Planning makes perfect: How SmartFurniture took control of their reputation, decided what they wanted to be known for, and dominated Google search rankings. Your Ed Cal guide.
Mastering Editorial Calendaring
Methods of ideating, organizing, and undertaking your content marketing strategy
Picture this. You walk into a home decor store on main street in your hometown. An associate– we'll call her Jill– welcomes you by name and excitedly points you to the new throw pillow they just got in because she knows it's just your style. You purchase the pillow along with a few other items that Jill helped you find, and you walk back onto main street glowing from an excellent shopping experience.
T. J. Gentle, CEO of Smart Furniture, has a vision of an online shopping experience that feels just like that trip to visit Jill at your favorite store in town. It's a vision he feels so deeply about, that he and his team of developers have set out to make it reality for customers of his ecommerce furniture store. Reaching to bring this feeling online, Gentle and his team continuously develop new technologies themselves. In 2014, the Smart Furniture team launched a fully personalized website that uses a quiz to reshape the entire online shopping experience. The site learns your preferences and showcases the products and language that you will respond to best– giving you the main street experience right on your computer. The Chattanooga retailer coined this concept and the technology associated with it, prescriptive personalization.
The ability to completely overhaul an ecommerce website to fit the preferences of each individual shopper was a huge advancement for ecommerce retail, and Gentle had to get the word out. He wanted his brilliant team to be known not just for the products they sell, but for their technologies. Write2Market was able to help them do just that. Our first step was to develop an editorial calendar that would highlight multiple media angles surrounding the prescriptive personalization term, and lay each out on a monthly basis. Then we worked with Smart Furniture to strategically pitch stories that fit into each month's assigned angle.
Within a year, Smart Furniture's executive team gained media coverage and byline opportunities across the top retail publications as well as numerous opportunities to speak at national retail conferences. Their innovative thinking paired with Write2Market's strategy and execution resulted in Smart Furniture owning the term 'prescriptive personalization.' A quick internet search more than a year after pitching ceased still shows Smart Furniture dominating the first page of results. These wins, totalling upwards of 40 articles, interviews, and speaking opportunities, are the direct result of Smart Furniture and their public relations team developing a strategic content calendar and executing on it.
As a B2C company whose recognition goal wasn't consumer-based, Smart Furniture used speaking opportunities and industry media coverage to reach their goal of owning prescriptive personalization. But, for B2B organizations, there are even more avenues for making yours great work known including: blogging, white papers, case studies, social media, client testimonials, videos, and more. Just be sure that you set up a plan of action.
Mapping the course
The first step in creating a powerful editorial calendar is to decide what you want to be known for. Your answer can be as broad as 'social media marketing,' or as niche as Smart Furniture's 'Prescriptive Personalization.' This overarching theme will be the basis for your key topics and media angles as you move throughout the year. Next, you must determine the more niche topics that you want to cover each month or quarter. These will be the angles and topics that fit within the umbrella of the larger topic you will be covering for you year.
Once you have laid each of these topics and associated angles out in an editorial calendar, you can begin to determine the best channels to convey your messages. Map out the whitepapers, videos, case studies, webinars, and blogs that will allow you to showcase your knowledge and position you to reach your goal. Be sure that you are planning for the entire process associated with each piece of content. You may be able to take a blog from concept to reality in a day or two, but the heftier pieces like videos or case studies will take considerably longer. Be sure that you set yourself up for success by taking into account the resources available to you in the planning phase.
A strong foundation: The importance of case studies.
If you can, build as much of your editorial calendar as possible around the work that you are actually doing, and the success that you are driving, for clients. Case studies are the best way for potential clients to see what you actually do. A steady stream of client case studies will provide anyone looking into your company with a solid overview of the real-life strategies and metrics that you are capable of achieving. The case study portion of your website is like the grown-up equivalent of hanging that A+ test on Mom and Dad's refrigerator – it's the place to showcase the work that you're proud of for all of the world to see.
Case studies also offer powerful opportunities for placement in industry publications, speaking opportunities, award submissions and more. Even if you aren't able to name your client in media, your can develop best practices blogs and bylines spurred from the projects that you have worked on on their behalf.
But, how do you get these case studies? Asking clients to go on the record can be tricky, and it is a delicate situation that should be handled with care. There are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of getting your clients with great results to allow you to tell their story – or better yet, tell it for you.
Make the ask early. Mentioning early in the relationship that you would love to share their story if they are happy with your work will increase the chances of your client agreeing. No one likes to be surprised, so having the discussion early can help a lot. It also gives your contact the time needed to see if they will need permission from another department in order to go on the record.
Know what you're asking for. When the time comes to share their story, be sure that you can let them know what you need. By now, you've mentioned the case study a few times, and it's time to make a move on it. Let them know exactly what you will need and the process that will get you through the process together. This is a great time to show them an example of a case study you have done in the past to give them the full picture.
Make it as painless as possible. Chances are, your clients are as busy as you are, and to be honest, your case study probably won't be high on their to-do list. To keep case study development from becoming a total time-suck, do whatever you can to make it as easy as possible. Do you need a quote from the CEO? Write up a quote or two and ask him/her for approval or edits. This way, you are setting the tone for how you want the quote to sound, and the process will move faster than if you ask them to write one on their own.
If they REALLY love you, ask for more. You've spent months – maybe years? – building an amazing relationship with a client. You've got a real partnership going on, and on a personal note, you get along well too. Maybe this is the one, the golden client that can do more for you than provide a few quotes for your website. Would they be interested in a video testimonial? Speaking with industry media about the success you've had together? Or, the big kahuna, attending an industry conference to speak with you or on your behalf? All of these scenarios are possible, in fact, we work with companies that regularly get clients on board to do each of these things. It is all about reading the relationship and asking for the right thing.
Download W2M's Guide for Writing Your Best Case Studies here:
Maintaining your content marketing editorial calendar's flow
Although flexibility is important to allow for current events to shape your messages, make a solid effort to keep up with your editorial plan. Pay attention to the amount of time that each project will take, and be sure to begin working early enough to gain necessary approvals before posting.
At Write2Market, we personally witness the power of client stories and strategic editorial calendaring on a daily basis. We plan out topics that will support client growth and messaging and move through them throughout the year– garnering website traffic, awards, media, and speaking opportunities along the way. In 2014 alone, Write2Market client, redpepper, gained more than 40 articles, bylines, webinars, and mentions in the media. Careful planning and execution can get you there too.