How to create a content marketing plan

Whether you are just beginning your journey into content marketing or are a seasoned professional, you need a solid content marketing plan to ensure your content is optimised and performs as well as you know it can.

Content marketing is not just about trying to rank as high as possible on search engines - although search engine optimisation (SEO) is a crucial factor -it is also about understanding your target market, refining your content creation, and ensuring that your business and workforce is working towards clear and defined goals.

All of this requires a content marketing plan that you can refer to at different stages to ensure you are on track and well-prepared to deliver top-quality and high-ranking content.

We are going to look at a step-by-step guide on how to create a content marketing plan, and we will also look at some content marketing strategy examples to help you get started.

To create a content marketing plan, you need to identify your target audience, set goals, review your existing content, locate your best channels, brainstorm ideas, budget, and then get creating. You may be the best content creator there is, but there are multiple other factors you need to attend to before your content has any chance of competing.

To create successful content, you need to be well-organised and disciplined. And the first step toward finding that organisation and discipline is to create a solid plan.

10 steps to create a content plan

So let's now look at our 10-step guide on creating a content plan.

Decide on your target audience

In any form of marketing, one of the most important things to figure out at the start of a campaign is who your target audience is. That way, you know exactly who you are talking to, and you can find channels and platforms to reach your audience.

Think about what problems the products or services you are marketing will solve. Who is likely to experience these problems? Don't just think along the lines of age (though age is a crucial factor), but also consider job types, income levels, regions, political affiliations, etc.

You can use various metrics and categories to discern your target audience and create ideal buyer personas. Choose a selection relevant to your product, and then locate your target market from there.

Set goals, targets, and key performance indicators

The only way to tell if your content marketing campaigns are successful is to set targets and goals, track their achievement, and then set new targets and goals.

Your goals can be bold and overarching, such as 'we want to build brand awareness.' And you can even outline how you will achieve what others haven't by writing a content marketing mission statement.

You can then set targets that support your goals, such as 'by December next year, our search volume will be up by 200% on December this year.'

Finally, you can use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your progress toward achieving your targets. For example, you could set a KPI of producing 100 new forms of content a month to be distributed across your top five channels for customer engagement.

When it then comes to delegating tasks, make sure your workforce is aware of what the company's overall goals are and how their individual targets and KPIs will contribute to the business achieving them.

Create a content calendar

This step ties in with the last one. Once you have set goals, targets, and KPIs, create a calendar that outlines specific dates for certain targets to be achieved.

You'll want to break your calendar up to ensure the workload is evenly distributed and that you can efficiently use quieter times in the year to supplement busier periods. Of course, any deadlines for client work need to be highlighted, and this work should always prioritise any in-house work that needs doing.

Your work calendar should also be built around the financial year and be well-adjusted for the demands of tax deadlines, investment projections, and sales completion dates.

Review your current content

Before lurching forward, it is good to have a clear idea of exactly where you are. Organise any existing content and make a checklist of topics covered, clients worked with, successful campaigns, unsuccessful campaigns, and anything else you think could be useful to know. This process is sometimes known as a 'content audit.'

From here, you should get a clear idea of what you have done before (you don't want to create any unnecessary work), what worked well and what didn't, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

You can then set yourself up to avoid any mistakes or shortcomings you had in the past. Have your videos had low engagement numbers? Maybe you need a better video team. Have your articles rarely been shared? Perhaps you need to hire a new writer or target a new audience on social media who are more likely to share posts.

Determine your best channels

When you review your content, you should also work out which channels have been the most successful for your content. You can do this by reviewing your website analytics and finding data on backlink sources and page rankings.

The most successful channels will usually be the ones that have resulted in the highest level of engagement, which could be measured by likes, shares, clicks, overall traffic, etc.

Once you have determined your best channels, you can target them for your new campaigns. You should also find user information for these channels to refine your target audience categories.

Decide your content types

The word 'content' covers a lot of ground, and in the modern world, it is not uncommon for people to engage with several different forms in a day.

So, what types of content are you going to produce?

You could produce long-form videos, TikTok clips, podcasts, blog posts, articles, memes, images, infographics, user-generated content, and anything else you can think of that can be disseminated online.

While there are some huge agencies and brands that produce content in many different forms, it is best for smaller organisations to focus on just a few. Again, knowing your target audience here is crucial, as different demographics will likely engage with different forms of content.

Once you have settled on your content types, begin brainstorming ideas for specific bits of content you want to produce in those forms.

Set a budget

Budgeting is a fundamental part of any marketing plan. Whatever you are marketing needs to end up making more than the marketing of it costs. Content marketing is no different.

Consider all potential outgoings: salaries, freelance wages, subscriptions, tools, equipment, office or venue rental, etc. Set an overall budget for your content marketing plan - based on your revenue stream, projected sales, and investments - and then allocate a mini-budget to each of your outgoings.

You should always budget under your capacity so that you have room to manoeuvre if one area needs a cash injection at any point along the journey.

Choose a content management system

Now that you have your goals defined, your calendar set up, your content channels in place, and your budget in order, you can allocate jobs amongst your workforce.

Generally, the best way to do this and stay on top of your content plan is to use a content management system (CMS). A CMS is any software that allows you to create, manage, and modify content without needing technical knowledge.

Having a good CMS simplifies the whole process of content creation and management. It won't come up with ideas or campaigns for you, but it will sort through the rigmarole of a lot of the admin you could do without.

Create your content

Once all the other wheels are in motion, you can create your content!

This should be the tip of the iceberg, with all the foundations laid beneath it ensuring the content that is finally produced is as successful as it can be.

You will need tip-top writers, designers, programmers, filmmakers, performers, etc., to ensure you produce the best quality content.

Keep track of your success

Remember when we spoke about setting targets earlier? Now is when they become important. You must hit your weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual targets and move steadily toward your goals to ensure your content marketing efforts are worth it. You should track your workforce's KPIs and the success of your sites and campaigns.

There are multiple ways to track the performance of your content, but one of the most effective is to monitor your backlink profile by using a tool such as Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz. These tools allow you to keep track of your backlink and SERP performance and other SEO metrics, such as keyword research and lead generation, and provide valuable insights into your competitors.

This is an example of a content plan template you can use, adjust, or develop when creating your own content marketing strategy.

ABC Insurance10 x blog post10 x long-form articlesPeople looking to switch car insuranceClient website5 writers to each take on:2 x blog post2 x long-forms11/12/2022 (one month)
Easy ED3 x videosSecondary school children pre-GCSETikTokInstagramVideo production team10/02/23 (three months)
Property INC1 x audio advert5 x long-form articlesHomeowners wanting to buy a second homePodcast advertising spaceClient websiteStrong referring pagesAudio production team2 x writers20/01/23 (2.5 months)

Clear and precise content plans are the foundation of a successful content marketing strategy. You can create content that blows all other content out of the water, but without a solid content strategy and plan, it will get nowhere. You need to know exactly who your content aims to reach, how it will reach them, what it will be, and how you will measure its success.

Follow our guide for a solid content plan that gets your content exactly where it needs to be.