Plenty of entrepreneurs have significant misconceptions about content marketing for small businesses. This form of outreach and promotion can have a high return on investment, but its potential is often overlooked.
Content marketing is a strategy that demands business owners and brands produce online materials (such as blogs, videos, and social media posts) for free as a way to establish expertise and strengthen relationships with customers.
Content Marketing Tips for Small Business Growth
Content marketing is a much more involved process today. From search engine optimization to creating infographics and videos, there's a lot that goes into a single campaign. While your small business may not have the means to generate a large amount of content at scale, there are many ways you can create a content marketing strategy to leads to growth.
1. Identify Your Target Audience
Before you can start creating lists of small business content ideas, you first need a very clear understanding of who you are interested in reaching. This is known as a target audience or audience profiling and segmentation. Business owners who don’t have in-depth knowledge about their future customers can rarely meet their needs.
Commonly, small business owners want to reach “everyone” with their marketing, but that strategy falls flat. The reality is that 20-year-olds and 80-year-olds require very different messaging, just as those with college degrees may have different interests and needs from those who never graduated high school. Whom exactly do you imagine buying your products and services?
Along with age and education, determine the ideal audience persona based on:
- Income level
- Marital status
- Geographic location
- Social media preferences
The more focused your target audience, the easier it is to develop brand guidelines to share the specific tone and topics in the most appropriate medium. For example, if your ideal client was a single mother in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who loved exercise and wine coolers, you can have a better idea of what kinds of items she would be searching for on the internet. Then, your small business content ideas could meet her needs.
2. Find the Best Type of Content for Your Business
Creating high-quality content requires a significant amount of research and understanding the search intent of your reader. Don't just create pieces of content based on what's available, but on what you think your audience will respond to the most. Examples of different types of content you can create include:
- Video content
- Blog posts
- User-generated content
- Social media posts
- Email marketing
When creating original content for your audience, determine what you think is the best messaging for them. Your audience may prefer videos or blog posts or even podcasts. Take advantage of user-generated content and find out what your audience is saying or share social media posts to quickly reach your followers. Experiment with different content distribution channels to find what works best for your brand.
3. Research Ways To Connect
Content marketing can feel overwhelming, especially because there are so many different ways to communicate in today’s online world. Don’t make the mistake of spreading yourself too thin by trying to have a strong presence on every platform. Instead, pick one or two types of content to begin.
If you’re not sure which of the many social media platforms to use, for example, ask your loyal customers. If you’ve already begun to gather email addresses and send regular emails, you can simply send a short survey asking about their online habits. Otherwise, look back to what you’ve already brainstormed about your target audience to deduce their most-frequented platforms.
Some industries naturally gravitate to some platforms over others. For example, law firms benefit from publishing educational blogs because their target audience is often looking to better understand legal proceedings. Retail clothing stores, meanwhile, may find greater success through image-focused channels like YouTube videos or Instagram stories.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to content for online business connections. You may find that you attempt one angle, only to discover a different strategy works better with time.
4. Create Goals for the Campaign
The only way to know if a campaign based on content marketing for small businesses is successful is to define success. Otherwise, you may find yourself wasting time. Perhaps it is sufficient for you to just gain awareness, or maybe you’re interested in building your email list. If you’re like most business owners, you want more sales conversions.
Marketing goals are like all goals, in that they should be SMART:
That said, limit the scope of a content marketing plan to a year or even a quarter. Since this process is based on organic traffic, it can sometimes take a while before you notice results. Still, make targeted campaigns within specific time frames so you can make changes as you learn.
Be realistic, too. The best content marketing strategies are part of a comprehensive outreach plan that includes digital advertisements, signage, and other creative methods for connecting with your targeted clientele.
5. Determine Ways To Measure Success
The best marketing professionals come with an arsenal of data, and you can too. The only way you’ll know if you are reaching your goals is if you can determine ways to measure the impact. Some key performance indicators, or KPIs, can be:
- Rate of increase in organic website traffic, measured by Google Analytics
- Ranking of targeted keywords in blogs
- Number of new email addresses collected through a sales funnel on your website
- Views and comments on videos
- Increase in the number of followers on social media platforms
Let’s say your content marketing goals are to increase local sales conversion, and you’ve researched the keywords people in your community are searching for. Think the process through: You can offer a free blog answering common questions with a call to action at the end of the blog to learn more by clicking on a landing page on your website. Then, you can see how many visitors go to that page, and measure your success.
