Want your content marketing to succeed? Then you’ll need a plan.

“Right! This calls for immediate discussion!”  

As someone who prefers getting things done over talking about getting things done, these wonderful satirical words from Monty Python’s Life of Brian always makes me smile.  

Yet for businesses using content marketing, discussion and planning is the best course of action, before you launch into action.

I was reminded of this when I came across some interesting insight in my content marketing travels this week. When there is so much blogging and analysis about content marketing in the US, I was excited (in a very nerdy way) to see some statistics and trends for the Australian Content Marketing arena.

The third annual survey by the Content Marketing Institute and Australian Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) lifts the lid on some of the current practices and benchmarks in Australia.  

Australian companies are certainly embracing content marketing – nine out of ten respondents said they were using content marketing and 74 per cent were creating more content compared to 12 months ago. Aussie companies are also using multiple content tactics – everything from web content, social media, newsletters, blogs, events, videos, infographics and slideshare presentations.

Yet only about three in ten believe their organisation are using it successfully. Oh dear. Sounds like a lot of wasted effort.

So why such a big gap between doing it and doing it well? Is there something missing?

The survey showed that perhaps it’s not the content being created but how strategically (not un-strategically) Aussie companies are approaching it.

Only 37 per cent had a formalised, documented strategy to content marketing. The rest had no strategy at all, or an undocumented one.

When it came to the question of do you actually follow a strategy closely, only 40 per cent were in the ‘yes’ camp.

In the rush to get on board with the growing content marketing trend, it seems many businesses are simply doing it because they feel they have to, without any clear purpose or intent. They might be “on” social media, or have a blog, but that’s where the content strategy ends.

If I’m being honest, I really hate planning anything in great detail, or too far in advance. I’ve been known to open my guide book to plan an overseas holidays while on the plane.  

But when it comes to engaging audiences and encouraging profitable customer action through content marketing, you can never plan too much. Most businesses have multiple content touch-points and multiple people managing and engaging with each, so a consistent, well-developed strategy and documented plan is essential.

Here are 5 tips to help your business master its content marketing strategy and planning.

  • Set a goal

What does success look like? If you have a clear idea of where you want to be you can determine the best way to get there. The desired outcome of your content marketing could be one or a range of things such as engagement, sales, brand awareness, customer evangelism, lead generation or loyalty.

  • Identify the barriers to success

If your goal is to build engagement and the major barrier is that your community is currently very small and disinterested, then your task will be to grow your audience with interesting content that both connects with emotion and encourages participation. By contrast, a goal of increased sales may employ different tactics, like innovative ways of showcasing products.  A key to effectiveness is the understanding that different content encourages different behaviour with different audiences.

  • Decide how you will measure success

It sounds obvious that measuring effectiveness involves being selective about metrics, but it still a challenge for most marketers, especially because customer behaviour has not been easy to quantify in a tangible way. There are many different ways to use and interpret digital data. For example, if you want to measure engagement you won’t find this by looking at web traffic in google analytics, but rather by other tangible metrics such as the quality and quantity of comments, testimonials, likes, follows, retweets and shares.

  • Develop a content calendar

Planning in detail is a bit tedious, I grant you. But the good news is that once it is set out with deadlines and milestones, it makes implementation easier and more manageable. Plus it gives you a lovely crossing-off-my-to-do-list-feeling once each milestone is reached. Happily, it also largely removes the angst over the dreaded dilemma of “what can I post on our social media pages today?”

  • Write it down

Yes, again very obvious, but this step is being skipped by many business. Document your plan, your messages, your brand content guidelines, your content calendar and then share it around so everyone is on the same page (literally)

Thanks to ADMA and CMI for providing this insightful Aussie snapshot. It reminds the success-driven but reluctant-planner types that a structured and strategic approach to content marketing is the difference between effectiveness and disappointment. As the well-worn saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”