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Content marketing is deceptively complex. On its surface, it may appear simple: create content, push it out into the world, and watch the leads pour in. However, in actual practice, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be synchronized for success. From strategy to execution to measurement, there is more involved than what immediately meets the eye.
This disconnect between expectations and reality can quickly derail an organization’s attempts to get started with content. When CMOs and client stakeholders lack a clear understanding of the strategy and workflow development required to achieve success, the results can easily fail to produce a measurable return on investment and keep those stakeholders happy.
Developing an understanding of how the complete content marketing process functions doesn’t have to be difficult though. Having an outline from start to finish illustrating how things work can help convince clients and stakeholders that success isn’t as simple as starting a blog, shooting some videos, or publishing an optimal number of social media posts.
In this blog post, you’ll get:
This is a high-level process summary that’ll take you from the beginning planning stages, all the way through to measurement and analysis. If this post offers the “what” and “why” around what needs to be done, then the links to more granular posts provide the “how” on executing each piece. Approach this as a bookmarkable hub, and remember, there’s no pressure to absorb all of this right away.
Executing effectively throughout this process isn’t easy. To help you on your journey, we’ve pulled together 30 free resources you can start using right now. This bundle includes templates, guides, worksheets, and more. There’s something for every part of your content marketing workflow, and we’d encourage you to download it now before moving on.
There are a lot of different models and maps charting out the content marketing process. For our purposes, we’ll break it down into the following five buckets:
At a high level, here’s what this all looks like in diagram form:
When writing this post, we realized that tackling the entire content planning, creation, promotion, and measurement process in one post is a tall order. If you’re looking for something specific, click through to one of the following posts:
Everything starts with smart planning.
Who are you creating content for? What are their greatest wants, needs, and pain points? These are some of the first questions you’ll need to answer when developing your process.
Figuring out who your audience is doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. Do some digging, though, and you might find that your real audience differs from the one you thought you had.
To begin, answer four questions:
Once you’ve nailed these down, you’ll know:
Next, develop a simple audience statement that summarizes who you’re trying to reach. Use this template and fill in the blanks:
“[OUR COMPANY] creates content to help [INSERT DEMOGRAPHIC] do [INSERT ACTION] better.”
Then, establish what we call your “content core.” This means identifying two things:
Here are a few simple ways to get started doing this:
If you’re not deeply familiar with your audience, then building personas can be vital for understanding who you’re targeting. This is especially true when working in industries where you don’t consider yourself a deep subject matter expert (SME). This process can get fairly involved, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be overly complicated.
What makes personas such an importance piece of the content marketing process? This graphic summarizes that with a few powerful stats:
A persona is a simple character description of your average customer or audience member. To build out a simple user persona, you should include the following information:
That’s the high-level description of what you need in a persona. For a more detailed guide, check out the post below.
Have a plan for how you’ll set goals for each project and campaign you execute. While goals may vary based on each project, having one set methodology for determining goals makes setting them easier.
One common goal-setting framework we recommend is the SMART system. SMART goals are:
Then, to write a simple goal statement (whether for your overall business and marketing goals, or for a specific channel, campaign, or project), follow this template:
You can adjust the specific verbiage as necessary. What’s necessary is that you plainly state the following:
For more specific guides on setting marketing goals, dig into these guides:
This is an enormous topic in itself. In fact, several books have been written on the subject (and you should read them). Arguably, a lot of what we cover in this post also covers content strategy and content marketing strategy (there’s a subtle difference).
For our purposes here, we’ll break down content strategy into its absolute most basic elements. Then, we’ll point you in the right direction to learn more.
To begin, let’s answer three questions:
How can you make sure you create more content that works, cut out what doesn’t, and avoid duplicating effort? The answer is by performing regular content audits. Pam Neely put together this excellent guide (and content audit template) that dives deep into this process.
At a high level, here are some things to look for when evaluating past content:
How will you generate ideas for projects and campaigns? Quality creative concepts and campaign ideas don’t happen by accident (most of the time). Everything you create should also be connected to your overall goals.
So, how do you come up with great ideas that actually move the needle? Start by figuring out who will be involved in your ideation process:
Then, establish frameworks for ideation. There are a couple ways to approach this:
The easiest brainstorming process we’ve had success with at CoSchedule looks like this:
This process works for all kinds of different projects and in all kinds of scenarios. Feel free to adapt it to fit your purposes.
