This guide explains exactly what’s in a content marketing plan and how you create one, so that you can master content marketing to create sustainable leads and sales for your business.
Navigate this guide
This post is a long one. Seriously, it’s a 9000 word whopper.
My advice? Bookmark it in your browser so you can use it as a reference guide when you create your plan.
Read the whole thing, or jump to the sections you care about:
- What should a content marketing plan include?
- How effective is content marketing?
- What makes content marketers successful?
- How to create a content marketing plan
- Section 1: Get your ‘why’ and ‘who for’ locked down
- Section 2: Figure out your content superpowers
- Section 3: Building out your content funnels
- Section 4: Borrowing authority
- Section 5: Establishing awesome processes
- Section 6: Shouting about your content (content promotion)
- Section 7: Recognising success and opportunities for improvement
- Get your own B2B content marketing success toolkit
Not ready to build your own content marketing plan?
Check out our ‘done-for you’ B2B content marketing service to consistently publish compelling content and generate more inbound leads, without lifting a finger.
What should a content marketing plan include?
There are many steps to consider when you look at how to create a content marketing plan. These are broadly divided into 5 main stages: ideation (or planning), creation, publication, promotion and review.
Here is a list of the minimum requirements for your marketing plan:
- Why you’re doing content marketing in the first place (your ‘content purpose’)
- Your goals
- A description of your target audience
- The major topics for which you’ll create content
- The questions of your audience
- What you’re going to create and when (download my free 2021 editorial calendar template to make this really easy)
- How your content will eventually channel people to your products or services
- The promotion plan for your content
- How you’re going to measure success.
As I go through these items, I like to ask myself two questions at every stage of my content plan to keep me on track:
- How will we create the most value for our audience? [Give generously]
- How will engaging our audience drive value to the business? [Receive as a result]
Feel free to adopt these two questions as your own content marketing mantra. The first keeps you firmly in your audience’s shoes, while the second keeps your eye on the prize – more revenue for your business.
How effective is content marketing?
Did you know that per pound spent, content marketing generates roughly 3 times more leads than traditional marketing methods? AND it costs 62% less than traditional marketing.
Huh? But don’t we have to spend loads of cash on copywriting, design and video production?
First of all, no. Content production is a product of time, ability and budget. You only need 2 out of 3 to get content produced.
Got no time? Outsource to someone with the right abilities using your budget.
Got no budget? Use your own abilities on your own time to get that content created, or find someone in your business who can.
Second, you’re spending money on creating that content ONCE. Think about those traditional marketing methods – most of them require a regular spend. Whether it’s an ongoing ads budget or a recurring annual event cost.
Whereas, if you create a great content piece and get it to rank on Google, or have lots of other sites point to it, it’ll bring traffic and leads to your site on an ongoing basis with no additional budget needed. Sure, you might want to boost it with some paid ads, but that’s your choice to help scale results as part of your wider content marketing plan.
Want some inspiration?
Check out these awesome content marketing examples that yielded great results.
What makes content marketers successful?
In short, a solid plan.
Only 41% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy.
But the most successful marketers know better.
69% of marketers who consider their marketing very successful have a written plan.
Whereas, just 16% of those who consider their strategies really unsuccessful have a written plan.
The proof is in the pudding. And that pudding is telling you to get yourself a content marketing plan.
Why is a plan so important in content marketing?
It’s a bit like going on a big trip – there’s a lot to think about and you want to make sure you hit all your destinations, on the right day, with somewhere to stay and with things to do.
You can definitely wing it. But the chances of running into problems, or missing out on the best experiences are way higher if you don’t plan in advance.
A plan makes sure you know why you’re doing it, what needs to be done at which point and who needs to be involved.
The chances of consistently creating content, consistently promoting it and consistently generating new leads are sooo much higher if you have a plan. It’s really that simple.
Luckily, that’s exactly what I’m going to show you now – how to create a content marketing plan on which you can rely.
How to create a content marketing plan
This rest of this article is an extensive step-by-step walkthrough of how to create a content marketing plan.
You can do it on a blank sheet, or find some free templates online.
If you’re really determined to create a solid content plan and start succeeding with content, I recommend using this guide alongside my B2B Content Marketing Success Toolkit.
It’s got absolutely everything you need to go from ‘no content, no idea’ through to ‘lots of content, consistent leads’.
Think of it as a build-your-own car kit to go with this content marketing roadmap.
Let’s get started!
Section 1: Get your ‘why’ and ‘who for’ locked down
This section is all about knowing why you’re creating content in the first place and for whom you will create content.
Think of it like a vision board – a motivational piece that keeps you focussed and on track throughout the long journey ahead!
1. Define your target audience
You may or may not already have a really strong set of personas for your target audience.
I’ve seen start-ups with fantastic audience insights, and huge enterprises with next to none.
Wherever you’re at, know they’re absolutely critical for good content marketing (and really help with the rest of the business, by the way).
But don’t worry about it! Let me quickly show you how to create a content marketing plan with great personas in place:
First, you need to know for which types of business to write content. This should align directly with the ideal businesses for your products and solutions. The aim is to understand the challenges faced by these organisations and the people working within them – so that you can create content to help them overcome those challenges.
