Last month in the Digital Dining Room, the group’s mission was to identify their main business goal for the final quarter of the year and then to develop a content strategy to support it.

Here’s how we got them there:

Step One: Brainstorm ideas using a mindmap. Start with a topic in the center that relates to — and would help develop conversations around —  your #1 business goal.

Ask yourself the question:

What does my potential customer want to know about this topic? What kind of answers might they be searching for online?

From there, come up with at least five different sub-topics, and drill down even further to find three or four smaller ideas for each of those. An example of how this might look if your #1 goal for the next three months were to get new travel-related copy writing clients (and you hadn’t yet developed any content around this): sample-mind-map-content-str

NOTE: The mindmap is a great tool for brainstorming because it allows you to capture ideas without being too linear. Especially if you can put this up on a wall (whiteboard or easel pad) where you can see it for a few days and work on it as inspiration hits.

Give this process a couple of days. Try not to do this all in one sitting.

Once you have a bevy of ideas, the next step is to take an inventory of currently existing content. Have you already written a blog post that addresses one of your topic ideas? If so, now would be the perfect time to repurpose that into a slideshow or perhaps an audio file. Whenever possible, use what you’ve already created!

Step Two: Develop a schedule of content (blog posts, guest posts, pod casts, social media updates, etc.) for the coming three months. A schedule based on your unique ability to implement.

Use a calendar system to help keep you on track. I’ve got a social media conversation calendar template that you might find helpful for this. (You can grab a copy of it on this page.)

Whatever system you use, be sure to customize it using whatever channels you already use. This is your calendar. Own it. Also, stretch yourself a little with regard to the amount of content you put out. But not so much that you create unrealistic expectations you can never meet.

Currently not blogging at all? Then trying to blog once a week will probably make you a little crazy. But if you’re already publishing weekly, then bumping that up to twice a week might actually be doable. The point is to create a schedule that you can commit to.

One of our members, Evelyn Kalinosky, did such a fabulous job with this assignment, I’d like to share part of her work with you.

Her #1 business goal for the 4th quarter: to create, launch and sell a new workbook/audio program: [R]evolution: A Soulful & Practical Guide to Creating the Life You Want. She’ll have an introductory price that lasts thru the end of the year, and then increase the pricing in the spring. Her goal is to sell 50 of them before year end. She’ll also be expanding this product into a workshop that will run in 2014.Her #2 goal is to bring on four new 3-6 month coaching retainer clients by the end of the year. Currently, she has only 2 spots open, so she’s halfway to that goal.To support her goals and promote her launch, she’s developed a list of “conversations” she’ll have via her content. Each month has a conversation theme, with each week focusing on a particular aspect of that theme.For October, her theme is: Things Women Tolerate or FearFor November: Gratitude and Savoring LifeFor December: Self-Care During the first week of October, Evelyn will attempt to initiate conversations on Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and via her eZine. She’ll also be guest blogging, blogging and doing audio via an Internet radio show and her own interview series. (Whew! That’s a LOT of stuff, right?) Here’s just one week’s worth of her schedule (click the image to see a larger version): 9-30-2013 12-40-18 PM Keep in mind, this strategy is appropriate for Evelyn because she’s past the true Noob stage (e.g., she’s making her bills each month and has time to market this way). If she were a newbie, I’d recommend that she not try to blog each day of the week, but shoot instead for once a week or even twice per month. And to spend her time instead on having actual sales conversations. But then she also wouldn’t be trying to launch a new product. She’d be focused instead on getting regular coaching clients. Because she IS launching a new product, each of her calls to action at the end of her blog posts (and elsewhere) offer readers the chance to get notified when her product becomes available. To see that in action, take a look at this blog post on her site.

As you can see, she’s put together a solid plan for the next three months. That doesn’t mean there isn’t wiggle room if something happens in her life (or in the world) that inspires her to start other conversations. She can totally do that.

And she can (and should) adjust this plan if she feels the circumstances warrant a change. But at least now, she’s got a good outline that she can use to measure her efforts. YES, MEASURE. (All caps were totally required there.)

Planning (as I’ve pointed out previously) is a way to organize our thoughts and make our ideas more concrete so we can track what works and what doesn’t. We want to count the number of leads this content generates (and from there, how many sales).

And we want a venue to see if our experiments work — where they work best — or if they need to be tweaked. And that’s what planning and strategy are all about.

How about you? Are you creating content strategies to support your business goals? Do you have questions about what I’ve shared here? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below.