6 Ways To Plan The Perfect Inbound Content Calendar

Written by Lucy Jones

Mar 7 2016

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An effective Inbound Marketing Content Strategy attracts the right leads, enhances thought leadership, educates leads in the benefits of your product or solution, builds search rank and improves long-term client relationships.

But in order to do so, clear direction and structure at the planning stage are required. As Inbound content influences every aspect of a campaign, content calendars must take direction from the overarching goals and themes of the complete campaign, considering:

  • The focus of the content hub. Content structured in a hub (multiple assets built around one central topic or key campaign theme) contributes to search rank and generates higher quality leads. Center your content hub around a persona challenge to maintain direction and relevancy through all content in a campaign.
  • The key persona’s challenges. Inbound content is there to educate and nurture leads through the funnel. To attract the right leads, content must be specific; tackling your persona’s key challenges (at the right Buyer’s Journey stage) and offering a solution you can provide.
  • Buyer’s Journey mapping. A prospect’s position in the sales funnel informs the angle of the content they’re looking for. You need to have challenge-relevant content mapped to every Buyer’s Journey stage (Awareness, Consideration, Decision) and in the right format to effectively nurture your prospects.

How To Plan An Inbound Content Calendar for Success

1. Start With Persona Development

Data informed persona development forms the foundation of successful Inbound campaigns and dictates the direction of content.

In order to generate good-fit leads, you must first define who those leads are. Data-backed persona development gives you an exact idea of the people your campaigns must target, and allows you enhance the specificity (and appeal) of content. Successful content keeps personas in mind at all times, ensuring relevance and traction throughout a campaign.

2. Define the Persona Challenge That Your Product/ Service Solves, Then Align Content Against It

Your best fit prospects often don’t know that they need your solution. They’re not looking for relevant content, but answers to a pain point or challenge they’re experiencing.

Your task is to identify the challenges your personas have (that your services solve), then map content to outline the solution. To do this:

  • Identify a list of persona challenges
    • What are your personas’ marketing triggers? (These are the pain points inspiring them to search for a solution at the Awareness stage of their purchasing journey).
    • What problems do current clients have that your solution solves?
  • Use your solution as inspiration
    • Your services have been built to address client problems. Use these challenges to inform your content themes.
    • List the features and benefits of your solution, and reverse engineer them to identify challenges you can address. For example, if you sell software to help marketers plan Inbound campaigns, top-level hub challenges to write about may include: ‘How do I plan a successful Inbound campaign?/ How do I generate more relevant leads?/ What tools should Inbound campaigns use?”
  • Research subtopics under your main challenge to add depth to your content
    • Your top level hub challenge forms a hub campaign. Break down the top level challenge into subtopic challenges (centered around additional features of the solution) and you have the focus of your hub content. (For an Inbound Marketing software solution, subtopic challenges would address social media, buyer persona development, content marketing etc)
    • Develop keywords and hashtags related to your topic and subtopic.
    • Use search to identify competitor content that is performing well.

3. Create An Overarching Content Hub

A single Inbound campaign should be built around one key persona challenge at a time, and structured as a content hub.

Containing all the content assets a campaign needs (blogs, CTAs, workflow emails, landing pages webinars, case studies etc), content structured in a hub generates higher quality leads through continued relevancy, and contributes to better search visibility.

To develop a content hub:

  • Choose a single persona-based challenge as your hub topic.
  • Use this hub topic as the overarching theme to plot an Awareness stage content offer (such as an ebook). The sections or chapters of this content (informed by your subtopics) will form associated hub blog posts.
  • Create supporting content assets (landing pages, CTAs, artwork, workflow emails) aligned against the hub topic.
  • Ensure all content throughout the Buyer’s Journey (Consideration stage guides, Decision stage webinars etc) continue to addresses the hub topic.

4. Buyer Map Your Content

Content hubs provide a lot of the direction an editorial calendar needs. But content must also align against the Buyer’s Journey for effective nurture:

  • Consider all the content types a campaign needs, and the stage (Awareness. Consideration, Decision) they align with. Content types include landing pages, social messaging, paid ads, supporting artwork, case studies, consultations, workflow emails, videos, editorial outreach, webinars and more.
  • Make sure your hub topic and persona challenge are present in all content at every stage.
  • Once all these content formats and relevant titles are listed out you will have a list of all the content assets an Inbound campaign needs, and can plot it into a calendar.

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5. Consider Editorial Outreach

During persona development you identified a range of online channels (from social media to blogs) that your personas regularly view. Publishing content to these environments has multiple benefits:

  1. It increases visibility with target buyers.
  2. Placing content on sites with good authority (and getting a link back to your site) will boost your own authority.

When developing content for outreach:

  • Identify the environments where your personas are active online.
  • Rework your (hub-and-persona-relevant) campaign blog posts with a new angle (to create fresh content) and outreach them to the environments/blogs your personas read. You already know the themes of this content will resonate; repurposing is a quick way to add value on all sides.

6. Delegate Content Creation To The Right Department

Not all content formats fall under one department’s remit. This process maps all the assets an Inbound campaign needs, so your whole team through Marketing & Sales must be involved in the production of various content types.

There are no strict rules on how you manage your content calendar. When it comes to everyday management, the process is up to you and there are many editorial platforms, templates and calendar tools that can help, such as Trello or Google Calendars. However you manage internal tasks, it’s wise to approach Inbound content with monthly deadlines (unless editorial pieces have a specific deadline). From planning through to creation and launch, expect an average campaign to take c.12 weeks to go live.

Don’t Forget Ongoing Campaign Nurture

Once published, your content will continue to work for you in the long term, and should be used in your lead nuture campaigns. As time goes on and the more assets you create, the more relevant content you will have (with good links going back to it) boosting your rank and bringing in good leads.

B2B Marketing Zone