Keep the wheel turning: How to create a sustainable content marketing plan

We share some top tips for creating a sustainable content marketing plan.

Pranita Tamang
6 MIN|September 16, 2017
How to Create Sustainable Content Marketing Plan

The first recorded attempt at creating a perpetual motion machine was Bhaskara’s Wheel – a wheel which always had more weight on one side than the other invented by an Indian scientist in the 12th century.

Since then, many an engineer has attempted to create a perpetual motion machine – one which will keep on turning without the input of any additional energy. And none has succeeded. The concept is fundamentally flawed because all bodies are subject to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that they are subject to forces and processes that gradually dissipate their kinetic energy.

The point in this short detour into mechanics and physics? Simply put, no motion occurs without the input of some form of energy. When it comes to a marketing plan, the same principle applies. Even if you have the best laid plans, even if your marketing has gotten off to a good start, it won’t simply keep on revolving by itself.

In today’s post, I’m speaking to Fifty Five and Five’s very own Aidan Danaher (our marketing maestro) for his insights into creating a sustainable approach to digital and content marketing plan. Aidan’s a graduate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has a lot of experience helping brands differentiate themselves and talk about their products and services in the right way. He provides expert tips for digital and content marketers about how to keep creating content, staying fresh and keeping the marketing wheel turning.

Why do digital and content marketing machines “run out of steam”?

So, you had a load of meetings, you created a content calendar, you got exec buy in and you laid out your digital marketing plans for the next 6-12 months. It was all there in a proposal document, a spreadsheet – or even on a Gantt chart! It looked good and your colleagues got on board from day one. Dave from R&D wrote a blog post about your product. Karen from HR got stuck in with Twitter. Even Kwazi from IT agreed to appear in your video. The perfect start.

But then, three months later, you find yourself looking at the corporate website. No new content has been uploaded since the beginning of the year. The initial bubble of enthusiasm has burst and the digital and content marketing plan seems to have given up the ghost. What went wrong?

  • Falling at the first hurdle. Companies often expect immediate results from digital and content marketing. When their first sorties don’t turn into a rush of leads, they very quickly get dispirited.
  • No time. It’s the excuse any marketing manager has heard when trying to corral colleagues into writing blog posts and other content.
  • No new ideas. After the first enthusiasm, you soon ran out of ideas for engaging Twitter posts and articles.

Aidan notes that these issues are all too common:

“It’s great when people start to implement a new marketing plan. For anyone working in marketing, to see progress is a fantastic feeling. The next challenge is sustaining that progress and keeping momentum. Often, we see companies make a huge effort creating a ‘big bang’ campaign, which very quickly ends up running out of energy.”

Make your content marketing plan sustainable

1. Ownership

Aidan explains that for any marketing plan to be a success, ownership is key:

“From experience, it’s essential that you have one person whose job it is to push your marketing strategy forward. These things don’t happen by themselves; you need someone who’s dedicated to creating new content ideas, publishing said content on your website, monitoring its reach, sharing over social media, creating automation campaigns etc.”

2. Create a process

Content doesn’t publish itself; you need a process in place which will ensure the content is created regularly, and maintain quality standards.

“Put in place a simple and consistent process. Use tasks to ensure things get done. A lot of the most successful content marketers are producing new content regularly. For the team here, we’ve created an internal calendar and stick to it (most of the time!). But say you’re a small tech start-up – producing 2 or 3 blogs a week isn’t a reality. So aim to create at least one per week/every day 10 days. Again build a process around that goal. Ensure each blog is well researched, edited, proofed and then published at a time and day when it will most likely be shared.”

3. Have an editorial theme

Very often, companies produce a lot of ‘generic’ content. To make your blog stand out, it should be personalised to your target audience. Aidan says:

“Understand who your audience is, the value you can offer them, and be consistent in what you say. Let’s say you deliver managed IT services for example, it’s a crowded industry. So how do you stand out and get people visiting your site? It’s no good writing about general IT news for instance – people will head to magazines for that. Instead, your blog, eBooks, email newsletter and tweets should be very clearly targeted at specific people, problems and solutions. A marketing persona is a great way to kick things off.”

4. Store ideas in a shared place

From time to time, you’ll have a great idea for a new article for the website, or even a brand new marketing campaign. However, if you only jot that down on a piece of paper then forget all about it, don’t expect it to ever materialise.

“At Fifty Five and Five, we use a shared OneNote page in Office 365, where everyone can add new ideas, give feedback and see what we’ve each contributed. Whatever you use – be that a SharePoint team site, Evernote or some other app – it’s really important for ideas to be stored in a shared space where everyone can access them.”

5. Create a content pipeline

No matter what your content marketing goals are, creating a pipeline of content for the next few weeks or even months will ensure you don’t get caught out. Aidan explains:

“By having a view of the number of blogs, email campaigns, eBooks, infographics and whatever other content you expect to publish in the coming weeks, you can build a much stronger long term strategy.”

6. Short and long-term strategies

Ideally, content marketing plan should come in two forms. You need a long term ‘editorial’, where you write about company news, produce great newsletters, and simply produce content on topics that are important to you. However, this also needs to be combined with occasional pushes around new products and events, Aidan says:

“The content marketing owner needs to combine long term strategy with short term pushes. We recommend about 66% of your content should be ‘regular’ content, then the last third needs to be your short term campaign content.
“For example, in Q1, you might be releasing a new product. So, naturally you want to push that new product and make people aware of it, but not at the expense of your wider plan. This isn’t an exact science of course, but say you post 40 Tweets a month. I’d say about 25 of those need to be general content, the rest should be focused on your new product. If you’re only talking about your new product, your followers will get bored.”

7. Stay inspired

The greatest challenge for any content creator is keeping new ideas coming in. Aidan recommends a variety of ways of generating these ideas:

“It’s very important to stay inspired, and I always recommend people follow people who are influential in their field on Twitter or LinkedIn for content ideas. Every day I read check my Feedly account to read up on content related to our field too. Besides that, a good old ‘brainstorming’ session is generally effective, and if you’re ever really stuck for ideas, go back to your personas and think about questions those people would be likely to ask. Think about your audience’s problems then start providing them with the solutions.
A marketing machine will never ‘run itself’. In order to keep your digital and content marketing strategy wheel moving, you need to build up a strategy and then keep driving it forward with consistent, quality content. It’s important to stay motivated and measure how you’re doing to ensure it’s having the intended impact. However, once you get there, it’s amazing to see just what impact content marketing can have.”

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