How to Develop a Winning Content Marketing Plan in 7 Easy-to-follow Steps


by Stjepan Bosnjak | Sep 16, 2022

Traditional “in-your-face” marketing methods are becoming less and less effective by the minute. Companies that speak in the pitch language are no longer speaking to anyone in today’s digital era. As a forward-thinking marketer, you know there has to be a better way. That’s where content marketing comes in to save the day.

However, having a goal without a strategy in place is just wishful thinking. Running a content marketing campaign without a clear plan is like driving a car with your eyes shut – reaching your destination or crashing becomes nothing but a matter of luck. But where do you start?

We’re about to shed some light on the who, what, why’s, and how’s of content marketing strategies to help you develop a winning content marketing plan that will propel you to new digital heights in 7 easy-to-follow steps.

After all, content marketing works best when you plan for its success.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the 21st-century go-to advertising technique and the bread and butter of digital marketing.

It’s defined as the process of planning, creating, distributing, and publishing relevant and valuable written and visual content online via different channels (like social media, websites, blog posts, podcasts, apps, white papers, etc.) to attract more leads, engage with your target audience and drive profitable customer action. When done right, content marketing can lead to increased brand awareness, engagement, and loyalty and boost conversions and sales.

By creating an immersive environment, content marketing bridges the gap between what brands produce and what consumers actually want. Instead of force-selling your products or services, you are providing relevant and useful content to your prospects that solve their issues. With content marketing, you become what people are interested in instead of interrupting what people are interested in. Plus, its low-cost yet effective nature means that any business can reap its benefits, large or small.

What Is a Content Marketing Plan / Strategy?

A content marketing strategy is a framework that ensures you create the right types of content, distribute them on the right channels at the right time, and can measure their success. It is an actionable plan based on data and diligent research that outlines and maps out your business objectives and how your content marketing efforts will support and address them.

It clearly defines what key future efforts you need to focus on –who you will be talking to, what you will say and how, where the content will be promoted, and how you will know when you are successful. It also ensures that your content marketing goals are aligned with your business goals, and that each team member is one the same page at every step, from writing and posting content to sharing it and tracking your results.

Why Is Having an Effective Content Marketing Plan Important?

Despite its newfound popularity and the sharp increase in its unmatched effectiveness, the value of content marketing is still poorly understood. Although diving head in might be tempting, sustainable, long-term success with content marketing first requires a mastery of the fundamentals. To realize the full vast potential content marketing offers, having a plan is crucial, yet it’s a step many content marketers skip.

A content marketing plan is your road map to a successful content marketing campaign. A carefully built content marketing plan will point you in the right direction –- without one, you’ll be forever tapping in the dark, guessing. Everything you do as a content marketer should flow from a deliberately and intelligently constructed (and documented!) content marketing strategy, or you’re going to end up missing the mark more often than not.

7 Steps to Creating a Winning Content Marketing Strategy that Drives Results

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Ultimately, it’s not the best content that wins – it’s the best-promoted content that wins. Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants. Approaching your content plan strategically will ensure your message cuts through the digital clutter and reaches your target audience with the right information at the right time and place.

So, to get the most out of your content marketing efforts, you need a solid, bullet-proof content marketing strategy. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to develop a winning content marketing plan, step by step, by using this tried and true framework of best practices:

1.Spell Out Your End Goal

First, you need to know where you’re headed to get there. What’s your key purpose in the first place? The “why” behind your content marketing efforts? Of course, you’re in it for all the juicy benefits, but it’s time to get more personal and granular. What is your bottom line? What objectives are you trying to accomplish with your content marketing?

Start with what you know best – yourself and what you want. Creating a clear mission statement can help you guide all your decision-making, keep your eyes on the prize, and never lose sight of what’s important. If you’re shooting for the stars, you can break down large business goals into smaller segments by using SMART goals.

Try to keep your goals quantifiable so that you can easily evaluate your progress down the road – you can use OKRs and KPIs to track your objectives and measure the effectiveness of your content marketing plan later on.

2. Research Your Market and Competitors

If you develop a content marketing strategy without diligent research, your brand will barely float, and due to the speed industries move today, you’ll sink fast. You need to know exactly what you’re up against. So, start by researching your industry and niche current trends to get a sense of direction and figure out what makes today’s consumer’s heart beat faster.

Keyword research is what you should focus on next, as relevant keywords will be the ones guiding the potential customers your way on search engines and driving organic search traffic. When researching your competitors, focus on people and brands that are competing for your audience’s attention.

