Ignoring the customer journey, even part time, is the equivalent of throwing money away. According to a 2014 McKinsey & Co. study, maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent. The next time you’re arguing about marketing’s contribution to revenue, keep these numbers in mind.

marketing content calendarThat makes it vital that you put real effort into the creation of your marketing editorial calendar. While most organizations have this document, in the past it’s often been treated as a somewhat strategic document that’s tactical in its usage. If the calendar extends for a year, you may find that, in months 10, 11 and 12 the calendar has become purely advisory, or perhaps it’s entirely ignored. Or a company event draws resources away from content, and so a month or two of the calendar slips and is never made up. This is common – and it’s a bad practice.

But creating an editorial calendar can be a daunting experience, especially when you’re being asked to create something that will remain relevant over three or four quarters. Too often, the content marketing person (or whoever is given authority over content, regardless of title) tries to create a calendar single-handedly. That’s dangerous – it assumes that one person has a view of content that understands and considers all objectives, needs and goals within the organization. It’s an impossible expectation.

Creating the content calendar is really a team effort. If you’re tasked with its creation, make sure you’re getting appropriate input on the content and timing of the calendar from other team members – not so they can bend it to suit their needs, but so you can shape it to fit reality.

Who should you consult in your calendar creation efforts?

Demand Generation: The demand gen team is probably already clamoring for more content to use for nurturing, educating and qualifying customers via lead scoring. Get them involved and ask what major themes their upcoming campaigns are going to explore. Often, you already have content that can fit those themes. Use this content and supplement it with new material that’s created with their campaigns in mind. Don’t forget to ask demand gen about who they’re trying to reach – the personas you’re using must be the same ones they’re using.

Sales Input: Most sales teams never hear a peep from marketing about content – they may make frantic requests for content themselves when they need a specific item to close a deal, but they are often ignored as content strategy is being created. Sales thinks tactically about content, which you can use to your benefit. Include some smart members of your sales team in the content calendar process – ask them what content could have helped them sell better in the recent past. Sometimes, the responses can reveal blind spots you might have otherwise missed.

Customer Suggestions: If you want to go to the next level, ask to include a content question on win/loss surveys – ask this question: “What one piece of content that you did not receive from us could have made your buying decision easier?” Again, this is a way of exposing blind spots by inviting a new set of perspectives into your planning. Are the responses pointing at vertical markets? Are they homing in on one aspect of your products in particular? Are they geared toward the middle or bottom of the funnel? While insight into specific items of content is useful, trend information is even more informative.

Customer Journey Mapping: Mapping your content and drawing the lines between content pieces is a good, visual way to see what’s missing – and what should be on your content calendar. We wrote about this idea last week: you need bridges between items of content to provide buyers with places to go on their journeys, which they discover on their own. A disjointed set of content takes them only so far, at which point the prospect may be forced to look elsewhere – perhaps at a competitor’s content in the closing stages of the buying process. Understand possible options, make good suggestions in your links – and if you have inadvertently built roadblocks in your customer journeys, replace them with bridges.

Your Own Understanding of Prospect Needs: After all this, marketers’ insights do in fact play a role. As new factors influence customer decisions, and as technology and customer behaviors evolve, it’s the marketer’s job to adjust what’s on the calendar to hit the target where it will be in three, six or nine months, not where it is today. The suggestions sales make may be great for today, but the campaign emphasis on the subjects of those suggestions may not be a priority for demand gen for another five months. This is where the marketer needs to apply judgement, diplomacy and flexibility of thought to get both the content and the timing right.

Your goal in creating a calendar should be a document that reflects not just what your company is trying to sell over the near term but the priorities of your customers as evaluated through multiple viewpoints – marketers, sales people, and the customers themselves.

Want to learn more about collaborating with sales to improve your lead quality? Read or report “Why Sales is Vital to Your Lead Scoring – And Vice Versa