Content Distribution Plan: What It Is, Why It Matters & How To Use It

Posted by Ross Simmonds 21 November, 2018 1 comment

Content distribution plans have never been more important than today. A content distribution plan is a strategic guide that helps an organization disseminate its content, whether it’s promoting the latest blog post or sharing a new ebook. Publishing content can only take you so far; a content distribution plan makes sure that content is seen by the world.

Content distribution plans are increasingly important because of the amount of data that individuals and brands are creating each minute.

Look at these stats:

👉 Instagram users publish 46,740 posts per minute.

👉Twitter users send 456,000 tweets per minute.

👉Google conducts 3,60,7080 searches per minute.

👉 LinkedIn has more than 100 million users logging in every day.

These statistics are mind-boggling, no doubt. But it’s important to recognize the underlying fact these statistics are all pointing to: There’s a whole lot of content being produced each minute and it’s pretty damn noisy.

If you are a B2B business, these numbers should scare you.

B2B marketing has always been challenging, but technology has made it even more so. Your customers are constantly living in the age of information overload and needless to say, getting people to see and consume your content has become a task.

To cut through the noise and grab their attention, you not only have to produce quality content consistently but also do a killer job distributing it.

Producing content is one thing—distributing it is another.

Without distribution, your content won’t reach your target audience. They won’t know about your product, what it does and how it can help them reach their goals. They’ll have no clue why they should park their marketing dollars with your brand rather than your competitor. You won’t have enough leads to sell your product to.

But content distribution has always been regarded as the Achilles’ heel of content marketing. Not everyone knows how to do it right.

For most businesses, content distribution means dumping links on social media, spamming forums, and running ill-planned ad campaigns in hopes of generating leads.

They forget that not every content distribution channel is suited for their business, and that even if a channel works, it won’t give them the same results each time.

To get consistent sales leads from your blogs, ebooks, email newsletter, podcasts, webinars, and any other content assets, you not only need exceptional content but also a solid content distribution plan. We are talking about the kind of stuff that drives brand awareness, generates leads, and opens the door to conversations with your prospects.

In this post, you are going to learn everything you need to know about creating your own rock-solid content distribution plan:

  • What is a content distribution plan?
  • Answers to the most common questions about content distribution plans
  • How to create one that works for your business

Let’s get started.

What is a content distribution plan?

A content distribution plan is a strategic document that an organization creates to guide its marketing efforts for promoting posts, ebooks, resources, and other content assets.

The reasons for creating a content distribution plan are plenty. A document like this kills the randomness and provides structure to the promotion process.

A thoughtful content distribution plan simplifies the process of reaching the right audience at the right time and convinces them to take the desired action on your content asset, whether that’s downloading an ebook, signing up for a newsletter or booking a demo on your website.

Now that we understand the what and why of a content distribution plan, let’s tackle some of the other questions you probably have.

Big Questions About Content Distribution Plans  

We know that marketing strategy looks different for every business, and therefore content distribution plans will differ too. Before you move ahead with building a plan from scratch, let’s answer the three most common questions marketers have about content distribution plans.

Question 1: Should Different Content Types Have A Different Content Distribution Plan?

One of the most common mistakes businesses make when distributing their content is using the same distribution plan for all their content assets. But that’s like submitting the exact same resume and cover letter for lots of different jobs—and we all know the latter never works.

If you’re still unclear on the answer to the big question, it’s yes—different content types should have different distribution strategies.

Before we move any further let’s first understand why that’s important. Content today can be sliced two ways: content format and content type. The format and type of every piece of content plays a significant role in determining the ideal content distribution plan for your business.

Formats include video, audio, long-form text, etc. The type could be a case study, research paper, blog post, webinar, etc.

Let’s look at an example: a podcast.

What do you think you’ll do to distribute your podcast?

Here are a few ideas that may come to mind first:

  • Promote it on social media
  • Announce it on your blog
  • Put a link on your website

But what else can you do?

