February 10

Content marketing plan template: A 10-step guide

Content marketing has become so huge that it’s predicted to grow by $417 billion between 2021 and 2025.  With such enormous growth, it’s safe to say most organizations have dabbled in producing at least some content by now.


Content Marketing Plan Template (With A 10-Step Guideline)

Content marketing has become so huge that it’s predicted to grow by $417 billion between 2021 and 2025. 

With such enormous growth, it’s safe to say most organizations have dabbled in producing at least some content by now. But guess what? Only 29% of organizations report being extremely or very successful with content marketing in the last 12 months. 

One of the main problems we’ve found is that many companies jump into content marketing without a solid plan, posting things willy-nilly and with no clear purpose. 

Not only is this ineffective, but it can also erode your credibility, reputation, and brand trust. But no need to beat yourself up over it because it’s a relatively easy fix — you just need a plan. And we’re going to tell you how to make one.  

Guidelines for implementing a content marketing plan: 

1. Determine your overall content marketing goals and KPI’s

2. Lay out what you need to achieve your goals

3. Identify topics that’ll attract your audience

4. Factor in topics that can drive search traffic

5. Determine your distribution plan 

6. Determine a publishing schedule 

7. Assign the right people to each task 

8. Determine owners and collaborators for each piece 

9. Develop a conversion optimization plan for each piece

10. Launch!

Why do you need a content marketing plan?

A content marketing plan takes your overall content goals and lays out a course of action to achieve them — kind of like a game plan or blueprint.  

You need to have one so you can create content that’s both useful and relevant to your audience. Otherwise, you’ll just be creating clutter. 

Here’s your content marketing plan template 

A 10-step guideline to using our template

Now that you’re armed with a content marketing plan template, we’re going to walk through the guidelines step by step. Let’s get started. 

Step #1: Determine your overall content marketing goals and KPIs

Like they say at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), you can’t achieve content marketing success unless you understand what success means to your organization. 

That’s why the first step in developing your plan is to determine your overall content marketing strategy and goal(s). Why are you creating content at all? What’s your end-game, so to speak? 

Some of the most common content marketing goals include the following: 

  • Driving organic search traffic

  • Building brand awareness

  • Increasing audience engagement

  • Generating new leads

  • Nurturing leads in the middle of the sales funnel

  • Fostering customer loyalty 

  • Boosting sales and profitability

Once you’ve identified what you’re trying to get out of your content marketing efforts, you need to figure out how you’re going to measure success. CMI recommends using multiple KPIs, otherwise, you could negatively affect other metrics without realizing it. 

That said, you don’t want to track too many KPIs or you’ll just end up with information overload. Digital marketer Neil Patel puts it this way: “KPIs are all about quality—not quantity. They are about what really moves the needle for your business.” 

Let’s say your goal is to increase sales using email marketing, for example. Some relevant metrics or KPIs would be open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and sales growth. 

Here’s a list of other KPIs that are often used to evaluate content marketing: 

  • Email: Open rate, conversion rate, unsubscribe rate, click-through rate, delivery rate

  • SEO and website: Website traffic, unique visitors, time on site or page, bounce rate, page views, traffic sources

  • Social media: Amplification rate, number of followers, fans, and likes, return on engagement (ROE), post reach

  • E-commerce: Sales, sales growth, conversion rate, website traffic, average order value, shopping cart or checkout abandonment rate

Step #2: Lay out what you need to achieve your goal(s)

Once you’ve outlined your content marketing strategy, it’s time to figure out what you’ll need to achieve your goals. For example, do you have enough staff (or the right staff) to implement your strategy? 

Do you have the budget to pay writers and other content creators? How about the right tools, like project management software or a content marketing platform? 

Identify exactly what you need to achieve your goals and then get to work on lining it up. This may mean going to the higher-ups to pitch a budget increase. If that’s the case, having a well thought out plan will go a long way towards getting what you need. 

Step #3: Identify the topics that’ll attract your audience

One core purpose of content marketing is to attract your audience by creating useful, relevant content. To figure out exactly what’s useful and relevant, it’s important to identify some key pieces of information:  

  • Who is your target customer? 

  • What problem is your target customer trying to solve? 

  • What are their pain points? 

  • How does your product or service solve this problem? 

  • What kind of information will your target customers find useful?

  • Where do your customers typically look for information? Do they go to search engines? If yes, what are they searching for? Why are they searching for those things?

