Here’s my take on strategic content marketing for small businesses and organizations.
The need to produce content in marketing has grown as today is more about being found—earning attention—and less about going out and hunting. If you’re interested in marketing your business effectively (and who isn’t at this point), you can’t escape hearing about content marketing. It’s everywhere you look, or listen.
Content Marketing is educating people (with free information) so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.
Now that it’s the “thing,” for all types of businesses, we have a tendency to overcomplicate it. This was also the case when websites became the “thing” as well as when email, and SEO and social media got trending. But I have one piece of advice that will serve you well as new technology and marketing trends capture our attention and share-of-mind:
People who make things more complex than they are either know less than they think, or are trying to sell you something.
Here’s the good news, you don’t have to try and figure it out on your own – I’ve cracked the code for a simple content marketing process.
Below is the strategic seven step process I use for content marketing. Perhaps it’ll help you see through the decoys and traps that is starting to creep into the content marketing process.
1. Commit to Goals Before Strategy
Now that content marketing is all the rage, far too many small businesses and organizations are creating content just to be able to check that box on their marketing tactics chart. To truly make content work, you need to understand your marketing and business goals. Your blog posts, seminars, workshops, email marketing, special reports, podcasts, advertising … all of it needs to fit into a larger picture.
Content can serve different purposes within a company, and the best content marketing programs define the role of content beforehand, not after the fact.
Here are 7 Content Marketing Goals Worth Pursuing
- To build trust and rapport with your customers
- To attract new prospects to your marketing system
- To explore prospect pain
- To develop new business ideas
- To overcome objections
- To attract strategic partners
- To deepen loyalty with existing customers
2. Do Your Research
What does your target audience want? What types of content would help you gain their trust to the extent that they recommend your products? It’s important to research:
- Buyer personas and their relevant segmentation
- Keywords that they likely use to research products in your category
- Your competitors’ search engine strategy (SEO) and results
- The use of social media marketing platforms by other companies in your industry
- Formats your target audience prefers
3. Determine Strategy Before Tactics
How do you intend to use content marketing to achieve your above business goals? For which audience is it intended? At what stage of the purchase funnel? What is the key question or need that this content fulfills? How do we know that this need exists (social listening, search engine keyword analysis, customer feedback, etc.).
For example, if one of your stated annual goals is to dramatically increase sales through referrals, you would produce content with referral motivation in mind. Or, if one of your stated goals for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing landing pages, events, and workshops that have email capture built into the content.
4. Develop Your Content Distribution
What form should this content take? In many cases there isn’t a right and wrong way to do content creation, just that the strategic way will be based on your ideal customer profile and their information consumption preferences.
This is my model, but many of these channels work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.
- Newsletter – We put out a monthly email newsletter. We add our blog posts and LinkedIn articles to each issue and highlight other businesses and resources.
- Blog posts – We write a weekly blog post. This gives us lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content, SEO, and social media standpoint, while also educating people so that they know, like, and trust us enough to do business with us.
- Guest posts – We currently submit guest posts to other media channels. Most businesses spin their wheels trying to increase traffic on their own websites, while overlooking the essential discipline of writing or recording guest posts for other publications. Nothing can grow your readership and influence quite like it.
- Podcast guests appearances – We show up as a guest for business podcasters. Here’s one of our recent interviews.
- Newsletter Pitches – We use our blog to promote articles to other media outlets. I’m spotlighted in this issue of the Greater Richmond Small Business Development Center. (right hand side)
- PR pitches – We receive invitations to write content for online and offline media outlets. Here’s one of our recent contributions. Business Unplugged Blog” by Carol Roth (#62), Inc.com – 7 Powerful Words of Advice for Entrepreneurs,
- Webinars – Since we are creating all this premier, topic specific content we host webinars to deliver the content in a new format. Harness the Power of Being More Referable to Ensure a Steady Flow of New Customers
- eBook – People really seem to love eBooks and they are an essential element in our email list building efforts. Grab your copy: 7 Components of a Successful Marketing Plan
5. Develop Editorial Themes
Develop a list of core topics and assign one to each month for the next 3-6 months.
Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a cd album. Each month might represent a single track in what will ultimately become a body of work by the end of the year.
Here’s an example:
- January – Referral marketing
- February – Guerilla offline marketing
- March – Content marketing
- April – Prospecting
- May – Advertising
- June – Website traffic
6. Market Content to be Found Instead of Hunting
You must market your marketing. The notion that you can simply create interesting content and people will magically find it is a lie. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You have to treat your content executions like a product, and launch them the same way you would a product.
- Permission list. Push your content out to your email list. These people have given you their permission and want to be marketed to.
- Likes and followings. Push the content out to social accounts. These people want to have more interactions with you or your company.
- Interest groups. Build a list of the top 5 Facebook and LinkedIn groups related to your industry that have over 1,000 followers, and another list for smaller groups. Then update each group with each new blog post.
- Keywords. Use keywords in your status updates.
- Tell them what to do. Tailor a call to action to direct readers back to your stage, a place for comments and where you can best sell your ideas, services or products.
What gets measured gets managed. ~ Peter Drucker”
You can actually double or triple your profits by measuring the results of your content marketing. Some marketing tactics hit your target right in the middle. Others miss it completely. Unless you measure, you won’t know which are which.
You must track your marketing to ensure that it yields awareness, trust, sales or profits.