The small business guide to content strategy
A content strategy recognises that having a plan is more effective than scraping together bits and pieces as you go. It enables you to pay as much attention to what people use the site for as you do the aesthetics. The changing nature of SEO and Google algorithms mean that content is the vital factor in keeping your site ranking with high results. For this reason, it's important for your site to have value beyond being an online store and to create content that educates and informs without the hard sell. You should aim to build a repository of knowledge that will contribute both to your search engine results and your brand image.
Content strategy for small businesses is vastly different to that of large companies. There is no shortage of content about big businesses, with the majority of it created by people who don’t work for the company. This means that large companies tend to focus on controlling what is said about their business and their brand.
But all small businesses must focus on getting people talking.
Identify your audience
Trying to present your message in a generic way that caters to everyone will result in connecting with no one. Think carefully about who buys your product and what they use it for. The idea of making it available to a wide audience may seem like the smartest approach, but it will make the purpose and position of your business vague, and leave potential customers unsure if the product is right for them.
For example, if your business sells an innovative Bluetooth speaker system, chances are your audience will be music lovers, with crossover into the tech world. A smaller audience might be business people who travel and do presentations that need a compact and portable sound system. Each of these markets will need a specific message that addresses their needs and solves their problems. The personal users’ primary interest might be the sound quality, the tech audience the compatibility, and the business one its portability and ease of use.
Expansive content is key
Content covers a wide range of components, with blogs being the most well-known. To create the best quality blogs takes time, research and effort, and are often out of reach for small businesses. It is no longer enough to simply create good, unique content. Instead, it must be exceptional. This is often referred to as “10x Content”, which means it is 10 times better than what currently exists on the topic. The content of this stature requires extensive research and can’t be mass-produced, and this is where its value lies.
While blogs are important, there are other ways to present your ideas and information that aren’t as time-consuming and can be used to add variation to your strategy. Videos and podcasts are low-cost ways to connect with your audience and provide variation. Approaching people to guest blog on your site is a great way to gain a different perspective on your industry and build a network of contributors while images and infographics can present data in innovative and interesting ways.
A step-by-step guide
Segment your audience and build buyer personas
Divide your audience into different segments based on the market they represent:
- Commercial customers:
- Large and small businesses
- Industry or sector
- Domestic users:
- Singles or families
- Age groups
Develop a persona for each audience segment and pitch content to these “people.” It is often easier and more effective to write to a person than to the world at large. Directing your content to the ideal customer in each segment will give your brand a defined image and direction.
Identify your business pain points
The approach you take to content marketing will depend on the following three aspects.
- How much can your business devote to creating and promoting content? Engaging with customers is an important part of running an online business and success depends on the quality of these interactions.
- Do you have the right people in-house to accomplish the requirements of content marketing? Writing blogs, creating videos and design images are skilled jobs. While often small businesses think that someone can create their content on the side in the hour between afternoon tea and home time, this approach won’t yield the best results.
- Would it be more cost-effective to hire contractors or freelancers? Small businesses must use their marketing budgets wisely, but owner/operators often don’t have the specialist skills, people or time to write and create their own content. Bringing in skilled professionals on a project by project basis, or to work for a couple of days a week, can be a better solution. Employing freelancers enable a small business to access the expertise it couldn’t afford on a full-time basis.
Key elements of your strategy
- Put it all in a calendar:
- This is important as it allows you to see where you’ve been, as well as where you are going. A calendar will ensure you have a schedule in place, making it easier to remain consistent with your output.
- These are the staple of a content strategy and the bare minimum a business should be aiming to create for their campaign. They provide both engagement and SEO benefits. They increase the number of long-tail keywords that your business has on the site and the chance of ranking for while giving your audience something to share and enjoy.
- With smartphone technology improving, quality video is within the reach of even the smallest business. Short videos can be used for everything, from explainer videos about your products to showing customers behind the scenes. Not everyone has the time to read a 1000-word article, but a one-minute video will provide strong engagement opportunities, as well as prompt sharing.
Promote your content
It is vital to push your content once it is made. As a small business, the most cost-effective channels are the social media networks. Twitter and Facebook are free and have enormous user databases. They are ideal for promoting content and sharing it amongst your audience, who will share it with their friends, family and followers if they see it as valuable.
Measure your results
Using tools such as Analytics and Webmaster Tools, plus the built in ones of your CMS, Twitter and Facebook, allows you to track the impact of your efforts. This will give you the insight you need to make changes and refinements, as well as repeat what went well.