  • Convert the audio to a YouTube video
  • Submit it to a podcast directory
  • Pull out the best bits to create audio snippets and image quotes
  • Ask your podcast guest to promote it

Now, take a minute and evaluate how different this plan might be from promoting an ebook. The same major distribution channels would be in play, I get it, but a lot of the specifics wouldn’t make sense for an ebook. Imagine converting a 40-page ebook into a YouTube video— it may be effective but it is time-consuming. Instead, using exit intent pop-ups, promoting it on thank you pages or even via your signatures or paid social ads is a much better strategy here.

Question 2: How Do I know If The Content Distribution Plan Is Working?

Now, this is a question I get quite often. Content distribution is tricky. It’s very common for teams to put in a lot of effort to create a content asset, distribute it in a top-notch style, and in the end, fail to get the kind of leads they were expecting. The content may garner a lot of traffic and social mentions, but nothing of real value.

As marketers, we’ve all been there—doing our best to align content distribution with lead generation, brand awareness, and engagement, and not seeing the desired results.

But what do you do when your efforts fail to deliver over and over again?

It’s time for some assessment.

The best way it to do a deep dive into your analytics—coz numbers don’t lie.

Using analytics to check up on how your content performs (and how it impacts with your business’ bottom line) is an expected part of any content marketing strategy.

But when it comes to gauging the success of your content, you need to be VERY clear about what you want to measure.

Very often marketers run to vanity metrics such as blog post page views or email open rate and lose sight of what’s important. This causes confusion since these metrics do not lead anywhere.

Not sure which metrics to monitor? This chart will help you match your goals with the right KPIs.

The next step is to get smart about measuring your paid and earned content distribution efforts. While different companies may have different approaches, setting up goals, events and UTM tagging will ensure you get data that’s easy to decode.  

The right analytics will show you where you should focus your efforts and which channels aren’t worth your time. Bonus: Analytics reveal the type of content that’s appealing to your audience.

Question 3: Paid Vs. Organic—What’s Right For My Brand?

Should you go the paid route or stick to distributing content organically?

This a tough one again.

From my experience, I feel that it’s best to begin your content distribution efforts organically.

How do you do that?

Once the content is published on your site, push it organically on channels that you own and manage, reach out to influencers, or distribute your content on forums. I recently shared the exact method I use for distributing content on the Everybody Hates Marketers podcast.

Once you’ve mastered the art of distributing content organically, you can slowly and steadily test the waters of paid distribution via channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and Amazon.

Now, I get it that paid distribution can be extremely overwhelming at the beginning and that’s why it is advisable to use it to promote only key content pieces such as case studies, ebooks, and white papers. Once you’ve mastered the art of paid distribution you can then apply what you’ve learned to promote all your other content assets. Of course, the budget and approach will differ with each campaign.

Below is a good example from the team at Marketo of using Facebook ads to upsell an ebook.

In the end, whether you should pursue paid or organic distribution boils down to what works for your business and how much money you can put into distributing content.

How To Create A Content Distribution Plan

By now you should have a clear idea of what a content distribution plan is, how you should measure your distribution efforts, and whether you should go the paid route or the organic route.

In this section, I’m going to take you through the step-by-step process of creating a content distribution plan from scratch. Please note that while the examples I’m citing are mostly B2B SaaS, this process works for other B2B and B2C companies as well with just a minor tweak here and there.

Step 1: Understand your target audience

I’m sure you know about user personas and how they align with your overall marketing strategy. Per the Content Marketing Institute:

A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.

Not every business invests in creating buyer personas, but creating them can help you distribute the right content via the right channels.

MailChimp has done an awesome job of creating personas, and that is reflected in both the quality of the content they produce and the way they distribute it.

Now, I’m sure you are going to ask me, How is persona development connected with content distribution?

Here’s how: Personas will help you envision the things that REALLY matter to your customer, and the content they REALLY want to consume.

When you know those things, content distribution becomes really easy because you not only create content that’s aligned with your audience’s needs (and not created just for the sake of it ) but distribute it in ways that fit your audience’s needs and behaviors.

