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3 Steps to Create a Powerful Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

3 Steps to Create a Powerful Small Business Content Marketing Strategy
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The small business is the underdog when it comes to marketing initiatives. They don’t have behemoth budgets, crack teams of marketing specialists, or even the firsthand experience that comes with being an established enterprise.

Fortunately, the internet has leveled the playing field a bit. Content marketing strategies can be a great equalizer for small businesses looking to become thought leaders or drive traffic to their site. So how does a small business create a content marketing strategy?

1. It Starts With Research

The first step in any small business (or large business, for that matter) content strategy is to do your research. All of your groundwork starts here, and, like the foundation of a house, your entire content strategy will be built upon it. Content strategies that utilize the wrong information, or that constructed with a lack of it, will suffer the same fate as a structure built upon a poor foundation – so make sure that you’re not skimping in this area.

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The first thing you’ll want to research is who your audience is. One of the best, and simplest tidbits of information comes from the Content Marketing Institute: “if your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody.” It makes sense. If you’re marketing automotive products, you don’t need to be writing content for people who are interested in buying a toothbrush, right? Ask yourself, “what problem does my product/service solve?” and “who are the people most likely to need this solution?” If you have any existing customer demographic data, pull that up and apply it as well, segmenting customer profiles if necessary. Once you have an idea of who your content is aimed at, you’ll have a better idea of how that content should be centered.

Another way to get a bearing on the direction of your content strategy would be to research your competitors. Take a look at what they’re doing, as well as who they’re marketing to, and make note of what seems to be going well for them, as well as areas you might see them lacking in. Your content needs to be just as good as, if not better than, your competition’s. This will help you define what customers will gain from choosing your brand over a competitor’s brand – and if there isn’t anything that makes you better, you need to be focusing on bettering your product before you market it. The CoSchedule Blog sums up four questions that you should have answered before you embark on your content journey:

  • Why does your content deserve to exist?
  • Who is going to read it?
  • What is your competition doing (and how can you do it better)?
  • Why should your audience choose your brand and your content over your competitor’s?

Once you’ve figured out who your target audience is, CoSchedule also recommends creating a target audience definition based on your product/service, your audience’s main demographic, and your content’s mission. The simple example they give looks like this:

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“[INSERT YOUR BRAND] creates content to help and inform [INSERT DEMOGRAPHIC] so they can [INSERT ACTION] better.”

2. Set Goals and Draft Your Project

Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll want to set goals for your campaign. Small businesses need to be realistic about what they can and cannot do based on the resources that they have and work within those parameters. This includes your content strategy’s overall objective, the timeframe in which you’ll complete your action items, how much time, money, and resources you’re willing to invest in the strategy, and how much room you have for flexibility once the strategy gets going.

Beginning with objectives, you need to have a clear, defined reason that you’re engaging in a content marketing strategy. Without a goal, how can you know what you’re aiming for? Duct Tape Marketing advises that there are essentially two categories pertaining to content marketing objectives:

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  1. Brand Engagement, which includes
    1. Improving brand reception
    2. Becoming a thought leader
    3. Increasing brand loyalty
    4. Creating passionate brand advocates
  1. Demand Generation, which includes
    1. Improving SEO and website traffic
    2. Generating leads
    3. Nurturing leads
    4. Increasing sales and revenue

Again, know your limitations – you don’t want to start a content strategy that focuses on too many of these objectives at one time, or else you’ll be spread too thin and won’t accomplish anything. This ties directly into your timeframe initiatives as well; ask yourself, when do these goals need to be accomplished by? Content strategies take time to develop, and they take time before you’ll start seeing any return. Of course, the more time and money you invest, the more able you’ll be to push for quicker turnaround.

While everybody and their grandmother wants results Johnny-on-the-spot, the reality is that fine wine takes time. After development, you’re going to want to continue pursuing your strategy in multiple phases. At first, it may be in your best interest to start out slow and methodical, recording success and allowing yourself freedom in the later stages to pivot if an opportunity presents itself, or to switch tactics if you notice that one is failing. Allowing yourself this flexibility is important, as content and responses to it can develop in a natural fashion that demands a response by your campaign.

3. Developing Content, Finally

When you’re writing content, you want to focus on the marketing funnel. You’re going to be writing the most posts for people who are at the top of that funnel, people who will either take the information from your writing and move on, or who will say “hey, that was interesting and helpful – I want to know more about this topic.”

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These are the people you want to capture. From there they may research their issue further, diving deeper into your website and exploring posts that cover the topic in greater detail. No matter what market you’re in, you want to make sure that these “top-of-the-funnel” posts are accessible to a wide audience, and not too heady. In an article with Huffington post, Philadelphia-based lawyer Joel J. Kofsky gives this advice: “The best legal content marketing speaks to an educated audience without drowning in complex legalese that only alienates the reader… For example, I don’t try to explain the intricacies of personal injury law in a 350-word blog post: I focus on the one or two concerns most pressing to the audience and build from there.”

At the same time, you don’t want to dumb down a post to the point that it’s void of any meaning. One cardinal sin of content marketing is developing and publishing what is called “fluff content,” or pieces that are written for the sake of being written but that don’t actually provide much value to the reader. Avoid this pitfall like the plague–if you’re trying to build an SEO presence with blog content, you may actually be doing yourself a disservice with this style of strategy. Google (GOOG) has done very well as a company by regulating spam and spammy content, and they’ll ding you if they catch you perpetuating these practices. After you’ve written your content, you’re ready to deploy.

After you begin your content strategy, remember to leave wiggle room for agile changes to your strategy. This was mentioned above, but it’s worth mentioning a second time. Rarely do things work out the first time, and the mark of a successful person isn’t measured by how often they avoid making mistakes, but rather how well they adapt to those mistakes, as well as how they can turn those mistakes into situations that can be capitalized on. Remember: keep your head up, keep at it, and focus on getting it right. You’ll find yourself with a successful content strategy in no time at all.

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Featured photo credit: raleighenterprises.com via raleighenterprisescom.files.wordpress.com

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Andrew Heikkila

Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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