A few weeks ago, I shared part one of my maternity leave planning journey and how getting focused was the first step to preparing for a business break. Today, I’m excited to share with you step two: How I plan months worth of content (and how you can easily, too!).
Whether you are taking a break or not, planning out your content can be a real game-changer in your marketing strategy. When I say “content” I am referring to blog posts, social media posts, and email marketing newsletters.
I plan to take about 4 months off for maternity leave but don’t want my business to close down or my people to forget about what we are doing over here. So it is important that my content marketing strategy goes on while I’m gone!
So how do I plan months worth of content… and get it all done? The answer lies in 3 parts. First, you have to know how many pieces of content need to go out for every platform you are present on. Second, you have to do a little content mapping. And lastly, you have to create space on your calendar or to do list to execute it. Let’s talk it out so you can get a rock solid plan to a full content calendar that will rock your marketing!
The first step to plan months worth of content: know your numbers.
Freedom. It is the way most business owners go about their marketing strategy. They want the “freedom” to post here or there whenever they feel like it or have something cool to share.
This is a sure fire way to never master online marketing as a business owner. Whether you are a service based or product based business, you have to consistently connect the right offerings (yours) with the right people at the right time. Aka marketing.
There are many forms of marketing. Networking, word of mouth referrals and referral networks, distributing printed collateral, publication features, and appearances (think TV, interviews, podcasts, etc) are a few examples. None of them are bad, but all of those forms of marketing take quite a bit of money or work or exposure to maximize your efforts.
Content marketing is different. The barrier to entry of marketing your business online is extremely low. Sure, you can pay to enhance your content marketing strategy, but you don’t have to. Content marketing can work for you long after you put in the effort. Think SEO benefits and long-term shareability (unless you delete the content, it can be shared over and over again!). And if you’re a service-based business owner, you have a unique opportunity to create a cycle with your content marketing strategy. More on that in a minute!
If you’re like most creative entrepreneurs I know, you see the value in social media, blogging (but it is often viewed as an uphill battle), and maybe even email marketing. But you get stuck in the actual coming up with ideas about what to write or how often you should be posting. And while I think it will be different for everyone, I can show you what I do in my business to hopefully give you a starting point!
Blog Posts: 1 – 2 times per week. On a weekly basis, I publish one new article similar to this one. The similarity comes in the depth of the articles. In order to teach you something of value, I can’t just slap up 300 words and hope you get the full scope of my concepts. I used to write upwards of 5 times a week when I had a strategy of growing my traffic counts quickly, but these days I focus less on traffic and more on serving my customers through really high-quality posts.
With blogging, the key isn’t to post as many times as you can, but rather to consistently post. My readers have come to expect one really helpful post per week, so I keep it up. If I do a second post per week, it may not be as in-depth. I still take care to create something valuable for my readers, but usually, these extra posts are quick and to the point to help solve a problem or question for my readers.
Let’s say you are a wedding planner. If you can commit to one truly helpful and in-depth post per week to build up a resource of articles for your couples to refer to during the planning process, that would be a great start. From there, you could schedule in a quick second or third post per week that is less writing-intensive like an image heavy post of a recent wedding or styled shoot you were apart of and maybe a post that gives your clients some visual inspiration with a mood board.
Boom! Instantly you have a plan that is manageable to keep up with!
Instagram: 1 post per day, 6 days a week. In the past I would post MUCH more than once per day on Instagram, but since the platform changed the game with the algorithm, my strategy is very different these days. I have found that posting once per day is plenty and that one post has a longer engagement “shelf life” over a 24 hour period.
If you look at the trend, I actually have a rinse and repeat schedule for content post topics on Instagram. I call them my content buckets. Having set topics I talk about for each day takes a ton of stress off my plate for coming up with new daily ideas.
On Mondays, I share about thoughts on business and being an entrepreneur. On Tuesdays, I share about my weekly blog post. On Wednesdays, I share about thoughts on motherhood. On Thursdays I share about my actual products – the client experience templates. On Fridays, I share snapshots of our home. And lastly on Sunday evenings (this is a new one!), I will be sharing some personal thoughts from the week and weekend as I prepare for a new week ahead!
By having a clearly defined system of what to talk about, it is MUCH easier to batch schedule and write captions for our favorite square platform! I don’t always pre-write my captions each month so I have some flexibility to share more in the moment thoughts, but I do pre-arrange all my images so that I’m not rushing at the last minute to find a picture that works. I use Planoly to schedule all of my Instagram content and LOVE it!
