In 7 Steps: Your Strategic, Lean & Profitable Editorial Calendar
Pre-pandemic editorial calendars were too focused on logistics – days and times to publish content and a predetermined cadence. Digital campaigns require many new types of assets to engage audiences. This means you need more strategy to enable your content to work for you.
So what does it mean to integrate lean content strategy into your editorial calendar? How does this work into monthly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry and build content for performance.
Integrating SEO into your editorial calendar DOES NOT mean you disregard all of the other critical elements necessary for driving your marketing engagement plan. You will still need to leverage SMEs and other stakeholders, have a defined process, and always measure success. What’s new is collecting keyword research data and focus. Blog posts, digital assets – landing pages, case studies, resource articles, etc., require on-page and keyword strategies to provide greater value to your company. This value is realized in more organic traffic and more lead conversions: You need to integrate calculated research into the monthly planning and execution to get the best results.
This article highlights tips for building a new robust editorial calendar – More insights, acts as an implementation plan and helps you stay sane.
Step 1: With limited resources, SMBs need a lean plan
The best content assets come from various viewpoints, not just one person in the marketing department. The editorial topics should include client requests based on persona and user types, subject-matter experts across your company, engineers, client success, sales, and potentially an outsourced content creation partner. Creating an easy process for stakeholders to submit topics and which type of content is crucial to serving the entire organization. You’re leveraging many people and experts for ideas.
While most of these individuals are not subject-matter experts, they help develop your growing library of topics to consider from different perspectives. Subject-matter experts provide specialized insight into relevant topics for your editorial calendar. The best way to drive thought leadership into your editorial calendar and for your firm is to make these individuals the “faces” of your company. If Customer Service is what differentiates your company, then client success team members and clients need to be regularly featured that advocate your services over the competition.
TIP: I’ve seen exceptional results with “voice of the customer” and Subject Matter Expert (SME) initiatives. You are the expert in writing engaging content, but you need to have excellent interviewing and investigative skills to draw insights from your organization’s SMEs and stakeholders.
Now that you have your landscape of resources and data inputs, you need to determine how many hours per week and month you can devote to writing and publishing.
Step 2: Identify your goals for the month
Now that you’ve established a content creation capacity, your buyer journey (Awareness, Consideration, and Decision) goals are needed for each content piece, you are going to develop. The broad objectives for various content marketing include:
- Increase thought leadership through brand awareness
- Increase website leads
- Improving search rankings for targeted keywords (SEO)
Pick your primary goal for the month, which should be lead generation because this moves the revenue needle. It provides you with a clearer perspective of the majority of content types and topics to focus on. And multi-asset campaigns can be designed to achieve multiple goals.
Consider these examples:
“Awareness” Goal: Increasing traffic – Thought Leadership and brand awareness.
Content mix: Focused content, infographics, contributed articles (backlinks) on industry news outlets, subject-matter expert resource articles.
“Consideration” Goal: Increase lead generation.
Content mix: Gated content; landing pages, calls to action, featured guest-contributed articles that include landing page links to your site.
“Decision” Goal: Helping Win Deals with educational content (Sales Enablement).
Content mix: Competitive comparison web pages or resource articles; Review website quotes; Topics generated through competitive keyword research; heavily geared toward on-site content with articles drawing in backlinks.
TIP: Perform Competitive Keyword Research
The example above using SEMRush is a keyword gap analysis between two competitors, Fieldwire and Plangrid, to determine three keywords (Punch List, Construction Project management, and As-Built) that Fieldwire.com should focus its editorial calendar on increasing its ranking for and outflanking PlanGrid. Based on the search volume, moving up several positions can mean the difference in generating more leads for Fieldwire.com.
Step 3: Nail down the content mix
There’s a lot of variables that go into determining which content to prioritize. As a small-to-mid-sized business, focus on what is moving the needle. Suppose you don’t have access to performance data. In that case, you need to sit down and create one major piece of pillar content that split off into several content types, such as “An eBook” that can splinter off into a few blog articles, a sales tool, an infographic, social media posts, and so forth. You should also create an email marketing program to promote lead generation. You’re tight on capacity, so you just turned one piece into a monthly campaign focused on achieving many goals.
Here’s what a month-long well-aligned content mix designed for lead generation looks like:
- eBook (4 major sections) intended as a single-industry resource addressing four target personas
- A unique landing page with highlights from eBook and related articles
- 4-blog articles, addressing individual areas of the eBook, highlighting different industry resources (target: backlinks visited by prospective customers)
- Weekly social media posts to promote eBook
- One drip (4 emails) campaign targeting personas in your database
- Promote eBook within your monthly industry newsletter targeting your database
Step 4: Activate your editorial calendar
Traditionally, the editorial calendar was designed to plot the course of events to publish. It would be best if you expanded this to include research and implementation steps. The goal is to convert the old calendar into a robust action plan – a one-stop-shop. Add the fields below into a table.
