Content Marketing Plan: How To Create A Strategy That Will Make You Stand Out

Do you have a Content Marketing Plan?

Is it documented?

Regardless whether you sell to consumers, businesses, donors, and/or the government,  you need content marketing to:

  • Attract attention for your brand,
  • Get people to consider buying from you,
  • Close profitable sales,
  • On-board end-users and get them to buy from you again, and
  • Support higher level social goals.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer (2021), public trust in all information sources is at record lows. This includes your content marketing which is labeled owned media; 2 out of 5 respondents trust owned media, both yours and that of your competitors. 

Trust in all information sources at record lows

BUT, Edelman’s trust research contains a silver lining:
3 out of 5 employees trust content and communications from their employer. 

What does this mean for your marketing?
Create an email newsletter especially tailored for your employees. 

To ensure your employee communications succeed, develop them with the same level of loving care as you do for your customer communications. Otherwise, employees will sense you don’t care about them.

Employer media most believable

Further, to add credibility and trustworthiness to your content marketing and other communications, tap your organization’s technical experts for their help and insights. Where possible work with them to create content marketing, your audience wants and needs.
spokespeople lose credibility

To break through this ever-expanding amount of data, information and content marketing, develop and document your content marketing plan regardless of the level resources you have.  

Need help?
Use this 10 Step Content Marketing Plan to get on track to succeed.

10 Step Content Marketing Plan

1. What are the business goals for your content marketing plan?

Align your content marketing objectives with those of your brand business and/or product and/or brand.

In addition, ensure your content marketing goals have measurable results associated with each one.  And include contextually relevant calls-to-action, UTMs and related tracking to prove your marketing yields profitable results.

The top 5 content marketing plan objectives are:

  1. Build awareness of and support for your brand;
  2. Generate qualified leads meeting the standards of your marketing and sales teams;
  3. Close sales by providing prospects and customers with the information they seek;
  4. On-board new end-users and encourage existing customers to purchase again to build loyalty; and
  5. Support higher social goals such as diversity and being environmentally friendly.

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Proactively position your business to stand out for your best customers. Otherwise your competitors will define your business and positioning for you. (Check April Dunford’s Obviously Awesome.)

2. Who is the audience for your content marketing?

Content marketing must be targeted to meet the wants and needs of your best customers. Otherwise, it’s the information version of wallpaper and people don’t bother to pay attention to it. 

While many marketers laser-focus on their prospects and customers, take a broader approach to understand the full audience for your content marketing. Include these 3 groups of people:

  • Have a Buying relationship with your organization. Includes current customers, prospects, purchase influencers, end-users, non-buying prospects or past customers.
  • Earn Income from your organization. Encompasses management, employees, alumni, suppliers, distributors, agencies, freelancers, your Board of Directors and/or investors.
  • Have a relationship with your organization based on Other reasons. Includes the local community to where your business is located, journalists and other news entities, government, competitors and/or category peers.

Audience Definition: BIO Approach

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  1. Talk to your best customers and others to determine what they need and want from your content. Don’t guess at what they want! This will help you to determine what type of content they want, when they want it, and where they look for it.
  2. Create a marketing persona for each segment of your target market. Also include a marketing persona backstory.

3. How Do You Incorporate Your Brand Into Your Content Marketing?

Integrate your brand into your content marketing to ensure that your audience knows that it could only come from your organization! This includes when your content marketing doesn’t include your logo or name. 

To do this, give your  content marketing a personality associated with your brand.

  1. Create a brand voice that sound human. Include the type of words you use, foul language and accents. Also, give it a personality that stands out as uniquely belonging to your brand.
  2. Associate sounds and/or audio with your content. Beyond including your audio or sonic branding, determine who speaks for your brand. And how does that person sound? Bear in mind, voice and audio content convey more information to your audience than text does.
  3. Use your brand’s colors. Determine how your brand colors translate to text in terms of readability. Also, how do they look online?
  4. Select an easy-to-read typeface. Since typography is an integral part of your bran, make sure your audience can read it.
  5. Include other visual cues where appropriate, such as your logo or other brand mascot.

