Since the rise of digital marketing, it's hard to picture a world where customer funnels don't include online content.

From social media to SEO research, producing content has become one of the primary ways to engage your audience and convert curious browsers into customers. But engagement is about more than half-hazardly creating content and hoping for the best. Actual planning and strategy lead to the most successful campaigns.

Reach your target audience with a specific and well-thought-out content plan to maximize your messaging and turn clicks into customers.

What is a content plan?

A content plan is a document that outlines your content marketing strategy and the deliverables you need to fulfill it. It defines what you intend to post, where, and when. It’s part of your overarching marketing plan and should fit into your company's mission and goals.

Content planning starts with a plethora of research — including market and competitive analysis — and an in-depth understanding of tools such as Google Analytics. This helps you create relevant content that actually reaches potential and existing customers, building brand awareness and showing the audience that you’re a reliable source.

Why is content planning important?

An effective plan will help you build brand recognition, engage and retain customers, and increase profitability. With market research to back it up, it defines the parameters by which you post data about your company, whether it be industry-related blog posts or a Microsoft Bing ad — making sure all content is both relevant and intriguing.

The bottom line is that content is your direct connection to your customer's journey. It's your way of relating to, and growing with, their changing needs. And that’s something you can’t achieve without the in-depth research, plotting, and analysis in your content plan.

Content planning key elements

A competent plan has three main elements to ensure it covers all relevant points. The sections vary depending on the overall goal, but here’s what not to forget:

1. Objectives

The first element is describing the why and what. Why will this content exist, and what does it seek to accomplish? This could be creating a community around your brand, increasing sales leads, or engaging with local businesses. You can’t move forward unless you know what your final goal is.

2. Targeted demographics

It’s impossible to reach everyone. Narrow your target audience to one, or a few, population segments that best represent your ideal buyers. Through statistical markers or demographics, research your core audience, and be specific. You’ll craft the plan around them, so make sure they’re as clear as possible.

3. Customer journey mapping

A customer journey map presents your organization from the audience’s point of view for insight into how they go from an ad viewer to a converted customer. It tracks their interaction with your company so you know where and how to market to them.

Content plan versus content strategy: What's the difference?

While they sound synonymous, a content plan and a content strategy are two distinct pieces of a larger puzzle.

Your content strategy is the first step to deciding what will happen in your content plan. The plan itself builds upon the goals you set within your strategy, informing how and what you research and create to appeal to customers. From there, your plan goes to production, publishing, and distribution — using the strategy to guide it.

Think of each item in the plan as a singular step in a flight of stairs. Content strategy is the first one, setting the stage and intentions for the rest of your actions. Each step is as important as the next, but it's that first one that allows the rest to exist.

How to create a content plan in 8 steps

Once you know what your goals are, it's time to draw up an agenda. These eight steps will help you initialize and execute it.

1. Set your goal

While your strategy sets overall goals, your content plan should expand by outlining short and long-term objectives, like reaching a top ranking on Google or earning a certain number of social media followers. These should explore company aspirations and inform the types and topics of content you should create later.

2. Meet your audience

To target your audience, you must first know who they are. Use analytics to study every possible metric, from buying habits to customer complaints and general demographics. Try compiling your audience profiles into buyer personas to better understand where they’re coming from.

3. Brainstorm topics

Gather your marketing team and assemble a stack of strategic ideas and topics that speak to your audience. Keep your buyer personas in mind and brainstorm ideas from their point of view. What do they want to see? What kind of design appeals to their interests? What service does your company offer that you can become an expert on?

4. Gather data

Analyzing metrics about your audience and topics will help you prepare the right content. And if SEO is part of your plan, include keyword research in this process. Analyze the terms you’re already ranking for and look for potential gaps. Then you can create content that fills them. And remember: Social media platforms like TikTok have built-in search functions, so include them in this process.

5. Pick a channel

Your target audience might have 20 social and connectivity apps installed on their phones, but this doesn't mean you have to strategize for every single one. Pick the distribution channels that represent the most significant segmentation of your customer base and make the most sense for your business.

6. Draw up a calendar

Create a content calendar that outlines how you’ll distribute across all possible channels. This should also include who’s responsible for what and when. Using a specific content marketing planner will help you keep track of everything separately from other initiatives.

7. Advertise

To connect with customers, you need to bring your brand as close to them as possible. You can buy ads, build a social media following, or publish SEO-enhanced blog posts to make sure they find your content.

8. Analyze results

Putting your content out there is only the first step. Next, you'll want to analyze the data. Which channel performs best? Do your Google Analytics results support your original strategy? Where are your best leads coming from? Use this data to enhance and optimize your agenda.

How a content roadmap brings you to success

One of the best content planning tools is a roadmap template. It helps you visualize goals and objectives without losing sight of strategy. With a content roadmap, you can create tasks for team members to complete, mark your customers with visual indicators for each target demographic, and track progress with data sharing and results.

There are a few best practices to keep in mind for creating great content that resonates with your audience:

  • Create goals to continuously push customers to engage with content
  • Mind the audience and how and what they’re looking for, tailoring strategy to their needs
  • Focus on the entire funnel retaining current customers while building new relationships
  • Present free and paid content as incentives to keep customers around
  • Keep content meaningful so your audience understands and connects with your company values

Get your content planning started with Roadmunk by Tempo

When creating content, Roadmunk by Tempo can help you lay out your plan in an audience-friendly roadmap. And if you want to track how much time you spend on your marketing campaigns, Timesheets by Tempo can help you with better time-tracking.