Don’t Write A Word Of Content Before Going Through This Lesson!

When bringing a new writer or editor onto a project, whether they are being hired internally as a company employee, outsourced through an agency or a freelancer, it is critical that they understand the business, competitors, audience and more. Too many companies treat content as an accessory and feel that they need to spend their time on other business matters. But, for an online business your content is literally the most important client facing aspect of the business. Your content is what will draw new customers in, entertain and inform them, walk them through the sales process and convince them to become a customer.

In this lesson we will discuss each of the broad areas that must be well understood by anyone responsible for content that represents your organization.

The Content Marketing Workbook will provide you with a training manual that can quicly get every member of your editorial department up to speed with your content strategies. Many of the questions in the Content Marketing workbook are the same as the Business Plan Workbook, copy and paste those answers where appropriate, however additional questions are included in the Content Marketing Workbook that apply specifically to your content strategy.

Every member of the editorial department must be familiar with the core business messaging and ensure that these themes are consistently repeated throughout the content that is being created. The basic messages that describe the business offerings, value proposition, mission and purpose of the business must be repeated to your target audience like a sub-conscious chant that creates familiarity and a lasting impression.

This section is taken directly from the Business Plan Workbook, therefore if you already completed these answers simply copy and paste them into the Content Marketing Workbook. These messaging components are critical for your content creators to understand.

Open the Content Marketing Workbook and complete the Business Messaging Basics section so that your answers can be easily passed on to current editorial staff and future new hires.


  1. List each product or service along with its features. If you have an ecommerce store, list the categories and their features.

  2. Write a full description of your product or service and include your value proposition. Consider this a bio for your business.

  3. List 3 characteristics that describe your business

  4. What is your mission statement? Try to create one sentence that conveys: What do you do? How do you do it? Who do you do it for? What unique value are you delivering?

  5. What is your mantra? 2-5 words that encompass what your brand stands for. A mantra is used internally for company direction.

  6. What is your tagline? A few words that convey your benefits with personality and attitude. (A tagline is used to convey what your brand stands for with attitude.)

  7. How would you like your brand to be positioned in the market as it relates to quality, sophistication, specialization vs. all purpose, expansive vs. affordable, quick vs. in depth.

  8. What percentage of your target market is currently aware of your brand?

  9. What do people actually think of your company? What are the areas of strength and weakness?

  10. Is your content legally sensitive or subject to compliance department regulation? Describe:

Creating audience personas is the most powerful and lasting exercise that you can go through with your editorial department. Every piece of content must connect with the person reading it and content that tries to appeal to everyone connects with no one. The goal is to create the most effective content possible. That requires laser focus and an understanding of who the person is, what their needs and challenges are, how they will be evaluating you, how to relate to them and what motivates them before a word is written.

In the Content Marketing Workbook, read through the personas section and then make a list of different potential personas. Once you have a list of the different personas, concentrate on the most critical 2-4 and then fill out a complete persona analysis for each of them. Feel free to add or delete questions as you see fit, keeping in mind that this is supposed to give your editorial staff an in depth perspective into the psychology of your target audience.

Over time you can add more, but doing too many in the beginning can be overwhelming. Just concentrate on 2-4 personas. It is helpful to give each one a name and a picture, print them out and hang them up in the content department for constant reference.


  1. Age or Age Range

  2. Gender

  3. Income

  4. Education Level

  5. Personality Type & Style

  6. Risk Tolerance

  7. Location


  9. Dislikes

  10. Brands They May Follow

  11. Recreational Activities

  12. Online Habits

  13. Social Networks

  14. What is their need? What is their pain point?

  15. What motivates them? What are they really hoping to find?

  16. What is their level of technical expertise?

  17. What is their title? Can they make a decision or do they need approval from someone else?

  18. What is their evaluation process?

  19. What would stop them from buying?

  20. Are they likely to become repeat customers? How often?

  21. Are they likely to recommend your business to others?

  22. Name / Photo: Create an Avatar for this persona as a representative of this group of people within your target market.

A thorough understanding of who your competitors are, what strategies they are using and the success they are having is key to creating a content strategy that will help your business capture market share. The research results from the Online Competitive Analysis course laid the groundwork for this analysis, but now it is time for members of the editorial department to dig a little deeper and look for both patterns of content creation and syndication as well as the quality of individual pages and posts. Remember, to get online customers you have to outperform your competitors.

The Content Marketing Workbook includes 7 questions that will help your editorial staff understand and learn from the competitive landscape.


  1. Who are your biggest direct competitors? Where do you compete head-to-head?

  2. Who are your indirect competitors? How can you turn them into strategic partners?

  3. What competitive advantages do you have over your competition?

  4. What added value do you offer your customers?

  5. What kind of content do your competitors create? Blogs, News Articles, Press Releases, Image Galleries, Slide Shows, Reports, Infographics, Videos, other?

  6. How and where are your competitors distributing content? Blogs, news sites, guest blogging, social, RSS? A backlink report from can help you identify this information.

  7. What pages on your competitors site are ranking the best and driving traffic? This can be found through the SEMrush ranking reports we ran in the Competitive Analysis as well as through backlink reports.

