Your Guide to Creating a Sustainable Content Marketing Plan

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Justin Champion
Justin Champion



Content marketing is about effectively telling a story that captures the attention of a relevant audience enough for them to take a desired action. That’s really it. However, a new website is created every second, which means you’re not the only storyteller out there. You need to be strategic and prepared if you want people to hear your story.

sustainable content marketing

In a world of mass information, the story always stands out. If you’re consistent with telling your story, then the results will come. Just check out the results this pharmaceutical services company was seeing in the HubSpot Sources tool. 

creating a sustainable content marketing plan

If you’re looking for a sustainable content marketing plan to help tell your company’s story and convince readers to do business with you, complete the following six steps.

6 Steps to Creating A Sustainable Content Marketing Plan

Step 1: Identify benchmarks 

To better understand where you want to go, you need to know where you’ve been. Review performance benchmarks to help paint a picture of all activities and achievements to date. In order to successfully set benchmarks, you must first have a detailed understanding of how your company operates. Start with identifying the previous year’s performance:

  • How many customers did your company have last year? How many of those were new customers?
  • How many leads did your company receive last year? How many of those leads turned into customers?
  • Which sources produced the most leads (social media, tradeshows, etc.)?
  • What marketing initiatives happened last year (what worked, what didn’t work, and why)?
  • What were your resources last year (employees, contractors, etc.)?
  • What content do you currently have (ebooks, whitepapers, webinars, etc.)?

Defining the above will help set the stage for setting realistic, achievable goals.

Step 2: Create your goal(s)

Goals are the foundation for your content marketing plan. The purpose of setting goals is to drive transparent improvements and align the company’s resources to stay on track and pace; every action should have a purpose in support of a larger end goal. However, most small to medium-sized businesses operate without them. According to Staples’ 4th National Small Business survey, more than 80 percent of small businesses do not keep track of their goals. So, it’s not surprising that 80 percent of small businesses fail in the first 18 months.

All goals should be clearly defined and easy to understand. One way to keep it simple and straightforward is to use the SMART goals approach.

Really take the time to create attainable goals. Set goals that are a stretch but not out of reach. Review your benchmarks and ask yourself, “Am I setting us up for failure? Do I really think this is feasible?” You want to keep everyone encouraged and focused. 

Additionally, it’s easy to get tunnel vision with long-term goals. But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Reward yourself and your team with short-term progress wins. A little appreciation goes a long way.

Content marketing itself is rewarding. Creating content is like having a savings account; if you’re consistent with contributing to it, you’ll earn returns on your investment. 

Step 3: Determine your buyer persona(s) and their buyer’s journey

Buyer personas (also known as personas) are semi-fictional representations of your business’ ideal customers. Personas help you understand your audience (prospects and customers) better, making it easier for you to serve content that addresses their needs, behaviors, and concerns. Your business objectives should be influenced by catering to your personas (marketing, product/service, support, etc.). If they’re not, then your business is not running as lean, efficient, or successful as it could be. When creating your persona(s), the more detail the better. 

The Buyer’s Journey is the active research process a persona goes through leading up to a purchase. There are three different stages of the buyer’s journey: 

creating a sustainable content marketing plan

Take the time to understand what content will help inform your personas, educate them, and progress them from a lead to a customer. Don’t expect everyone coming to your website to be ready to “schedule a free demo” or receive a “free consultation.” You wouldn’t propose marriage to someone on the first date, right? You’d want to get to know them first. It’s the same relationship with content marketing. You need to be well informed before making a decision, which is why creating content in the awareness and consideration stages is key to developing a relationship. 

Work smart, not hard when it comes to identifying content offers. Content is just an idea that can be represented in different formats. If you have an ebook, review it and see if there are any additional ways this content could be repurposed into other formats. For example, maybe the ebook content could influence a checklist or webinar. Not only will this allow you to produce more content while conserving bandwidth, but also, and more importantly, it strengthens the relevancy of the buyer’s journey.

If you’re having a hard time getting started, then consider meeting with your sales team to pick their brains--they’re the best resource to understanding your company’s personas. Ask them questions, such as: 

  • How many different types of prospects does our business have?
  • Can you explain the process of how a lead becomes a customer?
  • What questions do prospects have?
  • Is there specific information that helps prospects progress through the sales cycle?

The goal with your content marketing plan is to provide a similar experience that aligns with your sales process. This way, you can work on developing a content marketing plan that preps the prospect to become a highly-valuable, well-informed sales qualified lead (SQL). This should get the sales team jazzed up because you are working to make their jobs a lot easier. 

Step 4: Grind it out one campaign at a time

Break your buyer’s journey content up into consumable campaign chunks. For example, if you have three personas and each persona has five content offers in their buyer’s journey, you have 15 total content offers to create. List out each content offer based on priority. This will help organize your long-term content marketing plan into short-term, action-based initiatives.

Once organized, select your first content offer and create a campaign. Let’s say your first campaign is an ebook. To create this ebook, we’re going to treat it like a puzzle; something that is put together by adjoining pieces. This way, you can reverse engineer your content offer through content installments, such as blog posts, as opposed to writing the entire ebook at once. 

To launch this content offer, you’re going to need to build a conversion funnel. A conversion funnel is a process the persona goes through on your site, leading to receiving your content offers and becoming a lead.

Step 5: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

The goal is to create efficiencies within your team’s work life. Efficiencies help create a more productive, enjoyable working environment.

When creating your first campaign, really use this as a learning experience to identify a process that can be scaled. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Think of your first campaign like a template; it’s a representation for future campaign production. This way you’re prepared to hit the ground running on the next campaign. 

Step 6: Analyze and identify new opportunities

Once a campaign has data to analyze, review what worked, what didn’t work, and why. You will notice some campaigns helped boost the bottom line, while others didn’t contribute much value at all and that’s okay. That will happen. 

For the campaigns that you deem valuable, try to understand where the value came from. Was it a blog post series that attracted your personas or was it a tweet or LinkedIn post? Identify what content is working and which sources are providing the most value. Give your personas more of what they’re looking for where they’re looking for it. It’s that simple!

Content Marketing is About The Journey

In conclusion, if you put forth the effort, you deserve the right to be found; you deserve the opportunity to showcase your thought-leadership concepts. Visualize it and make it happen. 

Don’t sell yourself short by rushing the content marketing planning process. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Anyone can sprint, but successful businesses are persistent, consistent, and have a measurable plan of action. In turn, their finish line is much more rewarding.

If you're ready to get started and want some additional support with creating your first content offer.

Start the free Content Marketing Certification course from HubSpot Academy.

photo credit: 20120215_23 Waterloo via photopin (license)


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