Editorial Calendars & Marketing Automation
What single document does more than any other to assure marketing automation success; an editorial calendar.
New, fresh, valuable and relevant content made available on a regular basis, no matter if it is in the form of a blog, newsletter, article or tool is the most fundamental way to keep your target market engaged with you. A steady stream of valuable content is the way and the reason people will stay engaged and in tune with you. The big question is how do you do it?
The key, I’ve found, is an editorial calendar.
A good editorial calendar determines the long term success of many and maybe most marketing automation programs simply because it assures that you have something to say that contributes to a strong story and ongoing narrative. In my opinion only amateurs operate without one.
What is an editorial calendar?
Editorial calendars are nothing new to the pillars of traditional media; magazines and newspapers. It worked for them and, in my opinion, it will work for you as well. The goal of an editorial calendar is to assure:
- A coherent theme is adhered to.
- Quality can be achieved through longer term planning as opposed to tyranny by deadline.
- The content covers all of the expected categories.
- Content logically builds and holds the reader’s ongoing interest by being valuable.
Most editorial calendars include the following types of sections:
– Major buckets; a worthy publication has a mixture of topics its readers want to know about on a regular basis.
– Expert perspectives and opinions.
– Offers to be made – usually linked to the current content theme.
– Refresh schedule; web page, blog entries, newsletter content, webinars, live events, offers, promotions, special announcements.
– Content stage; awareness of a topic, full consideration of a topic, nearing purchase regarding a topic area.
Small, medium or large… you need to have at least some of the list above mapped out in an annual schedule to assure that you are giving your target market something to follow that makes sense.
Five Steps for Creating Your Editorial Calendar
Here are five suggestions to consider when developing an editorial calendar for your content:
Determine categories of interest to your readers. Do this by asking them via survey, offers or forum. If you really understand your market you have a place to start.
- Layout the topics you are committed to covering on a regular basis and stick to it if at all possible.
- Allow room for flexibility.
- Specify the week or month the activity in which the activity will occur.
- Multiply your reach by using social media distribution.
Also, it’s good to include features that allow for collecting information about news and/or for guest writers to give readers useful content and different perspectives than your norm.
Amateurs wing it and the professionals use an editorial calendar. Someone once said that constrain fuels creativity and I believe it. Hoping to wake up each month with a clear idea of the whole set of content you’ll produce that month is pure wishful thinking and the domain of children. A pro can flesh out and enliven a set schedule and it the process creates coherent magic for the target market.
For my clients I usually suggest that they build a spreadsheet for a full year covering all of the items below as a minimum:
- Week that group of marketing activity will occur.
- Subject (typically a “problem we solve”).
- Select (the data subset from the total reference database).
- Suppress (description of the data to suppress out of the set to be used).
- Case study to be used if appropriate.
- Key player roles to be targeted.
- Media (call the media to be used i.e. direct mail, email, phone).
- Mechanics i.e. PURL links, etc.
- Offer; what “bait” will be used to both entice the target to respond and further develop the targets engagement with you and your business.
- Stage; early, middle, late.
For ease of communication, we characterize these messages into three main stages: 1) early – awareness, 2) middle-consideration, and 3) late – transaction preparation. Just as in a dating relationship between two people, you do things early in the relationship that are appropriate, such as keeping dates casual and of limited duration. Further into a relationship, the behaviors change in accordance with the stage, culminating in marriage or not, as the case may be. Here is how this breaks down in the buying process:
- Early Interest, and awareness -prospect begins search
- Early Interest, and awareness -prospect identifies potential solutions
- Middle Evaluate and consider options – prospect evaluates potential solutions
- Late Propose and consider transaction – prospect identifies a short list of possible suppliers
- Late Propose and consider transaction – anything to help prospect justify the purchase
In each of these stages, there are communications appropriate for that stage, that might not necessarily make sense later in the relationship.
- Most wanted response; i.e. call, click, download, email, register, etc. All of the content and messaging is oriented around driving the most wanted response (MWR). Getting the MWR is how we advance the prospect through the stages to the level that they are ready to be handed off to sales.
- Website updates . We don’t want updates to the website to be ad hoc but rather systematically planned.
- Auto-responder; what messages will be delivered automatically after an offer has been accepted? This is also known as nurture. Here it is advantageous to further educate the prospect on the benefits of doing business with you in relation to the offer they accepted to get on the auto-responder series.
- Articles; articles that should be added to the website that week that could be derived from the other content developed for that week’s campaign as stipulated on the master editorial calendar.
The editorial calendar is literally the backbone of an effective marketing automation program. It is the vehicle to keep marketing, sales and management on the same page. It provides an objective way for all stakeholders to review, discuss and confirm that the entire effort is going in the right direction. When things go wrong it is the first place to look to see and understand why things started going south.
If you are committed to success with marketing automation an editorial calendar should, in my humble opinion, be a top priority.