Pinterest: Pinterest is my highest source of traffic to the blog. It drives over 55% of my website traffic! I don’t actually spend too much time on the scheduling part of Pinterest because it goes along with blogging. When I write a blog post, I create a Pinterest graphic. Then I use CoSchedule to schedule the pinning of that graphic plus any other relevant images from the post for the date of publication and well into the future. My typical pinning schedule is automatically set up to send out pins across various boards on the publication date, the day after, a month after, and 180 days after. If the content is seasonal in nature, I’ll also add in re-pinning of the post for the following year to coincide with the season.
Facebook: To be honest, I don’t focus too much effort on my Facebook Page. We all know that FB pages are basically the worst, ha! I have social sharing templates set up in CoSchedule that will automatically push my blog content to my FB page and will sometimes share Instagram posts over there as well so the page isn’t completely silent. My personal profile gives me much more traction on Facebook, but I try not to be “all business” on it. Just my personal preference. I share my blog posts there and that is about it!
Twitter: What is twitter? Haha! But seriously, Twitter really isn’t my thing. I never really got traction over there and that’s a-okay with me. CoSchedule pushes my blog posts over there and that is about as far as I go. I don’t even have Twitter on my phone. Whoops! Can’t be in all places at all times, right?!
Email Marketing: In terms of consistent content, my email marketing strategy revolves around my weekly MMC Mail Club newsletter. We talk about business and life over there in a more casual and real way. It is one of my favorite ways of connecting with my tribe! Many times the content topic revolves around my main blog post for the week, so it is a little easier to come up with words to write about!
So with ALLLL that said, I consciously schedule and create 9 pieces of content every week (2 blog posts, 6 Insta posts, and one weekly newsletter). For the four months I am planning to step away for maternity leave, that’s just about 160 pieces of content to execute.
Don’t run for the hills just yet! I promise we can make it happen!
The second step to plan months worth of content: content mapping.
So now that we know our numbers, it is time to get even more strategic in the content marketing game.
I’m talking about actually figuring out what to share for 160 future pieces of content. I know, I know, 160 things to come up with sounds NUTS. But with a little bit of forethought and structure, it can actually happen.
Enter Content Mapping.
If you read my blog post about building an editorial calendar, you are already on the right track to creating a content map.
*But* there is another step I want you to take: thinking strategically about your content buckets, why you have them, and how to use them effectively over time to accomplish your goals.
For example, let’s go back to the wedding planner. Her plan was to post one main in-depth blog post per week. Sure, she could write about whatever she can think about in terms of weddings, but I’d challenge her to think about her content in terms of timing. What are her goals during peak engagement season? I would assume she wants to ramp up her inquiries and actually book clients.
So what kind of content can she focus on to achieve that goal in that time period? Some ideas I would give her would be to start ramping up content that explain the direct benefits of hiring a wedding planner, content that incorporates social proof (aka reviews and what her clients have said about working with her), and content that explains her unique planning process to highlight how she stands out in her market.
Then I’d probably tell her to think about writing helpful articles that follow the wedding planning process from start to finish. I can guarantee that there are 52 weeks worth of blog post ideas she could come up with that would create a truly thorough resource of advice for her clients.
Here’s the icing on the cake for service-based business owners: Your work is cyclical. If you focus on writing content that will be just as relevant in the seasons to come, you have a unique opportunity to cycle your content and present it as an added value in the client experience.
For example: I’d tell Miss Wedding Planner to take her content strategy one step further to truly maximize her efforts for her clients. She can turn that hard work of creating content into a cyclical system that will kill two birds with one stone. I’d tell her to set herself up with an email marketing platform (I use Convertkit and love it!) and then create a series of emails to automatically go out to each individual client based on when they booked her. Let me break it down a little bit more. Upon booking, Miss Wedding Planner would plug in her brand new client’s email address into her pre-planned and written sequence so that the timing of each email sent is applicable to the client’s direct needs (aka she wouldn’t want to send an email telling her brand new couple all about what they need to do the week of the wedding, right?):
- Step One: Miss Wedding Planner creates a Welcome Email with all the important first details. This email would be sent immediately. This email could easily turn into a series of Welcome Emails in that first week if there are quite a bit of first things first details to cover.