When you describe your target businesses, consider including any variables which set them apart as an ideal customer. Possible examples include:
- Number of employees
- Annual revenue
- Customer size (the size of the companies which they target OR a description of their average consumer)
- Plus anything specific to your offering (for example, an IT company doing this exercise might only want to target businesses who use Microsoft Azure for their cloud services).
Having this information helps you remember to create content that fits their specific context and addresses their needs at a company level.
Once you’ve done that, you need to think about the people within the business and their personal needs. Which brings us to…
Key personas & decision making units (DMUs)
Always remember that in even the largest B2B transactions it’s still people buying from people. The ‘company’ isn’t deciding anything for itself, because it’s just a name on a piece of paper. All of the research, the comparisons, the budgeting and the final decisions are carried out by a team of people in the business – the decision making unit.
What’s a decision making unit?
A collection of employees within the company who make a buying decision for a new product or service.
Each person will play one or more roles across the decision making process. The roles are:
- Initiators – who suggest purchasing a product or service. They typically identify the initial need.
- Influencers – people who affect the outcome of the decision with their opinions
- Deciders – the people who have the final say in which product or service is chosen
- Buyers – those in charge of sorting out the contract terms and the final price
- End Users – the people who will actually use the product or service
- Gatekeepers – who control the flow of information between you and the others in the business
For your content marketing plan, it’s important to understand what a decision making unit looks like in your target businesses for your particular type of product or service.
Because content marketing is a way of educating your audience and answering their questions throughout the whole decision making process.
The more questions you answer and the more helpful you are, the easier it is for the unit to make their final decision. And hopefully, you build up a load of brownie points because you were the one who guided them through the process (rather than your competitors).
If you’re selling to small businesses, there might only be one or two people in the decision making unit – the business owner, for example.
But, if you’re selling to large enterprises, there could be anywhere from 6 to 18+ people in that unit. And that’s going to change your sales cycle – which in turn changes the way you want to think about content.
Once you know who is in a typical DMU, you can create personas for them.
What’s a key persona?
A key persona is simply a list of insights about one of the people in your target business – typically defined by their job role.
So, if you’re selling IT services, your most important persona might be the IT Director or Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Use your new DMU description to figure out how many personas you need. I’d say if you at least have personas for the Initiator, the Decider and the End-User, you’ll be in a really good place for creating the right content for the right point in the buyer journey.
How do I write a persona?
There are loads of ways of doing these. There are also hundreds of templates out there.
I prefer to lead with an empathy approach – to get myself as firmly into their shoes as possible. Check out Dave Gray’s Empathy Map. It focuses on their challenges, their desired state of transformation (their gains) and then puts them into context by considering what they hear, see, think, feel and do in the day-to-day of their role.
The ability to empathise deeply with your audience will come in real handy later on.
2. Figure out your content purpose
This section is short and sweet, but also really important.
Having a solid content purpose sets you apart from the businesses who blog about anything that pops into the heads of their marketing team. It sets a direction to keep you focussed.
There are three questions to answer to form your content purpose:
- Why are we creating content for our audience (from their perspective?)
In other words, what’s the most important way your content will make their job easier or their life better?
To help them build a better understanding of their responsibilities as a financial director.
To give them the confidence to run their WordPress site themselves.
To give them a more fulfilling relationship with their cat.
- What value will they get from it?
What are the specific and major things your content will offer them to contribute to the answer you gave in the previous question?
Total understanding of latest regulations, better staff management, streamlined workload
Removal of fear and uncertainty, less reliance on developers, better website management
Deeper understanding of cat body language, camaraderie with cat lover community
- Why are we creating content (from our perspective?)
Finally, what’s the business reason that you’ve decided to start creating content? How will the improved relationship with your target audience benefit the business?
So that financial directors respect our opinion more and sign up to our paid networking events.
They develop a need for our premium plugin services as their site progresses.
They turn to us for cat advice, share it with their friends and buy our Xmas cards for cats.
3. Set your content purpose statement
This is a really easy exercise! You take your answers to the three questions above and write them into a short statement – this becomes your content marketing purpose statement.
I find this structure helps:
We create content to…
Because of that our audience can/has/knows…
We do this so that/they…
We create content to help our audience build a better understanding of their responsibilities as a financial director. Because of that they have total understanding of the latest regulations, better staff management and a streamlined workload. We do this so that financial directors respect our opinion more and sign up to our paid networking events.
This acts as a succinct reminder of what the overall content relationship should look like between you and your audience. It’ll be one of the first things in your final content marketing plan deck (full template available in the B2B content marketing success toolkit).
4. List out your content values
Content values are an idea I borrowed from Dan Norris’ excellent book ‘Content Machine’.
These should line up with your brand values, but they’re much more specific to the way you create content and how you maintain the relationship with your reader.
Their purpose is to make sure that your content behaves consistently – whether it’s you creating some stuff now and more 3 years in the future, or whether you disperse your content creation amongst a larger team.
