One of the greatest hurdles for content marketing freelancers is convincing a company to not only invest in your services once — but for months. Unlike other writing projects that are project-based (think: copywriting for a website and turning around a journalism article), to be successful and competitive with content, a long-lead approach is required.
Instead of creating a pitch that only includes work you can turn around in a month or so, experts say it’s better to approach a potential client with a 12-month strategy that illustrates how giving content time to work its magic is beneficial.
As Kelly Chase, the director of content marketing at Fracture explains, a year is an ideal timeline for planning because it gives the writer and the brand an opportunity to track progress, test and optimize results:
You can dig into craft strategies and tell stories in a way that is strategic and compelling. There is very little in a successful content marketing strategy that happens overnight and taking a year-long view allows you to take the time you need at every stage.
So how do you map a quarter-by-quarter blueprint and actually nail the contract?
Get clients to sign a 12-month content marketing plan with this strategy:
Before you dive in:
You’ve honed your skills and you’ve restructured your goals to center around content marketing, rather than straightforward reporting. You’re ready to tackle hefty goals and develop the voice of a brand. While all of this is essential to developing your business, putting it into words isn’t always straightforward — yep, even for writers.
Marketing expert and entrepreneur Lais Pontes Green says communicating your tactic to a brand means meeting them on their level and personalizing the proposal to depict their benchmarkers.
- What annual days should they capitalize on?
- What season is their heaviest?
- When do they have the most room for growth?
“I find a 12-month plan is a perfect timeline because it lets you parallel your company’s yearly KPIs, but also many events that you might build your content around happen once per year. This could include holidays, seasons, company anniversaries and other yearly occurrences,” she continues.
You should also come equipped with a game plan to what content marketing will include. Not only will you copywrite for their website but you’ll also formulate search-engine optimization blog posts and perhaps brainstorm better ways to send newsletters.
The more prepared and professional you come across to the could-be client, the higher your chances are to get ‘em to sign on the dotted line. “If you plan on collaborating with a team, now is also the time to set up a shared Dropbox or Google Drive, and linking up via Slack or other software,” she continues. “The more organized, the better.”
Quarter 1: Think backward to guide the future.
Before you can think objectively and purposefully about the year ahead, Chase says it’s essential to go over any data from the past to identify trends and areas for growth.
While you will likely look at metrics surrounding traffic, sales and conversions, she also challenges content marketers to come equipped with the ‘how’ everything happened. This will illustrate your top-to-bottom approach to content development, and help you prepare for your biggest task of quarter one: creating a content calendar.
Though as every smart wordsmith knows, calendars are an ever-breathing document, outlining all of the important holidays and specific seasonal topics will guide the planning process. Chase also suggests creating a handful of tentpole events, and starting early by pitching various stakeholders to get on board.
Say you want to make a big splash around Mother’s Day? The time to plan isn’t in the second quarter, but in this one. And if you want a brand to keep you on retainer for the year, it’s time to show just how well you can implement yourself cross-functionally.
As soon as you’ve built out your content calendar and have an idea of what you’d like to tackle in the new year, start rallying the support and resources that you’re going to need to make it happen. The beginning of the year is the best time to do this and the sooner you get everyone on board the smoother things will go moving forward.
Quarter 2: Reassess your needs.
By the time April arrives, this cliche can guide your content strategy: let it rain! When the weather begins to warm, so do budgets, especially since many are reassessed after tax day. Green says brands feel in the thick of things and in full swing during this quarter, especially as they prepare for summer, when many people are out-of-office for travels and celebrations.
This is when Green says you should create your most compelling content and think critically about other tools and services you may need — or want to pitch. After all, it’s best to get in your asks when the financial flow is moving in your favor.
As Chase suggests, this three-month period is when you should be asking yourself and your client questions that will ensure you’re aligning toward the same goal. And more importantly, that you have the resources available to you to win big.
Her recommendations include:
- Are the tools you’re currently using serving your needs?
- Are you using all of them?
- Are there functional gaps that need to be addressed?
- Are your tools current?
Maybe there is an SEO service that would save time and budget that you could focus toward different content needs. Maybe you want to switch from one publishing platform to another. Whatever you need, let it be known — and ASAP.
Since you’ll be inching toward the half-way mark soon, it’s also a smart time to create reports to share with youar client on progress. And to remain competitive and beneficial to the team, invest in outside resources that enrich your knowledge:
In our industry, things are constantly evolving and changing, and it takes a proactive effort to keep your skillset sharp. Not only will this help keep you current, but you can bring back the new ideas and strategies that you encounter and infuse them into your planning going forward.
Quarter 3: Implement, test and measure.
Since you spent the better part of the last six months building, planning and pushing out content, now it’s time to put everything into action. Chase defines the third quarter in three important words: implement, test and measure.
With plenty of work to look back on, you can prepare to end the year meeting all of the brand’s goals by paying close attention to what’s gaining traction — and what’s missing the mark.
Make sure that you are continually going back to the numbers to see what is working and what isn’t. Be agile in your approach and make adjustments as needed. This quarter is the time for you and your team to start getting reps under your belt so that you’re running like a well-oiled machine as you move into Q4.
On an interpersonal level, Green says the summer is a great time to also connect with the people you’re chatting with regularly. Even if you’re a remote worker, you can consider a trip to see your client face-to-face, or perhaps, suggest a Skype happy hour to foster trust. Because summer is historically a little slow, there is more time to build a relationship and have your go-to contact see you as more than someone who delivers, but a likable person, too.
Quarter 4: Go all out.
No matter if you’re working with a B2B or a B2C business, Chase says the last fourth of the year is the time to leave it all on the field with your content marketing efforts. While B2C companies are utilizing all resources to supercharge sales during a hectic holiday season, B2B businesses are in the mood to spend so they can use the leftover budget before it’s gone.
“Either way, Q4 is the time to leverage all of the hard work you’ve done throughout the year to maximize results,” she suggests. This time is when you should be readily available to your client and start pitching them new ideas for ways content can grow and expand next year. Believe it or not, this is when you’re building your case the most, and if you can show them how committed you are to the success of the company, you’ll convince ‘em to keep you on board.
It’s not a bad idea to create a lengthy, data-backed report by December 1 — and suggest an hour-long meeting to go through the year. This shows motivation and strategy, and will speak volumes for your work ethic. After all, if they liked you for 11 months — what’s another year?