As a content marketer, one of the most overwhelming things I have to do is create and maintain an effective content calendar.
It shouldn’t be rocket science, right!? I need essentially to do two things:
- Create and publish content
- Maintain a calendar so that I can stay on schedule and easily coordinate with my team
But before I know it, my simple task of building a calendar spirals as I find myself thinking about my target audience and the journey stages, content types, promotional channels, call-to-actions... I need to narrow in on these decisions to create a valuable piece of content. I’m breaking into a sweat thinking about it.
After all, every single piece of the content planning puzzle matters if I want to create, distribute, and promote content that drives results. Not to mention, I’ve got a bazillion and one other things including finishing the latest lead gen campaign, updating the website, and dealing with the never ending sales requests I get on an hourly basis.
It’s a lot - for any marketer.
The good news is, the process is only as difficult as you make it. Below, you’ll find 7 simple steps that will help you easily create a content calendar that supports your organization’s objectives and plans content that converts.
7 Steps to Creating An Amazingly Effective Content Calendar
1. Define the steps in your content creation process.
First things first, if you want to create an effective content calendar filled with content that works, you have to have the right processes in place. think about the steps your team will need to take to complete a piece of content from start to finish. If you already have a content creation process established, awesome! If you don’t, at a minimum I recommend that you have the following four steps:
- Plan content
- Draft content
- Review and approve content
- Publish content
Having this process in place will help you estimate the amount of time that you will need to dedicate to dedicate to creating individual content pieces.
2. Determine how often you can commit to creating content.
Before you can even think about planning a content calendar, you have to ask yourself how much time you and your team have to allocate to creating and distributing content. Wait! You have to answer this question truthfully! It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. Content planning, creation, and distribution takes time. Do you and your team have the capacity to blog monthly? Weekly? Daily? How often can you create video content? What about longer form content like white papers and eBooks? Set a baseline and aim to create quality content, you can always increase quantity when you get in the right rhythm.
3. Create your calendar in a visual, shareable format.
Once you commit to the ideal quantity of content, it’s time to create a working calendar so you can consistently coordinate with your team. Choosing a format that is easy to maintain is important for your team's success. There are a number of tools to help you stay organized. You may choose a spreadsheet, a project management tool like Asana, or better yet a content strategy platform like Cobomba.
4. Pick a persona.
Take an inventory of your personas, where is there an opportunity to grow right now? Commit to creating a new piece of content for this persona on a bi-weekly or weekly basis. Moreover, make sure to plan your content for this persona that touches different stages in the buyer journey. Creating content for a specific audience is going to make your life easier and your content more effective.
5. Generate a list of relevant topics.
I will be the first to admit, coming up with a list of content topics that a)your audience wants to hear about, and b)you’ll be able to l rank for is no easy task.
I’ve spent hours doing keyword research to identify low competition, high volume keywords I can target. Luckily, there are a ton of resources you can use to help you do keyword research and optimize your content. One of my favorite sources is Neil Patel - his SEO Unlocked course is highly informative.
You’re going to want to generate a list of topics for your persona that apply to different stages of the buyer journey. Pick a stage to prioritize first or identify where your organization is feeling the most pain and start there.
Cobomba is another resource for content topic ideas. It uses the context you provide when you define your business objective to automagically assemble a network of relevant topics that is scored and sorted by relevance and by journey stage.
6. Finalize your content brief.
You’ve picked a persona and you’ve brainstormed a list of relevant topics. Now, you need to pop in a few more details to finish your content brief, including the type of content you will create and how you will distribute and promote it.
Can I get a woot woot?!
You need to keep a few things in mind when choosing the content format (i.e., eBook, white paper, video, blog, guide, checklist, infographic) and distribution channels.
- Keep your audience top of mind. Think about the persona you’re targeting. What are their favorite content formats? Where do they search for information? What platforms are they actively using? Knowing these things will help you create the right content for the right people in the right places.
- Intent matters. What are you seeking to accomplish with any given piece of content? For example, if you’re seeking to generate leads, then your content will need to be gated and must be strong enough to motivate your audience to submit personal information in order to download. This might be an eBook template, comprehensive guide, contest, or product demo. This type of content is referred to as a lead magnet. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, your content might take the form of a blog post or educational video.
- Time and money. Different styles of content take different investments of time, graphic design resources, or other specialized help to give it that magic touch.
- Multiple promotion channels. There are many avenues you can take to promote your content - social media, influencers, emails, pay-per-click (Google and social ads), etc. Some avenues are free, while others will require an on-going monetary investment. Now that you’ve done the hard work to create the content, plan to promote it in multiple channels. There are even appropriate ways to promote in the same channels more than once.
7. Measure your results and make changes.
If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that in order to be successful marketers, we have to adapt and respond to the uncontrollable outside environment. The most effective content is content that is relevant, both in topic and tone. Take the time to measure the performance of your content based on your overarching goal. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness you could measure website traffic, page views, downloads, or referral links. However, if your goal is lead generation you’re going to want to measure things like form completions, blog subscriptions, and conversion rates.. Check out the Content Marketing Institute’s measurement starter kit for more on measuring your content’s performance.
That’s all there is to it! Seven steps that you can rinse and repeat for different personas and different buyer journey stages. I promise that content planning goes from overwhelming to manageable when you break down the process one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ve mastered the rhythm of building a content calendar so that you can consistently produce content that works.