6. Brainstorm Content Marketing Topics
It’s a common story: an entrepreneur initiates a strategy, even going so far as to hire a content creator for small business development. They come up with a few topics that they think potential customers would be interested in. They publish with some success. Then, organic traffic starts to grow, and everyone gets busy. Content marketing, then, goes on the back burner.
This is akin to deciding to stop taking that heart medication just because you’re feeling well. You must be consistent in your publishing schedule, especially when you are starting to see success. To do this, you must make time before publishing even the first blog, video, or social media post to brainstorm topics. Do it before you get busy.
When coming up with topics, always keep your customers at the front of your mind. What kinds of questions are you regularly asked? What do you always wish they would know before working with you? The value of your content grows when you can address specific questions and problems of your target audience. That’s how you gain loyalty and position yourself as an expert in your industry.
7. Make a Realistic Schedule
If you’re not working with a content creation agency, you may discover that consistent publishing can be a challenge. There’s only so much time in the week!
If you want to see results from your content, you need to be realistic about what you can produce. Be honest about your bandwidth: It’s better to publish a piece of content once a month — every month — compared to launching three blogs in three weeks and then going silent for two months.
One way to ensure that your content marketing plan is realistic is to schedule the work on a written timeline. Let’s say your goal is to publish regular blogs. The schedule can be a simple spreadsheet, with columns for:
- Blog topic
- Targeted keywords
- Writer name
- First draft due date
- Editor name
- Editing due date
- Publication platform
- Photos or other visuals
- Publication date
Share this schedule with everyone on your team and get their input. This type of planning should dovetail with other elements of your marketing plan so that you don’t inadvertently compete with yourself. For example, let’s say you’re planning a big holiday sales push with a local Google ads campaign. Make sure your blog complements the sales campaign, perhaps with links to great gift ideas on your website.
8. Delegate Tasks and Deadlines
So many small business owners make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves. If you enjoy certain tasks, then, of course — you’re the boss! But if you find yourself struggling to make time to write a blog post, create videos, or update your business social media accounts, there’s one word for you: Delegate!
Marketing plans are most successful when you’ve got a team involved, so inventory your resources. If your budget is low, you may have a family member who enjoys editing, or perhaps a friend who is willing to work for trade. Outsourcing the work to professional writers, of course, can make the entire process even easier.
When gathering your content marketing team, be clear and proactive in your communication. Having a written plan outlining the next three to six months, at least, will greatly help get everyone on the same page. Make sure everyone has had a chance to provide feedback on the overall plan and agrees to their scope of work before the campaign begins.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Plan the work, then work the plan.” Make it your content marketing mantra.
9. Post Content Regularly
Oh, you thought all that brainstorming, researching, and planning was the hard part? It can be. But if you don’t actually publish your content, it will all be for nothing. This is where the rubber meets the road. You must adhere to your publication schedule and post regularly for content marketing for small businesses to work.
If not you, make sure someone is responsible for following the deadlines created in your content marketing calendar. Set alarms on your online calendar as reminders to hit the publish button.
When you launch your blog, video, or other content, make sure you share it on all your social media accounts. Be sure not to simply cut and paste. Your followers on Facebook are likely different from the people on your email list and those who found you on LinkedIn. Always remember your audience with all outreach efforts, and you’ll find greater success in strengthening those relationships.
10. Track Your Growth
Since this work is organic, meaning you aren’t paying-per-click as with other marketing campaigns, it can take some time for your potential customers to search for, find, and appreciate your content. Be patient — but also keep track of your content marketing efforts.
At least once a month, schedule time to analyze your metrics. Ask for feedback from your current customers and gauge your competition. Look for other business content examples to see how you can refine your content strategy.
11. Stay Dynamic with Your Content Strategy
Comprehensive marketing plans, including those focused on content marketing for small businesses, are not set in stone. Just because you’ve created a document and a well-researched strategy doesn’t mean that you won’t learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Feel free to change course if your data and results demand it.
Content Marketing for Small Businesses: Efforts Pay Off
Content marketing plans require some faith because you don’t have the guarantee of success as you would with a paid digital marketing campaign. But if done correctly, you can have long-lasting results that meet and even exceed your goals.
To start the process, start researching your competition. Imagine you are one of your customers and ask common questions. Log on and notice the keywords you enter in the search engine’s text bar at the top of the screen. See how other businesses address this need. What kinds of content do you appreciate most? If you’ve found yourself interested in a video, infographic, or blog post, take note of the content’s structure.
Once you get an idea of what kind of content you appreciate, then it’s time to start following these tips, crafting your plan, and, hopefully, enjoying the growth of your business.