For starting a content creation business, you need to have a good plan in place. Firstly, you need to set up your office and arrange the required tools. You are also supposed to work on content creation strategies to maximize the profits from your business.
The following will provide a new business owner with an outline of the necessary steps to get their business started. A lot of content creation businesses focus on outsourcing, but it is possible for someone self-employed to succeed in digital marketing purely by doing the work themselves.
1. Define Your Target Audience
If you want to achieve your marketing objectives, you must create content that educates, inspires, or entertains your audience. However, you can’t develop engaging content without knowing who you’re creating it for. If you don’t have a deep understanding of your audience’s needs and pain points, your content won’t resonate with them. And, you won’t be able to reach them using the right channels at the right time.
That’s why it is essential to delve deeper into your target audience’s mind and identify who they are.
Start by identifying demographic parameters such as age group, gender, ethnicity, location, relationship status, profession, academic background, etc. You should also find out their preferred social media platforms and communication channels. You can use social media analytics and Google analytics for this purpose.
The next step is to learn more about your audience’s aspirations, ambitions, struggles, and pain points. It’s also essential to identify the events or triggers that compel them to search for information related to your brand, product, or niche. You can host social media polls, AMAs, and live sessions to get all this information.
You can also conduct an online survey among your mailing list to learn more about your subscribers. Here’s a sample template:
It’s equally crucial to monitor the comments on your social media posts and blog posts. Your audience will often express their needs and preferences in their comments. It’ll also give you an insight into the type of content they expect from you.
Next, segment their needs and pain points according to different stages of the buyer’s journey. This is particularly important because you’ll need a specific type of content for each stage. For instance, someone in the awareness stage is likely looking for generic information about your product or niche. Blog posts, infographics, podcasts, etc. are suitable for grabbing their attention.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s time to define individual buyer personas. It is a detailed but fictional representation of your ideal customer based on audience research. It’s important because your audience includes different types of consumers. For instance, if you own a brand of home decor products, your audience likely comprises the following:
- Interior designers
Each segment will have a unique set of pain points and queries. Defining a distinct persona for each segment will help you effectively address their needs. Assign age, gender, name, profession, hobbies, interests, etc. to make your buyer personas realistic. It’s also recommended that you define buyer personas for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Here’s an example of a buyer persona:
2. Identify Relevant Keywords in Your Content Plan
Keywords are the terms or phrases your potential customers use in their search queries when looking for information about your brand, product, or niche. They help you identify the topics and themes that will attract your audience. Moreover, when you optimize your blog posts using the right keywords, it’s likely to climb to the top of relevant search results. These keywords also help you identify popular and relevant hashtags to increase the reach of your social media posts.
That’s why keyword research is one of the most crucial steps in content planning. The first step is to list the core terms that represent your brand or niche. For instance, if you own a travel blog, you can use the following core terms:
- Solo travel
- Adventure travel
Next, expand these core terms by entering each term into Google and looking at the keyword suggestions. It’s also recommended that you run a Google search and check out the “Searches related to section”. It’ll help you identify long-tail keywords related to your core terms. You can also add modifiers such as “best”, “top”, etc. to expand your core terms.
Additionally, you can use Google Keyword Planner to identify relevant and popular keywords in your niche. It gives you a list of potential keywords along with the associated search volume, cost, and level of competition. You can also use tools like SEMrush, Keyword Explorer by Ahrefs, and Keyword Explorer by Moz for this purpose. It’s also essential to identify the keywords you already rank for using Google Search Console.
Once you’ve built a list of target keywords, it’s crucial to analyze and validate them. Check out the search volume associated with a keyword to determine whether it’s worth targeting. Additionally, run a Google search for each keyword and check whether the topmost search results include any established brands.
3. Check Your Competitors
When it comes to content planning, your competitors hold a plethora of clues. If a particular topic, keyword, or content format has worked for a competitor, it’ll likely work for you as well. Start by running a quick Google search for one of your target keywords. The topmost organic listings deserve your attention.
