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.
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:
“[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:
- Brand Engagement, which includes
- Improving brand reception
- Becoming a thought leader
- Increasing brand loyalty
- Creating passionate brand advocates
- Demand Generation, which includes
- Improving SEO and website traffic
- Generating leads
- Nurturing leads
- 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.”
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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