The Beginner's Guide to Smart Content Planning

Mastering the Four Components of an Effective Content Marketing Strategy


Your quest to learn smart content planning begins here!

You’re about to learn the four elements that make an effective content strategy so that your content plans consistently lead to value for your audience and growth for your organization. Marketers that turn content into an engine for growth in their organizations become leaders adept at aligning the needs of their audience and their teams. 

You'll get the most out of this guide if you nurture a commitment to both meet your company’s business objectives and meet the needs of your target audience. You’ll find success when you consistently execute your content strategy over the next weeks and months.

This guide is designed to lead you through all major elements of content planning, from defining the business objective, to creating a content calendar, to incorporating feedback on content performance into your next plans. 

You’ll learn best when the concepts you learn here are accompanied by lived experience. Build or update your content strategy as you go through the course. Share your content plan with your team. Then, create and distribute great content according to your plan.

The concepts behind effective content planning are straightforward. However, every business and every audience have unique qualities that also change over time. We recommend revisiting this guide from time to time. In addition, a number of excellent resources are available on the web to explore each topic in depth as you progress. 

The Four Components of Every Effective Content Marketing Strategy

 As a marketer, you have undoubtedly felt the pressure to ensure your content is leading to increased traffic, engagement, retention and, ultimately, your organization's overall business objectives. Easier said than done, right?  

We know great content leads to great customer engagement, but how to get there consistently? Consistently effective content comes from great content strategy, and the strategy comes first.  

Content strategy is the most exciting area of opportunity for data-minded marketers. This is because the content strategy decisions you make have a much larger effect on the overall success of your marketing efforts compared to downstream optimization decisions.  

Think about it - identifying your business objectives, your target audience, content topics, content format, and promotion channels have the opportunity (or risk) to impact your results and be magnified through every subsequent decision you make. Similarly, even when we turn over some marketing decisions to downstream technologies including marketing automation tools, personalization technology, and ad platforms alike, these tools all assume that we show up with a good plan in hand--garbage in, garbage out!   

Content marketing is unique from other content creation such as journalism or entertainment because of the more blatant role the content must play in supporting the target audience’s need for value and the organization’s need for audience action. Considerable effort is made to measure and learn from content performance in order to succeed through effective balance.

Using this beginner's guide, we can build a smart content plan based on the four C’s of effective content strategy:

1. Company: Defined Business Objective
2. Customer: Identified Target Audience
3. Content: Documented Content Plan
4. Communication: Measurement, Reporting, and Feedback  

We'll explore each area throughout the guide; however, we wanted to introduce these elements here because it explains how we structured the guide.

Explore the guide...


Why is content marketing important?

For true beginners. Learn what content marketing is and why it matters for your organization.


What are the steps involved in content planning?

In order to plan effective content you need a handle on the elements of content strategy and how they relate to each other.


Is your team aligned on the purpose of your content?

You may not be the one that determines the business goals for your content marketing efforts, but getting clear about content objectives is the first step in effective content planning. This chapter focuses on the first C of Content Strategy: Company.


Could you pick out your customer from a crowd?

We create content because we expect it to be valuable to someone else. When we start with that someone in mind our content is more likely to be well-received by our target audience. This chapter focuses on the second C of Content Strategy: Customer.


What does your team need to now in order to create and distribute great content?

Take time to document your plan before diving into making videos, writing blogs, making a splash on social media, or holding the best virtual event ever. It’s worth it! An editorial calendar organized around content campaigns and content briefs provides the way to communicate important details about how your content will be produced and distributed.


Are you set up to apply feedback to improve your content strategy and update your content plans?

Accurate information about content performance unlocks your ability to improve your content strategy over time. Learning over time requires not only good analytics but also effective internal communication.


Are you taking advantage of the right Content Intelligence tools to boost your content marketing strategy?

Advancements in marketing technology continue to enhance the work of marketers. This now includes many tools to improve content strategy.

Do I need to tackle this whole guide?

If you're committed to growing leads and sales with content marketing and unfamiliar with documenting your content strategy, we recommend reading the Beginner's Guide to Smart Content Planning straight through.

We've tried to make it easy to digest. Learning the basics of content planning is a key step in realizing your marketing goals. Take time to go through at your own pace. Come back again. We’ll continue to update the content and add links to many more resources to help you own your way. 

Are you ready to rumble? You should be! Content planning is at the heart of modern marketing, and getting it right can be a rush! If you get lost, don't give up. We’re not only a website. We have people that would be happy to assess your current content strategy and discuss what to prioritize next. 

Thanks for joining us here! Grab your preferred beverage, and let's jump into Chapter 1 (Content Marketing 101).