Marketing small businesses used to be simple. Place ads in local papers or on television. Find a location that is convenient for you, get referrals and wait for business to come to your door.
This has all changed. Your clients are now active investigators because they have unlimited access to information on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and laptops. Clients do their own research and avoid ads to find the information that is most relevant to them. They are looking for information that helps them, whether it is client reviews, articles, or videos.
According to CEB’s widely-cited study, B2B buyers are now at 57% through their decision-making process, before even speaking with a company.
Attracting potential clients’ attention and then engaging them with your product or service is more important than simply telling them about it. It is important to educate potential clients on the things that are most important to them. You will earn their trust and that will help you win their business.
Content marketing is the answer. You can be a trusted source of information about pets and breeds if you are in the pet business. If you are a garden tool seller, become the expert on how to grow prize-winning hydrangeas.
You’re not in it to educate. The real goal is to grow your business. This goal is not possible without good content. Content must be developed in a well-executed plan.
This may all seem daunting, if not a major problem. When running your business requires everything, where are you going to find time and money for a content plan? It’s obvious that creating great content requires money and effort. As with any new initiative however, the more you know, the easier it will feel.
You can create amazing content for a fraction of the cost with a bit of effort and some outside help. This is your chance to share the things that you love and know with the world.
This chapter will discuss how marketing has changed. We’ll also show you how small business owners can create content that drives sales and advocates for your brand. According to Content Marketing Institute, 77% of small B2C businesses have a content strategy. However, only 40% have actually taken the time to write it down. You can get the best return on your investment by creating a written document that outlines the scope of your content and how much you will spend.
Five steps to creating a great content strategy
Step 1 – Identify your goals
This is a simple, but often overlooked step that is crucial to ensuring a content strategy stays on track. What do you want to accomplish with your content? Who are you trying to reach with your content? Are you looking to increase traffic to your site? Increase brand awareness Create sales leads? Offer clients ongoing support and information? These goals can be prioritised once you have identified them.
Step 2 – Consider what you need to cover and how to cover it!
Now that you have set your goals, how do you get there? How many pieces can you produce? What should a user do after consuming a piece?
Next comes the most important question: What topic will you write about? There is no single answer. It all depends on your business, your clients, and your creative instincts. You can begin by placing yourself in the shoes of your clients. What do they like (or loathe) most? What are their most frequent questions? What are their most pressing problems? No matter what topic you choose to cover, ensure that they are relevant to your business and address a client need.
There are many content types: ebooks and newsletters, stand-alone articles as well as webinars and white papers for B2B. It is better to use a handful of exceptional pieces that grab attention than the scattershot approach. Concentrate on one area and then build from there. Focus on quality and not quantity.
Step 3 – Set a budget
You can decide on a percentage of your advertising and marketing budget that you will spend on content. However, it is important to recognise that this may require cutting back on other marketing types. You can adjust your budget based on your results and needs, but a solid budget will ensure that your costs are in line with your strategy.
Consider these budget line items:
- Incorporating content into your website (design, development)
- Content creation (writers, photo rights, videographers)
- Paid search (PPC), and social media advertising
Step 4 – Take stock of available resources
Original content can be a distinguishing mark and set you apart from the rest of the competition, but it often takes a considerable amount of time and money to create. You can make sure that you get the most out of your investment by considering what information you might be able to curate from existing content. You may use your existing articles or even repurpose content from other sources, provided you have the appropriate permissions.
It is often best to look at what you have or could repurpose as a first step, and then use this to guide you on which content pieces need to be created originally.
Step 5 – Select a Content Team
Depending on your creativity and the type of content that you aim to produce, you and your team may be able to produce all or part of your original content. This should certainly be your first port of call because you know your field and business better than anyone, and outside talent can be expensive.
That being said, if you simply want to run the business, you may want to lean on freelance resources.
The digital economy has created a huge pool of talented freelancers that support small agencies who, amongst wider skills, specialise in content marketing. Although rates can vary depending on where you live and reliability and quality can be hit and miss, if you find a good freelancer, it can be a very cost-effective approach to producing high quality results that you will be proud to show off.
If freelancers are part of the plan, identify which staff members will be their primary point of contact and what revision-and-approval processes you need to put in place to ensure the content is in line with your brand, values, and goals.
Now it’s time for content creation. It’s now time to start thinking about how you can make your content shine, connect with your audience and convert leads into clients.
Before you launch and create your content, you should:
1. Follow a detailed plan
Before you start writing your first piece, create a three-month plan that will outline the topics and the content types you’ll be producing (articles, videos, etc.). You should also plan how often you will post content to your website/social media channels. While you can always adjust your plan to reflect engagement, an initial roadmap will ensure that you have everything covered.
2. Maximise distribution
Your website is the best place to put content. However, without distribution very few of your audience will see it. Good content programs reach prospects where they are most likely to be. Ask yourself these questions about your audience:
- What do they want to know?
- Where do they spend their time?
- Are there any industry leaders who might be open to sharing your articles? Or letting the world know about your upcoming webinar?
These questions are not easy to answer, but fear not! If you are struggling with these, the easiest thing to do is to send a brief survey to your audience to find out. This will allow you to connect with your prospects and be a great source of valuable information as you’re able to provide answers to their questions.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels are important delivery channels to new and existing customers, whereas targeted emails can deliver articles or newsletters to existing customers who are familiar with your brand and therefore more likely to read them.
3. Pay attention to the headlines
Your audience is bombarded with information overload every single day, so a strong headline is essential to attracting people to your content. Write short sentences that clearly and concisely communicate the information the reader will be learning. Be sure to keep your headline’s promise of useful information. They may not return if you don’t deliver. Make sure you include a call-to-action at the end of every piece of content, including links to your services or ways to get in touch with you.
4. Personalise your follow ups
Help convert potential clients who reach out to you based on the content they have read. Send them personalised emails. You should also note that subject lines that include the name of the person or company in their email have a 29% higher open rate. Emails with personalised content generate 41% more click rates and 6 times more email revenue.
Although writing each prospect individually can take up a lot of time, it doesn’t have to. Automated email follow-ups make this possible with the help of marketing automation CRMs. Email templates can be customised to send the right message to the right client or lead with a human touch, such as using the reader’s name, or any other information you have captured in your CRM.
Launching Your Content
It’s not easy to launch a content program that is successful. And it won’t happen overnight. As a small business owner, however, you are already well aware of the dedication and hard work that goes into making your business the best it can be. A solid plan and a willingness to achieve results are two of the greatest assets you have.
Great content can be a key feature of your business, and it can also help you convince clients to trust you as well as see you as a subject matter expert.