You’ve got your planning processes in place. Now, let’s move onto the execution steps. How will content marketing projects and ideas be brought to life?
Team roles may be different than actual job titles. What we’re looking to know here is what people will actually be doing when it comes to planning, publishing, and promoting content.
Keyword research is vital for creating content your audience wants. At its simplest level, it should achieve three goals:
In order to do quality keyword research, you’ll need the right tools. Here are some we can recommend:
Having pre-built checklists and templates for every type of content you produce can help make creating content that’s consistent easier. They help reinforce productive workflows and ensure that every project gets executed the right way, every time.
There are a couple of ways to approach this:
To create your own checklists, follow these steps:
Getting writers and designers working well together is key for content marketing success. By establishing clear processes for each, you can eliminate a lot of confusion and head-butting around expectations.
A basic workflow might look like this:
Generally, whatever type of content you’re creating, this is loosely how it works.
Once workflows and processes for content creation have been put in place, determine how often content will be published, and establish processes for managing your cadence.
There are no objectively correct answers to how much content is enough or how much is too much. But, the following posts can help offer some starting points:
We strongly recommend planning every piece of content you publish on one unified marketing calendar. Whether you use a spreadsheet or an app (we’re partial to CoSchedule ourselves), your calendar should achieve the following objectives:
If you need a calendar template or a guide on how to use one, we have several. Check out the following posts below:
Content promotion often gets overlooked. If you’re not thoroughly planning your promotion processes, though, it’s time to start.
Assuming you’ll be creating social media posts to promote other content (in addition to standalone social content), you’ll need to plan a few things:
Email marketing delivers 4,000% ROI. According to Campaign Monitor, it also 40 times more effective for customer acquisition than social media. So, have a plan to make the most of it.
Search engine optimization is necessary for ensuring your content garners continued traffic (even after your social media and email promotion have run their course). On a basic level, be sure to check off the following for every piece of content you publish (assuming you’re creating blog posts or website pages):
To test your title tags and meta descriptions before your content is published, consider using one of these free tools:
There are also some other basic on-page SEO elements to consider. These include:
For more detailed guides on SEO execution, read through the following:
What’s one of the best ways to promote your content? Tell people directly who might be interested in it! Of course, you’ll want to be genuine and sincere in your outreach.
Content marketing and public relations are asked to join forces now more than ever. As these fields increasingly overlap, it’s important to have plans and processes in place for how these cross-discipline teams work together.
According to Search Engine Land, there are at least five different ways for PR and SEO to cooperate:
So, what can content marketers and PR pros do to combine efforts for maximum impact? Here are a couple ideas:
If you’re going to earn your paycheck, you need to prove your work is making an impact. This is where reporting comes in. Good content marketing reporting shows your organization how your efforts are driving KPIs and making money.
There are a lot of different analytics tools out there. Which ones you use will depend on the type of you’re doing. Here are some common options to consider.
These are some popular options. To find more, check out this list from G2 Crowd. You might also choose to connect several different tools into one dashboard. Here are a couple different options:
Lots of different SEO and content marketing platforms offer built-in analytics, too. Here are a handful of examples:
Whichever toolset you’re using, ensure that the right people have access to the right tools. Depending on the size of your organization, that could mean individual contributors are given access to analytics tools, or you might have dedicated analytics staff.
Next, determine when marketing reports will go out (and who needs to receive them). Depending on the tools you use, you might be able to set this up automatically. In fact, this guide from Google covers how to setup monthly reporting automatically in Google Analytics.
To set your reporting schedule, answer the following questions:
Let’s break down common content marketing metrics into a sensible schedule:
In short, the more impact a goal or metric has on day-to-day performance for your team in the trenches, the more often those metrics likely need to be reported on. For more guidance on planning your reporting schedule, check out this guide from Chris Penn.
If you rely on automated reports from your analytics tools, this is cut and dried. However, what if your organization expects customized reports because your tools can’t quite pull everything you need into one Excel sheet or PDF? In that case, you may need to build your own template. Fortunately, we’ve created one here to help get you started.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post. Hopefully, though, you’ve pulled together enough insight and tips to plan out an effective process of your own. To summarize, here’s everything we’ve learned:
Now plan your content process and get more organized.
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