Welcome to everything you need to know for your annual content planning retreat – part 2. If you missed part 1, you can go back and read it here. If you’ve already gone through it and taken stock of the past year, gotten your dream-on over some juicy goals for the coming year, and recommitted to your dream client profile, it’s time to bring in the content.
How can you use content this year to help you reach your goals, increase visibility and consistently open doors to mega opportunities?
Here’s the wonderful thing about focusing on your content strategy: You have a list full of goals that you’ve set for yourself and all the benefits that come along with consistently putting out great content are going to be key in helping you accomplish them.
BUT what about those things you can’t plan for? The invitations to biz changing collaboration, a mega client reaching out to you unexpectedly, being invited to participate in an event full of dream-come-true prospective clients?
This is one of the things I love most about content. It increases your visibility in a way that gets people thinking of you first when it comes to these invitations and opportunities. And these are the sorts of things that you can’t plan for but you can definitely increase the odds by being seen by being generous and establishing yourself as an expert with great content and networking!
Convinced yet? Let’s continue on with planning out your epic content plan for this upcoming year.
And if you want to do this together join me for my 3-Day Virtual Planning Workshop! Can’t make it? Use this post as a follow-along agenda for your own annual planning retreat.
Step 5 – Review Your Sales Funnel
The end of the year is the perfect time to review and optimize your sales funnel, and a lot of people spend the end of the year building out a new funnel to start the year fresh.
But no matter the approach, it always starts with a careful review of each section of your funnel.
How are you connecting your content to your overall business, sales and marketing strategy? As business owners, we’re not creating content just for the heck of it – we’re using content as a tool to build our businesses.
The easiest way to be more intentional with your content is to create an evergreen sales funnel. One that will take new readers to subscribers and then after providing value and building a relationship with them, make an invitation to work with you or purchase one of your paid offers.
The high-level components of your funnel and the journey your new leads will take goes from:
Funnel to Email Sequence to Offer
- Can be anything – a service, a product, an infoproduct, a subscription, software.
- Have your offer in place first before building the rest of your sales funnel components so you can ensure that all pieces lead back to your offer.
- Another question to ask yourself is what urgency can you add into your offer? Could it be a special bonus or a discount? It can be either of those things (or other options too) as long as it motivates people into taking action right away instead of waiting until later.
- What can you create that will prepare your new subscriber to take the next step into your paid offer?
- The format doesn’t matter as much as providing your potential customers with something they actually need or want, or that it serves as an audition for your paid offers.
The Email Sequence:
- How will you lead your new subscriber from your freebie to your paid offer?
- You’ll want to include a mix of emails that provide more value and emails that showcase how your paid offer can be used before you make your urgency-based offer to them.
Once you have these pieces in place (and confirm that they’re working by testing and tweaking them until they are), then all you have to do is build up your traffic to the top of the funnel using content marketing. The sales piece of your content puzzle will be mostly automated and taken care of by your evergreen sales funnel.
Some resources for you:
- Building a coaching funnel? Read my Content Empire takeover post with Maggie Giele for inspiration to create your consult call funnel.
- Read How to Map Out a Sales Funnel for Your Business.
Take Action on Step 5
- Review your offer – what is the sales process for it and does it convert?
- Review your freebie – are you attracting your dream potential clients with it?
- Review your email sequence – are people clicking and engaging with the email content or should it be adjusted?
Step 6 – Medium, Channels and Frequencies – oh my!
The next step is to pick which content channels you’re going to focus on for the coming year. I like to evaluate every quarter and potentially add new ones and drop ones that aren’t working too.
Here are the decisions to be made:
- What type of content are you going to publish on your blog? Written, podcasts, videos?
- How frequently are you going to publish?
- What are the 3-5 categories that you’re going to create content around? How do these content categories relate to your paid and free offers?
- What types of emails are you going to send to your email list?
- When are you going to send them each week? Specific day of week and time or random
Your Social Media:
- What social platforms are you going to focus on building an engaged audience with?
- How often will you post on these focus platforms?
- What types of content will you post on your focus platforms?
- What platforms are you going to just use as content amplifiers? (Those that you schedule or automate posts on but don’t really spend any time cultivating besides that)?
- How will you automate or use these channels? Tools/Frequencies/Type of Posts
- What other regular content will you create? I.e. Webinars, Weekly workshops, Guest posting, etc.
- Frequency? Topics?
- What content channels or strategies are you curious about and want to try this year?