If you don’t have a well chalked-out persona, there’s no need to panic—just ask yourself a few questions. Who is going to benefit from your content the most? Are they the decision-makers? Is the content helping them connect with your brand? Those are the kinds of questions that will help you “freeze” your target audience.

Step 2: Research the platform where your audience is active

After identifying your true target audience, find out where they hang out and then spend time ensuring that your content is reaching them on those channels.

For example, if you are a B2B SaaS company, you know that your target audience can be found in SaaS communities such as GrowthHackers, SaaS-based Slack channels, and Facebook groups, etc.

If you aren’t sure where your target audience is, a good way to find relevant communities is by doing a quick search on the web, or on sites like Quora and Reddit.

For example, if I go to Quora and I do a quick search for the keyword “marketing,” I’m going to find people who are asking questions about marketing. I’m then going to see a question about the best way to use Reddit for marketing a new application.

Now I know from experience that Reddit makes marketers jittery. That’s because a lot of them don’t understand it well.

Having spent numerous hours decoding Reddit, I know this is right up my alley and so and I’m going to respond to whoever asked the question by giving them valuable insights and a valuable recommendation about how they can use Reddit.

When I distribute content for my clients and my internal brands, I start by making sure I know three basics about the target audience:

  1. Who they’re spending time with
  2. Where they’re asking questions
  3. Where they’re spending time online

Once I know this information, I engage with the intended audience in these communities—not just spamming them, submitting a link and walking away, but instead going in first and foremost with value and then referencing the content that I want them to check out, just like I did while answering the question above.

Another platform that makes marketers sweat is LinkedIn, simply because distributing content using LinkedIn is not as straightforward as it is on Facebook Groups or Twitter. Given that 80 percent of B2B leads come from LinkedIn vs. 13 percent from Twitter and 7 percent from Facebook, it is a no-brainer that you need to master content distribution on this platform.

If you are looking to double down on your LinkedIn marketing efforts but don’t know where to start, this post about LinkedIn promotion tactics will come in handy.

Step 3: Create copy that’s customized for the platform

You’ll dress differently for a Halloween party than for a Christmas bash, no?

The reason is simple: Different occasions demand that you do things differently. You may have ham at Christmas, but it is candy all the way on Halloween.

The same is true of distributing content.

Different channels may seem similar from a distance, but the distribution strategy should be tailored to each platform in order to get traction.

A key part of this strategy is understanding the “language” of each channel so you can customize the copy you use to push your content. Instead of just sharing a link to the content asset and waiting for people to get curious and click, you have to tell them what they’ll find inside and how this content will help them achieve a goal.

But how? It depends on the platform. Are these folks talking in 280 characters or meatier paragraphs? Do they prefer plain text or emojis and GIFs?

The next steps are aimed at improving your content distribution efforts by helping you get to know your audience even better. Let’s take a look:

Step 4: Interview your customers

Now, here’s the thing—qualitative research plays a big part in letting you know the EXACT things your customers want to learn, eliminating the guesswork entirely.

Send your customers a survey via email (maybe combine it with an NPS survey) or set up a face-to-face chat.

The benefits of following this approach are plenty:

  1. You get to build a deeper relationship with your audience because they know that you are listening.
  2. You get a better understanding of your audience.
  3. You are able to create a content distribution strategy that’s tailor-made to your audience and their needs.

Step 5: Evaluate, Rinse, Repeat

The final step of a content distribution plan is to see how your content is performing. Which pieces are driving the most traffic to your website? Which CTA has worked the best? Which content asset is attracting the most signups to your newsletter?

With all the data, you can rework your approach as needed, as well as create a content repurposing strategy.

Ready To Rock Your Content Distribution Plan?

Now that you know what a content distribution plan is and why it matters, it’s time to build your own.

But before you get started, remember: The game is definitely getting harder and I think being successful now really comes down to not being afraid to experiment with different channels and tactics for putting your story out there.

As marketers we know that content is no longer king—distribution is. And in that spirit, I’m sharing a free distribution checklist that includes over 85 of my most effective distribution tips. So go ahead—download your copy for free today and start driving more results from your content distribution efforts.

 

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