Strategic content works especially well for small vs. large business marketing teams. It helps build both brand awareness and an active, loyal audience of users. That audience already has a certain level of interest in your offer so it’s a much simpler process to sell to them, and turn them into repeat buyers.
Yet, small businesses still struggle with how to implement and optimize content marketing consistently in a tailored, strategic way that actually leads to more leads, more closed sales, and higher revenue. In this post, we break down the top 9 content marketing tips that can help you write better content and get better results from it.
1. Take a broader view of what content marketing is
What kind of content are we referring to in small business content marketing? Variety is the spice of life as well as the secret ingredient for great content marketing. With the expansion of web-based technologies in recent years, we’re increasingly seeing compelling, well-crafted content in many formats beyond just blog posts.
Content formats to experiment with include:
- Interactive content
- Social media content (including graphics, Tweets, Facebook status updates, and posts)
- Podcasts and other audio content
- Ebooks and white papers
Visual content is often more memorable than pure text. To keep your content fresh and top of mind for your audience, go beyond blog posts. Explore infographics, images with layover text, and short videos. You can also get started with a brand podcast with a relatively small initial investment.
2. Manage your content creation process better
No matter how big or small your content marketing plan is, your company will face challenges along the way. Staying aware of potential traps the way helps your small business maximize your chances of success. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- Do you have adequate resources? At a minimum, that means time, energy, money (if you’re outsourcing any part of your content marketing tasks), and expertise in the creation process (if you’re handling any part of those tasks in-house). It’s especially crucial to make sure you’re giving your content marketing program sufficient time to show results. It often takes a lot of time and skill to create enough of the kind of content your brand needs.
- Can you cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace? You’re competing with lots of brands for your targeted audience’s valuable and limited time and attention. That means you need top-quality content that’s aimed at the sweet spot between what you do and what your targeted users want. You also need a strong and consistent plan to promote that content so it gets in front of them when they’re receptive to it.
- Do your stakeholders have realistic expectations? It can be challenging to manage the expectations of company leaders, especially those who aren’t directly involved in your marketing efforts. Content marketing works, but it doesn’t produce results overnight. It takes time to increase brand awareness and build a loyal audience. Make sure everyone understands that and knows what to expect.
- Do you have a strategic plan? A strategic plan that covers both the immediate future, the next six to twelve months, and the next one to five years, all crafted to help your team make progress towards the company’s business goals, is invaluable. Use that plan to craft your editorial calendar and tightly align your content with your audience’s needs and wants.
3. Address each step in your buyer’s journey
Take the time to audit your brand’s existing content. Know the kinds of content you have, the topics you cover, and the calls to action (CTAs) that you use. You don’t need to extensively inventory social media content, especially if you have accounts that have been active for a long time, but you should review the metrics associated with those accounts to identify top-performing shares and how engaged your social media audience is.
Look carefully at where your content maps onto your company’s customer journey and sales funnel. The point here is to identify gaps where existing content can be revised and repurposed, or where new content can be created from scratch, to fill in those gaps. Ideally, your content moves each member of your target audience from the very top of the funnel all the way through to a closed sale — and on to future repeat business.
4. Focus on results with measurable metrics
To achieve a positive ROI on content marketing for your business, you must focus on the actual, measurable results. That means putting into place the mechanisms necessary to measure and track the relevant metrics from your content marketing efforts over time. It also means making a habit of monitoring those metrics consistently to see what’s working, what’s ineffective, and how best to adjust your efforts and optimize them for better results.
Remember: What gets measured, gets improved.
5. Broaden the reach of your own website
Tools and platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (among many, many others) are indisputably valuable for small business content marketing teams. Third-party sites support, host, and share your content. At the same time, many small businesses use sites like Etsy and Amazon as direct sales platforms.
So what happens when one or more of these sites go down? Worse yet, what happens when the entire site fails permanently, leaving you and millions of other users high and dry? Technology is never, ever perfect. Glitches happen.
The lesson here isn’t “don’t ever use third-party sites.” That’s unrealistic. Instead, develop your own channels and use them simultaneously alongside these larger third-party sites. Create space on your brand’s website to host, share, and promote content.
6. Explore user-generated content
Getting your users to create content about your product or service can capture and expand your brand awareness and widen your audience and leads.
For example, Canva launched a user-generated content (UGC) contest called the #CanvaDesignChallenge. Users create new content using Canva’s tools, then post their entries on Instagram or Twitter. Weekly winners get prize packages from Canva, including subscriptions to Canva Pro and credits they can use toward Canva Print.
By restricting the prize to services and tools Canva already offers, they’re creating an audience that’s already aligned with what they do. They might not attract as many new users and leads if they’d offered, say, Amazon gift cards only.
7. Tell compelling stories supported by relevant data
Storytelling is a key component of successful content marketing. That doesn’t mean making up fictional narratives — just the opposite. The way to use storytelling in content marketing is to tell true stories supported by relevant data in a compelling, well-crafted way.
By incorporating data, you can tell a story that is authentic and one that captivates and entertains at the same time. Hopefully, it also persuades the reader to take a closer look at your brand and your offer. You can also tell some aspect of your brand story, whether that’s focused or the company or its founder.
8. Create ongoing buzz with serialization
Serialization has been an effective means of driving up interest in content since the days of Charles Dickens. Publishing an ongoing series of any kind of content can help you build up an audience and keep their collective interest growing, although this technique is more often associated with written, video, and audio (podcast) content.
Podcasts can produce highly effective content. Look at what Charles Schwab does with its “Choiceology” podcast on behavioral economics. Or you can simply publish a “tip of the week” post on your blog or your email newsletter.
9. Explore ways your content can support your brand’s values
Customers and clients expect the brands they interact with to live up to their values. They want to understand what your brand is all about. And, they want to see your company act in ways that actively support and further those values. When your content explains and supports the foundational principles on which your brand is built, you’ll naturally attract leads and prospects who share those same principles and values.
For example, Rowan for Dogs, a coat-care company for dogs spotlights its partnerships with other nonprofits in its Instagram content. And the famed ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is well-known for furthering its commitment to social and economic justice through its business activities. Initiatives like these can become the basis for rich content that helps your ideal customers identify and align with your brand.
Get Strategic With Your Content
The single best thing you can do to help your content marketing efforts is to tailor your approach to your existing and prospective customers. Strategic approaches built on your known user or buyer personas always produce better results than throwing everything you’ve got up against the digital marketing wall to see what sticks. Keep an eye on what your competitors are publishing and figure out how you can produce content that’s different, better, or both.
Thanks for reading! Do you want to create thought leadership articles like the one above? If you struggle to translate your ideas into content that will help build credibility and influence others, sign up to get John’s latest online course “Writing From Your Voice” here.