If there is one drum I beat over and over on this blog is the importance of content — and loads of it!
Content must be the main core of your marketing plan, your social media efforts, and your ongoing conversation with your customer base.
We’ve covered the importance of content and even talked about how to create it (and not want to hang yourself in the process.)
One content element we haven’t yet covered is time. When you talk about certain topics, timing is almost as important as what you talk about. Back when the only content regularly created was for magazine and newspapers, only one kind of person would have to think about content planning. An editor!
These days, small business owners have to be CEOs and Editors themselves, along with a whole host of other duties. But before you groan at the idea of adding one more task to your already overfull plate, take a breath and think.
Ask yourself if you’d rather take a bit of time planning out your content …or go back to the days where you had to pay cash money for your exposure and branding.
I thought so.
Content planning is more interesting than you’d think. It’s an ‘excuse’ to do a deep dive not just into your company’s future plans and sales cycles, it’s a reason to deep dive into what your customers are talking about and when. It forces you do to some clear planning up front. Planning? Never a bad thing.
Here are some steps to guide you through the content planning process. Perform one of these at a time and before you know it, you’ll have a robust editorial calendar laid out for you.
No more scratching your head and asking that eternal question “What should I write about?” Simply refer to your editorial calendar and you’re off to the races. All that remains is the actual typing. (Kind of, but you know what I mean.)
Step 1: Look Inside
The point of content is – at the end of the day– to support your business. Yes, you want to throw engaging content out there as well. Stuff that’s got nothing to do with you or your company, but that is all about your customer’s interests.
That’s pure bait, to hook them by their curiosity and “reel” them back onto your site.
But there are times where it’s appropriate –even helpful– to your customers to talk about your products. So map out what your internal sales cycles are.
Look at the last two years of website traffic. When are your huge bumps in customer traffic? What are they looking for?
When is your peak season? Map that out (or them out, if you have more than one peak) on a calendar. And then make sure you start talking about pushing out content that crows about that particular product or service a few days ahead of time, at least. Ideally a week before.
You don’t need the content to be cutesy or try to get too clever. Your product-related content can be all about the product. As long as it focuses on how your reader will benefit from this product or service and as long as you make mention of why people should buy from you versus a competitor.
Are you planning on launching new products or new updates to existing products? Those are great content opportunities. They are timely and fresh and it’s an excuse to talk to your customer about products.
Just like the press releases in days of yore, the whole point of this content is the “breaking news” aspect. So plan out what will be new and then make sure you plan content around it.
It’s Sale O’clock!
Now that you’ve plotted out your product sales and peak seasons, it’s time to look at your sale schedule. Most of us run regular sales and discounts. Why not crow about them in your content?
Again, it doesn’t need to be a long drawn out (AKA boring) post. It can simply mention that you have a great sale coming up. Post about it before, during and when you’re one day away from closing the sale down. Quick, fun, “FYI” posts work the best here.
Step 2: Google Trends
Google really is a Godsend to the small business owner. Properly harnessed, it can help you drive traffic, get your PPC ads in front of exactly the right customer and so much more. One of my absolutely favorite things about Google, though, is the ability to really perform some intense market research.
What I mean by that is that it removes so much of the guesswork and testing that used to be part of planning out marketing. When you ran an ad anywhere you used to have to guess what headline would best grab your customer’s attention. ‘
You know what you call your product, service or industry…but what do they? What words do they use and in precisely what order?
Keyword tools removed all the guesswork and gave you incredible insight into what your customers were searching for. But – speaking of insights – how often do you go a step further and check out Google Trends? It was formerly called Google Insights.
No matter what you call it, this tool can be an extremely powerful (and again FREE) way to help you time out your content so you’re serving up what they want…exactly when they want it!
I’ll give you a clear example. A friend of mine manages content for a hardware store. She noticed that building chicken coops was a very social topic and it seemed that more and more of their customers were coming in their stores asking for supplies and advice.
So she thought – we should write content about how to build your own chicken coop. She did a bit of keyword research and was satisfied that the search volume justified creating and amplifying this kind of content.
The only question remained was when should they launch this content, this exciting new series. So she headed over to Google trends and typed in “How to build a chicken coop”. And wow, look what she got…
It became quickly obvious there were times people were really searching for this information and content. Do you know that every single one of those peaks occurred on the exact same month? April! So she began to schedule her chicken coop content to roll out late March and into April.
Do this with content you think your customers want. Talk to your salespeople or customer service folks and quiz them on what topics most often come up when they are chatting with your customers. You’d be surprised how often this anecdotal ‘research’ can turn into a very popular content series on your site!
Step 3: Spy, spy, spy
The final content-timing step comes in the form of one of my favorite activities: corporate espionage!
Write down on a piece of paper (or type into a spreadsheet if that’s more your style) all your potential competitors for content. This isn’t just a list of direct competitors, who happen to sell the exact same stuff as you. This is a list of any and all sites that publish content that would potentially appeal to your customers.
Certainly this includes your direct competitors and you should add them to the list. But also add big box stores who sell what you sell, or who sell tangentially relevant products or services.
Include a list of bloggers who write about your industry. Add online magazines, newsletters…anyone who talks about stuff your customers care about. That wide open enough for you?
Now dig in and stalk their blogs and social media work. You’re looking not just for content tips and ideas (although those are nice too!) but for what seems to resonate when with readers. Look for increases in likes, in Tweets, in repins. Try to determine when certain content seems to get more attention than other times.
Mark all this down on your sheet and I guarantee you that trends will emerge. It will soon become obvious when you should be creating and publishing content about certain topics, and when you should hold off.
There! Three simple, if time consuming, steps. But once you take the time to plan out your content you’ll be thrilled you did. Not only will you have front loaded a bunch of great topic ideas but you will publish them with confidence, knowing that your customers are actively looking for what you are posting.
Do you have an editorial calendar? If not, why not? No time to make one? You like running things by the seat of your pants? Tell me more about your planning tips and tricks and question in the comments below.
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