Then, start brainstorming topics that would be of interest to your audience. Let’s say you run a meal prep business, for example. You identify that your target audience is high-income parents who are struggling to make healthy meals at home.

This audience is probably dealing with pain points like not having enough time to cook meals or shop for groceries. And they probably look for information on popular recipe websites or healthy living blogs. 

With this in mind, your customers would probably be attracted to topics related to healthy eating, time-saving kitchen hacks, meal planning, and family-friendly recipes. 

Step #4: Factor in topics that can drive search traffic

Once you’ve come up with a broad list of topics that are relevant to your audience, it’s time to hone in on specific phrases that can drive search traffic. 

What kind of questions are your customers asking that relate to the topics you identified in the previous step? You can figure this out by plugging your topics into an SEO tool. This will give you a list of keywords and phrases around each topic, including search volume for each keyword, keyword difficulty, and more. 

Going back to the meal prep business, for example, you’ll probably find that customers are using some of the following keyword phrases in search engines: 

Topic: family-friendly recipes

Keyword phrases: lunch ideas for kids, kid-friendly casserole, how to make a smoothie, recipes for toddlers, easy dinner recipes, 30-minute meals

Topic: meal planning

Keyword phrases: meal planning template, how to make a weekly meal plan, monthly meal plan with a grocery list, best meal planning apps

Step #5: Determine your distribution plan

Content distribution can be divided into four main buckets — owned, earned, shared, and paid. Here’s a quick recap of what each one includes:  

  • Owned media – Channels that your company owns, like your blog, your website, your email list, and so on. 

  • Earned media – Unpaid mentions by influencers or on channels like podcasts or blogs. 

  • Shared media – Social media channels and other online communities. Examples include user-generated content, product reviews, shares, retweets, and more. 

  • Paid media – Paid advertising for content promotion. 

To determine which bucket to focus your marketing efforts on (and you can always do a combination), it’s important to consider both your business type and your audience. 

B2B companies, for example, are more likely to find success distributing content like case studies and long-form blog posts on owned channels (like their email lists) and shared media (like LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook) — depending on where their target audience is. 

Small B2C startups, on the other hand, will probably have more success distributing short posts or videos on shared media (like Instagram & TikTok) and using paid influencer marketing. 

As for your audience, where are they already going to find information? Where are they usually “hanging out” online? B2B customers, for example, are typically found on LinkedIn (with 80% of B2B leads coming from LinkedIn alone). 

But even beyond general statistics like this, you’ll still need to do your research and find where your specific or niche target customers spend most of their time online. 

Step #6: Determine your publishing schedule

Now that you know what you’re publishing and where you’re publishing it, it’s time to figure out when — which means determining your publishing schedule. 

Often referred to as an editorial calendar, publishing schedules are important for keeping your team on track in terms of content creation. Without one, it’s hard to maintain consistency, something that’s key when it comes to content marketing success.

Jon Simpson, the owner of Criterion.B, recently shared in a Forbes article that one of his clients increased new visitor blog traffic by 90% just by posting consistently. Plus, social media followers on Facebook increased by 30%, Twitter by 9%, and Linkedin by 8%, all in the same time period.

When determining your content calendar, it’s particularly useful to have some technology behind you. And while a simple spreadsheet might work for small projects, you’ll want something more powerful if you’re managing a large team. 

Welcome’s software, for example, allows you to visualize all work in a single, easy-to-use, and flexible marketing calendar. Here are a few specific perks: 

  • Leverage our marketing calendar software for a single view across all planned and in-flight campaigns, with updates in real-time. Ensure all content marketing efforts roll up to broader strategic initiatives with a comprehensive breakout of sub-campaigns and tasks.

  • Track the execution of all content activities and provide visibility across teams to encourage collaboration. In our marketing calendar software, you can drag-and-drop projects to shift deadlines, promoting agile planning to ensure a successful overall strategy. 

  • Monitor campaign progress at a glance within the calendar, or drill into supporting activity with one click for a detailed view of who’s working on what, and when, to ensure teams meet necessary deadlines.

  • Filter the calendar to focus on the work that matters most. Surface relevant activity for specific teams or individual contributors with customized filtering across geography, channel, target audience, or any custom metadata.

Step #7: Assign the right people to each task

Once you have your publishing schedule outlined, it’s time to assign the right person to each job. Before you can do this, though, you need to break each piece of content down into individual tasks. 

