By Allison Howen, Associate Editor
Brands have become very strategic with their content marketing plans.
In fact, the Content Marketing Institute reveals there has been a 10 percent increase in business to consumer (B2C) marketers who document their content strategy over the last year (37 percent versus 27 percent).
What's more, 48 percent of B2C marketers meet with their teams either daily or weekly to discuss their content plan. In order for small business (SMB) owners to keep pace with the competition it is imperative that they are equally as strategic as their big-brand counterparts.
With the New Year right around the corner, there is no better time to start planning, and the checklist below provides a great starting point:
Begin by taking a look at 2015's content. What type of campaigns garnered positive results and which were virtual flops? When taking inventory of previous initiatives, look at the content of each campaign as well as the format and channel it was distributed in. For example, did infographics resonate better than videos? Did lists work better than informative topics in email campaigns? Did Facebook posts get more shares at night?
Scope Out the Competition
The competition can be a big inspiration. Research, however, must go beyond a competitor's blog. Don't forget to look at email campaigns (this is why it's a good idea to sign up for your competitor's email list), social posts, video content and more. For instance, did the competition have success with a social contest? How often did they create videos? Did their blogging rely on contributor posts?
What Does Your Audience Want?
Audiences leave clues everywhere about the type of content they prefer, but it's up to marketers to discover them. One channel sure to offer useful insight is social. Simply type in business-related keywords on networks like Twitter to find out what consumers are talking about, then create content around those topics. Moreover, look to frequently asked questions that could be repurposed into an informative blog post. A pet store owner who gets a lot of inquiries about the best way to remove pet stains from carpets, for example, may want to consider writing a "How To" article on the topic.
After conducting the aforementioned research it is time to brainstorm. Think about new content ideas, angles, formats and channels, and don't forget that some content can be repurposed. In the previous example of a "How To" article for removing pet stains, the business owner could repurpose the topic by creating an instructional video, and/or making an email campaign that features the products needed for the process.
Lacking inspiration? For a variety of tools to help brainstorming sessions, visit wsm.co/stormtools.
Create a Content Calendar
It's time to put ideas on paper and create a content calendar for 2016; and don't forget to take holidays and company celebrations into consideration when making one. Keep in mind that while it is important to fill out the calendar as completely as possible (especially the first quarter), it is also necessary to leave a little room for flexibility, as campaigns may change as the year progresses.
Once the content calendar is created, it is time to share it and tentatively assign tasks to team members. This makes each colleague aware of what is required of them so they can start brainstorming ideas for their assignments.
Track Results and Re-Evaluate
To truly succeed in 2016 it is important to track results as the year ges forward. By reviewing campaign results each quarter, marketers can continuously optimize their strategies. Don't know what to track? Check out this list of 29 essential content marketing metrics at wsm.co/basic29.
It can be easy to get inundated with tasks during the holiday rush, but it is important for SMB owners to set aside time to prepare for the upcoming year. Creating a content marketing plan is a good starting point because it can help shape everything from email to social (and even search!) campaigns.