Instead of spewing facts, tell your audience stories since they make information easier to remember. (If you need ideas use these twenty-nine ideas.)

  1. Explain your firm’s history. Find stories about your founders, your business and/or your location.
  2. Persuade buyers with stories about your products. They make your products stand out and add value for customers.
  3. Ask employees and customers to contribute. Collect their stories in text, images, audio and/or video.

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Develop a brand persona that represents your brand. So that your content stands out as coming from your business.
  • Create a brand style guide. (Or, if you have one, make sure that it extends to content marketing across all content formats.) Make it easy to access across your business including your agencies and freelancers.

4. What information does your audience seek and in what context do they want it?

Content marketing IS about you audience and the information they need and want. 

Due to COVID, across age segments, your audience has adopted digital options and increased use of voice-enabled devices.About 1 in 3 US adults uses voice assistants or voice interfaces to interact with smart home devices at least monthly according to Voicebot’s Bret Kinsella:

voice device usage against technology adoption curve

Based on combination of goals, audience and brand, determine the answers to these context-related questions:

  • Who wants or needs the content?
  • Why they want or need it?
  • How they want the information delivered including via what device and in what content format?
  • What they want to achieve with the information?
  • When do they want the content including do they want  only once or do they want to get it on a regular basis? and
  • Where are they when they want or need the content?

Together these answers define the micro-moments as defined by Google (2015) when your audience turns to your content for answers. They exist at the intersection of:

  • Context or anticipating where, when and why your audience will need your content.
  • Intent or providing relevant information based on audience need.
  • Immediacy or serving information quickly.

Miicro-moment via Google

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Answer the questions your audience has. As Marcus Sheridan says, “They ask, you answer.” 
  • Offer “How to” content to improve use and/or styling of your products. Create easy-to-use content for pre- and post-sales use.

5. How Do You Allocate Sufficient Resources for Your Content Marketing?

The reality:
Content marketing doesn’t appear magically appear out of nowhere created for free by your fairy godmother.  

Nor does it get created if it’s another task on your staff’s never-ending “To Do” list.  As one more thing they must do, they may not like to write or be good at it.

So allocate budget and employee time to ensure content marketing gets planned, created, optimized and distributed.

In addition, set aside budget to update existing content to make it:

  • Attract more visibility,
  • Create new distribution presentations, and 
  • Promote key content marketing efforts.

Also, include contextually relevant connected content like landing pages. 

Further allocate budget for related technology such as content formatting tools such as:

  • Freelance support.
  • Graphics, audio and video tools,
  • Grammar and other writing tools,
  • Social media posting and monitoring,
  • Communications tools, and
  • Metrics tracking and analytics including landing pages.

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Redistribute or combine budget from other areas. Where a piece of content can be used by more than one area, determine how to streamline the creation and distribute the cost across departments. For example, use the same “How To” content for both customer acquisition and on-boarding.
  • Create processes to gather input for content marketing from across the organization. This includes gathering top prospect and customer questions and related answers.
  • Set aside budget for re-imagining content and redistributing it.
  • Create an employee version of your regular email newsletter. Transform your prospect and/or audience newsletter. BUT avoid boring, no-one-wants-to-read content.
  • Extend tools related to content marketing across departments where appropriate. Train and help all of your employees to participate in creating content and monitoring their results.

6. How Do You Audit the Existing Content Across Your Business to Keep It Relevant?

Audit all of the content across your organization to ensure that it’s up-to-date, relevant and consistent. Then determine what content needs to be updated, combined and/or deleted. Also fill any missing content marketing gaps.

Where appropriate, assess where content marketing efforts can be combined yet create relevant information to meet different needs.


  • Ensure content is associated with relevant data and that the data is consistent across your organization.
  • Transform content to meet different contexts and device needs.

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Audit your content across your organization at least annually. This can be done as a major undertaking or as smaller efforts over time.
  • Schedule audit and updates of annual content based on holidays, promotions and other events. Before creating new content for special occasions and promotions, assess existing content and improve it. This saves resources.

7. How Do You  Build an Editorial Calendar  for Your Content Marketing?

Develop an editorial calendar to plan your content marketing by month for a quarter or a full year.

