How to develop a Content Marketing Plan for small business
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at What is Content Marketing and in the second part we delved into What Content Marketing is most effective for Small Business. This final post looks at how to develop a content marketing plan for small business.
First – you might want to grab a coffee (or a glass of wine) as this post is fairly comprehensive and will take 10-15 minutes to read. I’m going to take you through 8 steps for putting a content marketing plan in place in your small business.
If you are a non-profit keep reading on too, because the steps for developing and implementing a content marketing plan can be applied to a wide range of organization structures and are also relevant for individuals who need to build their personal brand.
8 steps to a develop a content marketing plan
1. Identify your target audience
Working on identifying your target audience means understanding who your ideal customers are and where they spend time online. This is also known as developing buyer personas.
What information are your prospects searching for, and where do they go to find it? The more specific you can be in developing a picture of your ideal customer/s and their habits, the easier it will be to work out the best ways to reach them.
- do they spend a lot of time on Facebook or connecting with networks on LinkedIn?
- Do they want to be able to download handy tools such as checklists and projects?
- Or would they prefer to have information come to their mailboxes or inboxes in the form of enewsletters or print newsletters?
- Maybe they like to see demonstrations of products in action, for example on a YouTube video.
It’s tempting to skip this step, but the clearer the picture you have of who your are targeting and the best ways to reach them, the more valuable the long term gains will be for your business.
The more complicated and higher price point your product or service has, the more information prospective customers are likely to need to help them make a purchase decision.
2. Set your objectives.
Set a couple of simple objectives as an outcome of your content marketing. Again, be as specific as you can as it will help give you direction for your efforts.
Some examples of objectives are:
- Become the leading authority for consumers on building Green Smart sustainable homes in Western Australia
- Educate parents about the importance of outdoor play for pre-school and primary aged children
- Create projects and demonstrations using new tools and techniques, for the international woodturning community.
You’ll note that I haven’t listed ‘make lots of money’ as an objective. Even for small businesses, the primary focus of your content marketing objectives should be to help or engage your audience in some way. This will pay off in the long run by building trust with your customers.
3. Set specific goals
While your objectives are more like a vision or mission to guide you, your goals act as a measurement to see what is working (and what isn’t). Set goals for 6-12 months time that will help you measure whether your content marketing efforts are paying off. Be as specific as you can.
Here are some examples of goals that align with the objectives above:
- Receive 5 new enquiries from customers interested in building sustainable homes in the Perth Metropolitan area, by the end of the financial year.
- Draft a grant submission to create an outdoor play program for preschools and daycares, using evidence and comments collected from your online community.
- Plan and announce a woodturning masterclass event to be held in Australia during next winter.
4. Decide what types of content you will produce
In the What Content Marketing is most effective for Small Business post we started looking at the options available for content and what factors should help you make a decision, such as:
- What in-house resources can you draw on?
- What is your commitment level to consistently producing content?
- What are your customers’ information preferences?
We also included an infographic outlining some of the types of content you could choose, measured according to effort and engagement.
Although it’s a good thing for business owners to step out of their comfort zone, it’s important to choose a medium (or two) that you are at ease enough with to stick to for the long term.
Introverts who enjoy sharing their knowledge but are a bit shy about putting themselves ‘out there’ may find blogging comes a little easier. Extroverts who love a chat may find that it’s much easier for them to create a video or interview a customer for a podcast.
Keep in mind what information your ideal audience wants and needs from you, and what format they are most likely to find useful. Ask the salespeople, receptionists and other customer facing staff within your business what questions they are asked by prospective customers.
Some examples of types of content that could be used for different organisations are:
|Hobby Class Tutor||Regular enewsletter detailing upcoming classes with links to personal accounts of previous classes and projects completed.|
|Mortgage Broker||Ebook – How to cut 10 years off your mortgage by restructuring your homeloan.|
|Registered Training Organisation||YouTube Channel demonstrating how to carry out assessment tasks and interviews with former students on their new careers.|
|Sustainable Home Builder||Blog post: 10 low cost ways to ‘green’ your home and save money this summer.|
|Woodwork tool sales and classes||Downloadable woodwork project instructions and plans.|
|Food promotion agency||Customer magazine featuring recipes, nutritional news and lifestyle stories.|
|Digital Marketing Agency||Free downloadable Content Editorial Calendar|
|Returned and Services League||Podcast interviews with veterans of their experiences while in service.|
|Car restoration business||Commenting on a special interest forum about the best techniques to restore shine to your vintage car badge.|
Blogging is on the up
Many experienced content marketers recommend starting out with a blog. If you have a WordPress website, it is extremely easy and cheap to integrate a blog into your existing site and it costs nothing but time and brain cells to create posts. Also as discussed in the first post on this topic, adding high quality regular content to your site with a blog hosted on your domain is very helpful for your organic page ranking.
If you are going to be producing videos or podcasts, invest in some decent technology to make life easier for you and your end product more professional. You don’t need to be aiming for an Oscar in cinematography, but making sure you have decent lighting and clear sound can make your content much more user friendly.
5. Create and commit to a content calendar
Consistency is key in building a following through content marketing, and creating a content marketing calendar gives you a simple framework to work from. Your calendar should be in a format that you are most likely to use (and not ignore!).
The size of your business and the number of people involved in creating content may also influence how you create your calendar. If your content team involves more than just you, think about forming a content editorial group to brainstorm content that could be created, and using a calendar format that can be shared and updated among the group. Marketing and salespeople, customer facing staff and technical employees can all give different points of view on content that is relevant and useful to customers.
