Building an effective marketing plan can be an elusive project for any manager because today's marketing involves many, many dimensions. A comprehensive tactical plan in inbound marketing may include website design, advanced content creation, social media management, blog publishing, content promotion, monitoring and reporting, lead management, sales alignment processes, earned media publishing, and many other minor techniques. Already that's a lot of components to manage, and no list of activities can account for unforeseen change or new technology.
Establishing a concrete marketing plan is important to managing the dynamism of modern-day marketing, but the project of putting it all together can often be a huge task in and of itself. More than a few intelligent marketers have tied themselves up building a marketing plan instead of enacting it.
The goal of this article is to explore a step-by-step process of building an inbound marketing plan that prioritizes tasks instead of just listing competing areas of focus. In the end, you'll find that good planning in inbound marketing centers on three main operations: content calendaring, building new marketing functionality, and executing regular operations versus non-regular activities.
1. Categorize Marketing Activities By Task, Not Type
If you consider that business organizations normally categorize marketing efforts by area of expertise—digital marketing, media relations, social media, etc.—you'll find that there are too many to keep in order or prioritize. It's easy to see everything as a competing priority with no way to dig through the mess. What's more important—PR or Branding? Social Media or Blogging? This list goes on and on.
Given that inbound marketing today has a lot of moving parts, you need to rethink operations in terms of task type rather than conventional marketing tactics. Why view PR, blog publication, advanced content creation, and social media posting as completely different beasts? Each of those have a common denominator: content writing. That's the kind of task to really pay attention to and manage.
If we start to layout task categories by what actually needs to get done, we can start to develop quite the list:
social media posting
building website functionality
publishing new online content
press release sending
email automation management
contact data management
and many more
2. Understand Tasks In Their Relation to Time
How often do your marketing activities happen? Is content writing something that happens constantly or is it only a once-per-week task? My guess is it's fairly regular for most marketers—at least more regular than building new website functionality. Decide what happens on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. For irregular tasks, mark them such. Are there any trends among irregular items?
In most inbound marketing plans, content of one kind or another is going to be a daily grind while design of new website pages might be more of a monthly process. Social media also happens every day, but press release sending will only happen when there's something to announce.
Understanding how tasks relate to timing is the first step in determining the schedule for your various tasks. The more precise you can be, the closer you'll get to creating a fully fledged operational calendar.
3. Most Activities Should Be On a Content Calendar
Once you have your tasks in line with when they happen, you'll likely see some trends.
For instance, the least regular activities tend to be things like building new functionalities or planning whole new programs. On the other hand, content creation and related activities like email and social media tend to be highly regular. Even press releases can often be scheduled in advance by knowing which kind of stories happen at which points in the year.
Because content is incredibly timing-specific, we try to create content calendars for most tasks in an inbound marketing plan. For blog writing, social media posts, and email newsletters, this may seem like an obvious course of action, but we also include things like website copy updates, new site page writing, and case study publication in our content calendar as well. The more regular we can make these activities the better they'll perform, so even if they don't necessarily have a recorded publish date, it's still important to manage them on a schedule.
4. Convert Irregular Projects Into Calendared Tasks
One of the problems with having a highly calendared marketing plan is that anything irregular becomes difficult to complete. For instance, as our team produces new ideas, we're constantly trying to add new functionalities and features to our website. One such idea was a more advanced resource section where visitors could find more in-depth information about inbound marketing.
The task of completing the resources section might be a big hurdle, but once complete, any new functionality comes with regular upkeep and ultimately, new content. If you're able to plan for the completion of unique, non-regular projects, then their maintenance can become part of your broader content calendar.
In this way, content calendars are ever expanding as you diversify the type of online marketing material you produce.
The Impact of Expanded Content Calendars
Most marketers think of a content calendar as essentially a blog schedule. At Weidert Group, we view content calendars as a never-ending campaign of new site page production, blog publishing, news reporting, earned media, video publishing, case study production, and content promotion. When you have a more complex content calendar, sure it's more to manage, but it also means that scheduling can determine priority, and various components of your content can more easily align.
If you consider how your weekly blog could complement a new site page or a new published case study, then you can maximize the holistic effect of what your marketing can do.