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How to Plan your Content Marketing Strategy + Free Checklist to Get you Started

Raise your hand if you’ve ever started posting on social media without thinking about your ideal audience. How about crafting content with no consistent schedule? Started marketing without getting clear on your goals? Don’t worry. Most of us have made these marketing mistakes at one point or another. Even if you’re going through it now, there’s always time to course correct.

Whether you’re marketing your business to generate sales or doing recruitment marketing to attract candidates, your content marketing strategy needs to be planned thoughtfully. If marketing falls on you or you have a lean team/freelancers to help, the urge to try to “catch up to the competition” can be a hard one to ignore.

Why You Need to Take a Step Back

If you’re just starting to market your products/services or open roles, you’ve likely seen what your competitors are doing. To build awareness, you might dive right into marketing by copying what you’ve researched. Before you know it, you’re in over your head with no clear direction, but the momentum you’ve created is too hard to step away from to allow you to be strategic.

First off, breathe.

Second off, know you can step back to rethink your content marketing strategy at any point. In fact, you should be doing that regularly as part of measuring and auditing the success of your efforts.

What do you really think is worse?

  • Taking a few days or a couple of weeks to post less frequently (or completely pause) on social media, your blog, or newsletter so you can make your content marketing strategy more purposeful?

  • Or continue down this path and burn yourself out trying to keep up with your current strategy (one that really isn’t giving you the results you want) while trying to craft a new one?

It’s time to get off the hamster wheel and start being realistic about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Sometimes, Less is More: A Case for Quality vs. Quantity

If you don’t have a marketing or employer branding team, then it’s up to you to master everything. Because of that, you’re pulled in a lot of different directions and might have started marketing activities that don’t make sense for your goals. But, because you’ve created the momentum of trying to do it all, you may feel guilty or fearful that by pulling back, you’ll fall behind.

However, keeping up this aimless momentum means you’re likely not doing your best work. You don’t have time to dig deep and learn about new things to implement and test. You might be putting in all this effort, but feel like the results aren’t there. It’s demotivating.

Instead, it’s time to look at everything you’re doing and everything you want to do and see what’s going to best serve your audience and yourself. Here are some things to consider:

Identify the best channels for your audience.

Sure, showing up on more platforms and sharing more content can potentially increase brand awareness and recognition, but is the ROI really there? If you’re limited on bandwidth, it’s better to focus on the platforms that make the most sense for your audience. You can always scale up to other platforms later.

Consider where they’re hanging out. How they like to learn or be sold to. Where they’re most likely to engage with your brand and content.

For example, employer branders want to get people to apply to their jobs. So, what will be the most impactful places to do that? If you’re hiring mostly tech talent, would it be better to invest in specific technology-based job boards and publications? Should your content strategy focus more on featuring your company’s technologists, teams, and products rather than general company culture posts?

Another example is for those marketing a service-based business. Your goal is to provide value, get people to trust you, and hope they’ll hire you. Depending on your services, maybe your audience is more active on LinkedIn instead of Instagram. With that in mind, it might be more worthwhile getting really good at your LinkedIn strategy and post less often on other social media platforms until you’ve gotten LinkedIn down.

Now, think about your goals.

It’s not enough to post content or social media updates. Instead, you need to think about the purpose of every piece of content you’re pushing out. For example, is your content meant to:

  • Educate

  • Entertain

  • Inspire

  • Convert

  • Sell/Promote

  • Built Trust

  • Provide Social Proof

Then, think about your call-to-action for each of these. Here are some examples:

  • Like or comment on your post

  • Send a message

  • Fill out a sales lead form

  • Subscribe to your newsletter or blog

  • Refer a candidate or customer

  • Apply to an open job

  • Watch a video

  • Read your blog

  • Download your freebie

  • Buy your product or service

Next, consider how your content marketing strategy supports these goals.

Now you know your goals and where your audience is most likely to engage with your brand, it’s time to consider what content works best. The content you create will need to cater to your goal and call-to-action. Also, you need to think about what content is ideal for the platform you’re posting on. Maybe a blog works great on LinkedIn and Facebook, but the hyperlink limitations on Instagram can make it hard for people to take action. Or maybe your audience prefers bite-sized videos instead of longer webinars or podcasts.

Let’s go back to the LinkedIn example. If this is the platform you’re using to engage potential customers, and your goal is to get them to subscribe to your newsletter, then this will dictate your content. People don’t give up their email addresses for free, so you need to consider how you’ll provide value enough to make them want to opt in. Maybe this requires you to create value-adding blogs that explain the “what” and the “why.” But if people want to know the “how,” they can download a freebie (which requires them to put in their email address).

You need to think about what’s compelling to your audience. How are you going to solve their pain points? How is what you’re sharing different from what everyone else is promoting? How can you consistently offer value even after you’ve gotten their email address to keep them engaged (and hopefully convert if they haven’t already)?

Thinking about it this way will change your content strategy. Now, you know effective copywriting and SEO with a solid hook or offer is what’s going to help you get discovered and converting. After you figure out your macro content, you can break it down into smaller micro content to share across your social media channels regularly. This is important because algorithms likely mean your audience misses what you post the first time. Or maybe they’re still feeling you out and need to be exposed to your content a handful of times before they take action. Or perhaps the info you shared in your first three posts didn’t hook them quite as well as your fourth post. It’s best to play around and A/B test.

Bonus: this means you don’t need to create new content constantly because you’re repurposing and promoting the same content throughout a specific timeline.

Reevaluate regularly.

This step is crucial, and one many people don’t consider. It’s important to see if the content you’re developing, the platforms you're leveraging, and your overall approach is actually making an impact. The tricky thing is marketing changes constantly. What worked for you a year ago might not have the same traction today.

Really determine if your content is helping you achieve your goals. If you see a spike or dip in engagement, identify what might have caused it. If something’s doing well, maybe put ad spend behind it to boost it more or create similar content that can continue to engage your audience. If something’s not doing well, try reworking it to resonate with your audience better or completely scrap it if it’s not worth the effort.

Everything you do needs to inspire your potential customers or applicants to take specific actions. Reframe your thinking to get out of this “churn and burn” mentality and be more thoughtful in your approach. If you’re used to producing a lot, it might feel scary to do less at first, but if you’re focusing on quality, you’ll end up seeing better results than trying to keep up with creating a ton of mediocre things.

So, what should you consider when building out your content marketing strategy?

If you’ve gone through this process and are ready to develop your content (or repurpose your old content to fit your new approach), check out our free checklist.

Here, we help you think about:

  • Purpose and goals

  • KPIs

  • Content theme

  • Content calendar development

  • What to include in your macro and micro content

  • How to promote it

  • And more

Download our Content Planning Strategy Checklist here.

Need help building your content strategy? Harlow offers strategy, activation, and coaching services. Contact us here to learn more.


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