Reflect on what content types they are producing appear to do the trick, where they are distributing it, as well as what search terms they’re targeting to offer your shared audience something even better and steal a piece of the attention pie.

3. Sneak a Peek Into the Past with a Content Audit

Past is a great teacher if you choose to listen. So, the next step to creating an effective content marketing plan is auditing your existing content across all channels to learn a thing or two. Google Analytics, Moz, and SEMrush are great tools for evaluating content performance. These performance metrics will help you gain valuable insights into what type of content piques your target audience’s interest the most.

Which posts and pages have received the most attention and traffic? What about your click-through rates and bounce rates? Hone in on the content audit data to figure out what works and what doesn’t while keeping in mind that some of the past trends might not be relevant to the content marketing plan you are creating now. After all, a crucial part of a successful content strategy is also knowing what not to do.

Then, use that information to recycle, innovate, and hit all the sweet spots!

4. Define Your Ideal Crowd, then Learn All About It

A lot of content strategies fail because they haven’t done a good job of understanding the target audience. If you’re trying to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one – you need to focus and zone in your efforts where it matters most. So, who are you going to be creating and publishing content for? Conducting audience persona research to define your buyer persona – a fictional representation of your ideal customers will answer this question.

Developing a persona humanizes cold research facts and allows you to highly target and personalize your content marketing for your target audience, as you’ll be familiar with your consumers’ needs, experiences, behaviors, motivations, and goals. It allows for custom-tailored content creation and distribution through discovering the brand voice, channels, and messaging that appeals most to them.

Comb through your contacts database, comment sections, or simply interview your customers and prospects through Q&As and surveys to discover what they like or dislike about your brand, product, or service. Listen to your customers, too, not just your competitors – they’ll tell you everything you need to know if you lend them an ear.

5. Choose Your Formats and Channels Wisely

You’ve uncovered your and your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, your personas’ deepest desires and burning pain points, and your content marketing plan is beginning to take shape. But you can’t have your content simply floating around the web while you’re crossing your fingers it gets noticed by the right crowd, right? So, where will you find your target customers and best reach out to them?

To find the best distributing channels, start with figuring out where your target audience is most likely to be and spends most of their time. Find out their preferred platforms, from your website to social media channels. Using what you’ve gathered from analyzing what content was successful with your target audience in the past can also help you craft personalized, engaging, and compelling content.

Don’t stop there – you also need to figure out what type of content formats will resonate best with your target audience and correspond with the stages of their buyer’s journey. How do they prefer to consume media? What do they perceive as valuable content? Are they more likely to engage with email marketing, a blog post, a social media post, or maybe a guest post?

6. Create High-Quality Content, then Share It When & Where it Matters

Useful and relevant content that resonates with your audience is the atomic particle of your content marketing plan.

Marketing is no longer just about what you offer. Nobody reads advertising – people read stories, information, and solutions. Great content creation should not seek to disrupt conversations but fuel them. Keep each piece of content compelling, engaging, fresh, and informative. Arm it with SEO and target keywords and adjust it to each distribution channel accordingly.

Never simply churn out content for the sake of getting it out there – content marketing is not about publishing a thin piece of content and hoping people will stumble upon it. Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about. You can create a content calendar (editorial calendar) to manage all your content activity and organize when and where you’ll publish upcoming content.

7. Track and Measure Your Progress

Personal judgment is not a great measure of the overall success of your content marketing plan. To get a real feel of how your content marketing strategy is doing, you need to measure its performance using objective metrics on a regular basis. Key performance indicators can tell you all you need to know about the progress you’re making.

Dive deep into essential content marketing metrics, such as engagement metrics like clicks and page views, conversion rates, ROI, as well as backlinks, search rankings, and social media shares. Use all the information you can get to rinse and repeat the process until you nail it down to a T.

Digital Marketing at Its Finest: Strategize Your Way to Content Marketing Success

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Instead of one-way interruption, content marketing is about delivering valuable content that resonates with users on a deep, personal level, precisely when and where they need it. Having a robust and elaborate content marketing plan is how you make it happen.

Remember that content marketing strategies are not gospel or set in stone. A strong content marketing plan should focus your efforts to make the most out of them, not lock you into fixed strategies! Keep things flexible – tailor each content marketing strategy to your unique goals and target audience, and you’ll reach them before you know it.

Good luck!

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