Published on September 26th, 2012 | by Contributing Author4
Build a Content Marketing Calendar, Customers Will Come
There’s someone I’d like you to meet! My biggest frenemy in the world: Procrastination. Oh wait, you two have already met? Of course you have, procrastination gets around, am I right? And, when it comes to content marketing, getting involved with procrastination is an intense whirlwind relationship full of stress, guilt and shame. Meanwhile, customers are eagerly awaiting our educational emails, super sales, bangin’ blog posts and shareable social updates. So how can we retain and gain new customers, yet kick that no-good procrastination to the curb? Meet a much better catch: The content marketing calendar.
We know producing quality content is at the core of keeping our customers engaged, buying, liking, talking and subscribing. But oh, how do we find the time! It’s pretty simple if/and when you create a calendar. Organization is power! Build a content marketing calendar and customers will come. Here’s how:
First, decide what type of content you’re going to wow your customers with. Will you create promotional emails, newsletters, videos, blog posts, Twitter and/or Facebook updates? Write down every type of “content” you want or need to produce, plus how often you’ll publish or send it. This will give you a better understanding of how and when you want to communicate with your audience.
Determining content type is fine and dandy, but cooking up content topics may cause a slip up with procrastination. Set up weekly, monthly or quarterly editorial brainstorm sessions, whether it’s with yourself or members of your team, and get creative! Do some pre-brainstorm research, create charts, doodle, scope out competitors, feed off each other’s ideas and stir up enough content ideas that’ll hold you over until next time. No one wants to eat a half-cooked cake (or read a frantically whipped up blog post), so don’t leave your brainstorm session until your content calendar is bursting with juicy ideas.
At VerticalResponse, we have quarterly brainstorm sessions for our marketing blog, weekly sessions for the VR Buzz newsletter, and daily ones for our social posts. The longer the content takes to produce (blog post vs. tweet), the earlier you should plan ahead. Once you have your ideas, place them into a content calendar so you don’t forget them.
Shoot: (and set a) goal!
Once you’ve decided on desired content types and ideas, give yourself frequency goals: I will update Twitter twice a day, I will send an email newsletter twice a month, I will write a blog post three times a month, etc. Once you’ve determined your content and frequency goals, it’s time to get crafty and put them into play!
Pick a tool, any tool
Simply put, use whatever’s easiest. At VR, we rely heavily on Google Calendars and Google Docs. A simple Excel sheet or Word doc, even your email calendar (Outlook or iCal) will easily suffice, as well. We’ve also recently discovered a handy project management tool called Basecamp that allows you to create projects, to-do lists and assign them to people. Anything that’s been assigned with a deadline automatically shows up in a calendar – snazzy.
Be a mastermind
Create one mega master calendar featuring all of your content: email campaigns, blog posts, social posts, etc. Once everything’s laid out, analyze. Are any of your emails overlapping? Are you sending too much/too little? Is it possible for you to produce this much content? These are questions that’ll instantly be answered with a master calendar in place. The Content Marketing Institute also suggests to keep the following in mind:
- Track key dates such as events, holidays or other things that may impact which content you want to share and when. If you have an international audience, include holidays in the various countries you serve as well.
- Include a brief overview of all of the content that is planned by content type.
- Looking at all of your key dates and planned topics can give you ideas for topics and help you think about how you can re-purpose content in multiple sources. For instance, if you have a new guide or case study planned, you can plan one or a series of blog posts around that. Or, if you have an event, you can plan to develop an eBook based on the top 30
takeaways from the event. Seeing the calendar at a glance helps these connections jump out more easily – and helps you remember which dates to avoid.
Once you’ve created a master plan, create mini-calendars per platform – blog, email, social, etc. At VR, we keep track of blog posts and email campaigns in the same Google
Calendar; however, we manage and schedule our social posts elsewhere (VR Social hint, hint).
Here’s an example of our master calendar (Google Calendar) including emails, blog posts and even ‘splash pages’ we feature on our website:
Here’s an example of the VR Buzz newsletter calendar in Google Docs (as featured above with Ryan Gosling) broken up by quarter, week and audience:
Make deadlines for deadlines
When I worked in advertising, I had to manage and keep track of hundreds of clients and their deadlines. Do you think I ever gave my clients their real deadline? No way José. As much as we love to think people will stick to deadlines, they simply don’t. This is why you need to give others (and yourself!) deadlines for your deadlines. Marking faux deadlines on your content calendars will also keep things perfectly in check… It’ll be our little secret.
Gain an entourage
Just because you created a content calendar doesn’t mean you have to manage it. Is someone in your company super-organized, has great attention to detail (and is a little bit bossy? – hmm, no wonder my director chose me to manage our blog!) Perfect. Put them in charge of managing your content calendars and deadlines, even if it means they’ll be after you. Also know that you don’t need to produce content all by yourself. Recruit a team of writers, or even consider a freelancer. Knowing you have an entourage of content creators will also justify the importance of maintaining a content calendar and adhering to it – more people to count/rely on!
Stick to it
Remember when we set goals? Here’s where we stick to them! Producing content may seem daunting, but think of all that revenue, exciting engagement and possible new prospects you’ll gain once that content is out there! Keeping your goals will be much easier and way more rewarding especially with a concise and organized content calendar. And remember, stay strong – procrastination doesn’t even deserve you.
Have content marketing calendar tips and tactics of your own? Spill it!
- Also, check out our CEO, Janine Popick, as she shows you how to plot out social media and email updates on a calendar for an event: 4 Quick Ways to Make the Most out of Email & Social.
© 2012, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.