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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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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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  • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
  • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
  • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

For Changing a Job

  1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
  2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
  3. Get a raise.
  4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
  5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
  7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
  8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
  9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
  10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

For Switching Career Path

  1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
  2. Find a mentor.
  3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
  4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
  5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
  6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
  7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
  8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
  9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
  10. Create a financial plan.

For Getting a Promotion

  1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
  2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
  3. Become a mentor.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
  5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
  6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
  7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
  8. Become a better communicator.
  9. Find new ways to be a team player.
  10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

For Acing a Job Interview

  1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
  2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
  3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
  4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
  5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
  6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
  7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
  8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
  9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
  10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

Career Goal Setting FAQs

I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

4. Can I have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

Summary

You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
  • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
  • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
  • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

More Tips About Setting Work Goals

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

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