Check out their websites and blogs to identify the topics and themes they work with. Look for gaps in their content strategy. It’s also recommended that you analyze their social media profile to understand how they’re repurposing content across various channels. It’ll also give you an idea of what topics and formats have garnered maximum traction. You can also use tools such as SpyFu and Site Explorer by Ahrefs to identify the keywords your competitors are targeting.
4. Brainstorm Content Ideas as You’re Planning Content
The purpose of building a content plan is to consistently create content that hits the right chord with your audience. You must ensure that your content fulfills their expectations, answers their questions, or solves their problems. Moreover, you need to create different types of content for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
It is, therefore, crucial to identify topics that’ll immediately resonate with your audience. Use your buyer personas, focus keywords, and goals to build a list of potential topics. The key is to ensure that these topics address your audience’s needs and pain points at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Moreover, every topic should take you closer to achieving your end goal.
At this stage, it’s also crucial to check out your top-performing content assets. Analyze whether these assets are still relevant to your goals and how you can repurpose them. You can also use Answer The Public to find the most common questions your target audience asks. Take a look at the results for the term “backpacking”:
Image via Answer The Public
Likewise, you can use BuzzSumo to identify the top-performing content in your niche. All you have to do is enter a target keyword. It gives you a list of the most popular blog posts accompanied by engagement metrics such as Facebook Shares, Number of Links, etc. Take a look at the following screenshot:
Image via BuzzSumo
Additionally, you can use Google Trends and Google Alerts to identify popular and trending topics. When you have a substantial number of topics and ideas, it’s time to create a list using Google Sheets. Fill the sheet with additional columns such as Author, Category, Format, Status, etc. You should also use a “Rating” column to denote if a topic is ready to go into production or if it needs more brainstorming.
5. Create an Overarching Content Plan
This is the step where you have to decide the broad themes and subjects you’ll work on. You’ll also have to decide on an optimal publishing frequency. Analyze your audience’s online behavior to determine when they’re most likely to be online. This, in turn, helps you determine when and how often you should publish fresh content.
Next, identify the themes and topic categories that’ll attract your audience. Let’s say you’re running a digital marketing agency. Here are a few relevant subjects for your audience:
- Influencer marketing
- Instagram marketing
Next, create a tentative long-term content schedule that frequently touches upon each subject and add it to Google Calendar. You can even repeat a specific content format or type every week. This step is crucial for building a robust content calendar.
Image via Google
6. Outline a Short-Term Plan
Now that you’ve prepared an overarching plan, it’s time to identify the specific topics you’ll work on. The idea is to create a content calendar that showcases your content publishing timeline and assigns various responsibilities to team members. Go back to the spreadsheet you’d created in step 4 and see how each topic fits into the long-term schedule. Next, identify the topics that are ready to go into production and assign individual publishing dates to each.
At this stage, it’s also crucial to select the right format for each topic. Firstly, identify the most engaging formats based on your buyer personas and objectives. Next, make sure that the format suits the given topic. This is also a great time to identify topics that can be repurposed in various formats.
Typically, you can use the following formats:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
Blog posts, podcasts, and infographics help you attract people in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. Newsletters and case studies can help convert leads in the decision stage. Likewise, videos can be used across different stages of the buyer’s journey to attract, engage, and delight your audience.
7. Identify Topic Clusters in Your Content Plan
The topic cluster model, introduced by HubSpot in 2017, can be instrumental in streamlining your content plan. It’s particularly crucial if you’re planning to publish several blog posts. Typically, you create a pillar page that covers a broad topic and various cluster pages that cover individual aspects or subtopics. Thereafter, you link the cluster pages to the pillar page and vice versa.
The biggest benefit of the topic cluster model is that it helps organize your website architecture. It also improves internal linking and helps search engine spiders index key web pages. Additionally, it helps you build authority around a specific topic.
