topblueprintWe’ve written extensively about content marketing in the past, and if you have a content marketing role into 2014 I encourage you to check out some of our archived posts as well as our Content Marketing Best Practices Guide.

That said, we often get asked for a “blueprint” of sorts as a foundation for a successful content marketing initiative. In short, even for companies with minimal resources to execute, successful content marketing requires at least the following six components:

1. Objectives
What’s the business value you’re trying to achieve? How will you measure success? The immediately measurable impact of content may be impressions and clicks and social shares, but I highly encourage you to track content’s success well into the pipeline – at least as it relates to lead capture but ideally through to qualified sales pipeline contribution as well.

2. Audience
Who are you creating content for? Your customer and prospect personas should be directly valuable here. Create content not based on what you’re selling, but what the customer needs. Their values, objectives, priorities, pain points and so on.

3. Editorial plan
Don’t jump straight to a calendar. Instead, create an editorial plan that highlights your recurring themes, the types of content you’ll create, the formats you’ll use. Again, align these decisions based on what your customers and prospects are doing, what kind of content they’re already engaged with, or what content they need but aren’t receiving today.

4. Editorial calendar
Unless you put specific content on a calendar, then manage the assignment and completion of said content, not only will you produce far less content but it’s far less likely to be on target to your audience and editorial plan. Remember, perfect is the enemy of good, and I rarely see an editorial calendar followed perfectly over time. But put one in place anyway to guarantee you’ll generate far more frequent and on target content.

5. Distribution tools
You can’t expect every post to go viral, nor can you expect your content will get crazy distribution right away. That said, have a distribution plan for every piece of content you create. Use tools such as dlvr.it, Buffer, PaperShare, Sharebloc, Triberr and more to expand the reach of each new piece.

6. Influencer engagement
Use a tool such as Little Bird to find the people most influential based on the topics and themes identified in your audience and editorial plan. Engage those influencers frequently with both their content and yours.

What’s in your blueprint?  What are the foundational elements of your content marketing plan?