It’s easy to recognize that content marketing has become one of (if not the) leading strategic marketing approaches. Focused on creating and distributing value, relevant, and consistent content, this strategy aims to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action (Content Marketing Institute). Though that sounds great in theory, I’ve seen that many companies struggle putting this into practice.

In this post, I’ll provide a few tips to get started. If you are interested in learning more about how to build a calendar from scratch, reach out to me, or stay tuned as I will be publishing a full step-by-step guide at the end of March (similar to this DIY Brand Identity Guide).

(1) Define Channels, Methods, and Team Members

Given the nature of the topic, I’m going to assume that if you are building a content marketing calendar, you have an idea of who you are marketing to. If that’s not the case, check out the Brand Identity Guide linked above, as part of building your identity is defining your client personas.

Channels: The first step is to think of where your prospects spend their time. Is it LinkedIn? Email? Google? Facebook? Events?* Once you identify those channels, make a list to ensure that your strategy is comprehensive and touches each one effectively.

Methods: Next you need to determine how you are going to reach prospects in those given channels. If your prospects are on LinkedIn, do you want to engage with then via posts? Messages? Ads? Make sure you do this for each channel.

Team Members: The last step is to make a grid, similar to the one below. Figure out which methods you are going to use in which channels and then assign someone from your team the responsibility of overseeing such interactions.

*Though events aren’t technically considered a “content marketing” approach, they can be used to supplement your overall strategy and can be an effective channel if in the right industry.

(2) Determine Goals Based on Time, Money, and Lead Conversion Rates

If you haven’t already identified your lead goals for the years, this is the place to start. Work with sales to build a sales funnel that provides you with the number of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) that you need to deliver to sales in order for the company to achieve its revenue goals for the year. Once you have this number, then you can start to divide it between the previously mentioned methods based on previous conversion rates.

Take a look at this example: Sally has a goal of 100 MQLs per quarter. Her methods of acquiring those MQLs are content marketing, outreach campaigns, web marketing, and events. She knows that based on the amount of time she spends, budget she has, and past lead conversion ratesCE, that she needs to generate 20 MQLs from content marketing, 40 from outreach campaigns, 15 from web marketing, and 25 from events. Given that information, she can set quarterly goals for each of the aforementioned initiatives. These could be something like the following-

  1. Content Marketing Goals to Generate 20 MQLs: 6 blog posts, 3 infographics, 1 eBook, 1 case study, 3 short video clips
  2. Outreach Campaign Goals to Generate 40 MQLs: 1 targeted campaign that addresses a specific profile of prospects with a specific resource (such as a white paper, survey, or guide)
  3. Web Marketing Goals to Generate 15 MQLs: 3 advertising campaigns on Google Adwords, 4 LinkedIn sponsored posts
  4. Event Goals to Generate 25 MQLs: walk the floor at 2 industry events

(3) Distribute Initiatives Evenly Amongst Calendar

Now that you have your list of goals and the initiatives to ensure you meet said goals, it’s time to distribute them evenly amongst your calendar. Make sure to block out time from your calendar based on pre-existing PTO (because work life balance…) and then start to schedule campaigns, launches, etc. After you have the main events scheduled, work backwards to create deadlines for drafts. Using a project management tool is great for collaborative work (something like Asana) or if you are more a of task / checklist team, check out Wunderlist. In the end, you will have something that looks like this.

Since this is just an overview, yours should look much more detailed with additional columns, but I thought this might help you get started. When creating these for clients, I go as far to include the nature of each post / blog / campaign to ensure that there is a consistent theme / message throughout each calendar.

I can’t emphasis enough how important it is to make a plan and stick to it. I’ve seen huge success with strategies like this across clients of all sizes, but the success came with execution. Additionally, make sure that you are tracking all of your MQLs, so you can run reports that will help you plan for the next quarter. Need help getting a system in place to do this effectively? Just let me know or check out this Strategic Marketing page for more detail.