Effective content marketing requires careful planning, organization and consistency. To streamline the content creation process, checklists and templates are invaluable tools that can help you stay on track, ensure quality and save time. Before we get to some of the best checklists, tools and templates for content marketing, we need to reiterate what you must do first: plan.
Consider us those friends who, before every big night out, remind you to have a plan in case of an emergency (restaurant is full, car runs out of gas, neighbor sets your house on fire with his turkey deep fryer—you understand.) We don’t need to end our caveat with “be safe,” but we do want to emphasize “be smart.”
Go into any content marketing effort with a plan that includes the purpose for the campaign (remember, it can’t be to “make money” or “sell stuff.”) You also need to establish your marketing goals, objectives and strategy that dovetail with your business goals. Once you’ve documented these foundational elements, you can lay out the tactics that will help you hit the objective benchmarks and reach the goals.
We know it sounds basic, but a recent B2B Content Marketing Study conducted by CMI found that “40% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy; 33% have a strategy, but it’s not documented, and 27% have no strategy whatsoever,” as reported by the Search Engine Journal. The math shows that a lot of B2B marketers don’t have a plan, even amid changes facing content marketing efforts.
“Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine,” according to Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute. “It is not good enough to produce content ‘like a media company would.’ The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.”
Change can be hard, we know, and customer expectations in the age of the social, mobile and AI-driven web have changed dramatically.
“The continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when [Philip] Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies and processes,” says Rose in his CMI post.
Well, OK, buckle up. Let’s talk about how to make the process a little more modern by using checklists, templates and tools from the 21st Century.
The importance of crafting high-quality content remains paramount—just as it was when print ads and broadcast messages ruled. Use these six steps (ah, a checklist!) to do it well:
Understand your audience
Before creating content, get to know your audience’s demographics, psychographics and pain points. You can work with a target audience profile, or use personas, and tailor your content to their needs for maximum impact. If you choose to go with personas (yay), invest in a simple, but complete, persona template. A buyer persona template helps you create detailed profiles of your target audience, making it easier to customize content to their needs and preferences. Some of our favorite resources for persona information and templates include Buffer, HubSpot and UserPilot.
Remember that a persona is only as good as the research that goes into it. If, when you’re doing your research, your buyer personas don’t neatly fit who you thought your customers are, you have to consider the possibility that you’re engaged in navel-gazing marketing and you’re deep in your marketing department’s confirmation bias. (Need a refresher on confirmation bias in marketing? Read this from Forbes.) If resources allow, it may be best to have an outside agency or firm do the research, so you know your biases don’t creep in.
Create a content calendar with voice and tone guidelines
Develop a content calendar and “voice book” that outlines what type of content you’ll create, when and for which platforms—and includes the voice and tone of your online brand. This ensures consistency across a team and throughout marketing efforts and helps you plan. For examples and templates, see how Mailchimp does it, or use the template and advice from Semrush. Other good resource is CoSchedule.
A content calendar doesn’t need to be fancy (we work wonders with an Excel spreadsheet). The template and design isn’t as important as what goes in it. Numerous online tools and templates are available to create and manage content calendars, including Google Sheets and Trello.
Grab your audience’s attention with relevant headlines. Tools like CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and Thrive Headline Optimizer can help you craft compelling titles. If you appreciate the emotional value of a headline and how it can urge readers and viewers to act, consider this headline analyzer from American Marketing Institute.
Tell a story
People love stories. Weave narratives into your content to make it relatable and memorable. Although it’s designed for traditional story forms, consider this checklist from Masterclass on elements to have in a story. Even if you’re writing an About Us or a blog post, it can help to understand characters, setting, the story arch and point of view.
Incorporate visuals like images, infographics and videos to break up text and make your content visually appealing. Tools such as Canva and Adobe Express (if you already have an Adobe license) make creating visuals easy. We like OpenShot if you need a free video editing tool. Or, kapwing. (A reminder that Unsplash and Pixabay offer free-to-use images.) Buffer has a list of free image sites.
Once you’re well on your way to crafting quality content, add in the templates, tools and checklists that help with other specifics.
To boost your content’s visibility, an SEO checklist is vital. It ensures that you optimize your content with keywords, meta tags and other SEO best practices. Tools like Yoast SEO provide WordPress users with a built-in SEO checklist.
Editing and proofreading checklist
Before publishing, content should be carefully edited and proofread. A checklist can help ensure that your content is free of grammatical errors, typos and other issues that might detract from its quality. (Darn that Oxford comma!)
Social Media Content Calendar
For planning and scheduling social media content, a calendar template specific to social media platforms is essential. (But, again, we are fans of an Excel sheet, too.) Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite provide templates for this purpose.
Email Newsletter Template
To streamline email marketing efforts, having a well-designed email newsletter template can save time and ensure a consistent look and feel in your communications.
Content promotion checklist
After creating content, it’s crucial to promote it effectively. A content promotion checklist can help you systematically share your content on various channels, such as social media, email and forums. Share your content on platforms like Medium or LinkedIn to reach a broader audience. HubSpot offers solid guidance on how to stay on-track. This article from Fast Company features the sentence, “The first thing that you’ll want to do when promoting your content is make a checklist,” immediately after the lead paragraph. Because checklists keep everything moving, per The Checklist Manifesto.
Lead Generation content templates
Templates for lead magnets, such as eBooks, whitepapers and webinars, can simplify the process of creating valuable content that attracts and converts leads. For templates and explainers, check into the information here or here.
Blog post template
A blog post template provides a structured format for your articles, including sections for headlines, subheadings, bullet points and calls to action. This helps create consistency across your blog. If you don’t have a designer creating your own, we like Ahrefs, Backlinko and Semrush.
Analytics reporting template and content audit checklist
After your content is live, tracking its performance is crucial. An analytics report template helps gather and analyze data from platforms like Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.
Using these checklists and templates can significantly improve your content marketing efforts. They provide structure, consistency and organization, which saves time and helps you create content that resonates with your audience and achieves your marketing objectives.
If you’d like to know more, email or call ER Marketing. We’d love to have a conversation.
Planning is crucial to establish campaign purpose, marketing goals, and strategy alignment.
27% have no strategy, according to a recent B2B Content Marketing Study.
A content calendar ensures consistency, outlines content types, platforms, and voice guidelines.
Utilize tools like CoSchedule Headline Analyzer and Thrive Headline Optimizer.
Include images, infographics, and videos using tools like Canva and Adobe Express.