Planning your 2021 content calendar is a great way to start putting 2020 behind you with a positive start for the new year. It’s time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Take some time to identify opportunities to replicate your successes and shake things up with new ideas to achieve your goals and impress your customers.
Here are 10 tips to help you build a content calendar.
1. Review Your Analytics
Take a hard look at your data to evaluate how your content has performed for the past couple of years. Begin with such basic analytics as:
- Which content has consistently high engagement and page views?
- Which content contributes to high conversion rates?
- Which content earned the most social media shares?
Look for patterns. Are there particular topics or formats that consistently outperformed the rest? Take note of the top performers and underachievers.
You’ve probably been monitoring your hits and misses as the year unfolded, so this may simply be an exercise in reviewing your lessons from the year. Take note of the goals you achieved and how content helped you get there. The point is to take all those lessons forward to build on what you know about your audience.
2. Give Formats a Facelift
Your analytics review may have given you some insights on the types of content that are resonating with your audience. Chances are, they’re branching out to engage with new immersive assets and interactive capabilities.
If you’re leaning too heavily on just a few content types, make a point of introducing some new formats to help you tell more powerful stories. Check out our Content Format Discovery Tool for guidance on choosing the right format for your next asset.
3. Choose Strong Content Themes
Content themes are the framework you can use to group topics that align with your company’s goals and your customers’ needs. These themes can help you stay on brand and evaluate whether a new idea fits into your stated goals or is taking you on a tangent.
Use content themes as your foundation to brainstorm the content assets that will populate your content calendar.
When your content communicates consistently about core topics, you boost your brand authority, increase your website SEO and launch your content brainstorming process on the most focused, productive path.
4. Plan Events & Product Launches
Events and product launches take months of work to plan and promote. You’ll want to ensure your calendar has plenty of space to help with these promotions.
Whether your events are physical or digital, you’ll want regularly scheduled content promoting them well in advance, perhaps up to a few months before if it’s a large event. And to keep engagement high after the event, you’ll want to continue publishing content that covers themes from the event, spotlights interesting sessions and showcases key takeaways.
The same thought process applies to product launches. You’ll want a host of content well before the launch to promote the product and to generate excitement among your existing and prospective customers. After the launch, you’ll need content that goes into more detail about how to use the product, as well as customer testimonials and any product version updates. Communicate with your research and development department to stay ahead of upcoming launches.
5. Schedule Recurring Content
If you have cornerstone topics or assets you use every year, put those on the calendar early. Include recurring content such as newsletters, annual reports and campaigns, popular blog series and holiday tie-ins.
Since these things typically run around the same time every year, you’ll reserve their space on the calendar and see what you have left to work with.
6. Repurpose Content
As you decide on the mix of content for your calendar, plan for repurposed content that gives you a break from the content production cycle. You don’t have to build everything from scratch. Support high-priority topics and your most popular content by pulling from existing assets and to present as-is or freshened up into new formats.
Begin by thinking of different ways to use information from those larger assets and create shorter, smaller assets for your calendar. For example, if you’re working on a series of white papers, consider how you can reuse the same information in blog posts, infographics, checklists, videos or podcasts.
If you haven’t conducted a content audit, consider starting now. You can keep the results current with quarterly check-ups to develop a resource you’ll use again and again to identify the best content available for repurposing for any given campaign, or to fill a gap strategically on a moment’s notice.
7. Align with Sales
Your sales team is a key place to check for key 2021 initiatives. Know their goals for the coming year and outline the content that you can create to support those goals. Arm your sales team with content tailored to specific vertical markets, targeted ABM accounts or particular solutions they’re focused on. Deliver the content that helps them grow existing accounts and land new ones.
8. Talk to Customers
Customers are excellent sources of information about content ideas and topics. Whether you ask them in a customer survey, a focus group or a one-on-one setting, they’re usually happy to let you know about the things they care about. Listen for common answers that may guide you toward important trends you want to keep tabs on.
9. Leave Room for the Unexpected
If 2020 taught marketers anything, it’s to expect changes in or challenges to our plans. Being prepared builds resilience into your calendar, which ensures your marketing team has the space to create the best possible content for customers regardless of the situation.
Plan to revisit your content calendar each quarter to evaluate whether your topics are still on target.
If you learn in Q1 that a new product won’t be launching as planned in Q3, take advantage of the opportunity to adjust your plans accordingly. You won’t be able to prevent every last-minute disruption, but you can avoid some of the headaches by continually monitoring the landscape.
10. Show Your Work
Once your content calendar is ready for 2021, share it with other departments—particularly sales—who have a stake in your plans. It’s a good way to earn visibility for your efforts and gain company support in amplifying your content.
If you define and refine your approach now for 2021, you’ll set the foundation for a new year of success with content marketing.
For more inspiration on where to start with content ideas for the new year, register for our upcoming session in the Demand Gen Report’s Strategy & Planning Series on Friday, November 20, at 2 p.m. ET: Data-Driven Content Strategy: How to Turn Survey Data Into a Treasure Trove of Insights.