Create a Content Marketing Calendar for Your SaaS Team
Content marketing is an occasional activity for too many SaaS marketing teams. It’s easy to update the blog or write an e-book when the inspiration comes. But when priorities shift or other projects pop up, content goes on the backburner again.
Content marketing requires committing to a long-term strategy. And as with any strategy, documentation is a must. That’s where the content calendar comes into play.
This document is your roadmap to content marketing success. It’s where you define each step in your content strategy, or more specifically, each piece of content you’ll produce over a specific time period.
The benefits of a content calendar
Besides documenting your strategy, why exactly is it important to have a content calendar. Let’s explore the advantages:
- Allocate your resources – You can assign each team member topics or stages in the content production process (e.g. research, interviews, editing), ensuring you have a plan to support your strategy.
- Provide insight to the wider company – All your colleagues can see the plan and the progress that has been made. A detailed calendar shows leadership that you have a long-term vision for content marketing.
- Involve other teams in content – While marketing owns the calendar, sales, customer support, and product can offer interesting topics to include. Sharing the calendar encourages them to contribute ideas or even lend a hand with writing or research.
- Store all your good ideas – As you immerse yourself in content marketing, potential topics will pop into your mind all the time. You can add them to the content calendar so no good idea ever falls through the cracks.
- Deadlines keep your team motivated – Every writer will tell you a fast-approaching deadline is often the motivation they need. Reasonable yet ambitious deadlines keep the content production process moving along.
- There is always work to be done – If a team member experiences writer’s block or gets sick of looking at the same document, they can start outlining the next topic in the calendar. A documented strategy helps everyone use their time wisely.
- Create an all-encompassing strategy – Documenting an end-to-end content strategy helps you identify gaps in the plan, duplicate topic ideas, and other topics that make sense to write about.
What do you include in a content calendar?
Now that you know why a content calendar is important, let’s cover how you can create this document. As the content marketing leader, you should already have a handful of topics you want to include.
Now it’s time to bring other stakeholders into the mix. Schedule a brainstorming session with your marketing team and leaders from sales, customer support, product, and engineering. Go around the room and have everyone share their ideas. One good idea will spur others so keep the meeting informal and encourage discussion.
If all goes well, good ideas will be flying around. Do your best to get them down in a Word doc or spreadsheet. Once the meeting is complete, convert the list of topic ideas into a content calendar that includes the following sections.
A single sentence that sums up what the author will write about. Don’t worry about crafting a final headline quite yet. Your keyword research and the direction the content ends up going in will help you come up with an optimal title.
A few sentences that give context to the topic idea. Include the main thesis, key points that should be covered, and the source of the idea.
This section gives the writer the direction they need to produce the content you have in mind. It also helps you remember what excites you about the topic idea when you’re looking at the calendar months down the road.
Relevant terms and phrases the writer will need to include in the content so it ranks in Google.
Keywords are especially important for blog content since its main objective is to generate organic search traffic.
The writers, editors, approvers, and perhaps researchers and interview subjects assigned to each topic. The exact roles depend on the structure of your content team but, at the very least, each piece of content should have a separate writer and editor.
Deadline(s) and publish date
Target dates for each step in the content process that ultimately lead to a publish date.
After the topic, deadlines are arguably the most important section in the content calendar. You need to set a reasonable cadence for your content production process that accounts for the number of people involved and the time they can devote to content (assuming they have other job responsibilities). It might take going through the process a few times before you have a sense for pace so be prepared to adjust your calendar (we’ll talk more about this in the next section).
The medium (e.g. blog post or downloadable resource) and form (e.g. e-book, whitepaper, case study, checklist) for each piece of content. Generally, content aimed at a keyword opportunity should be published on the blog and in-depth, educational content should live behind a form.
Like we mentioned earlier, documenting your strategy will help you create a comprehensive calendar that has an ideal mix of different content types.
Target persona and sales funnel stage
The audience each piece of content will serve and the stage in the sales funnel they’ll interact with it. Remember the primary goal of content marketing is to generate and nurture leads so ensure you create content that targets specific marketing personas at different points in their buying journey.
Any details on how your team will amplify each piece of content. For example, list the social media sites you’ll share it on, when you’ll include it in your email newsletter, and any industry sites worth posting it on.
Visuals and graphics
The images or design resources required. This may include assigning a team member to find a relevant stock photo or baking PDF design into the production timeline.
How far ahead should your content calendar go?
There are two scenarios worth exploring here. The first is you want to dip your toe in the water before fully committing to content. In that case, it’s fine to create a short-term content calendar that spans 1-3 months. This “pilot” calendar will help you learn if you’re correctly allocating your resources and working at the right pace. You can then create a long-term content calendar once all the kinks are worked out.
The second scenario is your marketing team already has a strong grasp on its content production process and is ready to fully commit. In this case, your content calendar should span at least six months and go on for a year or longer. Keep in mind, content marketing takes a while to pay off so get all your ideas down and commit to seeing your strategy all the way through.
Regardless of which approach you take, your content calendar is a living, breathing document that can be updated at any time. You’re allowed to adjust deadlines and move topics around as priorities shift.
Do you need content marketing software?
Usually, a shareable spreadsheet will suffice, especially for small companies that are new to content marketing. However, building a calendar in content marketing or project management software makes sense if:
- Different departments are involved in content marketing.
- Multiple writers work on more than one content project at a time.
- Multiple content calendars need to be consolidated.
- The team is missing deadlines and needs automated reminders.
The sections outlined in this article are meant to help you create a content calendar in a shareable spreadsheet. We recommend starting there and transitioning to software if the document becomes too much to manage.
Prepare for content marketing success
As the saying goes, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” The objective of content marketing is to generate organic traffic, capture prospects’ contact information, nurture leads, and elevate your brand.
Mapping out your content strategy for an extended period gives you a blueprint for accomplishing those goals. Creating a content calendar is a precursor to content marketing success.