Every industry has thought leaders, style leaders, people who are known for industry leading innovation and people who can be counted on for keeping up to date with every industry trend and disseminating that information to the public. While influencers may often be competitors, sometimes they can be strategic partners and it is critically important that your editorial department knows who the significant thought leaders in the market are.

Answer the following questions in the Influencers section of the Content Marketing Workbook and remember to keep your answers current so that you can quickly bring your staff and new hires up to date.


  1. Biggest brands in the market (this may be different than your biggest competitors). This question is looking to identify market leaders in terms of market share.

  2. What brands are the known as the most innovative, and what brands actually are the most innovative?

  3. What organizations govern or oversee your industry?

  4. Who are the most influential thought leaders? Individual people who people seem to follow?

  5. What are the biggest events in your industry and who runs them? Are there any smaller events that are important?

  6. Describe your company’s presence at events.

  7. List as many websites as possible that cater to professionals within your industry. Not your customers, but your peers.

  8. Aside from industry events, are there any other very important off-line resources for either industry insiders or people within your target market?

  9. Who at your company could be seen as a potential “thought leader” in your industry? Why?

Far too often the editorial department within a company forgets that salespeople are constantly on the front lines, talking to actual prospects, overcoming objections and closing deals. Great content should act like an automated salesperson for your company. Whether it is tasked with recruiting new visitors, introducing products and services, relaying use cases and testimonials or closing deals, your editorial department must understand the sales funnel, the conversion process and what it really takes to turn a site visitor into a customer.

Go over the following questions with the sales manager and salespeople within your company and add their answers to the Sales Questions section of the Content Marketing Workbook.


  1. Describe the sales cycle?
    • Awareness: How do they find out about you, what are the first pages they should land on.
    • Curiosity: What is supposed to make them curios?
    • Interest: If they become interested what will they do?
    • Research: If they are going to research or conduct due diligence, what are they looking for?
    • Evaluation: What are the criteria by which you will be evaluated against competitors?
    • Positive Decision: What factors are likely to cause them to choose to buy?
    • Negative Decision: What factors are likely to cause them to not buy?
    • Purchase: What is the purchase process and what happens next?

  2. What is your conversion funnel?
    • Lead Generator: How do you collect the contact information from a potential customer?
    • Lead Converter: How do you convert that lead into a paying customer?
    • Core Offer: What is the most compelling reason they choose to go with your core offer?
    • Upsells & Add Ons: What upsells and add ons do you use to maximize your revenues per customer?
    • Referrals: How and when do you attempt to get referrals from existing customers?
    • Recycling: How do you follow up with prospects who didn’t purchase?

  3. What are the questions that people in the sales department hear from prospective customers?

  4. What are the most effective closing lines or strategies that sales people within the company use to close deals?

  5. What are the most common reasons why people choose not to buy?

Giving your editorial staff insight into the strategies that have worked best or had the most noticeable impact in the past, as well as what strategies have fallen flat, can help ensure that new content builds in a positive direction and doesn’t attempt to repeat past mistakes.

Answer the following questions in the Content Marketing Workbook.


  1. What strategies have worked the best in the past? Describe the strategy and the impact.

  2. What past strategies fell short of expectations. What were they, what were the results and lessons learned.

It is important to clearly identify the KPI's that will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of content.

Answer the following questions in the Content Marketing Workbook.


  1. What metrics will be used to track, measure and judge the effectiveness of content moving forward? The following bulleted list represents common KPIs associated with content efforts. Delete any bullet points that will not actually be tracked.
    • Links
    • Search Rankings
    • Social Likes
    • Social Shares
    • Inbound Traffic
    • Pageviews
    • Bounce Rate
    • Conversions (conversion actions must be clear and tracked)
  2. How will these KPIs be tracked. Who will track them? Who will they be reported to? How often will the be reviewed?

In this last section we will create a clear workflow for content. This is particularly helpful for large content teams where quality control is important.

Answer the following questions in the Content Marketing Workbook:


  1. List all positions in the editorial department with title and name of each person and the duties and responsibilities of each.
    • Department Head (the boss / who is in charge of oversight): Reporting to company executives / board / owner.
    • Editor(s): Creation of content strategies, writing assignments, quality control, posting of content on website, etc…
    • Writer(s): Writing content. Quantity. Categories.
    • Syndication / Link Building / Social: Syndicating content, social posting, working with strategic content partners, building links, etc…

  2. Who is in charge of the coming up with content ideas and managing the editorial calendar?

  3. Who takes content ideas and performs SEO tasks such as keyword research, turns content ideas into writing assignments and ensuring that content is well optimized before posting?

  4. Who is responsible for writing content or creating each type / category of content?

  5. Who is in charge of quality control / compliance?

  6. Who is in charge of posting content?

  7. Who is in charge of content syndication, social posting and link building?

  8. Who is in charge of tracking the content performance against the KPIs and creating reports?

  9. How often are content reports due?

With The Content Marketing Workbook Complete

You Are Finally Ready

To Make An Awesome Content Plan!

Next In the next lesson we will dive into how to manage practical matters such as the