Come up with 3-5 values that describe how your brand would behave in a content marketing situation. Think about areas like:
- How readily available and/or free your content is
- It’s length, format and accessibility
- How transparent you are with your audience
- How you interact with other content producers
- Whether you’re primarily a teacher, a show-and-teller or an entertainer
- How you approach content monetisation
Here are a few examples I like to give when looking at how to create a content marketing plan with clients:
- No third party ads – we believe these interrupt the conversation
- Brutal honesty – constant success stories are isolating – we show the good, the bad, the ugly.
- Give 3 times before we ask to receive – 75% of our content is immediately available and free.
- Easy reading – simple language, explained concepts, fonts and sizes suitable to mobile.
- Lift up the experts – we pull in and highlight interesting people doing interesting things.
Whatever they are, make sure they work for you, your writers, your audience and your brand.
Once you’ve done that, you can move to the final stage of this first section – setting some concrete goals around your content marketing.
5. Set your content marketing goals (including commercial goals)
Goals are absolutely crucial to success – how can you know if you’ve succeeded if you don’t know what success looks like?
Goals are also missing from the plans of most content marketers. It’s important to set meaningful goals and ensure there’s at least one goal linked to the commercial success of your business.
After all, why go to all this effort if you’re not going to grow profits as a result?
Your content marketing goals should:
- Reinforce the value you provide to your audience
- Make it really clear what business value you want to achieve
- Set expectations around the amount and frequency of content creation
- Show what successful content looks like
Here are some example content marketing plan goals:
- 4 pieces of content created per month.
- 1 piece of content per month with 10+ shares.
- Content marketing should generate 20% of new leads by the end of the next 12 months.
- Our subscribers should increase by 5% per month based on our current 1000 subscriber baseline.
- Our traffic should increase by 5% per month based on our current 5,000 visitors/month baseline.
It’s important to be realistic. It’s much better to consistently achieve incremental goals than set yourself some astronomical target you’re likely to miss. If your traffic, shares and leads are ticking upwards each month, you’re doing a great job – those small increases will add up over time.
Section 2: Figure out your content superpowers
Becoming a great content marketer is like setting out to be a superhero.
There are hundreds of superheroes out there.
They all have the same purpose – fight evil.
And yet, we don’t get them mixed up. They don’t blend into one giant, overcrowded mush of heroic deeds.
Because they own what makes them unique.
They each have their own costume, special powers, code of conduct and super-cool origin story.
And so because they each have such a distinct identity, they all stand out.
They all have their own superfans who’ll squeeze into leotards to attend comic book conventions and Halloween parties dressed as their hero of choice. Even though they all have the same purpose.
So, to stand out from your competitors who have the same goals and similar content purposes as you, you need to own everything that makes you a unique content entity.
- Differentiators – the stuff that makes you different from competitors
- Your unfair advantage – assets you can leverage to be awesome at content marketing
- Your strategic relationships
These pieces for your content marketing plan are also borrowed from Dan Norriss’ book, Content Machine.
6. Define your differentiators
This is a two step activity:
- List out some competing content producers in your niche
- Make notes on what they aren’t currently doing well.
For example, if you’re going to create content that advises small businesses about their taxes, see what’s happening on other business tax advice websites.
Maybe their site is really slow?
Are their loads of ads in the way?
Do they insist on getting your email address before giving anything of real value away?
Make a list of what’s not good, then make a list of ways you’re going to commit to being:
Here are some example differentiators:
- We won’t have any ads as they detract from the conversation
- We will focus on long-form, in-depth content (2000+ words)
- Practical downloadable resources
- Input from external experts
- Always looking to have a conversation – very active in comments
- No technical jargon is allowed to filter into our pieces without being properly explained
- All of our content will be backed up by an explainer video or infographic – to help different learning styles
7. Figure out your unfair advantage
This is a great concept put forward by Dan Norris in his book. It shows you how to create a content marketing plan based on your biggest strengths.
It’s very simple – what assets do you have, which your competitors don’t have, which would allow you to create more valuable content for your audience? Make a list.
These could be things relating to your:
- Product/service (if it allows you to create certain types of content more easily or to a higher standard – e.g. a video production company would be able to create videos much more easily and cheaply than other content producers in its space)
Here are a few example ‘Unfair Advantages’:
- My large network of influential industry connections
- Dave’s position as a course lecturer in this space
- Our established email list and social following
- The awards we’ve won in this space
8. List our your strategic relationships
Finally, make a list of all your connections who would be potentially useful in your content marketing efforts.
Think of them as ‘springboard’ connections – they’re going to give a big boost to your content in some way, whether it’s:
- Audience reach
- Quality of insights
- Quality of the content writing, design or video
These people might be:
- An industry expert or technical lead
- An industry influencer with their own following
- A well-connected professional in the industry
- A PR or media professional in the space
- A complementary brand in your space (i.e. a brand that serves the same audience but in a way that doesn’t compete with you)
Include their name, business, an overview of what makes them a potential strategic connection and finally a record of the interaction you plan to have with them.
Here are some example interactions:
- A guest on one of your content pieces (quote, guest article, podcast, video)
- You might be a guest in their content to their audience
- They could agree to share your content with their audience
- They could agree to review your content and make suggestions to improve it
- You could agree to co-create a piece together that you’ll jointly promote
- They could connect you to someone else who might be willing to do one of the above
Make this list now, then get it back out later when you’re looking at content creation and promotion as part of your content marketing plan.