Create these 3 types of content:

  • Mega-content on an annual or quarterly basis. This major content effort establishes brand thought leadership and can be broken into small pieces for on-going distribution.
  • Crowd-pleaser content on a monthly basis to attract new readers, listeners and/or viewers.
  • Consistent content on a weekly basis to build a consumption habit for your content marketing.

Also, transform your existing content as follows to keep it visible over time:

  • Add new content formats (aka: recycle content) such as images, audio/voice, video and/or webinars,
  • Republish or syndicate on social and third party media entities,
  • Provide guest posts on third party media sites to attract new audiences and backlinks,
  • Update existing content to keep it relevant and visible, and
  • Curate your content and other people’s information to help your audience

Annual Content Marketing Plan - Heidi Cohen

Don’t forget to include connected content! 

Connected content includes:

  • Links to related content,
  • Landing pages, microsites, and Thank You pages,
  • About Us,
  • Contact Us, and
  • Persistent chat (aka: Chatbots and/or IVRs).

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Get non-marketing employees involved in your content creation.
  • Work with other businesses to co-create content and expand your reach.

8. How Do You Optimize Your Content Marketing to Make It Findable and Discoverable?

Useful content isn’t sufficient to attract readers and to convert them into customers.

To make your content marketing attractive and easy-to-consume. So to improve your results:

  1. Remove poor grammar and bad spelling.
  2. Attract and hold reader attention with better headlines. Only one out of five people read beyond the title.
  3. Add eye candy with images and video.
  4. Make content easy-to-consume. Use short paragraphs. Also, add bolding and outlining for highlighting.
  5. Use visuals like images and videos to aid readers. Also offer other formats like voice. 

Even the best content in the world is wasted if no one can find it!

To increase discoverability and findability, use these steps:

  • Use 10 to 20 related keywords. Also add words your audience uses.
  • Link to internal and external content for better context.
  • Optimize every element of your content. Add text and keywords to non-text items.

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Use one or more forms of search technology to support your keyword optimization. Among the top options are Ahrefs, SEMrush and Moz.
  • Improve your content readability with services like Grammarly and Hemmingway.

9. How Do You Distribute and Promote Your Content Again and Again and Again?

To ensure your content reaches your target audience, distribute it on:

  • Owned media include your website, emailings and blog.
  • Third party media with guest posts and syndicated articles.
  • Social media with contextually relevant presentations.

To succeed at content marketing, you must distribute it again and again and again!

So follow the TIP Method of content distribution:

  • Test and track distribution results,
  • Improve and republish content, and
  • Promote repurposed content.

Content Distribution TIP Method - Heidi Cohen

To expand content marketing distribution:

  • Support  content distribution with advertising where appropriate.
  • Cross-promote content on other owned media.

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Track and schedule evergreen holiday content. To reuse it when appropriate.
  • Schedule annual content updates for major content efforts.

10. How Do You Measure Your Content Marketing Results?

To ensure your content yields trackable results, select key metrics before distributing your content.

Also add  calls-to-action and UTMs to your content tracking.  Further, make sure they  show progress towards your business goals. 

To succeed,  your content marketing metrics must show how your content:

  • Builds your brand,
  • Develops an addressable audience,
  • Transforms prospects into profitable customers, and
  • Increases lifetime customer value (aka:CLTV).

Content Distribution Success Metrics Chart- Created by Heidi Cohen

Actionable Content Marketing Plan Tips:

  • Integrate these metrics across your organization to measure the full impact of your content marketing plan.


Content Marketing Plan Conclusion

The marketing bottom line:
You need content marketing to persuade your prospects and increase profitable sales.

To succeed, use this 10 step content marketing plan to make sure you are on track to succeed. This includes creating and distributing content to support your key business goals.

Further, creating content marketing by itself is NOT enough.

You must make your content attractive to your audience. So they consume and act on it to build profitable sales.

In addition, you must keep your content up-to-date and relevant to continue to attract new audience.

Follow this 10 step content marketing plan.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Note: This article was originally published on June 24, 2013 at 8:00 am.

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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