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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

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.

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 September 18, 2018

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

1. Show your appreciation

In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

2. Communicate effectively

Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

3. Be open to dialogue

Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

4. Provide constructive criticism

Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

5. Conduct one-on-ones

Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

6. Build training programs

In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

7. Offer growth opportunities

Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

8. Reward them

Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

9. Encourage team outings

Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

10. Involve them

Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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11. Set meaningful goals

In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

12. Empower them

You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

13. Deal with conflict

A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

14. Implement a flexible work culture

Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

15. Host engaging activities

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

16. Maintain a positive work space

Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

17. Avoid discrimination

Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

The bottom line

Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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