Section 3: Building out your content funnels
First up, great work getting this far.
If you’ve done all the tasks above, you’ve laid a solid foundation for your content plan.
Now comes the fun bit – figuring out the topics and pieces that will build your content kingdom.
At the end of this section, you’ll have a well-connected content funnel that pulls people through the buyer journey towards your product or service – all in a super helpful way that earns you serious brownie points with your audience.
It’s time to get your personas from Section 1 out again. You’ll be using them a lot for the next few tasks.
9. Set your content buckets
Content bucket = one of the major topics areas in which you’ll create content.
They’re the big categories in which it makes sense for your business to create content – in other words – they help fulfil your content purpose.
For example, an accountant might have the following content buckets:
- Tax requirements for small businesses
- Using accounts for business planning
- Finance and funding options
See how these link to the audience’s major needs in the accounting space AND the potential services offered by the accountant?
Also see how lots of different sub-topics and content pieces could fit in them? Hence buckets.
List out your content buckets. Make sure they fit what your audience cares about in your space.
10. Then fill them with content topics
Now you’ve got your buckets, you need to fill them up with content topics.
These are the subcategories that naturally fall into one of your buckets. They drill down into the specific problems, challenges and interests of your target audience.
Most of the time, you’ll have a specific product or solution in mind that fits within or leads on from the content topic.
Carrying on the accountancy firm example:
- Tax requirements for small businesses
- Corporation tax
- National Insurance contributions
- Using accounts for business planning
- Profit and loss
- Balance sheets
- Sole traders
- Company directors
- Foreign income
- Finance and funding options
- Seeking investment
Notice again that all of these topics still have room for lots of content pieces within them.
Now you’re ready to pick a bucket, choose a topic from within the bucket and create your first content funnel.
How? By focusing on one of your audience’s challenges within that topic.
11. Build out your first content funnel part 1: Understand your audience’s questions through the buyer journey
Note: Pick a content topic from one of your buckets. Then, imagine a key challenge your audience faces in that space. Hold that challenge in your mind as you read through this next bit.
This is really important: Content marketing is a conversation.
The audience is asking the questions, and you’re answering.
Let me explain what I mean:
Imagine you’re sitting down for a chat with a potential customer.
Once you’ve got the niceties out of the way, which conversation are you having with them?
It’s probably not initially about your product or even your business.
They’ll probably start by talking about either an internal challenge they have in their business (e.g. too many paper receipts and transactions), or an external challenge to their status quo (e.g. the tax office insisting on completely digital business accounts). Then they’ll ask you if you know anything about it.
It’s your job to be the expert that can answer their questions.
So, what questions do they ask first? That’s where we’re introducing them to the scope of the topic or problem. Helping them get a basic understanding of the factors surrounding it.
They’re then going to probe a bit deeper.
Now they know the problem exists, they want to know IF it affects THEM. So it’s your job to align that topic with their reality.
Now they know it affects them, they want to know what the different solutions are. So, you show them. You help them identify their needs. A small online business definitely has very different accounting needs to a national manufacturer.
So, they know what solutions are out there and they’ve got a basic understanding of their needs. Now they probe you on what they think might be their preferred solution. So, you answer those questions as best you can at the same time as helping them prioritise their needs to make their choice of solution easier.
BOOM. You’ve got a potential customer who understands the external threat, they’ve bought into the idea of getting a solution and they think they know which solution they would choose.
So, their questions pivot. They’re now about typical costs, about the skills or resources needed. The time it takes. The benefit to going digital now versus waiting until they get their first fine from the tax office.
It’s your job to make the case for making the change NOW. Create some urgency.
There’s then a final pivot where the client is the one who chooses to make the conversation all about you and your solution. How is your accounting platform better? What justifies your cost versus a competitor’s? The key features of your platform versus another.
Your answers are now about proving your value to them – before they decide to pull the trigger on a purchase to solve their challenge.
Now that was a great chat.
Content marketing is the art of having that chat with your target audience when it suits them, in the order it suits them, when they need it most. All without you or a sales person being in the room.
Make the conversation a reality – figure out their questions
Below are the main stages of the conversation. Pick a challenge you know they have and list out all of their potential questions at each stage of the buyer journey:
|Their Questions||Your Task||Their Challenge (E.g. Making tax digital)|
|1||What’s the problem?|
Their questions to introduce them to the topic/problem
|Create awareness around the scope of the topic/problem||What does ‘making tax digital’ mean?|
What’s the difference between digital and paper tax records?
How will this make a difference to a small business?
|2||How deep does this go?|
Wanting to understand deeper
|Align the topic/challenge with their reality||I get lots of receipts for materials that I hand to a bookkeeper, will I still be able to do this?|
Will it be harder to carry on managing my finances from spreadsheets?
When are these changes happening and what are the consequences of non-compliance?
|3||What can fix it?|
Asking about the potential solutions
|Help them identify their kind of needs||What can I do to make my life as simple as possible around this?|
What are my options?
How do I make sure I reduce the amount of hours I pay my bookkeeper?
What is bookkeeping software?
