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Your Guide To Creating A Content Plan To Grow Your Online Business

Content is key to the long term growth of your online business. In this post, we'll walk through the steps to creating a content plan for your business.

When people find your business, how are they going to know if you’re the right choice for them? Your content. That’s why your content strategy is a vital part of your overall inbound marketing strategy for your online business.

But I want to clarify that when I’m talking about content strategy, I’m referring to long-form content that has a long life span, like blog posts, podcast episodes, or YouTube videos.  

In addition to prioritizing long-form content, it’s also important to focus on evergreen content as much as possible. This simply means creating content that’s not just about specific promotions. You want your content to be relevant outside of these periods.

In this post, we’ll talk about creating the strategy for your long-form content. Once you have your strategy in place, social media takes care of itself. Let’s dive in.

Two Types Of Long-form Content To Create

There are two main types of long-form content you should be creating. (I’m referring to types of topics rather than the format or medium, e.g., video, podcast, etc.) The first is what I call awareness content, and the other is thought leadership content. These types go together, but they’re slightly different.

Awareness Content

Awareness content is what you need to provide if you’re in a market or niche where your audience needs to think about an issue or do something about a problem that’s affecting them but they probably aren’t aware of yet. You must create awareness of the problem and the solution for it that you offer.  

To create awareness of a problem you can use Trojan horse content. No, this isn’t a type of malware. It’s just named that way because it’s content that you slip in, like the horse from Greek mythology, as you discuss a different topic. The idea here is that you create content that’s talking about something they know or want to know, and then you slip in the other information.

For example, in the beginning, the structure of my podcast was that I would have a marketing guru or expert come on and talk about marketing. Then at the end, I would provide a five to ten-minute legal lesson related to the topic. The reason I did that was if my podcast was nothing but legal stuff, the likelihood that people would stick around was low.

If you have a situation where a lot of your audience doesn’t even know yet that they need this information, or that they need your services, or that a problem even exists and that they ought to be thinking about it, then Trojan horse content may be the way to go to raise awareness.

On the other hand, if you’re in a market where people already know they need your solution or service, then awareness is not a problem and you’re probably already mainly doing the other type of content, which is thought leadership.

Thought Leadership Content

Thought leadership content is a mix of educational or how-to content and belief-shifting content. 

Examples of this type of content for online marketing include things like how to build an email list or how to write an email. Belief-shifting content focuses on getting people to think differently.

You need to have this mix of educational and belief-shifting content because there are plenty of other content creators out there. If all you do is create how-to content, why would someone pay attention to you?

Meanwhile, if you just focus on getting people to think differently, it may sound like you’re always complaining or fighting against something. You can start to sound like the old grouch who’s constantly saying, “Get off my lawn!”

A lot of us are competing for attention in heavily saturated markets and are trying to stand out. That means you need to mix the educational content with the belief-shifting content where you can say, “Here’s what’s wrong,” and also, “Here’s what we’re going to do.”

You don’t have to do both kinds of content in one episode or blog post. You may have one that’s a how-to and another that’s a belief-shifting post. The point is you want to mix both types in. That’s when it starts to work and you develop your thought leadership.

Basically, if you want to build a business based upon your knowledge, information, and expertise, you have to become a thought leader.

How To Pick Topics For Long-Form Content

To create your long-form content, a guide that you can use to think about it is the concept of content pillars. Your content pillars are like buckets of different related topics or topic areas that you want to educate your audience about.

For example, as someone who teaches digital marketing, it would make sense for me to say that I need to teach my audience about content marketing, email marketing, SEO, creating a product, and pricing it. You can see that I’ve come up with different categories or “buckets” of things, like email marketing, which I could use to create a ton of content.

Define Your Content Pillars

You also need to define content pillars for your belief-shift content. One such pillar could be mistakes that people are making in your field and how to correct these mistakes.

Another pillar for belief-shift content would be related to your core differentiators. Central to the idea of a core differentiator is how you approach your subject differently from your competitors. For example, in online marketing, maybe your core differentiator is that you teach your audience not to focus so much on direct response marketing but emphasize brand equity and brand loyalty.

Another core differentiator could be leading your audience of online marketers to look at what people outside the online space are doing and to learn from them. 

A core differentiator for me is a true serve-first mentality. This means instead of thinking first about what’s going to make you the most money, you ask yourself how you can best serve your audience. When you make that one little shift, it can change everything in your business. And that is a belief shift.

Brainstorm Topics Based on Your Pillars

Once you have created your content pillars, you should be able to brainstorm a bunch of different topics for each of those pillars. You can create a ton of topic ideas for different pieces of long-form content to fill out over time.

An important aspect of thinking about topics revolving around your pillars is the need to focus on the basics where your audience is concerned. It means understanding your typical audience member and making sure that you’re talking to your audience at the right level.

Sometimes people forget this and take some things for granted, like the language you use. In my podcast, for example, words like “landing page” or “opt-in page” are just second nature to me. I forget that there are some people listening to me for whom those words aren’t yet second nature. We need to be cognizant of things like that.

So in recording an episode, what I do is start at a level where I assume some people don’t know certain terms or concepts yet and create content they can understand. But at the same time, I’ll still be able to provide value for people who already know about the terms or concepts and help them understand the concept at a more advanced level as the content goes on.

Ways to Organize Your Content

Once you have your content pillars and topics figured out, it’s time to organize your content. 

Alternate Topics

One way of organizing your content is alternating one after the other. You could also decide to focus on one particular pillar or topic for a whole month or two, or even a whole quarter. 

Do A Series

There are topics that are just too big to cover in a single episode or blog post. A series allows you to cover a topic sequentially in a way that lets you go deeper and provide more value to your audience. So instead of covering everything about a topic in a 45-minute show, you could cover the topics in eight episodes that are 30 to 45 minutes each.

Create A Content Calendar

I’m also going to suggest that once you’ve come up with topics under your content pillars, just lay it all out on a calendar. You could use Google Sheets, a template, or even software for this.

A good ratio for your content plan would be to fill out 85% with long-form content and allocate 15% for social media, which is your “fun stuff” to build engagement.

Be Strategic About Your Content

Strategically planning and organizing your content will allow you to create content that is meaningful so that people will want to stick around and consume what you offer. It will get people to want to listen to you more and more. This will help you establish yourself as a thought leader. That’s the goal with your content. 

If you want to know more about online marketing, be sure to join my totally FREE training program, BADA$$ Online Marketing University (BOMU). It’s basically my way of making online marketing and entrepreneurship accessible by giving the information away for free. I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t think we should be charging for information.