October 5, 2022

How Far Ahead to Plan Your Content Strategy

By: Mary Hiers

Data from 2021 indicates that only 42% of B2C companies have a content strategy. Don’t feel bad if you’re in the 58% that don’t have a content strategy. But do consider the benefits of creating one. 

A coherent content strategy saves time in the long run. It prevents your team members from scrambling to develop ideas, keywords, and designs on the spur of the moment.

If your concept of a content strategy is a yearly calendar showing topics, keywords, platforms, and digital marketing plans, be assured that there are other ways to do it. You don’t have to plan your content a year ahead. In fact, there are drawbacks to doing so.

Problems with an Annual Content Strategy

An annual content strategy delivers stability but doesn’t let you correct course easily. Locking yourself into an annual plan may prevent the hassles of brainstorming and keyword research. But it can also prevent changes that would get better business results.

Industries and customers change and evolve. Furthermore, the world frequently throws curveballs that can render a stiff, annual content strategy irrelevant or tone-deaf. 

A massive natural or humanitarian disaster can make the announcement of your new resort wear line seem completely out of step. Ask any business that was blindsided by the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 how the pandemic affected their content strategy. “We’re all in this together” became the default cry of businesses who suddenly weren’t sure what to post.

Benefits of a Quarterly Content Strategy

By contrast, a quarterly content strategy gives you the time savings and efficiency of planning while also allowing you the agility to make changes without having to scrap significant amounts of work and start over. 

A quarterly schedule also gives you enough time to track analytics and see how your content is performing. It allows you to change direction or stay the course during the subsequent quarter depending on the story the analytics tell.

Here is another hidden benefit of a quarterly content strategy. Each quarter is technically 13 weeks long. If you plan content in 12-week chunks, you have a week’s buffer built into each quarter’s schedule. This softens the impact of people going on vacation, being out sick, or simply getting behind.

Quarterly Content Strategy Pregame

Before plotting a quarterly strategy, do these four things to make the rest of the planning easier. 

1. Assess how things went the previous quarter. What content succeeded unexpectedly? What content fell flat? Which social media platforms performed best for you? How were sales last quarter?

2. Set goals and identify your target audience for the upcoming quarter. Do you want to build brand awareness among a particular demographic? Are you after a specific number of new leads? Could you reach out to a new audience subset?

3. Look at the calendar and identify big events coming up. These may be related to your business or industry (a conference or new product launch) or unrelated (the holiday season). Note these and keep them in mind when you make your quarterly plan.

4. Brainstorm. What relevant topics do you see frequently? Have you seen new industry-relevant words or phrases regularly? Do your salespeople get certain questions repeatedly? What topics have you covered sufficiently or avoided?

Quarterly Content Strategy Development

With the information you have gathered, you’re ready to develop the strategy itself. Here are the steps to take.

1. Identify content and its frequency. When it’s time to create your actual content strategy, begin by identifying what types of content you want to publish on a weekly basis. For example, you may want one blog post, three relevant social media posts, and one relevant email every week. 

2. Build a weekly template. For example, you may schedule blog posts to come out Tuesday at 2 p.m., while social media posts should come out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10 a.m. You can then fill in the template with topics, keywords, and who is responsible for creating the content. 

3. Write the highest quality content you can. Poor quality content drives website or social media users away and makes your business appear unprofessional. If you don’t have in-house SEO writers, outsourcing them can be an excellent investment.

4. Schedule time weekly or biweekly to study your analytics. Carving out this time is essential so you don’t inadvertently double down on a practice that hurts your web traffic or social media performance. At the end of the quarter, you can assess trends in your analytics that can help you plan the next quarter’s content strategy.

Build Agility into Your Plan

Go into the execution of your quarterly content strategy knowing that you may have to make changes. It’s less daunting with a quarterly plan than with an annual plan. 

With a quarterly plan, at most, you will have to scrap a few weeks’ worth of planned content to get on the right path. With an annual content strategy, you could end up dumping months’ worth of planned content and starting over with planning when you hadn’t expected to. 

The 13th week built into each quarter automatically bakes some agility into your content strategy. If everything is going smoothly, you could add an extra week’s content. If you’re experiencing challenges or roadblocks, you can reassign tasks, adjust your schedule, or otherwise accommodate scheduling hiccups. 

Iteration Beats Starting Over from Scratch

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of quarterly content strategy planning over annual content planning is that it is more iterative. In other words, instead of having only one chance of getting it right over the course of a year, you have four chances. 

Is this quarter going swimmingly? Great! You can keep going in that direction next quarter. Were there some problems this quarter? You have a chance to fix them next quarter. 

With annual content plans, you risk either following the plan regardless of your content’s performance or straying from the plan to the point that you don’t even use it. Neither is the best use of your resources. 

Do You Need Help?

Maybe you have never had a content plan and don’t know where to start. If the idea feels overwhelming, perhaps we can help. 

Schedule a call with our digital team and learn how we help businesses just like yours have the websites and content they need to stand out in their industry.

With SEO baked into every website and every piece of content we produce, we understand the importance of content strategy. And we know how to create a strategy and fulfill it. 

With services that deliver design firm quality at affordable prices, we have helped numerous small and medium businesses establish a strong web presence and fulfill their most important business goals. 


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