What’s realistic and affordable for a micro business like mine?
|4||What’s my best way forward?|
Asking about their preferred type of solution
|Help them prioritise those needs||What are the key features to look out for in small business accounts packages, for a tradesperson?|
How will this software improve my current situation and sort me out for this digital tax issue?
|5||Why should I act?|
Asking questions to justify buying the solution
|Make the case for making a change NOW||What immediate benefits will I see switching from spreadsheets to bookkeeping software?|
What’s the cost vs. benefit of this?
What should I ask my bookkeeper to make sure this is the right choice?
What value can I give to my customers with this?
Will this digital tax thing be done and dusted if I take on this software?
|6||Will you be my hero?|
Final questions to make their selection
|Help them choose you, prove you’re the best value||What do other tradespeople like me say having used this?|
How many clients do you have?
Do you have any introductory offers on?
What’s your best feature compared to other software?
How will you help me use it properly?
You now have your first content funnel – built purely from your audience’s questions – that leads to your product or service.
Now, you need to transform your question map into a content map.
12. Build out your first content funnel part 2: generating content piece ideas
It’s time to get creative.
Add another section next to the buyer journey questions that you just created. Within the 6 major buyer stages, it’s time to group questions into possible content pieces.
Give each potential content piece a title and a possible format. It’s OK if one content piece pulls in questions from a couple of buyer stages – especially if it’s a more in-depth piece.
You can do this purely based on your own creativity, or take a look at some of the existing content pieces out there to see how other experts have grouped the audience’s questions to be answered.
Here’s the example:
Note: I’ve labelled the questions so you can see which content piece will answer them.
2nd Note: If you’re struggling for content type ideas, try this huge list.
|Buyer journey questions||Content Ideas (Map the questions your content answers. One content piece might address multiple stages of the buyer journey and multiple questions.)|
|The Status Quo|
1A. What does ‘making tax digital’ mean?
1B. What’s the difference between digital and paper tax records?
1C. How will this make a difference to a small business?
|Blog: Why tradespeople need to know about ‘making tax digital’ and what it means for their small business. (1A, 1B, 1C)|
Tweets: 5 posts about how ‘digital tax’ is different from the old system (1B)
Short video for our homepage: ‘What is making tax digital all about?’ (1A)
|Realising need for change|
2A. I get lots of receipts for materials that I hand to a bookkeeper, will I still be able to do this?
2B. Will it be harder to carry on managing my finances from spreadsheets?
2C. When are these changes happening and what are the consequences of non-compliance?
|Scheduled tweets across six months: ‘X weeks until you need your taxes to be digital’ (2C)|
Blog: ‘5 reasons to stop giving physical receipts to your bookkeeper’ (2A)
Blog: ‘Will you still be able to use spreadsheets for your accounts once all tax is digital?’ (2B)
|Exploring possible solutions|
3A. What can I do to make my life as simple as possible around this?
3B. What are my options?
3C. How do I make sure I reduce the amount of hours I pay my bookkeeper?
3D. What is bookkeeping software?
3E. What’s realistic and affordable for a micro business like mine?
|Downloadable eBook: ‘The Ultimate Tradesperson’s Guide to Preparing for HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’’ (1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E)|
Blog: What is bookkeeping software? (3D)
Comparison blog: How much you pay your bookkeeper with and without bookkeeping software (3C)
Blog: ‘3 traps to avoid when selecting bookkeeping software as a tradesperson’ (3E)
|Committing to a solution|
4A. What are the key features to look out for in small business accounts packages, for a tradesperson?
4B. How will this software improve my current situation and sort me out for this digital tax issue?
|Long blog: ‘Why 2019 is the perfect year for tradespeople to switch to modern bookkeeping software’ (3D, 3E, 4A, 4B)|
Video: ’The 3 key features you should look for in bookkeeping software’ (4A)
Product features and benefits page: highlight key features for small businesses.
Highlight features that make digital tax compliance a breeze (4A, 4B, 5E)
Case study: John the Builder switches from spreadsheets and paper receipts, is now very happy (2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5D)
|Justifying the decision|
5A. What immediate benefits will I see switching from spreadsheets to bookkeeping software?
5B. What’s the cost vs. benefit of this?
5C. What should I ask my bookkeeper to make sure this is the right choice?
5D. What value can I give to my customers with this?
5E. Will this digital tax thing be done and dusted if I take on this software?
|Return on investment calculator on product page and in blog: ‘Our bookkeeping software versus top competitor versus sticking with spreadsheets’ (5A, 5B)|
Blog / Video: 10 questions to ask your bookkeeper before pulling the trigger on new bookkeeping software. Plus, a checklist that you can download for your chat with them (5C)
Customer testimonials on the product page (5A, 5D, 5E, 6A)
|Making the selection|
6A. What do other tradespeople like me say having used this?
6B. How many clients do you have?
6C. Do you have any introductory offers on?
6D. What’s your best feature compared to other software?
6E. How will you help me use it properly?
|Customer testimonials on the checkout page (6A)|
Checkout page: include key late stage questions in copy (6A, 6B, 6C, 6D, 6E)
In social posts, in a section of the home page, in emails to leads: ‘30 day free trial offer’ (6C)
Comparison section on our product page: ‘Our features versus our competitors’ (6D)
Once you’ve done this for your content funnel, you have one task left to make it fully functional.
