Why am I such a critic of the pervasive marketing plan?
To start, these documents give the planner a sense of security and control. Producing a comprehensive marketing plan feels like productive work. In reality, it’s nothing more than a guess about what will happen in the future.
My fear is that too many people devote too much time to the production of the document. This causes them to feel locked into executing its contents without regard for whether the activities are actually producing results.
Now it’s not to say that I’m against all types of documentation.
It can be a little challenging to figure out what items need documentation for the sake of success and what ones will never see the light of day. My suggestion?
Start by documenting your standards of performance.
Standards of performance are a set of documented guidelines that ensure everything you create embodies high-quality traits that produce results. For content marketing, your standards of performance make sure no content item gets published unless it hits every point on a detailed checklist.
When my team documented our content marketing standards of performance, it led to incredible results — like 1.3 million pageviews every month incredible.
Here’s what our content marketing standards of performance look like:
We started by reviewing our top-performing content, and we discovered that our best blog posts adhere to this principle. Short-form content underperformed, while posts that took a deep dive and provided real, actionable advice excelled.
This led to the first attribute to include in our standards of performance. Every piece of content that we publish must be better and more resourceful than what’s already available.
Targeting Keywords Strategically
The second thing we noticed was that CoSchedule’s most successful blog posts target a clear keyword and incorporate strategic secondary keywords.
Here’s an example:
Primary keyword: Content marketing examples
Secondary keywords: Content marketing blogs, content marketing plan, content marketing tips, content marketing definition, content marketing trends, content marketing ideas
Those secondary terms help us make sure our blog posts are comprehensive by covering all the most important details about a topic. This subsequently helps our audience find our content via search engines.
Here are a few tips to find good primary keywords:
Relevancy. Are these topics relevant to your business?
Volume. How many monthly searches does this keyword drive?
Difficulty. Is it possible for your content to rank on the keyword?
Making Every Piece Actionable
Lots of content tells you what to do. Not enough shows you how to do it. This brings us to our next standard of performance.
For us, producing actionable content provides real value to our readers. When our content teaches readers how to do something through a step-by-step process – or includes a video or link to another resource that does – we build trust with our readers and (hopefully) keep them coming back.
Making Every Piece Relevant
This is one of the more challenging areas because it entails turning down some good content ideas that your audience cares about.
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to get the most value from your limited resources, make sure you write about things your audience cares about, but also things that are relevant for your business.
I call it your content core. It’s the area where your offer/product/service intersects with what your customers care about.
Any time we publish a piece of content, we ask:
Would our target audience care about this? If not, it’s time to scrap that idea and move onto the next one. No time to waste.
Does this topic tie into our product’s purpose? If not, it probably won’t result in any valuable business leads.
Is this something we can speak authoritatively on? If not, why would anyone listen to us?
This set of guidelines works for us and created pretty awesome results. You can test them out yourself or create your own standards of performance. If you’re keen on the latter, identify what your competition’s content doesn’t do. Then, commit to filling that gap with every piece you publish.
There’s no point in publishing more content that looks and sounds exactly like what’s already out there. Figure out what separates you, and incorporate that into your standards of performance.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.