It’s Back-to-School Season Already—Here’re 3 Ways to Start Thinking About Next Year’s Content Marketing

Friendly reminder: back-to-school marketing is here.

In case you were living under a hammock this month (and who could blame you; RIP summer), the world would like to remind you to start thinking of going back-to-school. To do that, you’ll need to shop. To remind you to shop, brands kick their back-to-school marketing campaigns into high gear.

Target’s latest back-to-school campaign was entirely kid-run. OldNavy’s enlisted another fun comedienne, Amy Schumer, to promote their clothes. Kleenex’s “Someone Needs One” campaign hits the heartstrings by following kids’ transition from elementary to middle school.

You may be thinking that back-to-school marketing is over and that you should enjoy your remaining pool-side days in peace. But another friendly reminder: back-to-school marketing signals the beginning of the end…of the year.

After a sleepy summer at work (and hopefully a relaxing one outside of it), back-to-school marketing is here to kick everyone—you, your brand, your mother—into the last quarter of the year. It’s the last few months to use your remaining marketing budget, plan for the next year and execute all of your marketing campaigns for major holidays and events—your Halloweens, Thanksgivings, Christmases, Hanukkahs, New Years’, Election Days, etc.

In fact, it’s the time you should be thinking about budgets and planning and getting everything done before December 31st. It’s a lot to take in. Here’s how you can start preparing for next year’s content marketing calendar.

1. Begin a Content Inventory and Audit

Before you can begin planning for next year’s marketing calendar, you need to assess what content performed well (based on the metrics you’re focusing on) and what content didn’t rise up to the bar. To get those stats, you’ll need to conduct both a content inventory and a content audit.

What’s the difference between a content inventory and a content audit? We’re glad you asked. A content inventory takes stock of all of the content you did this year. It can be in a spreadsheet with a variety of categories—headline, author, word count, publish date, etc.—that accounts for everything you’ve produced that year.

A content audit takes the content inventory one step further by assessing and evaluating your content’s relative strengths and weaknesses for your future marketing activities. The point of a content audit is to perform a qualitative—not quantitative—assessment of your content. You want to look at the quality of the content and how well the content performed so you can adjust your strategy for the future.

A good content strategy performs a mini-content audit every month and/or strategy, but this content audit should focus on the big picture of the last year. It should help you answer questions—like why these pieces are performing better than others and which subjects your audience is most interested—to inform your editorial calendar for the next year. Beginning a content strategy in August or September, or three-quarters of the way into the marketing calendar, is a good idea to keep you looking forward.

2. Determine where in the Funnel (or Lifecycle) Content Plays the Biggest Role

After completing your content inventory and content audit, you’ll have to think about where your content plays the biggest role in the content marketing funnel. Let’s explain: a content marketing funnel maps out the lifecycle of a consumer’s journey, from the discovery of the brand and/or product to purchase. The idea is that your pool of potential consumers and customers grows smaller as it moves toward the conversion/purchase end of the funnel. It’s a way to track what kind of customers you have—and at what stage of the funnel they currently sit—to better personalize content. Your mission as a brand is to learn what kind of content plays the biggest role in guiding potential customers toward eventual conversion and purchase.

Let’s put this into more practical terms. You are a bicycle brand; your consumers like bicycles and are potentially interested in buying one. Now, if your consumer is new to the bicycling world and are thus at the top of the funnel, your brand may target an “entry-level” article at them like “10 Reasons Why Bikes Are the Best Transportation Vehicle.” There’s nothing too technical about that article, but you’ve increased their brand awareness and knowledge of bicycles. Perhaps that within time, this consumer learns enough about bicycles that they move to the middle of the funnel, where they are consistently reading your content about bicycles but are not ready to purchase one yet. Your brand may then target an article like “What to Consider When Purchasing a Bicycle” to consumers at this stage. At the bottom of the funnel, your consumer is seriously considering purchasing a bicycle from your brand. Your brand would target these consumers with a piece like “The 5 Best Bikes for Commuters”. Notice how the content is increasingly personalized and targeted? That’s how the content marketing funnel works.

Your job, then, is to review which pieces of content—from your inventory and audit—played the biggest role in the content marketing funnel. Aka which pieces of content attracted the most conversions. From here, you can begin to notice patterns and better plan your content strategy for the next year.

3. Prepare Content Marketing Focus and Budget

Once you’ve crunched the numbers in your content inventory, audit and marketing funnel, you’ll need to be willing to go to bat for bigger numbers in your marketing budget. Content marketing budgets vary by brand, size of brand, kind of brand (B2B vs. B2C) and a whole bunch of other factors. But one thing is consistent: content marketing budgets are going up, not down.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 report, B2C marketers are allocating a higher average proportion of total marketing budget to content marketing this year at 32% of their budget, up 7% from last year. The most effective content marketing brands allocate 6% even more, bringing the total to 38%. Those numbers will continue to grow. The same report also claims that 50% of B2C marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets next year and the largest B2C organizations are more likely to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months.

On the B2B side, the content marketing budgets have also seen an upswing. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 report for B2B content marketing saw B2B content marketing take up an average of 28% of the budget; however, the most effective allocation number was 42% on average. More than half of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget within the next year, even those who believe their content marketing to be ineffective.

Please, please, please use the stats above to vouch for and defend an increase in content marketing budgets for next year. This goes hand in hand with your focus and strategy (based on your audit and funnel analysis) to maximize how content marketing can work for your brand. That way, all of the hard work of planning, strategizing and executing your content marketing plan is worth it and you won’t be stuck worrying about next, next year’s content marketing before it’s too late.

Understand how Quietly can help play a role in your content marketing efforts.

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