Develop a content calendar and production schedule. Make it realistic and achievable – if you need to start slowly with just one platform such as a blog, this is better than over-committing and giving up. At its simplest, your calendar just needs to be a list of dates, topics and the format you will use to get your message across. There are a host of free and low cost tools you can adapt for this purpose.
Free and Low Cost Content Calendar Resources
- Google Calendars (Free and you can share with all relevant contributors)
- Asana cloud based task manager (set tasks for various contributors – free for teams under 15 people)
- Excel spreadsheet (download a calendar from templates) or Word table
- Wall calendars – If you prefer a hard copy rather than electronic approach for your wall or pinboard, you can grab something good looking like this.
There are also some great downloadable content marketing or ‘editorial’ calendars available online which give you a little more structure such as setting monthly topics or themes, such as this free one from the Content Marketing Institute.
6. Produce your content
Now you have a road map, start putting your plan into action by producing and publishing your content.
Be realistic about what you can achieve and get help from employees and freelancers as necessary. Make sure the employees you select to help with content marketing are on-board with creating content, understand its purpose, and have the skills to do it. If you don’t have the resource available, outsource some of your content creation tasks.
To get the most out of your content, focus on creating content that maintains its relevance over time (also known as evergreen content) and consider re-using it in a range of formats to reach different target markets.
Re-use and recycle
Because producing good content takes a significant amount of effort, re-use and recycle your content whenever appropriate. For example:
- If you start with weekly blog posts and work on building your email marketing database for couple of months, by the time you start sending regular enewletters you will have a stock of existing blog posts to base a major part of your newsletter content on.
- A blog post can also be developed into a slide presentation for a networking evening, which can be added to your company LinkedIn portfolio and then expanded into a free ebook for prospects to download from your website.
- The transcript of a video demonstration or interview developed for YouTube can be repurposed into a step-by-step tutorial or report.
- The statistics in an infographic can be broken down and expanded in individual blog posts e.g. a statistic on the percentage of small businesses in Western Australia without an online presence becomes a blog post on whether local businesses can survive and thrive without going online.
- Look off-line for content you have already prepared such as old newsletters, reports, sales proposals and tenders, award submissions or even technical manuals. Think about how it could be repurposed into new content.
A significant part of content marketing is also sharing (or ‘curating’) content created by others, for instance:
- A green building company could do a blog post featuring 10 of the best sustainable building designs on international home design site Houzz
- A non-profit promoting outdoor play could share great reports from around the world about how communities are reintroducing outdoor play and seeing the benefits.
- A wood-turning expert can do a roundup of the best project worksheets created by other wood-turners in the international community and award a ‘prize’ to the most popular as voted by followers.
Spend some time bookmarking quality content that is relevant to your audience whenever you are online, so you can grow a list of resources to share – particularly for those weeks when you’ve run a bit dry of your own content ideas.
Before hitting post or uploading content, it’s always helpful to have a second person look over it – particularly if grammar is not your friend!
7. Add fuel to the fire – your promotion strategy
Once you’ve gone to the effort of creating and posting great content, you need help it find its way in front of your target audiece. Some methods of promotion for content are:
- Enewsletters or email marketing. If you haven’t yet, make a list of your existing customers emails and add a subscribe/sign up box to the home page of your website or blog to capture new leads. On a WordPress site, there are some great plugins you can use to collect this information. Send a personal, engaging email using a system like campaign monitor or mail chimp to your database, letting your audience know about the new content that is available to download or view online.
- Share the link to your content via social media. Depending on what forums your audiences are likely to be on, you could use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest to promote your content. Keep in mind that many forms of social media are highly visual, so use images wherever possible to catch your audience’s attention.
- If you are part of an industry association or group, such as a Chamber of Commerce or Association, approach them to share or republish your content on their own websites, social media or publications. Do the same with trade publications. Be careful that you don’t include sales messages in your content as this will not make it attractive to these bodies. However, if your content is relevant and engaging and targeted to the same kind of audience as these organisations, they may be very happy to share and promote your content.
- Consider paid social media advertising such as sponsored or boosted posts on Facebook. You need to ensure these are highly targeted or you will be wasting your money. If you have created a great piece of content for an audience that tends to use Facebook, you could pick up some new fans this way.
You can also promote your content offline, for example if you do a trade show or seminar, you could print out some of your most useful content as a giveway and invite patrons to stay in touch by signing up to your enewsletter for future content. You can put an app on your ipad or android tablet to collect these, which is a much easier way than deciphering strangers’ handwriting.
8. Measure your success and fine tune
Once you have a bit of momentum up with your content marketing (give yourself a minimum of 6 months to hit your stride), use Google Analytics and other metrics to measure your success. Via analytics, you can see which content is the most popular and where more visitors to your website are coming from. You can also use metrics such as comments on your blog or video posts and shares on social media to get an idea of what content is resonating.
Once you can see some patterns, revisit, modify and reuse the type of content that are getting you the best results and create new content that deals with similar issues.
If you only remember one thing
No matter what the vehicle for your content is, the most important thing to remember about content marketing is that a ‘customer-centric’ and helpful focus is key (author Jay Baer calls this ‘You-tility’ – the art of creating information that is so useful to customers, that they would pay for it).
When customers have sought out your content themselves and found it to be:
- high quality
- relevant, and
- offers a solution to an information need they have
They are likely to be much more open to engaging with your business.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see an immediate impact on your bottom line from your content market efforts. This form of inbound marketing is all about developing relationships, and like most relationships worth having it can take a bit of time but will reap rewards in the long run.
What do you think?
Did this post help you understand how to develop a Content Marketing Plan for small business?
Already put some content marketing into place but feel you’re not getting the most out of it? Learn how to be the MacGyver of content marketing here!
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