How to Make a Content Calendar the Inbound Way
Every great marketer knows that content is crucial to engaging your audience and growing your brand recognition.
The better your content, the more your customers will want to hear from you. So when it comes to really valuable marketing, behind every great piece of writing, video footage, social media post or email, there is a flawless content calendar.
It may not seem like the most exciting aspect of your strategy, but without a well-designed plan for publishing, it is nearly impossible to perfect that most difficult element of content marketing: consistency.
Regular, high-quality marketing material is the cornerstone of every successful business, with research showing that consistent brands are worth up to 20% more than inconsistent ones.
If you're just beginning to put together your marketing strategy together, your content calendar is a brilliant place to start. Out blog will explore why, but first...
What Goes into a Content Calendar?
Content calendars can appear simple on their face. Surely it is just a case of remembering to publish some blog posts?
In reality, these calendars are a complex web of different content types, including blog posts, videos, social media posts, emails, website pages, eBooks, webinars, and anything else you can think of.
Once you start to consider all these elements and how they all inter-link with one another, it becomes clear why a calendar is so important. Without one, keeping track of what needs to be published and when becomes a complex equation, with the wrong answer resulting in your entire marketing timeline being thrown out of the window.
However, your content calendar isn’t just a tool for meeting deadlines. Used properly, it can help you plan weeks or even months ahead, cutting down on planning meetings and improving overall efficiency within your marketing team.
If you know that in two months you’ll be publishing a blog post, you can decide your title, keyword target and staff schedule well ahead of time, turning your marketing into a well-oiled machine.
Content calendars can vary wildly in design. Many businesses use a calendar that looks like one you’d find on the wall, with a breakdown of tasks to be completed by day, week, or month. For more detail, content calendars can exist in Excel or Google Sheet form, allowing easier comparison of performance.
Whichever form you choose, you’ll want to follow the fundamental steps below to create a flawless content calendar.
1. Decide on Your Content Types and Tones
Before you begin to populate your calendar, you need to take some time to decide what content you want to focus on. This will be determined by what your audience engages with, so if you haven’t already completed your customer profiles, speak to your audience to determine what they want from your business.
Depending on your industry, you may find that your audience is looking for educational blog posts or light-hearted videos. This will determine the focus of your content strategy and thus influence your calendar.
Regardless of whichever content type proves most popular, you’ll want to ensure you provide a variety to avoid your marketing becoming stale. As such, we recommend always including the following in your content calendar:
Blog posts: Your audience craves regular content that both educates and delights. Having a blog allows you to provide this in an easily accessible area of your website, while also enhancing your online visibility as each post can be linked to a keyword that improves your search-engine optimisation (SEO).
Social media: In order to spread the word about your fantastic content, you’ll want to include social media scheduling in your content calendar. It may be that you have your own social schedule already, but incorporating that into your overall calendar will help ensure every piece of content you create is shared immediately on social media and continuously promoted.
Downloadable offer content: Integral to modern marketing is a strategy for moving website visitors from strangers to leads to customers, by nurturing them with valuable content. Providing free downloadable offer content such as eBooks, slideshares, infographics or webinars is a wonderful way to learn more about your leads and move them through the buyer’s journey.
Emails: Providing valuable content allows you to ask your customers for details such as their email address and details about their role. With this information, you can schedule nurturing emails to increase your number of customers.
Videos: Video is becoming more and popular, with four times as many consumers preferring video content about products to written content. Video content can be long or short, and offers a great way to engage your audience.
Each of these content types needs to be factored into your calendar, not just in relation to the time they’ll take to complete, but also with regards to the tone of each piece.
While your blogs and emails may have a professional tone, it is possible you’ll want to pair them with humorous social media posts. Furthermore, you may decide that some blogs should be straight-faced, while others be entertaining.
By deciding your content types and tone-of-voice early, you can incorporate them into your calendar and plan further ahead in more detail.
2. Populate Your Content Calendar
Now you’ve chosen which type of content you’re going to prioritise it is time to populate your content calendar with the following considerations.
The value of a content calendar is its ability to bring together all elements of your marketing in an easily understood way. As such, the more information you can attach to each item, the further ahead you can plan.
Since you may be delegating these items to members of the team, providing detailed briefs of the content you want to be produced saves time by reducing the need for management meetings and cutting down on confusion.
Therefore, at the earliest opportunity, define the requirements of the piece. For blogs posts, this would include a title, information on the topic, a target word count, keyword analysis, and direction on the tone of the writing.
Alongside these, write a short statement about how the content relates to your SMART goals. If you’re not sure, it may be time reconsider the worth of the piece.
We recommend going through this process with your team, not only so they can gain a greater insight into what is expected of them, but also so they can give their input. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Publishing Platforms and Frequency
Your customer profiles have already helped you decide what type of content they want from your business, now they can lend a hand to determining the frequency of your publishing.
By knowing your customers, you can identify which brands they are engaging with best, and conduct competitor analysis to gain an insight into which content types you should publish most frequently. At the same time, you can decide which platforms are preferred and tailor your content types and tones accordingly.
Take a moment to research what types of content benefit from a higher publishing frequency. While you may think blogs aren’t that important for your company, the fact that businesses who publish 16 or more blog posts per month get four and a half times more leads may change your mind.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to know all the exact details of your content items to factor them into your calendar. If you know you want a blog post going out every Monday, create a list of blank reference numbers and assign one to each blog post for the coming months.
By doing this for all the content going out regularly, you’ll have a clear view of what you need to plan for and when.
Content calendars are very useful, but only if you commit to staying on top of them. To do this, you’ll need to create a colour coding system. This can be done in one of three ways.
The first is to assign a colour to each content type. This is useful when first designing your calendar, as it allows you to better visualise which content is going out when and how often.
However, if you stick to your calendar, you’ll soon find that you’ve memorised this information so you may want to use another colour coding method.
One is to assign each of your team a colour and then attach those colours to your calendar items depending on who is responsible for them. This is more useful in the long run, as it will not only allow you to plan out your content strategy, but also everyone’s deadlines.
Alternatively, use colour coding to track the progress of each item on your content calendar. This can be as simple as using a traffic light system that marks items that haven’t been started red, ones that are in the process of writing orange, and published posts green.
Whichever method you choose, ensure that you link your main content calendar with each of your team members’ calendars. This way, everyone in your office will have their own personal content calendar to work with.
3. Content Evaluation
The power of a content calendar isn’t just in its ability to help you plan your content’s production, but also its evaluation.
Using marketing software such as HubSpot allows you to measure the success of each element of your content calendar, from email open rates to social media post views. As such, you can identify what resonates with your audience and build upon your successes.
Despite the value of evaluation, the pressures of creating new content can often get in the way. In fact, 55% of B2B marketers say they are unclear on what content marketing success looks like.
Determining what constitutes success is unique to your business and goals, so the only way to learn and improve is to throw yourself head-first into your marketing data. Scheduling time to analyse the items in your calendar means you always remember to review existing content.
Just as you use analysis to improve your content, so should you use data to enhance your calendar. As you learn more and more about what your audience is looking for from your marketing, you can tweak your schedule to suit.
In the end, your content calendar is the glue that holds your marketing strategy together. Without one, it is nearly impossible to provide the consistency your customers crave. To learn more about how to create a content marketing strategy that works for your business, book a free Marketing Assessment with one of our team today.