- Design your experiment including time period, what you’ll do, and evaluation criteria.
My Notes on Step 6:
In previous years I’ve experimented with a podcast and written blog posts. And as much as I love the podcast, it’ll never completely replace my weekly blog posts.
I did have trouble balancing the two when I’d try to publish one of each within a single week. Moving forward the focus will be having 1 piece of core content (as I recommend anyways) with the majority being written and with seasons of the podcast mixed in.
When it comes to social, I focus mainly on being on Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Take Action on Step 6:
- Choose a type of content to create for your blog (written, podcast, video) along with the frequency you’ll release it (weekly, biweekly, multiple times a week).
- Choose what social media platforms you’ll focus on for the year.
- Design any marketing or content experiments you want to try this year.
Step 7 – Content Workflows
If you’ve struggled to stay consistent with your content this year, the biggest difference can be made by focusing on your workflows – the process of how you execute your content plan.
This is actually one of my favourite parts of this whole process.
One of the biggest takeaways my clients and students tell me they’ve had is starting to view their content in terms of bundles. Instead of looking at each piece of content individually or by channel, they start bundling it together based on how it relates to each other.
This starts with the weekly content bundle.
Now whenever I have a new content bundle, I simply copy the task and add in the details. We have templates and processes in place for each step so that nothing gets missed.
So create your own daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly content bundles. And then you
can create project-based ones too – like for webinars, or launches.
Take Action on Step 7:
- Define your weekly (or however often you publish a post on your blog) bundle
- Create systems for each piece of it
Step 8 – A Topic Brainstorm
You’ll likely have to repeat this step multiple times throughout the year (I do it every quarter) to come up with topics you can’t wait to write about.
I have a few methods detailed below for you to try (and you can read more in-depth about my method of choosing topics that delight you AND your readers here)
Go through each of these steps to come up with a ton of topics to choose. First, we just want to generate as many ideas as possible. Then you can whittle them down and choose the best ones.
Step #1 – What are your content categories? List each one.
Step #2 – For each of your content categories, do 5 minutes of brainstorming about topics that interest you.
Step #3 – Is there somewhere where you keep all the good ideas you come across that you don’t want to lose. I’ll wait here, while you go and consult that file. I capture mine from a bunch of different places – Facebook Groups, Saved Facebook Posts, Pinterest, Bookmarks, Asana, Trello, and Email. But I gather them all once a week into one place so when I’m brainstorming or looking for inspiration, I know where to find them (in my case, my Asana ‘brilliant ideas’ board)
Step #4 – Search for your content categories on BuzzSumo and Pinterest and Google for the top posts. Come up with your own angle for these ones. They’re basically vetted for you and now you have an opportunity to find your own spin and make them your own.
Step #5 – Search industry magazines for topical and relevant ideas. Just as with step #4, come up with your own spin.
Step #6 – Ask your best customers, your community and email list, and your peers for their questions.
Step #7 – Consider your next year. Do you have anything big happening behind-the-scenes in your business? Add a topic idea for each of these too.
Step #8 – For each of your content categories, do 5 minutes of brainstorming about topics that interest you. I know we did this in the second step, but before we finish, we want to just ensure we’ve captured anything left in your noggin.
Take Action on Step 8:
- Set a timer for 30 minutes and complete your topic brainstorm
- Organize your giant list of topics into a list of final topics for the year
Step 9 – Turn All Of These Into Cohesive Monthly Plans
Finally, it’s time to bring everything together into individual monthly plans. These are deliberately kept high-level, since each quarter I go into more detail.
For each month of the coming year, I simply note down:
- Goals for the month (or milestones of larger goals I’ve broken down)
- Monthly $ Promotional Focus
- Monthly Community Nurturing Activity
- Monthly Content Theme
- Weekly Content Themes
- The Annual Content Planner
Here's a Summary:
Start Your Next Year With a Fresh and Exciting Content Plan
Your yearly content planning retreat wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t take the time to review your sales funnel, pick which content channels you’re going to focus on, finesse your workflows, brainstorm new topics, and integrate all of this information into cohesive monthly plans.
It can sound like a lot, and that’s why having a plan in place is so important: so nothing gets missed. Plus, it’s totally worth it to walk into the next year with a content strategy that promotes the continued growth of your business. Preparation always pays off!
Don’t forget to get your own Content Planning Bundle so you can step into your next year with a masterful content plan.