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Content plan vs. strategy: Here’s why you need both to grow your business

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You probably already know that you need to have a content strategy or a content plan for your online course business. But you’re probably not sure where to start or how to create either of them. Terms “content strategy” and “content plan” tend to be used interchangeably when talking about marketing your business, but the truth is that they’re not the same thing.  So, let’s break it down. What is your content strategy and what is a content plan? And how do the two differ from each other?

Strategically thinking: What is content strategy?

To put it simply, content strategy is the first step in your content marketing efforts. Content strategy is the vision of your brand that drives all further content efforts in your business. It defines why and how your content will help you achieve your business goals. 

But, what content strategy is not is detailed. It’s not the place to plan all the nitty-gritty details of your content, what you’re going to create, where and when you’re going to post. Instead, it sets the tone of your brand and content.  While planning your content strategy, remember this is the time when you compile market research. Include your competitors to see what works and what content strategies you’re going to want to implement. 

When you’re thinking about what your content strategy is, try answering these questions:

  • Where do I want my business to be in 2, 5, 10 years?
  • Who is the target audience I’m trying to reach with my content?
  • Which content does my target audience consumes?
  • Is there a standard for content in my industry? 
  • What are my competitors doing with their content?
  • What’s the tone of voice my content will set for my business? 
  • How will my business be seen in my audience’s eyes? 

Answering these questions will help you determine your content strategy and what you’re looking to do with your content marketing efforts so that you could move on to the next step: content planning. 

Perfectly planned: What is a content plan? 

A content plan is the second step in your content marketing journey. It’s where you’re going to start taking action and implement execution. It’s where you decide what you will be creating and when, for what platforms, and in what formats, all according to the goals you set in your content strategy. 

When you’re creating a content plan, you will want to consider things like: 

  • What’s my budget? 
  • What content does my audience want to see?
  • Will I be following trends or focusing on evergreen content?
  • How often will I be publishing?
  • How my free content will tie in/compliment my paid content? 

Content planning is the perfect time to get into detail on your step-by-step plan of execution to get your content marketing off the ground. Your plan will set the foundation for action, so it’s a crucial part of your business. 

Tied together: Why you need both to grow your business 

Now that you know what a content strategy and content plan both are and how they differ, it’s important to talk about the importance of having both. You can’t grow your business efficiently if you only have the vision for your brand without the step-by-step blueprint. And, you can’t grow if you have only a plan of execution without the direction for your business. 

See why you need both a content strategy and a content plan below.

1. The road ahead

Having the vision of where you want your business to be in the future is crucial for growth. Of course, there are exceptions of people who grow their businesses on a whim. However, you should view those people as exceptions, not the rules, and focus on being prepared. 

Having a content strategy and a content plan will allow you to be strategic with your time and efforts. You’ll save a lot of energy that you would use for pivoting your business every few months when you become confident of your direction. 

2. Constantly consistent

We say it often when talking with content creators, but it’s true—consistency is your number one concern when it comes to your business. You must be showing up for your students and your potential customers consistently, building trust and relationships. 

With the content strategy and content plan in place, staying consistent gets easier because you have a foundation you can build upon. You have the future vision, your why, and a step-by-step plan on how to get there. It eliminates the stress and confusion, which helps you be consistent. 

3. Work smarter, not harder

You have a limited amount of energy and time each day, so you have to be smart about how you use them. Making decisions and plans requires a lot of energy, so does execution. Bring in some day-to-day life stuff you have to deal with, and you’re overwhelmed and overworked if you don’t have systems in place. 

Content strategy and plan are the systems that you can create for yourself that will allow you to use your time and energy efficiently, allowing you to work smarter on your business

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How to create a content plan 

Knowing the difference between what a content strategy and content plan are and knowing the importance of having both isn’t enough. Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to planning.

Step 1: Determine what platforms you’re going to use

Your first step is going to be determining what platforms you’re going to use to market your business to accomplish the goals you set for your business. Here, think about social channels as well as email and blogs. But don’t forget to include things like guest blogging and guest podcasting, where you will be going on other people’s platforms. 

