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How to Create Content: The Ultimate Guide to Content Creation

If you're like most marketers today, then you know that consistent, high-quality content creation is essential to the success of your efforts. But did you know that creating amazing content doesn't just benefit your isolated content marketing program — it can make a difference across your entire organization?

In fact, the average company that blogs generates 55 percent more site visitors; B2B marketers who blog generate 67 percent more leads per month than those who don't; and organizations that align content marketing and sales enjoy 38 percent higher sales win rates and 36 percent higher customer retention rates.

Maybe that's why, according to research from Content Marketing Institute, 56 percent of B2B marketers increased their spending on content creation in the last year — because consistently creating great content can help companies achieve their goals.

But that content doesn't just appear out of thin air; it's the result of lots and lots of planning, collaboration, writing, editing, and more. In this guide, Influence & Co. will walk you through what you need to know about content creation and how to develop a process that works for you.

Documenting a Content Strategy

Content can help your company achieve a number of different marketing goals. The thing is, not all content works the same way for all goals. It needs to be created with your end goal in mind. That way, you can ensure that every blog post, every guest-contributed article, every video, and every whitepaper your team produces will work together to work for you.

Download your content marketing assessment to map out what kind of content you need to achieve your team's biggest marketing goal.

So before you start writing anything, narrow down your primary goal. Most companies' goals fit into one of three general buckets: lead generation, thought leadership, and SEO. If you're like most marketers, using content marketing for lead generation is going to be priority No. 1 — but every company is different.

With a clear idea of the main goal your company is using content to achieve, it’s time to start putting together the details of the plan that will make content creation simpler.

A strategy that you actually take the time to document is essential to your content marketing. Sixty-five percent of the most successful marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to only 14 percent of the least successful marketers.

Download your interactive content marketing strategy checklist to create a strategy that works for you.

Your strategy is going to be valuable for everyone in your company, from your C-suite to your sales team to the individual people on your marketing team. It's a centralized document that should answer just about every question someone might have about why you're using content and how your operation works.

But when it comes specifically to your content creation efforts, three elements are key to directing each piece of content you produce:

• Buyer Personas

Before you create content, you need to know who you're creating it for. That's where your buyer personas come in.

A buyer persona is a representation of your company's ideal customer. It includes demographic information, motivations, buyer behavior, values, pain points, hobbies, budget, and more.

The goal of creating these personas is to help you better understand individual members of your audience so that you're better equipped to reach, engage, and support them with the right content throughout their journey with your company.

• Topic Research

Knowing what you know about your audience members, spend some time researching what broad topics resonate with them, what they're searching for, and what they're telling your sales reps.

Leave the specific, individual article topics for later in your content creation process. For now, focus on general topics of interest to your audience. Look to your website analytics for insights into what your audience engages with already, and do a little keyword research to discover what other related topics you can expand your content to address.

And, as always, stay in communication with your sales team. Your sale reps speak directly with your audience every single day — who better to ask about your prospective customers' biggest questions, challenges, and priorities?

Learn more about working with your sales team to understand your audience and create more targeted content by downloading your copy of "The Content Marketer's Guide to Sales Enablement."

Again, you don't need to list out specific ideas, but getting a feel for what kinds of content your audience is looking for and what your team is prepared to deliver is important to a well-rounded content strategy.

• Editorial Workflow

With your audience and general topic ideas down, it's time to determine how you're going to create the right content for that audience.

Your editorial workflow is the process your team agrees to use for nurturing a content project from its conception to its final form and getting it in front of your audience. It creates consistency in the production process, eliminates inefficiencies, and allows all the people on your team to focus their time and talent on the parts of the process they're best at.

Start by outlining the journey your content will go through from beginning to end. What steps does your team need to take to produce content? Who's responsible for what? What's your standard of quality, and when is each step considered "done"? Your answers to these questions will help you create a process for consistently and efficiently creating great content.

Creating an Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar is a popular method of organizing the production of your team's content. This tool helps content marketers schedule upcoming content and hold each other responsible for consistent content creation.

Download your custom editorial calendar template to build a custom publishing schedule and keep your team on track to meet your goals.

It's important to set a calendar before you (figuratively) put pen to paper because knowing how much of what content you need and by when will help all your team members prioritize projects and budget their time more effectively over the course of the calendar.

Most calendars are monthly, but depending on your publishing cadence and the size of your team, you could create detailed weekly calendars or even three-month spreads to see the big picture of your content production over the quarter.

Your editorial calendar can be as simple or robust as you'd like, and it can include any number of fields, such as content type, title, publish date, author, call to action, and more. The point is, your calendar should be a central tool that anyone on your team can access to quickly see what content is in production, its status, and its publication date.

The Content Creation Process

Finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: the actual content creation process. With so much heavy lifting completed, your actual creation process is already set up for success. Below are five steps to make your content creation process even more effective and efficient:

1. Brainstorming and Topic Ideation

Every piece of content you create begins with an idea. To consistently generate ideas that translate into powerful content, you need to know where to look. A few go-to sources of inspiration include:

  • Your sales team
  • Website analytics
  • Keyword research
  • Competitor analysis
  • Blog audit
  • Trending content tools (e.g., BuzzSumo)
  • Social media conversations
  • Industry events and conferences

While each individual article is important to your overall strategy, content marketing isn't about creating one fantastic piece of content. Try to organize your topics so you don't end up creating a string of one-off posts that don't fit very naturally into the big-picture strategy you're working toward.

Consider mind-mapping topics so you can create an entire cluster of ideas that work together to explain your subject better than anyone else. (And for more about using the topic-cluster model, check out this article about blog optimization.)

