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Inbound Content Planning 101: The Art of Mapping, Building, and Maintaining

content planning

In inbound marketing, one of the best ways to find success is with smart content planning. Ideally, every piece of your campaign works in harmony to drive leads and win over your customers. I’m talking content offers, blog posts, emails, social media posts, and every other content possibility you can dream of.

It’s also one of the toughest tasks you’ll take on in marketing. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Too often, we find ourselves caught up in the cycle of content creation. We really need a new blog post or content offer developed now, and we have no time to think about how it fits into our long-term strategic goals. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead us to create bad content. Yeah, I said it.

Content planning from the campaign level

I don’t mean that the writing is bad or the topic isn’t interesting. It’s just that without the context of a relevant offer, coordinated calls-to-action, and a real campaign effort, that absolutely-has-to-be-published-today blog post isn’t going to actually do anything for your business.

By mapping out content campaigns in advance, building each piece of content around specific keywords, and maintaining a publishing schedule, you can ensure that your inbound marketing efforts are driving you toward something. Rather than just filling space on your website, you’re creating customer leads!

But Dave, HOW?! 

I’m glad you asked, and I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that. Here are our steps to creating a great inbound content plan, and a content planning tool to get you started.

Step 1: Identify your buyer personas

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume you’re building a content campaign for an amazing pest control company.

The first step in your content planning should be determining which of your buyer personas you will be targeting with this campaign. You have developed your buyer personas, right? If not, check out our free buyer persona template, and start creating!

The key here is to identify which segments of your audience you’ll be building your content for, so you can build the right types of content in the first place. For example, Antsy Annie doesn’t care about your ebook on the dangers of fire ants (they apparently don’t like pie), but she will be very interested in your infographic comparing organic to inorganic pesticides.

Step 2: Plan your campaign around a content offer

The foundation of your content campaign should be a content offer. This will be a piece of content or tool your buyer persona would likely download in their search to solve whatever problem or challenge they are facing. So now that you’ve identified your buyer persona for this campaign, start brainstorming ideas for what that offer should be and how you can support it with blog, email, and social content.

Creating a brainstorming document (Google Docs are great for this) for members of your team to weigh in can be helpful, particularly if you really don’t have the time for a big meeting about this. This is a great way to develop and refine topics, though it can get a little messy.

Campaign planning document

Eventually, though, you’ll be down to a handful of workable ideas for your next campaign, and you’ll likely have a few solid ideas for ones to follow. At that point, it’s good to organize a basic roadmap for what you want to do going forward. Then we’ll begin to build the actual road. Here we have a free home consultation offer, which Antsy Annie would totally love, and blog topic ideas leading her to that offer.

Campaign content planning

You should also decide on a SMART goal, defined by HubSpot as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. For your pest control business, your goal might be to get 100 new leads interested in your ant eradication services by December 31, 2016, or to get 20 actual customers by the same date. Set a goal that’s smart for your business. Get it? Smart, SMART? That slays me.

Step 3: Develop a plan for supporting content

In essence, this is what is going to turn your content campaign from a scattershot effort into a well-oiled machine. If set up correctly, your content plan will be the map that guides you through the distraction-filled waters of internet publishing.

Thanks, Jaime. You can also use this well-built content plan to set up a publishing calendar to keep your team in line and on deadline, which can be a little bit like herding cats with an odd proficiency in marketing.

So first of all, now that you have a pretty clear idea of your personas, your content offer, and what your ultimate goals are, you can start brainstorming supporting content. Ask yourself:

  • What is the topic and what search term should I be focused on?
  • What format is it going to take? Blog post, Tweet, or elaborate tattoo I send out via Instagram?
  • When, in the grand scheme of the campaign, do I want to publish this piece of content?
  • Which member of my team is going to write/create it?
  • How am I going to promote this content?

With the content offer as your starting point, you can now map out the blog posts, emails, social media updates, and other content you will use in this campaign.

Step 4: Create the content

I don’t really have to explain this part, do I?

Step 5: Set and maintain a content calendar

This is sometimes the tough part. You’ve got everything you need to get your campaign off the ground…except that social image isn’t quite finished yet, and Joe didn’t have time to make the edits to that blog post, and uh oh.

Hey, it happens. When your content plan is ready to go and you’re starting to assign blog posts and other pieces of content, set up a publishing calendar that your whole team has access to. Set deadlines and expect people to meet them, but be conscious of the fact that nothing goes entirely according to plan. At least with a content plan and calendar in place, you’ll be able to go back, check on the status of the campaign as a whole, and stick to the map so that your leads don’t get lost along the way.

Step 6: Analyzing your content campaign

You’ve done your content planning, you’ve successfully launched your campaign, and you’re now a couple of months in. Now how are you going to quantify your success?

Start by measuring the campaign against your SMART goal(s), to determine whether your content is funneling your contacts and leads toward conversion. From there, you can certainly use more traditional metrics like page views, downloads, and social media mentions and shares as evidence that things are humming along.



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