Congrats! You just completed the first year of a content marketing program. You no doubt spent most of 2016 chasing people and deadlines in your roles as project manager, editor, and publisher (on top of your regular job duties) but hopefully, in the end, you experienced some real value:
• Increased engagement and followers on social media
• More valuable and timely conversations with prospects
• Better rankings in organic search results
• A deeper understanding of your company’s position in its industry

The content development cycle does not have to be as hectic in 2017 as it was in 2016. Take a breather in your second year by continuing what worked for your coworkers and audiences in the first year and discontinuing what didn’t. Following are five areas of your program to focus on first.

Think about the snags you faced last year. One expert always hard to get a hold of? A technical topic requiring more research or rounds of review than expected? This is the time to plan ahead and either change a protocol to get the results you need, or build in parallel tracks to work ahead on some articles.

Review the past year of published articles and their click rates. Make a list of the articles that were most popular with your audiences, the ones that were the most fun to produce, and the ones most timely for your industry. These topics should all be covered again next year in a new way since you already know they will be a hit.

All of your favorite magazines and talk shows have regularly occurring segments that audiences look forward to. They are a catch-all for facts, opinions, history, comic relief, and more. Departments are a great way to simplify your content planning process if you know you can tap your library and team of experts to easily fill the slot.

Review your company’s 2017 business goals to align them with your efforts. One main purpose of content is to walk prospects through the first few steps of the buying process. It’s where a company can bring a problem to a prospect’s attention, share tips on how to solve it, and position the company as the best partner to help prospects solve it. If your company is trying to break into new markets in 2017, there should be content to support it.

We all can put so much effort into getting content approved and out the door every month that we short-change the promotional side of it. The only way content can influence the buying process is if it is shared in multiple ways and customized for each audience. Grade yourself on how well your team promoted the content you produced. Then, identify easy ways that your marketing team, sales team, and executive team can expand your content’s reach.

Your No. 1 focus in year two should be to nurture the momentum you established in year one. The best way to do this is to have a systematic, predictable process as a foundation. Then layer new, more risky ideas on top to test how you can blow 2016 results out of the water.