For big organisations with a marketing team a content plan is the base from which all their activity flows. As I write, these companies are preparing their content plans for the year after next because next year’s plan is already being worked. The story boards are being drawn, agencies hired and the social media campaigns put in place all ready to roll by the end of the year.
But what about the small businesses with limited resources and small budgets? Very often, they do not have the time to plan ahead and when they do it is relatively short term, usually for the next few weeks or, at a push, a month or two ahead. Their planning is usually driven by events either external that the business wants to piggy-back on or because they have something new to offer their customers.
What can small businesses and sole traders do differently to help them to get better at marketing?
The aim of this article is to introduce some simple tasks that can get you going and, to give a real life example, I will work through I start and maintain marketing campaigns that get more customers to your business.
You are probably worried about having something ready to go by January – the “New Year, New Start” campaign to get your business on the right track for 2021. That is not a bad idea but don’t forget that you need to keep up the momentum through the year and so now is probably the best time, if you haven’t done it already, to think about the year ahead.
Every year has the same 4 seasons of spring, summer, autumn (or fall as they say in North America) and winter. We put the seasons in this order, with winter at the end, because we are always looking forward.
Looking at the year from the top down, we can look to give each season a theme that we can use to begin to frame our messaging thus creating the containers into which we begin to put our stories, messages, and calls to action.
Now we are beginning to get into some detail about our marketing. We are looking more into the immediacy of the message and this is where we begin to apply those calls to action to get your customers to respond and buy from you.
We work on a period of 8 weeks for each campaign, but you can have shorter and longer campaigns as you think will fit with your business. There are also the “evergreen” campaigns that you use to maintain awareness of your business and what it does. The campaign plans will have start dates, end dates, and all the detail of the content that you will publish and use to make your campaign successful.
Bringing all together
Creating your high-level content plan should not take too long as you begin with the 4 seasons and the twelve months below that as in the table below.
Now all that you need to do, and I suggest that you discuss ideas with other people in your team and/or family, is to come up with the themes that you want to use for each season. I have a few ideas that might help you to get started and feel free to use them if you think they will help
Spring :- New growth, Mad March Hares, April showers, Easter, May flowers
Summer :- Long hot days, Holidays, ripening fruit, warm evening sunshine
Autumn :- Golden leaves, warm colours of nature, shorter days, harvest
Winter :- Snow, cold, hibernation, Robins, Deer, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year.
When you have collected your ideas for your themes then you need to put them into order and begin to think about what you are going to do with them. Don’t forget that you can change you themes if you have second thoughts or a new idea comes to mind. However, keep in mind that the nearer that you do this to the time that you implement it the more changes you are going to need to make.
What I have described above can take as little as an hour or 2 to do, including writing it down or preparing your spreadsheet(s).
We are in December and you haven’t thought about the first two months of the year. If you are in this situation then you could consider going with the “New Year, New Beginning” idea but time is short, and you’ll need to act quickly. In this case I recommend that you have a short campaign that you can implement straight away.
We’re going to work through preparing and and working our plan over the next 12 months sop that you can see how it develops and what results we get from it. Of course, we don’t expect that our plan will be perfect or that we will get great results every time. Our aim is to improve as the year goes on.
So far, we have prepared the bare bones of our content plan and added our high level themes from which we will develop our campaigns and our content.
In the meantime, if you want to work faster then get in touch.
If you have the time then you can learn more about Content Marketing from the Content Marketing Institute.