Link your content funnel together with calls-to-action
To keep your audience moving along the buyer journey, it’s important they know exactly where their next set of questions can be answered.
Go back to your list of content pieces and decide what the call-to-action for each piece should be. Try and put yourself in the audience’s shoes – what would they want to know next?
Every piece of content should link to another piece – usually in a later stage of the journey. If it’s a content piece that’s already near the bottom of the journey, you might want to add a sales call-to-action instead – viewing your product, arranging a chat or downloading a trial, for example.
Mark them, highlight them, draw them or use the funnel builder tool in my B2B content marketing success toolkit to visualise out your final content funnel.
To create other funnels, you’d then repeat this process with any other major challenges you know they’re facing within the content buckets you’ve identified.
How many and how often you create will depend on your team size and content marketing goals. The main thing is you’ll always be creating in a results-focused funnel format, rather than plucking content ideas from the air! 😃
That’s the end of Section 3, congrats! You should now have a solid foundation and a mechanism for near-limitless content ideas – structured for results.
The next few sections look at how to gain traction with content, set up good processes and measure your success.
Section 4: Borrowing authority
13. Figure out your offsite content plan
Imagine two scenarios for me:
Scenario A: You post your shiny new article on your website, which gets 150 visitors per month.
Scenario B: You post your article as a guest on an industry website, which gets 150,000 visitors per month.
Question: Which scenario delivers a lot of views for your article, and which leads to crickets?
If you have a small audience, it’s really useful to spend more time getting in front of the audiences of other people.
You’re effectively borrowing authority from them – because they’re essentially saying to their audience ‘Hey, look! This person is good enough to be on my site’.
I like to get results with this by making sure my guest content links to a really tempting offer at the end (usually a guide or template).
Check out this real-life example, where I asked a well-respected brand site to guest publish an infographic I made (which is also on my own blog, by the way).
That infographic points to a really juicy brand experience guide, which the audience can download for free.
That one guest post regularly brings in new subscribers for my own list.
So, make a list of:
- People or sites who have a relevant audience
- The potential content format you would use (article, video, podcast, infographic etc.)
- The content topics they’d mostly be interested in
- What the goal is (traffic v subscribers v sales)
- An outline of how the guest piece fits in to your funnel
Make guest posting a regular part of your content strategy. You’ll have to experiment with it, you’ll get lots of ‘no’s, but once you figure out what works for your content, it’ll make a big difference to the rate at which you can grow your own audience.
Section 5: Establishing awesome processes
This section isn’t the sexiest, but my, oh my is it important.
Processes keep things smooth. They allow other people to get involved in the work, so you don’t have to do it all yourself. They help you stick to the plan.
These can be super simple – like answering a bunch of questions about how things will be done.
They can be super organised – by transferring all your processes into a project management tool like Asana.
Or, they can be part of an integrated workflow in a content management platform – just like the one you get access to with my B2B content marketing success toolkit.
In this section, I’ll list out the questions you need to ask as part of your process. It’s up to you what you do with them – just make sure they actually get used in the business!
14. Content ideation processes
Questions you should answer when you write-up your process for generating new content ideas:
- Who will come up with the ideas?
- What will they look at to find ideas?
- Where will they put them?
- When will they do this?
When looking for new ideas, consider:
- Which types of our content are performing best according to our Google Analytics?
- Do certain content topics get more interaction on our social media?
- Which content went down well on external sites?
- What questions are our audience and customers asking us directly?
- Where do we see confusion or hesitation when talking to our leads and customers?
15. Content creation and publication processes
Questions you should answer when you write-up your process for creating new content pieces:
- Who will be creating the content? Who will:
- Planning what goes in the content?
- Do the writing?
- Do the design work?
- Build or edit web pages?
- Create social media posts?
- Record and edit videos?
- When and how often will they create content?
- How will it be created?
- In-house content pieces
- Outsourced content pieces
- Where should become the hubs of value for our audience?
The website? Your email list? Your LinkedIn profile? Decide on the places where it makes sense to house multiple content pieces for your topics. You can structure your funnels to lead in and out of these places.)
- How will we publish the content to those hubs?
- Manual process
- Automatic process
- Where will we record and manage this process?
An editorial calendar? Asana? Trello? Burning Need’s B2B content marketing success toolkit?
Amazing work. If you’ve got this far, you now have everything you need to build an effective content machine in your business.
But, what’s the point of an incredible machine if it has no fuel?
Traffic is our fuel in content marketing. And to get traffic, we need to make sure people can actually find our content.
The next section shows how even the smallest blog can start to level up it’s traffic – by focusing hard on content promotion.
Section 6: Shouting about your content (content promotion)
Up until now we’ve dealt with content marketing planning and management.
Content promotion is a whole art of its own. I won’t even try to be exhaustive here, as it’s something you’ll want to learn more about and refine as you get underway with your content marketing.
So, I’ll give you a heads-up about the areas you need to think about and point you to some great resources instead.
