Every small business needs a content marketing plan to help grow their brand online. This starter plan will help you begin to develop your strategy by covering your goals, target audience, content creation, and how and where to distribute.
If you’re marketing online, you’re probably already doing some small-business content marketing whether or not you realize it. Social posts, blogs, newsletters, YouTube videos, e-books — these are all examples of content created for the purpose of promoting your company.
Most smaller companies create content on a sporadic schedule, trying to fit it in whenever they have time. To get real value from your content, you need a content creation plan, an organized workflow, and a way to measure success.
Why Are You Creating Content?
It’s not good enough to create content just because everyone else is doing it. You need a clear idea of what content marketing will accomplish for your company.
Businesses use content marketing to accomplish many goals, but these are some of the most common:
- Brand awareness. If your goal is to build buzz around your business and attract new customers, create content that explains your brand and what you offer.
- Provide value. Some businesses use content to add value to their existing services. For example, an auto repair shop might publish information about maintenance schedules or simple repairs.
- Earn links and search engine traffic – Companies that blog earn a lot more links and traffic from Google.
- Acquire leads. Capture contact information from people interested in your business.
- Nurture leads. Content shared through email marketing can help you build trust and transform leads into customers.
- Build community. Bring existing customers together around your business by building a thriving, enthusiastic community.
- Sell something. Create content around an existing promotion, new product rollout, or sales opportunity.
Craft content with a chosen audience in mind, and narrow down your audience into clearly defined segments. Instead of saying, “We want to reach new customers,” think about the kinds of customers you want to attract:
- B2B or B2C. Do you sell to other businesses or to consumers?
- Where do your customers reside? How old are they? What’s their gender? Are you marketing to working professionals or families with children?
- What lifestyles do your customers lead? What’s important to them? How do they want to see themselves?
You might think of several potential audiences for your content, but choose just one for your first content marketing initiative. Once you get good at communicating with one audience, you can expand your efforts.
What Content Should You Create?
Once you’ve established goals and a target audience, decide which types of content would be most effective for your target audience. Also, think about the types of content that best showcase your business. A bakery might invest in high-quality photographs of goods for content marketing, but an energy company might write blog posts or make videos about HVAC equipment maintenance.
Grab topic ideas from a wide range of locations:
- Customer interactions. Customer FAQs, feedback, or social media conversations can inspire you to create new content.
- Keyword analysis. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great way to get topic ideas that will also align search engine optimization goals. Simply start by entering one keyword phrase to find up to 800 relevant keyword ideas related to it.
- Competitor analysis. Avoid copying your competitors’ content, but check out what they’re doing and how it performs. You might discover something you could do differently or better than how they’re doing it.
Sometimes, you’ll feel creatively inspired by certain types of content. You have many options, including:
- Blog posts published on your business blog
- Guest blog posts for other online publications
- SlideShare decks
- Memes or GIFs
- White papers
- Downloadable workbooks or templates
- Buying guides
It’s inexpensive to publish a blog post on your existing website or on a free platform, like WordPress, Blogger, or Medium. It costs more to produce videos or hire a graphic designer for an infographic. Make sure you set aside the appropriate budget for the quality of content you want to produce. A cheap, poorly lit video with terrible sound quality won’t reflect well on your company.
Who Plays Which Role in Creating and Distributing?
Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger, says every content creation operation needs three distinct roles: creator, director, and producer.
- Creators write, photograph, record, code, and design content for your audience.
- Your directors edit content, keep creators on task, and manage your content production schedule.
- The producer sets the budget, establishes goals, and decides how to distribute content.
If you see yourself as a director, outsource the production and creator roles to a marketing agency, while you manage the calendar and publication schedule. Trying to fulfill every role yourself becomes exhausting and time-consuming, and most people are better at some roles than others.
To manage content production, you can use project management tools like Trello or Basecamp, editorial calendars like CoSchedule, or simply use Outlook or Google Calendar as long as you have visibility on:
- See who’s assigned to which projects and how they’re progressing. Make sure you can easily re-assign projects without a lot of copying, pasting, and rearranging.
- Due dates at different stages. For an infographic, you might ask a writer for a concept and text, and you’ll set a due date for the first draft. Then, you hand your content to a graphic designer, and you might set due dates for different drafts of the design.
- Publication dates. Know where you’re publishing, when you’re publishing, and how you’re promoting your content.
How and When Will You Deliver It?
Once you create content, you need to deliver it to your audience. You might publish it, add it to a marketing email, post it on social media, or share it on your YouTube channel. In addition to choosing a publishing site, promote content on all available marketing channels, including within your brick-and-mortar store (if you have one).
Additionally, think carefully about when and how often to share your content. Study your social networks to see which times of day get the most engagement from your audience. Release a video to accompany a new product rollout, and then create a series of follow-up blog posts. Piggyback on events, like new releases or holiday sales, to get the most mileage from your content.
How Will You Know It Worked?
Go back to your goals, and ask yourself how you’ll know whether or not you’ve reached them. Here are some metrics you can use while using analytics:
- Social media shares and impressions
- Increase in site visits or video views
- Downloads and clicks on links
- Time customers spent on your pages
- Email opens and clicks
- New subscriptions to your YouTube channel
- Sales directly connected to content
- Increase in numbers of new and returning customers
You might have to create content for a while until you find a successful formula — and that’s completely normal. Be patient and keep trying until you discover what works.