A blog post, for example, is typically broken down into the following tasks: 

  • Keyword research

  • Create title and outline

  • Write the post

  • Edit the post

  • Approve the post

  • Publish to distribution channels

  • Evaluate

Then, you can assign each task to the right person, whether it’s internal staff, an outside agency, or a freelancer. When doing so, it’s important to keep an eye on everyone’s workload to make sure it’s management. 

Welcome’s software, for example, allows you to keep an eye on the current commitments (and bandwidth) of everyone on your team. This helps avoid burnout and ensures you have the right people and time allocated to every project.

Step #8: Determine the owner and collaborator(s) for each piece of content

Collaboration has become increasingly vital to content creation over the past few years, especially when you’re dealing with a large organization with lots of stakeholders.

Take the tasks for the blog post that we outlined above, for example. Many of these tasks will need to be assigned to different staff members, from writers to content strategists to SEO experts. 

Plus, you’ll often need to gather input from other stakeholders like clients, subject matter experts, and marketing directors, to name a few. 

So it’s important to identify the owner and all the collaborators for each piece of content from the very beginning. If you wait until the end to ask for input, it often results in lengthy revisions to the piece. 

Step #9: Have a conversion optimization plan for each piece

In content marketing terms, a conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your website and actually convert into customers or do whatever the desired action is (sign up for your email list, register for a course, download an ebook, etc.). 

Let’s say 100 people find your blog post in the search results and then visit your website to read it. If 10 of those people purchase your product while on your website, your conversion rate would be 10%. 

(Which would be amazing, by the way — the average conversion rate of online shoppers worldwide was just 2.17% in 2020.) 

So, a conversion optimization plan lays out how you’re going to increase that number, or to get more visitors to become customers. When it comes to optimizing blog posts and other content, here are a few solid strategies to include in your plan: 

  • Write strong headlines

  • Deliver on the promise made in the headline

  • Solve for search intent

  • Include case studies as evidence

  • Create original graphics and/or charts

  • Design a clean layout

  • Focus on readability 

  • Drop in as many relevant, internal links as possible

  • Include a clear, compelling call-to-action (CTA)

Step #10: Launch!

You made it! It’s finally time to put your plan into action. Strategists can start strategizing, writers can start writing, and so on. 

If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea during this phase to build automated workflows to manage your content as it moves through various stages of creation and approval. One way to do this is by setting up workflows in your project management system that automatically route content to the next appropriate person. Take the case of Pure Storage, for example. 

In early 2020, the Pure Storage content team was struggling with inconsistent workflows and offline docs that created confusion and made approvals difficult. 

So they partnered with Welcome to build workflows for all of their most common content and creative tasks — whether it was a blog post, a thought leadership piece, technical web content, or another type of request.

“It was a very data-driven approach,” said Lisa Oda, Content Studio leader at Pure Storage. “We assessed everything: where the work should start; who needs to be involved; who is the final approver; how much time each person needs to complete their part; where the final assets need to go. We now know exactly what needs to be done and can easily forecast when projects will be complete.”

The results? Pretty amazing. Pure Storage now produces 200% more content while spending 50% less time in team meetings. 

Content marketing strategy FAQs

How do you lay out a content plan?

Once you’ve developed your content marketing strategy, you can lay out your content plan. Start by listing the following items on a spreadsheet or other organizational tool: 

  • Content goals

  • KPIs

  • Budget and resources

  • Audience

  • Relevant topics

Then create the following fields plus anything additional that helps you achieve the goals laid out in your content marketing strategy: 

  • Content type

  • Content name or title

  • Keyword phrases

  • Search intent

  • Collaborators

  • Distribution channel 

  • Publish date

  • Tasks

What are some elements of a good content plan?

A good content marketing plan is detailed and specific. It identifies the who, what, where, when, and why of content creation:

  • Who’s consuming your content? Who’s creating your content? 

  • What type of content are you going to create? 

  • Where are you going to distribute your content? 

  • When are you going to publish your content? 

  • Why are you creating content in the first place? 

What does a content marketing strategy look like?

A content marketing strategy is similar to a plan but is more broad. For example, a content marketing strategy might be to use email marketing to boost engagement. But a content plan lays out exactly how to do it. 

Conclusion

With your content marketing strategy and plan in place, you’re well on your way to joining the 29% of organizations that are extremely or very successful with content marketing! Yay you! 

Now it’s time to get down to the business of creating useful and relevant content for your audience. Best of luck!