16. On-page SEO optimisation
On-page SEO optimisation = making sure all the elements on your page are primed to get you nice and high in a Search Engine’s Results Pages (SERPs).
Why do we invest time and money in SEO? Because when someone with a need turns to Google for help, it’s great to be the one that turns up to answer that question. No marketing spend, no hunting for relevant communities on the web or social media. Just point, click and arrive on our site.
This is often portrayed as a mystical art, when in reality you can do a lot of it yourself.
Sure, paying a professional will improve your results, but for those of us on a budget, there are budget DIY options.
Here are some of those options:
- Download Search Engine Journal’s complete guide to on-page SEO for free.
- Using WordPress? Download the free Yoast SEO plugin. I’ve used this for years – it helps make sure you get all of the basics right around your focus keyword and readability everytime you publish a new piece of content.
- Want a slightly more comprehensive, very task-driven approach to SEO? Try using Hike SEO. It’s an AI-driven SEO platform that tells you exactly what you need to do and when. It’s the easiest way of doing a daily 20-minutes to improve your SEO. Note: This is an affiliate link, because: 1. I think Hike is amazing value. 2. Because it’s normally £45/month, but sometimes they apply discounts to their affiliate links.
17. Owned, earned, paid
This is a quick note to say that there are lots of promotion tactics available for your content marketing plan – it’s about figuring out your priorities and your budget.
What are owned, earned and paid media?
Owned: Marketing channels that you set-up and control. They’re usually lists of subscribers or followers that you build up over time.
Earned: Marketing channels that belong to someone else, but may choose to give you coverage if you ‘earn’ that right with quality content. You can ‘borrow authority’ like we talked about in an earlier section. Or, you can find ways to be newsworthy within your content niche, so that you earn social mentions, news coverage and backlinks (more on backlinks in a minute).
Paid: Marketing channels that you pay for. Pure and simple. You’ll normally pay on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) or CPC (cost per click) basis. If you use paid tactics to promote content, start off small and figure out what gets results before scaling up your budget – otherwise you’ll waste a load of cash.
This diagram best explains the differences between the three types of marketing channels you can use for content promotion.
18. Back to your personas
Now that you understand the 3 media types best suited to content promotion, go back to your audience personas.
Where do they get their information from? Where do they turn for advice? For inspiration? For entertainment?
Use these insights to create a list of potential channels for content promotion.
Shortlist them down to a few, then focus really hard on those. The worst thing you can do is try too many marketing tactics at once – it’ll dilute your efforts and success in all. Better to master one or two first before expanding.
Then do these things for each of your final list of content promotion tactics:
- Have an objective. ‘Build to X followers. Get a Y% click rate on ads’
- Make sure it’s tailored to the narrative and needs of your audience
- Make sure it supports your content strategy
- Keep it as simple as possible
- Be consistent
- Start small
19. Getting backlinks
Backlinks. In other words, links from other websites to your site.
Why do we want backlinks?
Backlinks have two main benefits:
- They signal to Google that your content is good enough to be mentioned by other well-respected sites that cover similar topics
- Any visitor of that site with an interest in the topic you’re covering can click through and become a visitor of your site.
One of the most important content promotion factors you can spend your time on is link-building – the art of creating backlinks for your content.
And it really is an art – it’s part strategy, part relationship-building and part experimentation.
In essence – how do you convince other webmasters that your content should be put in front of their audience?
It’s a question you’ll need to figure out for your niche as an important part of your content marketing plan.
The good news is, there are loads of great resources out there. Check out this selection of 78 link building resources put together by Neil Patel.
20. A list of places you can promote content
Whilst I’m sure you can come up with loads of industry-relevant places, groups and communities to promote your content, here are a few more general ideas to help pad out your promotion efforts.
21. A list of paid ways to promote your content
There are plenty of ad platforms and social media channels that will happily take your money to promote your content.
If you use ads to promote your content, make sure they’re feeding into a very clear funnel that can lead to revenue.
Also, test, test and then do some more testing to see what works best – always be trying to get more bang for your buck from ads.
Here is a detailed comparison of the major social media, search engine and content amplification paid ads channels.
I’d also add QuuuPromote to that list – a social promotion channel that schedules your content onto the social media feeds of others in your content category. I’ve seen mixed results with it and the analytics aren’t that revealing – but if you back it up with your own analytics (i.e. by using Google Analytics or similar), then you can determine it’s true value. It all boils down to the quality and engagement of the social handles using their content scheduling service in your niche.
They offer pay-per-lead services – you provide them with an interesting whitepaper or industry report and they use their media channels to push that content to your very specific audience. They can be great to work with as part of a larger content campaign. There’s a reassuring certainty to knowing you’ll get a fixed amount of leads for your money – but it’s up to you to make the experience compelling enough for the audience to want to carry on the conversation.
On that note, we push forward to the last section of the step-by-step guide – measuring success.
Section 7: Recognising success and opportunities for improvement
22. Set up your measurement framework
There is absolutely no point going to all this effort if you aren’t going to measure whether or not your content marketing is successful.
It’s too easy to just keep creating more content each month without reflecting on what’s working and where you’re seeing results (or not!).