2. Knowledge Sharing

Companies don't have ideas — people do. The actual experts within your company are going to byline content you create, not your company as a whole. Your job as a content marketer, then, becomes aligning that expert's voice and ideas with the goal of your topic. And knowledge sharing is the best way to do that

Knowledge sharing is the process used to draw out the personal experiences, stories, and ideas that make the thought leader, well, a thought leader. It begins with a strategic Q&A system and ends with enough expertise and information to fill a knowledge bank and streamline content creation.

The insights from the knowledge-sharing process can be stored in a knowledge management template. Download your customizable template to collect and organize your team's expert insights.

Whether you’re working with a verbal storyteller or someone who likes to write ideas in a stream-of-consciousness manner, the process can work for everyone. Regardless of format, the idea is the same: Use a series of strategic questions to elicit specific information, ideas, stories, and examples from your team's thought leaders to use for content.

3. Content Creation

With a topic and insights ready, it's time to actually start creating. As you begin, remember to refer to your audience personas. What's going to speak to them? What will compel them to take the next action you want them to take?

Is a blog post the best way to reach your audience with your idea? An infographic? Research from CMI shows that B2B marketers rate blog posts, whitepapers, and case studies as the most effective content types for the early, middle, and late stages of the buying process, respectively. So consider the stage of the buyer journey, and customize your message to meet your audience members where they're at.

4. Content Editing

There are things you can do to become a better writer, and there are ways you can sharpen your editing skills. Still, no matter how good you are at either, it's usually not a good idea to be the only person editing your work. Collaboration is critical for making sure an idea makes sense, your message is clear, and your copy is free of errors.

Content at Influence & Co. goes through at least two rounds of edits before it moves on to the next step — one round for strategy and voice, and another for style and grammar. Your system for editing may look different. As long as you're taking the time to carefully examine your content between its creation and publication, you're off to a good start.

5. Publication

The "final" step in the creation process is to release your content into the world. (Your team will still need to distribute it, analyze its performance, and potentially make edits to update or optimize it over time — but for now, the last step of creating content is setting it free.)

If you're creating content for your own website or blog, this step is as simple as uploading, previewing, and publishing. Something to consider, though, is the consistency with which you publish. Do your best to stick to your calendar and publish regularly to give your audience something to look forward to.

And if you've created content to be published off-site, like a guest post, then it's time to pitch that publication. (For all the information you need about sending that content, check out this article on how to pitch your content to publication editors.)

Putting a Team in Place to Fuel Your Content Creation Process

 
Every content strategy requires a content marketing team to execute it, and while companies with larger budgets might add a few players to their lineups, most content marketing teams generally rely on three critical roles: a content strategist, an editor, and a distribution specialist. 

This video, featuring Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.’s president and co-founder, quickly explains those roles:

These three roles — the strategist, the editor, and the distribution specialist — are the bare bones of a content team. Without any one of them, your efforts will suffer. But introduce more of the right members to the content creation team (and pair them all with the right tools and technology), and scaling becomes easier.

The content creation teams, or pods, at Influence & Co. fill the same essential roles that an effective content creation team needs, plus a few more:

  • We’ve built a strong network of freelance writers and designers whom our editors work with to create content.
  • Our digital marketing team works with pods and clients on technical audits, keyword research, SEO tactics, and paid distribution.
  • Our publication strategists nurture our 1,500+ online editor relationships and help our clients get published in the right outlets for their audience.
  • And our public relations team builds relationships with journalists, influencers, and other media contacts to help our clients earn press mentions, reach their audience, and achieve their PR goals.

Creating engaging, high-quality content for your audience isn't a one-person operation. The content creation process is best left in the hands of a whole team of folks with specialized skill sets who can focus on exactly what they excel at rather than spread themselves (and their resources) too thin.

However you decide to build your in-house content team is up to you. What's most important is that the team you assemble be made up of the right people with the right skills to create content that drives your strategy forward.

Finding the Right Content Creation Tools

This post has broken down pretty much every aspect of content creation, which (hopefully) makes the entire process a little more manageable. Still, it never hurts to make sure you've got the right tools in place to make it even easier on yourself. Here are a few free tools any in-house content marketing team can use:

  • Make My Persona: This interactive tool from HubSpot is super helpful for putting together and actually using buyer personas.
  • Blog Ideas Generator: Another fun and free tool from HubSpot, the topic generator is great for helping you think creatively about new ways to approach topics.
  • Headline Analyzer: No one is going to read your content if they don't click on it first, and this tool from CoSchedule can help you write the best, most compelling headlines for each article you write.
  • Knowledge Bank: A knowledge bank is a customizable template you can use to collect and store all kinds of valuable insights for future content.
  • Grammarly: This tool is like working with a grammar expert on everything you write, both online and in Microsoft Word, too.
  • Canva: High-quality visuals are key to engaging content, and Canva makes it easy for anyone (even non-designers) to create custom designs.
Extra credit: A workflow or project management tool. CMI found that one of the largest tech-related differences between the most and least successful marketers was the use of a tool to manage workflow and content projects. Do you absolutely need to have one to create content? No. But will using a tool to manage all your content projects make the process easier, more transparent, and more efficient? You bet.

Content creation is the process that turns your overall content marketing strategy into actual, tangible assets and results. That's why developing a system that works for your whole team is so important. With these steps, your content marketing team should be ready to build and use a content creation process that delivers results for your entire organization.

It isn't easy creating content on your own. Set up a call with us and learn more about how our team can fuel your content strategy for you:

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About Nickie Bartels

I love cloudy days, office supplies, and rewatching the same sitcoms I've already seen a dozen times. When I'm not looking for ways to elevate content, I'm looking for opportunities to tell stories about my dog.

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