Knowing what your content strategy is will help you tremendously when planning what platforms you should use. If you use your future vision and goals, you can determine what is worth your time. 

For example: If your business is teaching people to make fun and quirky desserts and you’re targeting Millennials or Gen-Z, you’ll want to consider platforms like Instagram and TikTok as your marketing channels as these are the platforms most of that audience uses.

Or, maybe you have an online course that teaches people how to restore old furniture. The chances are that you’ll find luck with Facebook, as there are a lot of restoration enthusiasts hanging around in Facebook groups, where they’re sharing their tips and secrets as well as looking for new ways to restore furniture. 

Step 2: Decide on types of content

The next step in your content planning journey is to decide on what type of content your business will use. For your content strategy, you have to determine who your ideal audience is and who you will be trying to reach with your content efforts. You also will use your content strategy to decide the goal of your content.

Needless to say, having these two pieces of information in place will help you decide upon your content type. Depending on your target audience, determine the type of content they would like to see from you. 

For example: Maybe the majority of your target audience prefers video content over written content. You can immediately write off blog posts and long Instagram captions because they won’t bring you the results you’re seeking. 

Instead, focus on video content for platforms like YouTube, where you’re sure that your audience will hang out if they prefer video. Also, think about using IGTV, Stories, and Reels, as well as TikTok, to reach your audience. You can even incorporate being a guest on podcasts if they produce a video for their shows. 

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t produce any other types of content if the majority of your audience prefers audio. It’s just that you should be strategic and place the majority of your efforts into content that will bring you the best results. 

Step 3: Create a content calendar

Once you know the platforms as well as the type of content you’re going to be producing, it’s time to move closer to execution and put all of that into a content calendar

Having a content calendar is crucial for keeping track of your progress, being organized, and actually executing your content marketing strategy—so don’t skip on this step. You can create a content calendar with any of the many available tools. And, it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time or your budget. 

When you have your template set up, make sure that you truly put all of your content into your calendar, as well as important dates for your business (like product and course launches) as well as national holidays that might play into your content plan or have an impact on your business. 

Step 4: Divide and conquer

For your content plan to be efficient, you must be very honest with yourself on how you’re going to execute. If you’re a one-person team, you might not need to think about dividing the tasks of content creation as you’re the one who does all the work. 

But if you have a team or even if you outsource some part of your content creation to a freelancer, do involve them in your content planning. When deciding on execution and content creation, think about:

  • Who? Who is going to be the person to create, edit, publish, and promote this piece of content? Assign each content piece to a person in charge. 
  • When? Sett the date and time for content creation and publication as far in advance as possible can greatly impact your productivity and lessen the stress.

Even if you don’t have the team or freelancers working with you, dividing your workload is crucial. Time batching is one of the most efficient ways to create content. It requires you to divide your time and batch similar tasks within one timeframe. To begin, think about each piece of content you need to create and break them down into smaller steps. Then, group similar tasks together and put them on your calendar as one block of time. 

For example: You need to write a lot of blog posts for your blog as this is your primary content marketing platform. Break down what it takes to write one post: research, outline, write, edit, create images. Instead of doing all of it in this order, group a few blog posts into one and dedicate one day to purely researching, the other for outlining and etc. 

This will make content creation easier as you’re not going to need to switch from one task to another immediately, which has shown to lessen your productivity. 

Step 5: Assess and pivot

The best way to decide whether your content plan is working is to do regular assessments of progress and ROI (return on investment). Most businesses divide their year into quarters, and usually, at the end of each quarter, they assess what’s been working and what needs to change in their strategy. 

You can do this as often as you’d like, but a three month period is great for giving a strategy enough time to see if it’s working as organic marketing takes time. 

When you check in on your marketing strategy, assess which types of content did the best and brought in the best results, see how the trends in the industry changed, and whether something that you’ve been implementing is outdated or not. 

And, once you assess the efficiency of your content strategy and plan, don’t be afraid to pivot and make changes as you see fit. 

Author: Karolina Wilde, Karolina Wilde is a freelance writer. Her work has been published on Better Marketing, The Ascent, and Sexography reaching over 25,000+ readers. In her free time, you can find her podcasting, reading, or creating TikTok videos.