So, set up a simple tracking sheet – in a document or in a spreadsheet, to record results against each of the content marketing goals that you set earlier in the planning process.
Wondering how to do that?
Here are the example goals we set earlier and how you’d measure them:
|Example goal||How you’d measure it|
|4 pieces of content created per month.||Track the status of your content pieces with an editorial calendar.|
|1 piece of content per month with 10+ shares.||Export reports from your social media tools to see views, likes, shares and comments data for each social post.|
Offer a sharing button on your content, so you can see when someone has shared.
|Content marketing should generate 20% of new leads by the end of the next 12 months.||Option 1: Use Goals in Google Analytics to see when someone converts to a subscriber, lead or sale.|
Option 2: Combine the above with UTM tracking, so you can see from where and for which content piece the traffic originated.
Option 3: Use separate forms for each content piece that requires audience info before downloading, so you can see which content the lead downloaded. The bonus of this is you can then tailor their experience with nurture emails. You’ll need an email marketing automation tool for this (more on these below).
|Our subscribers should increase by 5% per month based on our current 1000 subscriber baseline.||Record your subscriber numbers month-on-month in your tracking sheet. Do this for all your owned channels (LinkedIn page, email list etc.). All places where you have an owned channel should have a report to show subscriber growth over time.|
|Our traffic should increase by 5% per month based on our current 5,000 visitors/month baseline.||Pull a report in Google Analytics. Click Audience > Overview, then change the date range in the top right. Next, change the report metric of the top chart to sessions or users and change the time intervals to ‘Month’.|
23. Make sure the wheels of your content marketing plan are greased with technology, nurturing and listening
The is the final point in this step-by-step guide. You’ve got absolutely everything you need to succeed. This point is about levelling-up your efforts with technology.
Structuring your content into funnels will go a long way to making sure your audience is progressing along the buyer journey towards your products and service – especially if you’ve got strong calls-to-action in place.
Luckily, nowadays, you also have lots of tools at your disposal to turbo-charge your new content marketing machine.
It’s worth understanding the content marketing tools landscape to figure out how you can make the experience of your audience even better.
There are thousands of tools that do hundreds of things, but I’d focus on 3 key areas for now:
Marketing automation platforms
A marketing automation platform does what it says on the tin – it automates elements of marketing that would otherwise take up the valuable time of either you or your audience.
And because you now have a content marking machine, you actually have something to automate – you won’t just use the platform to blast people with emails.
Remember that conversation tactic we used to build out your content marketing funnel? Think of a marketing automation platform as a way to have that conversation with your audience in a more active way than just hoping they’ll remember to keep coming back to the next stage in their content journey.
You can use an MA platform to set up incredibly tailored nurture programmes that fit the content they downloaded, their industry, their country – even their company if you had some big target accounts you were after. You can do this with email, browser notifications, text – even postcards – all controlled by the ‘brain’ you set up in your marketing automation platform.
There are two main types:
Email automation platforms – like Mailerlite (as you can probably guess, these focus mainly on automating email streams).
Marketing automation platforms – like Wishpond (these are generally more expensive, but will automate a broader spectrum of marketing activities).
Note: These are both affiliate links – I use Wishpond (because it costs less than a lot of alternatives) and Mailerlite is better value than Mailchimp.
Social listening tools
These are essentially advanced alert systems. They tell you when someone mentions your brand or one of your focus keywords on social media, in forums or on the web.
They can be really helpful in:
- Actively participating in conversations that involve your brand, a keyword or a competitor in a timely manner
- Understanding the sentiment surrounding your brand, a keyword or a competitor
If you build a social listening tool into your marketing activity, you can:
- Speak to your target audience more
- Find new places to promote your content
- Understand what questions people have
- Take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities you’d otherwise miss
I use Awario for this (affiliate link) – the Starter plan has generous limits so long as you’re focussed with your topic choices.
User Experience Tools
It’s good to know if your site is crashing, your download button is cropped off the page on mobile, or people just really don’t dig your page.
But to know that, you have to be watching out for it. Otherwise, you’ll be left wondering why your funnel is a massive flop.
User experience tools use functionality like heatmaps, session recordings and scroll maps to figure out how people interact with your content. You can use the results to make improvements to your site.
Because if the experience is great on your site and rubbish on a competitor’s, guess who they’ll come back to in the future?
And to finish this mammoth guide on how to create a content marketing plan…
That’s it for the step-by-step guide! I hope you feel way better equipped on how to create a content marketing plan.
Remember: you’ll do great in content marketing if you stay true to your content purpose – focus on the value you deliver to your audience and on building a better relationship.
The above steps will take you time to plan and implement. Content marketing is a long-game. But it can build-up to be a powerful strategic asset that sets you apart from your competitors and positions you as an expert in your industry. It can literally draw sales to you on a regular basis.
Get your own B2B content marketing success toolkit
Like I said before, you can achieve all of this with templates and resources that you can find online. But if you want a single point for success, I recommend using this guide alongside my B2B Content Marketing Success Toolkit.
Grab your copy of the B2B content marketing success toolkit now.
I’ve designed it specifically for B2B marketers who want to take a practical, results-led approach to content marketing. It’s designed to make your life easier, your content stronger and your results arrive faster.