content marketing

How to Use Tactical Planning in Content Marketing

Tactical planning is where most content marketing strategies fail. Learn what you can do to avoid these challenges and supercharge your content marketing.

In my years of helping companies develop content marketing strategies, I’ve seen a lot of great ones. Sadly, the number of strategies I’ve seen successfully implemented is far smaller. This failure goes beyond simply failing to execute, it’s about a failure to properly use tactical planning.


What is tactical planning?

In short, it’s about breaking down your strategic goals into smaller shorter-term tactics with measurable impacts. This is tremendously difficult when it comes to content marketing because the time to really see results is usually months. The result is often the right strategy failing at the tactical level because there’s simply no way to see that it’s failing early enough.


The value of tactical planning should be clear, but how can you use it in your content marketing?

Begin with larger content pieces

No doubt this is a confusing first step, but stick with me. Your first instinct may be to aim for more small content pieces so you can use them as tests to determine whether your content strategy is working. However that approach misses one crucial thing.


Large content doesn’t have to stay large.

Larger content + repurposing = greater ROI

Ultimately, what’s more effective on a tactical level than creating many pieces of small content is creating a large piece of content and then repurposing it.


You can find a deep dive on content repurposing here, but in short it’s about starting with a large piece of content like a webinar, podcast episode, video, etc. and then breaking it up into smaller pieces of content around specific themes, ideas, audiences, media types, social media platforms, etc. You can take one video and end up with a few blogs, short videos, memes, charts, quotes, etc. adding up to dozens of pieces of microcontent.


In other words, it offers the best of both worlds. That larger piece of content has a better chance of ranking on its own. But the smaller pieces of content that you create from it are where you can test and hone your tactics.


Let’s delve into what that looks like.

Tactical planning with microcontent

Let’s imagine an example to see what this looks like in practice. Let’s say you begin by creating some episodic content, your own YouTube show. You’ve identified that your audience is on YouTube and that there’s a nice gap where your show can fit well. Beyond YouTube as a platform, you’ve also concluded that video is an essential medium for you.


You create a 30 minute episode and post it to YouTube, now the tactical planning comes in. The next step is to break that video into smaller videos centered around specific topics or themes. You also need to create other smaller pieces of content based on that initial episode. The reason? You need to use each one as an experiment.

Run experiments

This is where the tactics really come in. Instead of creating all this content, publishing it wherever you can, and moving on to the next thing, you need to think about experiments. If you’re not responding to how well or poorly your content performs, your content marketing strategy will fail, period.


Here are some example hypotheses you could be testing with your content:

  • If I post two versions of a video, one 3 minutes long and one 8 minutes long, on YouTube, the longer one will perform better.
  • If I post these two statistics about my industry, the first will resonate more with my audience on Facebook. (How do those results break down by age or gender?)
  • This article based on my latest episode will get more engagement on Pinterest than Facebook. (What does that tell me based on the demographics of these platforms?)


Ideally the results of these experiments will not just allow you to further hone your tactics but will also tell you meaningful things about your audience. For many companies, that knowledge is actually far more valuable than more eyeballs. This is why a great content marketing strategy should be designed to both bring in those eyeballs and bring in that knowledge.

Ask for audience feedback

Most brands are always looking for ways to get their audiences to engage with them to build a more meaningful relationship. But ironically, what too often gets left out is the simple act of asking. Beyond watching the data come in on your microcontent experiments, you can and should simply ask your audience what they think, what they like, what they want to see more of, etc.


You can even get more granular by asking audiences which parts of your content they liked best (with timestamps!) This gives you yet another place to test tactics, improve your ROI, and simply get more from your content marketing.

The importance of round 2

Once you’ve posted your microcontent and gotten feedback it’s time for the most important step: the second round. If you read the example hypotheses above and thought “are you really going to learn that with confidence so quickly?” the honest answer was “probably not.” That’s why making adjustments based on your initial results and then publishing a second batch of microcontent based on that original content piece is a critical tactic.


True each of these additional steps requires more work, but in truth they all involve you squeezing more and more ROI out of the time and effort you put into that initial piece of content.

Use outside help to gain perspective

One of the hardest things about this entire process is getting perspective. All of those added steps may translate into more ROI, but it’s also a lot of important decisions to make even for seasoned content marketers. Fortunately, we’ve got years of experience helping businesses supercharge their content marketing with tactical planning, episodic content, and content repurposing. It’s a winning formula we believe in, so let’s talk about how we can make it work for your business.

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