Your Simple Three-Step Content Creation Plan
By now, you have a clearly defined buyer’s persona. You have a list of content distribution channels. You have a well-documented content distribution schedule. This is the stage where companies usually move to hire a content marketing agency. We’ll discuss later whether this is the best approach
First, let’s talk about how to execute your content creation according to the content distribution schedule you’ve created. I’ll start by sharing the content creation plan I’ve used to manage writing teams since 2009…
The secret to making this plan work is to assign a percentage of your project timeline to each of the three stages of your content creation plan. Here’s a formula that’s worked very well for me and for the teams of content writers I’ve managed over the years.
For example, let’s assume your content distribution schedule requires you to create a 10,000-word SEO Article by the 15th of every month. This article will be your seed content for the following month. If you give your content creation team 100 days to complete the article, your content creation timeline would break down like this…
The secret is to give your content creation team sufficient time and compensation to deliver a high-quality piece of content. In my experience, this is where every serious marketer needs to break from the crowd and embrace a new paradigm when it comes to their digital marketing efforts.
The Costliest Myth in Digital Content Marketing
Before you hire a content marketing agency (or build your own in-house team), I urge you to completely reject the all-too-common assumption that content is a commodity you can mass-manufacture at dirt cheap rates.
If you’re serious about results, I suggest allowing your writing team ten days per 1,000 words to complete their projects and budgeting .50 to $1 per word for their time and effort. This means a 10,000-word article would require 100 days and a $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 budget to complete. Likewise, a 3,000-word article should take thirty days and allow for a budget of $1,500.00 to $3,000.00.
If you think this sounds high, let me assure you that this is quite reasonable if you expect a profitable outcome. The “Wild-Wild West” days of online marketing seduced many people into believing that content can be produced as easily as manufacturing giants produce toilet paper or iPhone covers.
The truth is, content writers are expert service providers who earn a living by trading their time and expertise for money. You may not worry whether they have to rush through a 1,000-word article in less than two hours just to earn a livable (post-tax) wage. But you will care when your content produces no results and your writers burn out after three to six months.
Only ammeters waste time and money chasing the fool’s gold of cheap marketing content. Your content is the voice of your brand. Many of your prospects will form their attitude about your brand’s value and expertise based on how good your content is. That alone is enough to justify paying professional rates–especially when it comes to your seed content. Now that I’ve (hopefully) persuaded you to invest adequate time and money into having your seed content created, let’s break down the three stages of your content creation plan…
Step #1: Plan Your Content
The secret to creating great marketing content is to start with an idea, not just a topic. In his book, A Writer’s Coach, (Chapter II: Process) author Jack Hart brilliantly explains the difference between a topic and an idea. Simply put, topic-driven content merely informs your reader about a subject. The internet is loaded with topic-driven content, and it’s getting harder to stand out if that’s all you’re publishing. On the other hand, idea-driven content changes the way your reader thinks about the subject. It inspires new trains of thought and changes your prospect’s brain chemistry in a way topic-driven content can’t.
This change in brain chemistry also makes it much more likely that your prospect will remember your content. This happens because of a reward neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine has been called a “driver of exploration” because of its role in rewarding novel experiences and discoveries. Your brain releases this neurotransmitter in response to novel experiences, such as a new idea. When your prospect’s brain releases dopamine, they are more likely to remember the information that triggered this release.
That said, your content should introduce an idea that changes how your prospect thinks about one of the following subjects…
We covered these four items earlier in our discussion on the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey. Your job is to start with a topic that’s relevant to the stage of the buyer’s journey you expect your prospect to be in when they find your content. I’ll give you a blueprint for each of the first four stages soon. Once you have your topic, your next job is to find an idea that changes the way your prospect thinks about the topic.
Since the topic of idea generation is beyond the scope of this article, I suggest you grab a copy of Jack Hart’s book and immerse yourself in the chapter on “Process.” I also cover this in more detail in other articles on this site and in my marketing books. For the sake of this article, here are two quick prompts that can help you come up with an interesting idea on which to base your content…
- Blind spots: inform your prospects of what they don’t know about the topic.
- Assumptions: challenge your prospects’ existing assumptions about the topic.
The more you know about your buyer’s persona, the better you’ll become at using one of the above angles to generate interesting and unique content ideas. And the more relevant, unique, and compelling your idea is, the easier time you’ll have researching, creating, and editing your content. Once you’ve found your angle, your next step is to find two types of information for clarifying and validating your idea…
- Left-Brain Data: statistics, studies or other scientific data that validates your point.
- Right-Brain Data: a story or metaphor that clarifies and/or demonstrates your idea.
Once you’ve gathered this data, use one of the blueprints below to organize your research and into a cohesive content outline…
Stage #1 Content Planning Blueprint
TOPIC: The PROBLEM your product or service solves.
- What are their blind spots about the problem?
- What are their (incorrect) assumptions about the problem?
- Make the problem personal.
- Make the problem critical.
- Make the problem urgent.
Stage #2 Content Planning Blueprint
TOPIC: The ALTERNATIVE solution(s) to the problem.
- What are their blind spots about the alternative solutions?
- What are their (incorrect) assumptions about the alternative solutions?
- Educate about alternatives.
- Debunk the alternatives
- Sell your TYPE of solution.
Stage #3 Content Planning Blueprint
TOPIC: Your specific BRAND of the product or service.
- What are their blind spots about products/services like yours?
- What are their (incorrect) assumptions about products/services like yours?
- Sell your brand’s relevance.
- Sell your brand’s superiority.
- Sell your brand’s uniqueness.
Stage #4 Content Planning Blueprint
TOPIC: Your specific BRAND of the product or service.
- What are their blind spots about doing business with you?
- What are their (incorrect) assumptions about doing business with you?
