4 Reasons You Need a Documented Content Marketing Plan

As with most things in life, it's best to have a plan.


by Dave Robson

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According to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute, 35% of B2B content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. They’re ahead of B2C content marketers, though; only 27% of those guys managed to document their strategy. 50% of companies engaged in digital marketing admit that they don’t have a plan at all. 50% said they had a strategy but it isn’t documented. Know what it really means when someone says they have a strategy but it isn’t documented? It really means: “We think we have a strategy and we tell everyone we have a strategy, but we’re making it up as we go along.”

A real strategy is a documented strategy. Don’t believe us? Well, there are real, tangible benefits to documenting your strategy in a content marketing plan.

One: It Clearly Defines Your Goals

If you’re new to content creation, one thing that should be obvious to you by now is that it’s a massive beast. There are no finite edges to your content aside from the ones you put there. You’ll never create more content than people can consume. You can never run out of ways to promote the content you created. Every piece of content you create offers the promise of yet more content to be created.

That’s why it’s important to make specific goals. The rest of your content strategy is written to support those goals.

Two: It Helps Characterize Your Audience

Businesses have customers, but content creators don’t usually say ‘customers’. They’re a readership, a viewership, or an audience. Why do we bring it up? Because convincing someone to become a customer involves them giving you money; convincing someone to join an audience involves them giving you time and attention. Time and attention are certainly valuable commodities, but they’re a different ballgame than money.

This is why it’s important to figure out your audience. Who they are will inform what kind of content you create, where you publish it, how you promote it, and nearly everything else.

Three: You Need a Unifying Content Theme

Content is tricky in that there are lots of different kinds of content, it’s easy to publish lots of kinds of content, but a content producer who does that will soon find that their audience is diminishing because their audience doesn’t know what to expect from them anymore. A blog that has cat pictures on the front page one day and a 4,000-word analysis of Syria the next will soon find that their audience has abandoned them, and it doesn’t matter if the cat pictures are great and the article on Syria is especially prescient. Content producers need to draw firm lines that can distinguish what they are from what they aren’t. This doesn’t mean they can’t be expansive. For example, the people at Gawker wanted to start covering things like cars, nerd culture, and feminist pop culture. That would make for a confused homepage, though, so they spun off Jalopnik, Kotaku, and Jezebel.

Four: Your Publishing Plan Makes Everything Happen

If the job of your goals, audience, and content themes is to help you think big thoughts, the job of your publishing plan is to put those big thoughts into action. Your publishing plan is your deadlines for getting copy done, publishing your content, and promoting your content. Setting a schedule and committing to it seems like the most obvious thing in the world. But we meet with companies all the time who just don’t have a content schedule. Usually they’re just getting into content creation and aren’t prepared for the grind content creation can be. Or, content creation is just one of the things that the company is focusing on so it becomes a low priority.

But trust us: you will create better content, more often, and with less stress involved, if you figure out a schedule.