- Step Two: Once the welcome details are covered, Miss Wedding Planner could start an automatic on-going series that can act as communication touch points throughout the planning process. If done on a monthly basis, she could easily create an email series that would help her clients know what to focus on each month in the planning process and link to her most helpful posts that relate to those tasks.
- Step Three: Once her client’s wedding day has passed, she can automatically send a Thank You email and request feedback on her service through a survey or asking for a review.
Write it once, rinse and repeat! This concept doesn’t just apply to wedding planners. Service providers of all kinds can use this strategy to give their clients valuable help and communication, especially if your service is booked far in advance as is typically done in the wedding industry. One question I hear often from service providers is how to handle the long period of no communication between their clients from booking to the actual work and this is a once and done approach to filling that silent period for all your future clients!
Content Mapping isn’t just for service providers. Product based businesses can absolutely (and should!) content map within their overall sales strategy. I use content mapping to sell my products and create quality content to support the need for each of my offerings. For example: in the month of October, I am going to heavily focus on the inquiry to the onboarding phase of the client experience in my educational articles. And concurrently during the month of October, I am going to be specifically focusing on selling my Welcome Packet Template. My content topics directly will support the need for a Welcome Packet so it all works together!
As time goes on, my content topics will change based specifically on what product I am focusing on. And it can absolutely turn into a cycle! My products aren’t seasonal in nature, so I can easily create a content map cycle that repeats itself in terms of what products I sell at certain times per year and continue to create content that relates to those products.
Once all of that helpful content is written, I can easily create some canned response emails to potential customers inquiring if one of my products can be helpful for them and directly point them to these articles showing them why they can be such a powerful tool!
Rinse and repeat!
The third step to plan months worth of content: just do it!
I’m with Nike. At some point, you just have to do it…. the work that is!
I won’t leave you high and dry with that, though, promise! Here are a few helpful tips to get you just doing the work even when it feels like this content thing is all too much:
Step One: Once you know your numbers and have a general map laid out of what you want to talk about for each given month, take about an hour and map out specific blog post ideas for each week. If you feel stumped here, think specifically about the questions your customers or clients would ask you or anyone about your topics. For Miss Wedding planner, I’d suggest thinking about each phase of the planning process and the questions she is asked. For clients who have just booked, she might have a few post titles like, “The First 5 Wedding Planning Tasks To Do After Getting Engaged,” and “How to Choose the Right Vendors for Your Wedding Day,” and “What Apples and Oranges Have to Do With Wedding Vendors (And Why Price Isn’t The Only Thing To Consider).”
Step Two: To get you ahead of the writing game, block out one day to write the first four articles on your list. This is a HUGE helper for me in terms of stress-free writing. Once I am ahead of my posting schedule, it is much easier for me to write just one article per week without all the stress of being down to the wire, procrastinating, and most likely missing my content deadline. When you are running on that kind of stressful schedule, you are much more likely to never get around to actually making your content goals happen. Go ahead and prepare your Pinterest Graphics for each post at this time and if you’re using a social media scheduling tool like CoSchedule, pre-schedule your social shares for the day your post is scheduled to go live.
Extra Points: Block out one more day to pre-write and schedule any extra social media posts and your email newsletters. Once a month I sit down to pre-select and schedule my Instagram images and arrange them in order of my content buckets. I also pre-plan my email newsletters to casually talk about the topic of the week based on my blog post.
In two days, you could have an entire month’s worth of Blog Posts, Instagram Posts, and Emails done. Win!
Step Three: Pull out your calendar and write in (seriously do it right now!) blocks of time for future content drafting. The way you do it is up to you. I find it easiest to write one post per week once I am ahead of the scheduling game so I don’t overload myself mentally. But you could definitely keep it to a monthly schedule and block out one to two days per month for writing!
The most important things to remember if you want to really grow your brand and business through content is that consistency is key and to give it time. You can’t just expect people to follow along if you only write one killer blog post and then go radio silent for months. You have to show up for your customers and consistently engage with them to keep them coming back for more. And you can’t just expect that your first blog post will blow up and go viral and result in you being the next famous entrepreneur in your niche. Give yourself some grace and some time! It takes consistency and time to grow a well-loved brand, but if you put in the work, it’ll pay off!
*This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own and I only share about the products and services that I love most and think you will too!
Photography by Sarahdipity Photos