- Address common objections.
- Dissolve last-minute resistance.
- Explain what will happen next.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to use these blueprints, don’t worry. I cover this topic in detail in my other work. This ought to be enough to help you plan your content and move on to the second step of our content creation strategy. I also suggest buying a copy of A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and studying the chapters on Method, Process, and Structure and implementing what you learn into your content planning step.
Step #2: Write Your Content
This step is simple. Take the research data and the outline you created during your planning stage, and hand it to someone who has the focus and drive to hammer out your first draft. The secret to this stage is to have ONE PERSON write the content, and don’t bring in anyone else until the first draft is done. Your writer should not worry about typos, proper grammar, or any of those last stage details.
If you involve more than one person at this stage or if your writer tries to write and polish at the same time, your project will quickly become pear-shaped and before you know it, you’ll be staring down your deadline with nothing but a file of disorganized ideas to work with. We’ll discuss how to build and manage a content marketing team later in this article, including when you should (or should not) have multiple people working on the project.
That said, let me make one last very important point about this three-step content creation strategy and your content marketing strategy in general. The better job you do in planning your content, the more effective you’ll be in applying this step and the next step. However, the opposite is also true. Meaning, if you shortcut your content planning, writing will be slower, more stressful, and the outcome will be disappointing. But, if you’re diligent in your planning, your writing will go much smoother, and so will the third and final step of your content creation plan.
Step #3: Polish Your Content
Once your first draft is done, the final step is to put your content through three rounds of edits. Each round of edits has a different purpose, and it’s important not to mix them up. I’ll explain later how to leverage the strengths of your content marketing team members at this stage.
Round #1: Edit for Clarity
Have someone other than your content writer go through your first draft and remove or recommend a revision for anything that is…
Ideally, this should be someone who can see your content from the perspective of your buyer’s persona. In my experience, people like this are hard to find and I’ll explain why later. I also suggest checking out A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and studying the chapters on Force, Brevity, and Clarity and applying his techniques to this stage of your editing.
Round #2: Edit for Style
By now, you should be working with a clear, credible, interesting, and authentic piece of content. If you’re not, remember the rule we discussed a few moments ago. A problem at one stage of this process is almost always the result of something you did (or didn’t do) in one of the following stages.
Poorly planned content might make it through the writing stage, but it will be hell to edit. Especially when you reach this stage. However, if you’ve done a good job so far, this is where your content will really come to life. In my experience, this round of edits should be done by the person who wrote your content. As long as you’ve used someone else for the Clarity round, you should end up with something remarkable by the time they’re done.
How do you edit for style? That’s a topic for another article. However, I urge you to check out A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and study the chapters on Rhythm, Color, and Voice and applying those techniques at this stage.
Round #3: Cleanup
The final round of editing is simple. Have someone who is very, very detail-oriented check it for mechanical errors. There should be no additional editing for clarity or style at this stage. Allowing or encouraging this kind of editing will slow down your project, and the end result will not be as polished. In my experience, this is very hard for some people to resist, but the ability to resist it and finish your content by deadline is the mark of a truly professional writing team.
How to Implement Your Content Marketing Strategy
You can use the content creation strategy above to create all the content in your Content Marketing Pantry. For instance, let’s assume your Content Marketing Pantry includes the four pieces from the example we used earlier in this article…
Once you’ve created your Stage #3 Sales Page and your Stage #4 Order Page, you need only to refresh them once a month. Same with most content derived from these pages, including Stage #3 and Stage #4 four sales emails.
This leaves you with only one Monthly SEO Article and one Quarterly (every three months) Newsletter to create. You’ll create the rest of your content by simply repurposing the pieces in your Content Marketing Pantry. Here’s an example, using the sample content distribution schedule from earlier in this article, of what this will look like…
Monthly Content Checklist (Due 15th of Every Month)
- Monthly SEO Article.
- Refresh Stage #3 Sales Page.
- Refresh Stage #4 Order Page.
- 1/3 of Quarterly Newsletter.
YouTube (Earned): 2-minute video using content from Quarterly Newsletter.
Forbes.com (Earned): Guest article pitch based on the most salient Stage #1 point from last month’s SEO Article.
Success Magazine (Paid): Advertorial based on the most salient Stage #2 point from last month’s SEO Article.
- Teaser post using Stage #1 content from last month’s SEO Article.
- Teaser post using Stage #2 content from last month’s SEO
- Ad promoting Stage #3 Sales Page.
- Ad promoting Stage #4 Order Page.
Weekly Content Checklist (Due Wednesdays)
NOTE: Once your Stage #3 and Stage #4 sales emails are done, you need only to refresh them every month.
- Sales email using content from Stage #3 Sales Page.
- Sales email using content from Stage #4 Order Page.
- Sales email using promotion from Quarterly Newsletter.
- 2-minute video using Stage #1 content from last month’s SEO Article.
- 2-minute video using Stage #2 content from last month’s SEO
- 2-minute video using content from Stage #3 Sales Page.
- 2-minute video using content from Stage #4 Order Page.
Social Media (Earned):
- Teaser post promoting Stage #1 explainer video.
- Teaser post promoting Stage #2 explainer video.
- Teaser post promoting Stage #3 explainer video.
- Promotional post based on content from Quarterly Newsletter.
Daily Content Checklist
Social Media (Earned):
- Teaser post based on Stage #1 content from last month’s SEO Article.
- Teaser post based on Stage #2 content from last month’s SEO Article.
- Promotional post based on content from Stage #3 Sales Page.
Notice how much easier this is than trying to create several brand-new pieces of content every month, every week, and every day. This is how a Content Marketing Pantry makes it easy to consistently implement a robust content marketing strategy. Now all you need is a dynamite content marketing team to make it happen.