A few new fields to add to your editorial calendar:
- Campaign Arc Theme (Month)
- Campaign Assets: eBook, Emails, SM posts, Blogs, Landing page, Newsletter
- SMEs/Client Interviewed
- Target Keywords
- Target Personas
- Target Industry
- Sales Enablement
- Target Goals for each asset
- Buyer Stage (Awareness, Consideration, Decision)
By including each of these action items with deadlines on the editorial calendar, you’ve turned vision into a plan you can easily stick within the Arc theme for the campaign’s schedule. In your spreadsheet, you’ll also want ideas and recent performance data (if available). The guiding light in marketing is determining what is delivering value and results.
Your calendar will inevitably change. In some cases, often, but that’s why its best to plan and stay agile. The COVID-19 pandemic requires messaging to change as it impacts your customers, business, and industry. Many other factors contribute to requiring marketing to be nimble.
Step 5: Brainstorm/ Ideation to finalize the topics
Now that you’ve scheduled the month’s content, it’s time to determine what topics to develop. This step comes late because brainstorming is more focused when you’ve accounted for your available resources, overall goal, and quantity of content pieces.
Using our example, we now know:
The content campaign needs a single overarching theme to create the one cornerstone piece — the eBook.
The broad theme must be broken down into four blog articles (unique perspectives of the theme), targeting four unique personas and relevant.
4 Emails need to inspire audiences to click through.
You have your writing assignment and SME’s and other stakeholders assigned to help develop the ideas and concepts. You need to leverage keyword research to generate ideas, such as SEMRush’s Keyword Magic tool. Utilizing data to drive your calendar is a great start, but remember, you need to execute using SEO best practices. A blog article less than 1000 words will not rank the first page on SERPs anymore.
We’re in the business with limited resources and meeting deadlines, so free-wheeling meetings are a waste of time. You should schedule structured, regular monthly sessions with a plan to brainstorm topics and also upcoming potential virtual events to consider. Here’s an example agenda for a 45-minute brainstorming meeting:
5 minutes – update on what’s in progress
20 minutes – brainstorming relevant internal ideas (sales, SME, etc.)
15 minutes – brainstorming client suggestions (Client Success)
5 minutes – confirming deadlines, assignments, and updates
It’s important to brainstorm around a group of topics that align with a strategic goal. Keeping the team focused is central to recording the ideas and developing a concise story-line with the end-result. I always recommend asking yourself and the group: “how does this provide value for the target audience. Please start with the stakeholder and work back on how you will take them to the promised land.
Step 6: Build flexibility into your plan
A significant aspect of creating an agile editorial calendar is to pivot and shift priorities quickly. It’s imperative to maintain consistent communication with the boss and other department heads to make sure they understand the monthly priorities (and driving goals). This helps pre-empt many random content requests. However, there will always be an executive that wants a blog article to cover a conference where he or she is one of 40 speakers. So, plan for the weekly random editorial request and assign it to someone.
Even with minimal resources, a marketing generalist can produce up to 12 more content pieces with a well-planned editorial calendar.
Step 7: Content Success Measurement
Again, marketing today should be about achieving quantifiable results for your employer. Your content marketing goals need to be in alignment with business goals. More brand awareness leads to broader industry reach. More traffic generates more leads. More leads create more business opportunities. Which of these lead sources are profitable. If you can’t measure success, your role and marketing budget will always be at risk. Nevertheless, I recommend tracking these minimum metrics to see how well your content performs against your stage goals.
Brand awareness – page views, social shares, clicks back from third-party website article posts, follows from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and new newsletter subscribers, and people reaching out to your subject-matter experts.
Lead generation – leads converted on the website, lead conversions from gated content and blog posts, lead conversions from email campaigns and landing pages, phone calls (from website).
SEO – Organic traffic, “good” backlinks, page ranking, page authority, target keyword rankings, and time on page increase.
Align with the business strategy in the first step.
As a B2B marketing professional, you need to have a clear line on the strategic business goals. Your editorial calendar needs to align with helping to achieve these goals and may require some math. How many leads will I need to generate to meet these goals? What are the conversion rates for each marketing channel? What’s the average Win Rate in Sales? Does this vary by Marketing Channel? Creating a Funnel Tracker is a critical task. It’s an ongoing process that needs to be continually assessed weekly/monthly/quarterly. Your content should be producing results, so focus on what works (the following month) and eliminate what doesn’t.
Once you’ve established the editorial plan, format, and process for execution, it becomes easier. You’re merely tweaking your previous plan rather than starting from scratch. Let me know how things progress, and I am certainly open to a quick chat.
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