How to create a content marketing plan for the entire year: a step-by-step guide 

A well-crafted content marketing plan acts as a compass, guiding you through the intricacies of strategic communications. However, putting an effective content marketing plan together can easily become overwhelming and time-consuming. Many factors come into play, from business objectives, target personas to current trends and competitor analysis. Unfortunately,  many businesses often end up posting content reactively, leading to inconsistency and a lack of clear messaging. 

This comprehensive guide unveils the secrets to creating an effective content marketing plan. Bonus! We’re offering you a free content marketing plan template to jumpstart your planning. 

Table of Contents
What is a content marketing plan?
Step 1: Keep track of your ideas
Step 2: Define your content pillars
Step 3: Map your ideas onto marketing objectives
Step 4: Understand your target audience’s awareness stage
Step 5: Break the year down into quarters
Step 6: Make monthly plans
Step 7: Execute and iterate!

An effective content marketing plan considers various factors, including your marketing objectives, target audience, and current trends. By clearly listing content topics and then mapping these topics onto ‌your objectives, you gain:

  • Inspiration repository: avoid content creation bottlenecks by having a reservoir of ideas.
  • Objective alignment: ensure that every piece of content contributes directly to your business objectives.
  • Clear direction: streamline your content strategy by visualising how each piece fits into the overarching goals of your marketing plan.
  • Targeted communication: tailor content to meet your audience’s awareness stage for deeper engagement.
  • Holistic strategy: gain a comprehensive view of content distribution across different buyer’s journey stages.
  • Continuous improvement: leverage insights to refine and optimise your content strategy over time.
  • Efficiency: ultimately save time and resources.

The first pillar of a successful content plan lies in compelling ideas. Use the Grey Dog Content Planning Template as a centralised hub to keep track of the content ideas you’ve garnered from:

  • Analysing what type of content performs well
  • Questions or pain points from your target audience
  • Trends that are top-of-mind for your industry and audience
  • Keywords you wish to optimise for SEO
  • Competitor content analysis
  • Team ideation sessions

Using this bank of content ideas ensures that no creative spark is lost and ideas are ready for evaluation and implementation.

Jot down your ideas in the first column of your ideas bank.

Once you have your bank of ideas, categorise them into content pillars—your core topics. Communication on core topics allows you to build consistent brand awareness. Most businesses typically have three to four content pillars.

Edit the drop down menus. Click on the dropdown and then the pencil icon to edit the dropdown options to suit your needs.

Edit the drop-down menus. Click on the dropdown and then the pencil icon to edit the dropdown options to suit your needs.

Strategic content planning requires a seamless alignment between your content and business objectives. You need to consider the goal of your marketing communications. We have four main objectives in marketing: brand awareness, consideration, conversion and retention.

Do you need people to become aware of your brand and the product or service you offer? 

Do you need to persuade people who are already interested in your service or product with more information?

Do you need to fully convince people who have shown interest in your product or service to purchase?

Do you need to nurture your customer base?

Understanding your audience’s awareness stage is pivotal for crafting content that resonates with your target personas. Our template incorporates a feature that prompts you to categorise content based on the awareness stage of your target audience. 

Different types of content suit the various stages of the customer journey. 

Note any special days, upcoming events, partnerships or planned campaigns for each quarter. The Grey Dog Key Dates Calendar will come in handy here! 

Assign overall objectives, target audiences, themes and sub-themes to each quarter, providing a clear, strategic view of your plan for the year. 

It’s time to get granular! With your quarterly strategic framework in place, you can now easily plan and visualise your content calendar month by month, ensuring a consistent and cohesive narrative. By mapping out topics, formats and go live dates, you ensure that every piece of content serves a purpose.

With your quarterly strategic framework in place, it’s time to get granular! Map out topics, formats, and go-live dates. The Grey Dog Content Planning Template allows you to easily plan and visualise your content calendar month by month, ensuring that each piece of content has a purpose and you maintain a consistent and cohesive narrative. 

The monthly plans are also where you can keep track of individual items for each campaign or content theme as you move into the execution phase. Use the filter feature to see the status of individual campaigns or content themes at a glance. 

You can filter alphabetically or by dropdown option.

Congratulations! You’ve now mastered the art of content planning. It may seem counterintuitive, but you have completed the bulk of the work. With a good plan in place, it is far easier to transition from ideation to execution, creating content that aligns with your business objectives and caters to your audience’s unique journey. 

We hope you enjoy using the Grey Dog Content Planning Template as a flexible planning tool, point of reference and tracker throughout the year.

Click the button, below, where you will get a Google Sheets link to the Grey Dog Content Planning Template. Make a copy, rename and adjust the template to suit your needs from there! 

Need it in Excel format? Download here!

Got a question about your template? Feel free to reach out to our Content Lead, Siobhán

Need support putting a content marketing plan into place? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch!