We all hear it, Content is king.
We all know it is important to the health of our online business, and we all know it is a key traffic driver to our website right?
So each year at the start of the year, we dive in and our intentions are strong and then…..
The year somehow ends and we reflect on the status of our website metrics and realise that
- We started strong and then petered out.
- We were all over the place.
- We didn’t reflect on our numbers at all, but we start the new year with the same strong intentions but repeat this cycle of no achievement again!
So rather than
- start and lose momentum or
- Be haphazard in our approach and waste time or
- Not learn from what happened last year and repeat the same mistakes
Let’s start 2017 in the way you want to continue all year.
This is totally doable and I am going to share with you how I do this.
If you didn’t read my post on the 7 things you need to know before you start preparing your content plan for 2017 - STOP and go here now.
OK all caught up? Great!
First up, I am not a big fan of overcommitting to a schedule that is unrealistic in the amount of content that you produce. I am also not a big fan of people who say - ‘I have no time’.
Using no time as an excuse to not create content consistently over a set period is the worst possible excuse to use as well as the most common one I hear.
People say to me all the time, how do you do it, how do you post on social media so much, send out so many emails, create so many blog posts etc etc. Well firstly - it is my job to do that, I am a digital strategist so it is part and parcel of what I do in my job to produce content. That is why I do so much of it.
Am I saying you need to do that? Hell no!
As a small business owner, you do not need to produce anywhere near as much content as me. Even a marketer within an organisation does not need to produce as much content as me. Why? Because you only need to focus your energy in those areas that
- are where your customers like to hang out
- where you are likely to receive the most bang for your buck
- Are structured around your business needs
My business needs me to be super active in multiple areas as I teach people how to use those areas to maximum effect. I touch many businesses so I need to be skilled in many areas to help them.
But back to you, what can you do to make this happen? If you accept that content marketing is a key plank of your digital strategy, then you need to get serious about putting a plan in place. You need to ditch the time excuse and focus your mind on a few simple strategies and steps that will make creating a content plan a piece of cake.
You heard that right - it can be a piece of cake and who doesn’t like cake!
This is how I do it - and I personally think anyone can follow this plan. I am notoriously lazy about details, that is why I know that anyone can implement this approach in their business. If you want to grow traffic, leads, email lists, sales then do the following.
Stage 1 of a Content Plan
1. Grab 4 pieces of paper and a pen if you prefer to doodle and scribble like me. I find the creative process works better with pen and paper first and then you can transfer all of your information to a word document when it is completed.
2. Write down the first 3 months of the year on your first sheet, then the next 3 months etc until the entire 12 months of the year are written down and then within each section create these headings down the side of your paper within each month
- Business Goal that it relates to
- Key dates
Drop into appropriate months any seasonal topics that you know you need to cover off for you business. This could be things like End of Financial Year, Business Planning, Christmas Sales, Mother’s Day, Trade Shows, Field Days, Start of New Financial Year - whatever seasonal activities you KNOW you do each year, put those items in first so that you have them covered off
Look at your gaps. How many months are vacant? Now think about your products or services and drop into the empty months a topic heading from your products or services until you have all the months completed. If you feel that some of your topics could spread over a couple of months do that. If you know you have a break in January - leave it blank.
Great - Stage 1 of your content plan is done. If you need your business partner, your boss or your team to look at your calendar, show them and get input. When everyone is happy with your overarching topics, then you are ready for Stage 2.
Stage 2 of your Content Plan
Now we break down the year into quarters, so you will be working in 4 90-day sprints. So you will need to diarise when you look at your 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter and 4th quarter. This is really important otherwise you will be repeating your mistake from this year of starting strong and petering out.
Don’t do that!
So in Stage 2 - we are going to fill up the first 90 day sprint with what we plan to do over these 3 months but filling in the subsections for each month - Business Goal, Key Dates/Milestones, Activities
So think about your business goals? What are they? What are you looking to achieve this coming year? Now look at your monthly topics and match up where you can for these first 3 months. Are you content plans and business goals in sync? If not, why not? Do you need to review your topic headings again?
What you are going to do now is to write down a business goal that fits with your topic. Then you are going to drop in any key dates or milestones that need to occur to make sure that whatever you do in this section will occur ( ie graphic design work, filming, additional staff to create content, partners to help etc)
Now you need to look at your activities for this month. These activities will be things like email newsletters, blog posts, social media posts, videos, webinars, podcasts, downloads, content upgrades. Before you have a heart attack, you are only going to drop in here what you KNOW you can actually do or you might be able to prepare/invest to do.