Here’s what your site structure will look like after implementing topic clusters:
Image via HubSpot
If you’ve done extensive keyword research, you’ve already laid the groundwork for implementing topic clusters. Analyze the search intent behind each keyword and group keywords with similar search intent into a cluster. This, in turn, helps you simultaneously target multiple keywords. Here’s an example:
Image via HubSpot
Once you identify a cluster, select specific topics that represent various aspects of the cluster. Next, choose an overarching topic for the pillar page. Now, go back to the content calendar and check how the cluster fits into your short-term schedule. It’ll let you devise an optimal publishing schedule. When you’re ready for publishing, make sure you create the cluster pages before the pillar content.
8. Outline a Distribution Schedule
It’s pointless to create amazing content and expect it to find a way to reach your audience. If you don’t promote your content using the right channels, it’ll lose its voice amidst the chaos of mediocre content. That’s why it’s crucial to develop a plan to distribute and promote your content assets.
The first step is to identify the communication channels where your audience is most active. These include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Spotify, email, push notifications, search engines, etc. Next, identify the formats that’ll find traction on each channel. For instance, images and short videos work well on Instagram. However, blog posts and checklists will get more engagement on LinkedIn.
Thereafter, find out when your audience is most likely to use the selected channels during the day. Next, select a topic that has been scheduled for publishing and identify the most suitable channels to distribute it. Finally, lookout for opportunities to repurpose a content asset in various formats across multiple channels.
9. Start Production
Now that your content plan is ready, it’s almost time to create content. Start by assigning a topic to a team member and set a deadline before your intended publishing date. It’s worth mentioning here that each topic goes through multiple stages before it’s ready for publishing.
For instance, a blog post needs to be checked for spelling and grammatical errors. The writer may have to revise it a few times before it can be approved for publishing. Likewise, a podcast episode needs to be scripted, recorded, and edited before it can be uploaded. Moreover, once you’ve published the episode, you may want to repurpose it as a blog post or infographic.
That’s why you should use a project management tool like Trello to track the progress of various content assets and topics. You can create individual cards for each topic and move them across different stages. It keeps your team members on the same page and ensures that your content is always ready before the publishing date.
10. Financial projections
Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. This is often what entrepreneurs find most daunting, but it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems. Business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. That said, if you need additional help, there are plenty of tools and resources out there to help you build a solid financial plan.
A typical financial plan will include:
Sales and revenue projections
A monthly sales and revenue forecast for the first 12 months, and then annual projections for the remaining three to five years. Three-year projections are typically adequate, but some investors will request a five-year forecast.
Profit and loss statement
An income statement, also known as the profit and loss (or P&L), is where your numbers all come together and show if you’re making a profit or taking a loss. You can download a free example of an income statement here.
Cash flow statement
A cash flow statement. While the income statement calculates your profits and losses, the cash flow statement keeps track of how much cash (money in the bank) you have at any given point. Get an example of a cash flow statement here.
A balance sheet lists the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. Download this balance sheet example for additional guidance on how to draft your statement.
Optional sections to include when seeking funding
If you are raising money from investors, you should include a brief section of your business plan that details exactly how you plan on using your investors’ cash. This is typically just called, “Use of Funds.”
Investors will also want to see a short section on your exit strategy. An exit strategy is your plan for eventually selling your business, either to another company or to the public in an IPO. If you have investors, they will want to know your thoughts on this. If you’re running a business that you plan to maintain ownership of indefinitely, and you’re not seeking angel investment or VC funding, you can skip the exit strategy section.
For more information, read our guide on the different types of exit strategies.
Finally, discuss any assumptions and important risks for your business. Knowing what your assumptions are as you start a business can make the difference between business success and business failure. When you recognize your assumptions, you can set out to prove that your assumptions are correct. The more that you can minimize your assumptions, the more likely it is that your business will succeed.
As time goes on, content creation strategies for small businesses will need to adapt, as the internet is maturing and consumers are becoming more and more jaded about marketing messages. This will become more and more challenging for small companies to meet. There may come a time when content creation is being done by machines, but until then companies will have to adapt their strategies and provide better incentives to employees who are creating the content to stay ahead of the curve.