Content calendars. They're a critical part of your B2B inbound marketing process but often get lost in the rush to create content. A well-planned calendar will have you churning out high-quality content effortlessly.
A poorly planned one will have you looking like a headless pear-shaped chicken.
Aside from organizing your content releases, content calendars help you view your strategy from a bird's eye view. Consequently, it becomes simple for you to align content with your overall strategy.
For instance, need to push a narrative ahead of an important conference? A calendar can help you plan releases that build-up to the event.
Creating a content calendar is as simple as labelling calendar boxes with content release titles right?
Well, not quite.
That approach might work for single-person teams but if you're serious about your content strategy, you need a more sophisticated approach.
What Are Your Priorities?
For starters, why are you publishing content? Are you doing it just because everyone else is doing it or do you have a goal in mind?
For instance, B2B companies publish content to educate their prospects and position themselves as authorities in their niche. They do this by offering helpful content that solves issues.
To understand your strategy fully, you need to dive a step lower and examine the aims of your strategy in more detail.
Every topic has a varying level of relevance to your business. For instance, a RegTech firm is only tangentially connected to the decentralized finance space if the firm isn't present on the blockchain.
It's hard to insert a product mention in an article about DeFi RegTech as a result. Then there are topics where the product can be mentioned fleetingly.
Finally, you'll have topics where your product is an essential solution. Grading the content you produce according to this scale will help you prioritize which ones need publishing first.
Note that a good content marketing strategy publishes well-rounded content. Your aim must be to offer help, even if your product is only tangentially connected.
Grading the helpfulness of your content topics will help you understand how everything fits together.
Creating a calendar is quite simple. You can include as many fields as you want. At a bare minimum, you need the article's title and publishing date on the slug.
Other fields to include can be the article's category (as mentioned in the previous section), the author's name, editor's name, URL, meta description, keywords targeted, topic cluster, and so on.
Obviously, the larger your team is, the more information you'll need to include. You can also include the funnel stage the article belongs to.
There are no standard rules here, go with whatever feels right for you.
Your objective is to gain a view of your upcoming releases so include whatever information helps you achieve this goal. Creating a calendar like this helps you align your team together. Everyone knows what to work on and when their due dates are.
Managing progress is simple if you include a status field with values such as "writing", "editing", "revision", and so on.
Articles these days need alternate content like images and videos so including their status also helps you measure progress.
Assigning statuses to individual pieces of content will also help you standardize your process. There won't be any confusion when onboarding new content creators or anyone else involved in the process.
Once you've populated your calendar with topic names, it's time to assign creation to different members of your team. Here's where the humble spreadsheet runs into a wall and knocks itself out.
You need a sophisticated tool to help you manage assignments and subtasks.
Tools such as Trello or Asana will help you create lanes devoted to each task that you can assign to individuals.
You can even customize individual cards and organize subtasks easily. The result is you'll have all of your content planned in one place, where every team member can view their tasks easily.
I prefer a Kanban-style board that allows me to move cards from one lane to another. Alternatives include using color-coded spreadsheets that help you organize publishing and subtasks.
Go with whatever suits you best.
The next step is to check whether your calendar is helping you achieve your marketing goals. In the rush of filling out a calendar, it's easy to forget the big picture. Make sure you check whether your topic clusters are aligned with your goals.
For instance, if you're preparing to announce a product enhancement at a conference, does your content talk about the issues the enhancement eliminates, the challenges involved in overcoming these issues, and any other content that can set the tone for the event?
Often, it helps to have supporting content on your social media channels. Are your infographics releases, video content, and supporting events lined up with your content schedule?
Aligning your calendar like this forces you to think over the long term, which is why it's helpful in the first place.
It's always possible to improve on your existing calendar. Take the time to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses and keep tweaking it.
Always build a buffer in your calendar since you'll always have to deal with the unexpected. This is doubly the case if you're working with a large team.
Finally, always prioritize quality over quantity. Resist the temptation to fill your calendar with a bunch of great-sounding articles to make it look like you'll be busy. Great content requires research and time to prepare.
Invest in quality and you'll achieve great results down the road.
Examples of Calendars
What's an article about content calendars without examples? Here are a few favourites I've seen over the years. Feel free to adapt them to your needs!
Calendar format from Fio Dossetto at ahrefs
Credit: Fio Dossetto, ahrefs
As you can see Dossetto sticks to a simple calendar-like format. However, there are layers to her calendar.
Credit: Fio Dossetto, ahrefs
She lists attributes and other goals related to content publishing that helps her keep track of assignments and goals.
Good ol’ Excel from Justin Dunham at Ercule
Credit: Justin Denham, Ercule
Dunham manages a large team executing a complex web of marketing activities. He keeps track of everything using a humble spreadsheet which boggles my mind. Dunham’s Excel sheet is programmed with autofills and formulae that make tracking easier. You can download a template of his calendar here.
Asana’fied with Taru Bhargava at Genbook
Credit: Taru Bhargava, Genbook
If you’re a frequent publisher, this Asana template from Bhargava will fit your needs perfectly. Bhargava publishes twice a week and manages multiple format deadlines using colour codes.
Trello with Dom Kent at Mio
Credit: Dom Kent, Mio
My personal favorite since it’s simple and visual at the same time. This Kanban-style board helps Kent organize tasks and keep track through a simple layout. The best part of this design is its flexibility. Additional lanes or tasks can be added easily without disrupting the rest of the board.
Colour Coded Excel with Lani Assaf at Elpha
Credit: Lani Assaf, Elpha
Another Excel example from Lani Assaf. While not the most obvious, clearly it works for Assaf when it comes to scheduling posts and content releases.