Alicia Esposito, Content Strategist
For many organizations, it’s the beginning of the fourth quarter. That means planning your editorial calendar and content strategy for the coming year is likely at the top of your to-do list.
After all, research from the Content Marketing Institute indicates that having a documented content strategy is one of the primary factors that separate the most successful and least successful performers in content marketing (62% vs. 16%).
We understand that planning ahead for the next fiscal year is easier said than done. More often than not, marketing teams are constantly juggling tasks or are lacking the team required to plan appropriately. At the same time, they’re tasked with meeting last-minute pushes to generate more leads and complete all of the year’s lingering projects.
Combined, these factors often leave marketers catching up instead of planning ahead. Not anymore. Below, we offer some turnkey, high-impact ways to plan and strategize for 2018, without taking too much time and attention away from your urgent tasks:
1. See what worked and what didn’t
Before you even start to brainstorm content ideas, it’s always helpful to revisit content and campaigns from the past year (and beyond) and see how specific assets performed. This may seem like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised by how many companies don’t give this preliminary planning the proper attention. Which topics generated the most leads? Were there any formats that generated more interest and social shares? Which assets helped generate tangible business results? Taking an honest look at hard metrics can help you develop a short list of topics to revisit and expand upon, as well as formats to focus on.
2. Establish key themes based on buyer pain points
Your buyers are always changing. New trends impact their day-to-day lives and market dynamics shift how they measure success. While you may already have personas in place, it’s always worthwhile to do a quick gut check on what challenges and pain points are top of mind for your target audience. Connect directly with prospects and customers, or use tools like Buzzsumo to track top-performing articles and resources. You can identify buzzworthy topics you may have a perspective on, or even better: you may identify topics not being discussed that will allow your brand to stand out.
3. Think outside the storytelling box
It’s an exciting time for B2B. Marketers are realizing there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to storytelling, and that there are new approaches to content marketing that you can take. For instance, rather than focusing on resolution-based content, try incorporating some challenger marketing approaches and themes. Once you develop your core narrative, you can determine what format aligns best with what you’re trying to say or share with your audience. (Quick tip: If you decide to develop any interactive content, make sure you allocate a bit more time in your schedule. These assets typically take a bit more time and bandwidth to create.)
4. Prioritize your foundational “hero” assets
Once you build your list of core topics and themes for the year, you can develop your “hero” assets for the year. Because these assets are longer and more robust, they pack a lot of marketing punch and can fuel your campaigns for several weeks. Typically, having four foundational topics (one per quarter) is enough to keep your demand gen engine running.
5. Give your content more legs (and leads!)
Your foundational topics have been placed, so the next step is to fill the gaps in your content calendar. Look for quick-hit content ideas that are based on, or support, some of the themes covered in your foundational assets. If you want to accelerate timelines and get the most value out of your hero pieces, find ways to reversion them for different audiences or break down (modularize) them for different formats and experiences. If designed well, a foundational E-book can easily be broken down into vertical-specific checklists, a high-level infographic, best-practices guide, blog series and promotional SlideShare. See for yourself: Take an E-book from your own arsenal and take 10 minutes to brainstorm how you can break down, reuse or create new content based off some of the topics discussed in the piece. You’d be surprised by how many ideas you come up with! Repurposing and modularity are also great approaches for creating content quickly; they will come in handy if you’re trying to build up your arsenal for Q1.
6. When in doubt, ask for help
Developing an in-depth content calendar and execution strategy takes time and effort. It also takes time to create quality content. If you are planning to launch a campaign in January the reality is you should be starting development of that content now.
If you are still finalizing your plans or building up your content arsenal for your Q1 needs, onboard a third-party agency to help. That way, you can prioritize your long-term planning and rely on your content creation experts to build up your arsenal for the fiscal kick-off. With the right partner, you can develop a winning strategy for the entire year and get your last-minute needs met so you can start the new year with a bang.
Need some help getting started? Get in touch with our team to set a brainstorming session! Our director of marketing and demand gen, Steve Voith, is starting to plan, too, so you can compare notes with him.