How to create a simple content marketing plan for non-marketers

In my last newsletter I spoke about how planning a great holiday is just like planning your digital marketing. Did you miss it - you can read it here

So in this week’s blog, I am focussing on how you can create a great content marketing plan that aligns with the above and is simple for you to do!

Yes SIMPLE.

I have outlined some of my thoughts around this in this previous blog post - Creating a content plan can be a piece of cake! (Find out how), but feedback I have received meant people were looking for a more structured approach with templates to make that happen - something more appropriate for the non-marketers amongst us..

These days the core of any online marketing strategy is to effectively communicate to your ideal customers and your current customers. 

That is it - that is all you are trying to do. 

Not sharing recipes ( unless you are into health & fitness) not showing your work christmas party, not sharing your gym sessions unless they are in alignment with your personal brand focussing on goal setting and achievements. Not making up stuff that you see online, not copying stuff you think you need to do. 

So what are you communicating to them? 

You are simply communicating to them what it is you sell or offer that meets a need for them in their life. As part of that you are looking to build a connection to them so that they listen when you speak. 

Nothing more or nothing less. 

So don’t think you need to be deviating from what your zone of genius actually is. 

Wait - zone of genius - what the hell is that? 

It is what you know, right now in your business. It is what you share without thinking when people email or ring you in your business.  So when you think about how you might structure content to share with your customers over an entire year - it is that stuff you need to be sharing.

Plus you need to bundle it up into what I like to call the 3 E’s of content marketing

  • Content that educates them - you want them to understand what it is you do and how you want to help them solve their problem
  • Content that entertains them - we want to spark an interest in them. Even the most staid university lecturer will spice up a lecture with some humour - this helps to build connection and encourage that people are open to our message. It is a great icebreaker
  • Content that entices them to interact with you - we need to be mindful of inviting our customers to interact with us. Ask questions of them, point them in the direction of our offers, bring our real world marketing approach to the online world - don’t think people will click without you asking them too. 

So that makes sense when you read it on the page (well I hope it does!) but how do we actually deliver on that?

Well we do it in a very simple, structured way. I have created a series of templates and a workflow process to make this even easier for you.

This is how I do it and I have included a zip download that you can access here to make a start on this, today.

1. Align your business goals with potential marketing themes.

Don’t make things up randomly - what do you want to achieve this year, what do you sell, how can you structure ideas just around that. Are there seasonal factors that affect you? Are there trends that affect your business? What are the actual pain points of your customers?

Are the creative juices flowing yet? You should be able to write down at least 10 marketing themes to take you through an entire year (be realistic in all things - if you can do 12 - you are awesome )

Now look at your year and decide in what month are you going to focus on what thing - you may find that you repeat themes throughout the year, not all of us have 10-12 different things to focus on. This approach is the key to always having something to say or share, don’t make it random.

Make it strategic. Social media and content marketing is no less authentic, just because it is planned. Spontaneity does not drive sales - not one dollar. Remember that, not in a long term sustainable way.

2. Flesh out talking points, create an inspiration list

When you have these overarching themes, you can then start to bullet point ideas for blog posts, email newsletters, marketing campaigns, social media posts as well as research what your competitors and thought leaders in your space are already saying about these items.

You may have heard the term swipe file, that is where you jot down all of these ideas. I like to think of this as inspiration. These may come to you randomly in the shower, out walking or during a Friday night wine down with your partner.  Maybe you need to just stop everything and have a half day planning session to collate as many ideas you can?

You will draw from this well of ideas over the course of the year. As well as add to it.

3. Create a monthly content plan

Look at your yearly plan and take your first 3 months. Now you need to start fleshing out what you are going to actually do over the course of a month.

Before you panic - you do not need to have something planned for every day apart from reviewing & answering any social media comments ( and you will be notified if they come in).

So I am not suggesting that you have 90 different things to do over 3 months. Far from it! I just want you to look at the theme for the month and plan what kind of content you need to have ready to share and when. Think blog posts, email newsletters, articles from others you can share on your channels. Graphics you might need to create.

All the while thinking about how this meets both the needs of your business goals and solves the problems of your clients.

Does it meet these 2 criteria - great - include it, if not, why are you bothering…

Grab my monthly marketing template now.

4. Write down & execute your Weekly Action Plan

OK - so now we have our plan,  we can focus on executing it and this is via weekly tasks we set ourselves.  You will find that now you have completed steps 1, 2 & 3 that this becomes really easy.

Like really easy….

The hardest part about online marketing is often the feeling business owners and marketers have around finding time to do it. This overwhelmed feeling starting in the pit of your stomach because you are frustrated knowing you should be doing it, but have no idea what to do.

Can you relate to these scenarios?

Staring a blank screen on a Monday night thinking I need to send a newsletter out, I need to make sales but you have no idea what to write.

Or

What about getting frustrated with Facebook because no-one is liking your posts anymore, no-one comments and you have no idea if it is helping you sell anything.

Or

You know you need to grow your email marketing list - but you have no idea how to grow it past your current 99 people…. All of whom are NOT your idea client?

Having a content plan in place means that you will always have something to write, something to say and the time to say it. You will feel like you are doing less when in fact you will actually be producing more content, but it will feel easy.

Why?

Because the hard part of thinking up the topics is already done. This is how the pros do it, this is how I do it ( and I have way more channels than most business owners use, utilising way more platforms)

I am not advocating you do more in more areas, I am advocating you PLAN more.

It is not about being everywhere and doing everything, rather this is how you find time to focus on what is important. Taking time out to plan, knowing that you will recoup this time later will mean the quality of your content, from blogs to newsletters, to social media posts will just be better, more cohesive and more effective.

You can grab my weekly content planning guide here.

So how long should you budget to do this?

Here is the cold hard truth.

I think you need to spend at least a whole day planning out your year, your monthly themes, some inspirational talking points. You may be able to do this in less time, if you have a simple business model and only 1 or 2 social media channels to worry about then you should be able to do this in less than 1 day.

Then I think you need to allocate  2 half day sessions to planning out your first 90 day block.  You will then need to do this another 3 times this year. You may only need 1 session each time you do this. So that will be between 3-5 days over the course of the year devoted to planning.

I think you can do that..

Each week you then just need to execute your tasks as listed.

You do not need to do more than what you plan. This leaves time in your week for spontaneity if you like, but only after you execute your plan.

The longest time you will need each week be creating a blog post if that is in your weekly plan. Allocate about 1-2 hours per blog post, however you will then repurpose this content over the course of the week & month, making your social media posts even easier.  

So each week I am suggesting between 2-6 hours of marketing execution per week, with 6 hours being a week where you are creating a blog post and matching graphics. A normal small business would be around the 2-3 hours per week ( and I would suggest you do that in one bulk batching session)

Think you can do that? Sounding draconian? I like to see it as organised and I will elaborate more about this next week.

For now - hop to it!

If you want to find time in your business, if you want to reach your customers more effectively and sell to them more easily, this is how you do it.

So what are you waiting for?