So on your document this might be
- 2x email newsletters
- 2x blog posts
- 20x social media posts ( Facebook only )
- 5x LinkedIn posts (picked from your Facebook ones)
- 2x articles inside LinkedIn (a straight copy of your blog post, tied to your personal account if you are the owner or to your boss if they are the owner)
Some months you might have more - you could introduce a video to share. You might create a discount code to share and promote, you might have a webinar you have scheduled.
Whatever it is you think you might do in the first 90 days, just focus on filling out those first 3 months.
Got January, February and March sorted? Fantastic! Fill in your second 90 day sprint now.
You will need to come back in April to complete the second half of the year. I find it too difficult to do the entire year at a deeper level in one go. Remember though you have already labelled your topics, so you need to commit to those more or less now so that you know you have covered off your entire business offer over the year ahead.
Stage 3 of your Content Plan
Stage 3 - transfer all of this into your diary/task planner/trello/asana/google calendar wherever it is that you drop in your work tasks, as this is just a work tasks, like all the other work tasks you do. It is however a super important.
I find that this works best when I am completing this work in about week 2 or 3 of the month before it is due. In the 3rd week of January, I start to get February content ready.
You should sit down and do ALL of this monthly content more or less in one go, or split into 2 sessions but no more. You need to drop this into your work schedule just like you do ALL of your work tasks. If you know that you sit down 1 day a month to do your BAS, then you also need to sit down 1 day a month to create your content. This batching approach is the most efficient method I know to get this essential work done.
- No time is just an excuse - do you use that with the ATO? They expect you to do this and find the time, it is just once a month
- No skills is just an excuse - do you use that with the ATO? No you work out how to use Xero or you outsource it
- Too busy with work - do you use that with the ATO? No, you make time in your schedule to do this, it becomes part of what you do.
Once you have transferred this into your calendar you can sit back and then just wait until your calendar sends you a little ping to say it is content day!
Received that task alert? Great - you are now ready for Stage 4, which is where you create the content for the month in question.
Stage 4 of your Content Plan
Breathe easy - the hard part has more or less been done, which is what will be my topic and what will I do. Now you can just write about what you know and share that with your audience.
Because you have already broken down what it is you are going to do and talk about, the actual process of content creation becomes so much easier and more strategic. You can start to see efficiencies in your preparation as you will have better flow - your mind will be focussed on the content you need to work on and just that. (Worried about how creative you actually are or aren’t, don’t worry! I have you covered in next week’s post on Content Creation for the Non-Creative)
So for this month, depending on what you have put into your plan, create that content.
- Write your 2 blog posts
- Create your newsletters that tie directly to your blog posts
- Create a series of social media posts using quotes from your blog posts or newsletters
- Find helpful content online that fits with your monthly theme.
You are now ready for Stage 5 - scheduling your content.
Stage 5 of your Content Plan
This is the real key to how I produce and get out the huge amount of content that you expect from a digital strategist. I schedule my content. Once all my content is written and all the graphics are created this is what I do, I schedule it all.
This is critical and this is how you will be able to maintain a consistent content marketing plan that you will stick to, that will deliver results and won’t drive you crazy.
Schedule it a month or a week at a time.
- I use Sendible to schedule all of my social media content across all of my channels, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, twitter.
- I use Later to schedule my Instagram posts
- I type in my blog posts in advance and set them to be released on the Tuesday that they go live
- I create my email marketing campaigns and have them ready to go on the Tuesday that they need to be sent.
The only work I do as it is needed are my repurposed articles to LinkedIn as well as posts to Pinterest, I do those after my blog posts have gone live. I have that as a diary note for me to do.
Is this alot of work?
No. It truly isn’t.
It just requires a little discipline, but all of this work can easily be done in the day I set aside for content creation according to my content marketing plan. And I have a significant amount of content that I create.
By being organised like this, I achieve the following
- Freed up time to engage with my audience
- Ability to focus on reviewing and tracking the outcomes of my content
- Achievement of my digital strategy and business goals
- Less stress in my life as I know what I am doing in advance.
- More time in my work month to plan more broadly
- The ability to pivot my focus as needed by the needs of my business.
Next week I will have the final post in this 3 month series on Content Marketing planning. I will be outlining for you how I actually create the content that gets pushed out according to my schedule.
So I will be sharing blog post frameworks, graphic creation ninja tips and the tricks to repurposing content like a pro!
Join me then!