A content marketing editorial calendar is and important tool for managing your small business marketing system. Modern marketing requires creating, publishing, and re-purposing content from multiple sources, in multiple formats, through multiple channels. Without proper tools and processes, managing all of these content related variables can quickly become overwhelming.
Editorial calendars come in all shapes and sizes – from Excel Spreadsheets to WordPress plugins to software systems specifically designed to help plan and manage your marketing content. Choosing a solution that fits your business can feel like an overwhelming task once you start exploring the available options.
Evaluating Your Choices
As with any software system purchase, it’s important to evaluate the needs and goals of your business before you begin shopping. Otherwise, the tendency is to focus on bells and whistles of each tool. This approach often ends up forcing you to change your business process to adapt to the way the software works.
This post outlines the factors I considered when looking for an editorial calendar for both my company and my customers. The editorial calendar from Marketing.AI is the one that best suits our needs. Your needs may be different but hopefully the information below will help you find an editorial calendar that fits your needs.
I started by outlining the main categories of tasks and goals that I wanted to accomplish:
- Planning content
- Producing content – collaborating, workflow, tracking assignments, managing deadlines
- Measuring and Reporting
- Integrating with other tools
- Managing multiple entities
Planning Your Marketing Content
When most people think of using an editorial calendar, they typically think of planning their content. Planning your content marketing generally falls into two broad categories;
- High level or strategic planning that focuses on connecting your content marketing efforts to your overall business goals.
- Production planning or mapping out what content needs to be created for the next marketing cycle – typically a month or quarter.
Without software specifically designed for managing content, the documents in the strategic planning category tend to be word processing documents. Excel spreadsheets are a popular choice for production planning and tracking.
The type of file used is not nearly as important as making sure that all of your team members have easy access to the information in these documents. You also want everyone working from the same version of that information. This becomes difficult when documents are being emailed around and no one is confident that they have the most current version. Producing quality content takes time and effort; time you don’t have to waste in meetings reconciling different versions of your content spreadsheets.
One of the features of Marketing.AI that I really like is that it enables you to store the information from your strategic content marketing plan in the same tool that you use to plan, create, and manage your content. Having easy access to this information increases the chance it will be actually used (and updated) by the people creating the content. It also makes sharing the information with your content authors easier, whether internal or outsourced. Marketing.AI help you manage strategic reference documents like:
- List of Content Themes
- Your Unique Selling Proposition
- Buyer Personas
- Customer Journey Matrix (or your customers buying process)
- Content Ideas
- Products and Pricing Models
- Features, Benefits, Customer Pains
- Keywords, Hashtags, Industry Influencers
- Target Industries
Marketing.AI also gives you the ability to associate many of these characteristics with each individual piece of content, making your reporting and analysis much more powerful (more on reporting below).
Producing Your Content
Content production deals with the day-to-day, nitty gritty business of getting the work done. This is where we assign responsibilities, set deadlines, produce, edit, publish, repackage and perform all of the other tasks that need to be done to go from plan to delivery.
When we think of content marketing we typically think first about blog posts, web pages, eBooks, and other forms of written content. But content also includes video, audio (podcasts), presentation slides, magazines (traditional and electronic), books, and plenty of other forms I am forgetting to list.
In addition to (or maybe because of) all of the format choices, we often have several people working on and/or collaborating to create content. There are many companies who will help you create your content. Many of them provide an editorial calendar to help manage the process. However, most of them are designed around a workflow process that assumes you will order all of your content from them. While this is perfectly understandable, it just doesn’t match the reality of the small businesses that I work with. My customers get their marketing content from several sources. They may purchase some from content creation companies, create some in-house, and/or hire me to help them develop content. The last thing I or my customers want is to have several calendars (or spreadsheets) to manage and reconcile.
I like Marketing.AI because it is gives me flexibility in defining my workflow and it helps you manage that workflow by providing notifications via email. This makes it easy to bring people on board without having to spend a lot of time training them to use a new system or platform.
Measuring and Reporting
Regular readers here know that I am a big believer in the idea that having a rhythmic planning process is more important than the plan document. A vital part of that planning process is a feedback loop that provides analytics to help you test your assumptions and adjust your plans accordingly (more on analytics below).
I like to have analytics that give provide me with feedback on the both the effectiveness and balance of my content marketing efforts.
Effectiveness helps determine which pieces are best at achieving a particular content goal. For example, knowing which pieces of content are attracting traffic to your website and which ones are leading to conversions are valuable pieces of information for improving your content marketing efforts.
Tools like Google Analytics can help you determine which pieces of content are attracting traffic to your website. Using the goals feature of Google Analytics to measure conversions (and the value of those conversions) can be a great way to start tying your content marketing efforts to business results.
Related to effectiveness is something I like to refer to as balance. By balance, I mean I want to know about the diversity of the content formats being used (blog posts vs. video, etc.) and the effectiveness of each. I also want to evaluate the effectiveness of content in the different stages of the marketing hourglass (or buyers journey).
For example, I may have content that is effective at generating awareness and attracts traffic to my website. But if don’t have content that is effective at moving people from awareness to the try or consideration phase, then I have some content that is effective, but my overall marketing content is not helping me reach my business goals.
Taking this information one step further, I can determine if content formats (i.e. video) are more effective in different stages of my marketing hourglass.
While it is possible to capture most of this type of information and add it back to a planning spreadsheet in order to perform the type of analysis described above, doing so is at best a tedious process. In my experience, when a process is tedious, it tends to not get done once the newness of starting a new project wears off. Or, it gets put off until it becomes a major project and then more time is spent gathering the data than analyzing it and gaining insights that will help improve future marketing efforts.
Editorial calendar software like Marketing.AI simplifies this process by helping you attach these important attributes to your content during the planning and production phases, so you can quickly determine how your content is performing anytime you want.
Integrating With Other Content Tools
As a systems guy, I hate unnecessary duplication. I hinted at that above when I mentioned not liking to waster time reconciling different versions for spreadsheets. I also don’t like to duplicate data entry across different systems. As it relates to content marketing, this is a little lower on the priority list than some of the other topics discussed in this post, but I always prefer to use tools that play well with others and save me time.
Marketing.AI currently integrates with the following tools:
- Unbounce (for landing pages)
- Outbrain (for promoting your content)
The folks at Marketing.AI have told me they have other integrations in the works and seem open to suggestions if you have a particular integration need.
Managing Multiple Entities
As a marketing agency, I look for tools that I can use in three main settings:
- Marketing my own business
- Working with customers who outsource their work to me
- My customers can use to manage their marketing in-house
Other businesses that are not marketing agencies may also benefit from features designed for marketing agencies. If you have multiple offices, departments, or other divisions that want to manage their content marketing separately, but also have the ability to see a rolled up, “master” calendar then you will want to take a look at the features in the agency edition of Marketing.AI.
Don’t Forget About People
Last, but not least, I want to drop a quick plug for the people behind the software at Marketing.AI.
In the software as a service world (SAAS) we live in today, having conversations and getting help from real people (vs. email, chat, forums, etc.) is becoming something of a rarity.
However, the folks at Marketing.AI have been great work with. They’ve spent a ton of time with me, answering questions, learning about how I want to use the tool in my business, and supporting me in both the pre-sale and post-sale processes.
I will be posting some demonstration videos in the weeks to come. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you would like to a personal demo or if you have any questions about whether Marketing.AI is right for you