Five fists bump over a work table with laptops to celebrate quality content as their business grows.

For startups, small business and even larger businesses, there’s often one person responsible for the marketing content on websites, social media and beyond. As the business grows, that person may become a freelancer, an external agency or a marketing team. With some strategic actions you can maintain quality content as your business grows.

Every business begins as an idea in the minds of one, two or a few people. They are usually the individuals who put in the hard work to grow that idea into a startup. If all goes well they grow that startup into a fully-fledged business. At many points along the way they will reach out to freelancers, agencies or employees to help them achieve their goals.

That growth can often be charted through the business’s content, in either positive or negative ways. One day the website just looks different. The social media conversation shifts. Or the weekly email newsletter changes its frequency.

Forbes reports that creating quality content is one of the key strategies to growing brand awareness.

Maintaining quality content as your business grows is a challenge

As a business grows it may introduce a marketing department, so the content crown moves from one of the founders to the marketing manager. Then the marketing manager moves on and the content crown lands on another head. Even for large, established businesses, maintaining quality content is a challenge.

Luckily, like most business functions, we can learn from the failures of others and take steps to prevent them happening to us.

Make a content plan

It seems pretty simple right? Those who fail to plan, are planning to fail, so just make a business plan. Unfortunately, the busy-ness of business can often keep us from making many plans. So, a content plan gets reduced to ‘post on social at least once a day’ and ‘put out a couple of blogs a week’.

That’s not so much a plan as a list of tasks. And a list of tasks without goals is going to be pushed back to the last minute and become an afterthought.

So, take the time to make a content plan. Keep it simple. Like a good business plan it’s going to be most effective if you can summarise it in one page so you can refer to it often. Your content plan can fit on one page because it’s not a content strategy.

This is the document that can be used by your staff, marketing team, external agencies or freelancers to create your marketing strategy.

The one-page content plan

A one-page plan simply tells you where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. So, divide your page into three columns, then start with the fun part – where you want to be. Obviously, reality plays a part here, but all you have to do is imagine where your business would be in an ideal world.

Start with your business’s tone of voice. Internally this can be viewed as your business’s personality, externally it will be one of the key ways that customers relate to your business. It’s useful to think of it as personality, because the personalities, culture and language of your team will influence the personality of the business.

So, describe the ideal-world personality of your business in the column on the right ‘Where you want to be’. Keep it short and simple, about the length of a tweet (or two). Then describe the current personality of your business in the column on the left ‘Where you are’.

You may find that you want to keep the same personality, or you need to work on your businesses airs and graces. Either way, you now have the motivation to describe the steps you must take in the middle column ‘How you’re going to get there’.

This column is the essence of maintaining quality content as your business grows. Recording the steps your business will take to maintain what it already has is as important as the steps you’ll take to make a change.

Fill out the one-page content plan

Work your way down the page and repeat the process. You might like to work in columns and get all of your ideal scenarios down in one hit, then go back to the ‘Where we are column’ before you tackle the challenges of how to get there.

As you work down the columns, these are some of the elements you could include in your content plan:

Values – your business’s values work hand-in-hand with your tone of voice and support its personality. While you may not have considered values before, your business will have some. They will influence how you deal with suppliers, how you hire employees, how you behave in every aspect of the business. If your business began with strong, clear values, this plan will outline how you maintain those values as different people play a role in your content. If your business values are not clear, this is a way to rectify that.

Blogs – this is where you can get creative and a little specific. It’s also a good opportunity to remind yourself and others why this content matters. Declare that every blog will have a valid call to action. Every blog will be seen by a thousand pairs of eyes. And you’re going to boost blog conversion rates to 10%. Dream big! Then work backwards to outline how you’re going to get there.

Organic social media – here’s where you can really make a difference in your content. Set your destination to be a place where you interact with your customers on social media, rather than just telling them about your new blog, product or sale. Then work out how you’ll get there.

Paid social media – just like your blogs, detail what your reach and conversion rate will be.

Podcasts – Chances are, your business doesn’t have a podcast, let alone a podcast plan. Try to avoid empty statements like ‘create the next serial’ or ‘make it go viral’. Dream up the podcast that your customers would find unmissable because of the value they get out of it. Then reverse engineer it. The best part is, you don’t even have to make a podcast, you can buy one straight off the shelf. You can team up with an existing podcast and use your one-page content plan to align their episodes with your content.

Refer to your content plan often

The beauty of the one-page plan is that you can print it out and stick it to the wall. Or you could get creative! Print it on t-shirts for your team or tea-towels for the kitchen. Put it somewhere that lets you refer to it often. Just don’t hide it in plain sight.

When you enlist the services of freelancers or agencies, use your content plan to build a brief for them. It’s a great way to share those little details that can be forgotten when you’re detailing a job. If you’re pressed for time, just give them a copy of the plan. The more they understand where you want to be and how you want to get there, the more likely you’ll all make it there in one piece.

Include your plan in your on-boarding kit for new employees. It’s a great way to short-circuit a bunch of conversations and start a bunch of really relevant chats.

Set a calendar reminder to review and update your plan – weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. Use it to build out your strategies, review your progress and refine your approach. Go forth and prosper with the confidence that no-matter how big your business grows, it will maintain quality content.

Once you have a content plan in place, you can confidently embrace the best parts of AI to improve your content.

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