advice for Act 2. There’s a lot to manage as you get your website and digital platform ready. Here are a few tips to keep you on track:
- Invest in this phase, and accept that it will almost certainly take longer than you think to get through.
- Put a team together to help you get it all done.
- Share the content strategy and plan with your people, and paint a picture of what you’ll be achieving together so they’re motivated to get stuck in.
- Get web designers on the case who understand marketing with content.
- Seek help with writing the web copy if that’s not your strongest card.
- Divide up the blogs etc on the content calendar among your team (or plan a manageable schedule for yourself if you’re a one-person band).
- Start getting your newsletter list together, if you don’t already have one. A way of keeping in touch with people until they’re ready to buy is an essential part of your digital platform.
- Use this construction phase to get your digital marketing platform and team poised and ready to go. That might mean practising your podcasting skills if Act 1 taught you that your ideal customers look for content to listen to as well as watch or read. Or find video partners, if videos are going to be part of your content mix.
- Make a plan for how you’re going to engage on the relevant social media platforms and get started.
- Skill up your own people where they need help, and give them time to create the content you’ve planned.
Your website is at the heart of your digital marketing universe, so it’s got to be good. But don’t get so hung up on perfection that you get stuck at the final stage, full of doubts that it’s just not good enough. If you find yourself in Self-Doubt Tavern, check out quickly. There’s no such thing as a perfect website. Accept that yours will always be a work in progress. It will evolve and that’s fine.
Get your platform in place and get ready for the final act – the non-stop content party!
Act 3: Organising the strategy party
Congratulations. You’re well on the way to Bountiful Bay and Act 3 is party time! You know what your customers want, you understand their challenges and what they want most from you.
The recipe for the perfect cocktail of content is in your hands, and with your digital platform in place, you’ve got a way of sharing it with the world. So shake it up and pour it out, and keep it coming. With blogs, videos and guides going out, people start finding you online. Relationships start to build. Use your content to strengthen those relationships still further. Be more helpful. Keep sharing valuable and entertaining content. Keep talking, keep listening and learn from what works.
Give yourself and your team the time for content creation and sharing and keep your community of followers coming back for more. Turn visitors into your regulars at Bountiful Bay. Cheers!
How will you get into action?
First, recognise where you are in the Land of Content. Just heading out? Then begin with the content strategy process – put on your pith helmet and start exploring. If you’ve listened to your customers, and you’re clear on your business goals, write up your strategy and your plan and get building your digital platform. You’re ready for Act 2.
If you feel like you’ve been in Construction phase forever, don’t lose heart. Website projects are notoriously tricky to manage, especially when you’ve got lots of other things on your plate. Maintain your drive to get it finished. Avoid Procrastination Avenue. Don’t get locked into Self-Doubt Tavern. Hold your vision of Bountiful Bay clearly in mind and keep going.
If you’re in Bountiful Bay, congratulations!
Note: This article was first published on the Valuable Content blog.