When you own a small business, the idea of content marketing can land somewhere on the “where do I even start?” side of your plans. You’ve probably heard that content marketing is a cost-effective way to advertise and know you should be doing it, but you might not be sure where to start or how to get your content out there.
The good news is that content marketing is a lot easier that it seems. In most cases, creating a content marketing plan for a small business simply involves sharing more about what you do via social media and other channels. Chances are you already use tools like Facebook and Instagram. Content marketing just means planning out what you share, how you share it, and when you share it.
Content Marketing Overview
The term “content marketing” refers to a method of advertising where you offer free content to a designated audience as a marketing tool. Content can mean anything from photos, emails, tips, and ebooks to videos, blogs, and podcasts. Content marketing establishes your business or brand as a trusted authority to your ideal customer.
The idea is that when it comes time for the customer to purchase a product or service, your content marketing has raised enough awareness and established enough trust that the customer chooses you.
How to Create a Content Marketing Plan
Creating a content marketing plan can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re already running the other aspects of your small business. However, although plenty of businesses outsource their content marketing to advertising and content firms, it’s completely manageable in-house.
A solid content marketing plan takes the guesswork out of when and where to share content and puts your advertising on autopilot while still giving you the measurable results you want. The best part? Most content marketing is free, so it’s the ideal strategy for small advertising budgets. Here’s how to create your own small-business content marketing plan.
1. Define Your Goals
The most important part of creating your content plan is defining your goals. While increased sales and revenue is the most obvious objective, content can have a more subtle effect on your small business for long-term results. If you’re a new business, raising awareness might be your intent. Other goals might include building a potential customer base, increasing end-user sales, product education, and even community outreach.
Your end goal will dictate the most effective type of content marketing for you, so defining what success looks like to you can give you a better idea of how to get there.
2. Create Your Content
Once you’ve defined your goals, consider the best content to achieve that objective. If you have your sights set on better product education, for example, tutorial videos would be a great place to start. Hoping to establish your brand and foster trust? Content that offers tips or reviews gives you better bearings. If you want to expand your potential customer base, offering free blogs and other helpful content can help you convert followers to customers.
Consider these types of content and how they can suit your marketing needs:
- Photos. Images are great for showing off products or helping users get to know your brand and what it has to offer. Photos are a simple, visual way to convey your content and create and enforce branding.
- Videos. Videos can include tutorials and walkthroughs for specific products. These establish your business as a helpful authority and allow you to show a unique brand personality.
- Blogs. Blogs are a low-contact way to establish your voice and offer value to potential customers. Getting set up is quick and simple through WordPress. Then you can use the blog to answer frequently asked questions, offer advice and checklists, or just keep your customers in the loop about your latest news and product releases.
- Email Subscriptions. Email is still a simple, low-cost marketing tool that allows you to stay in touch and top-of-mind. Subscribers can get regular emails that offer a roundup of your existing videos, blogs, social media updates, and other free content. ConvertKit is a great service for getting started with email marketing.
- Reviews. User reviews create and keep trust in your small business. A stellar reputation and five-star reviews offer a foothold in your industry, even when you’re competing with much larger organizations. You can solicit reviews from past clients in exchange for perks like a discount on future sales, conduct email surveys, and make sure you’re registered for Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews. When you receive great reviews, share them on social media and your website.
- White Papers and E-Books. Have even more to say? White papers and e-books offer even more value to potential customers while establishing your authority. These are long-form versions of content for an audience that prefers deep-dive information, searchable data, and solid statistics.
3. Distribute and Diversify
You’ve decided on the type of content you want to offer your audience and now it’s time to deliver it straight to their devices. Social media accounts will likely make up your main channels of distribution and, luckily, they’re free and easy to use. Still, you should only take on as much as you can handle. It’s usually better to have one or two robust social media accounts than a handful of channels that are outdated and thin on content.
When in doubt, start with your own website blog and one social media channel. Choosing the ideal social media channel for your small business depends on your objectives and the type of content you want to share with your followers. Facebook is usually best for creating and sharing conversations, while Instagram is ideal for photos, videos, and other visual mediums like infographics. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with creating and sharing your content regularly, you can consider diversifying your delivery methods, such as email subscriptions or YouTube.
4. Create a Calendar
The best content is both regular and robust. You don’t have to have the biggest budget, make the funniest videos, or go viral to see success. Instead, planning what you’re going to share and offering users a consistent and valuable experience will keep eyes on your social media pages and website.
Followers want you to continue offering the type of value they expect via content, so create a simple weekly content calendar and keep delivering. One of the easiest ways to plan content is to give each day of the week a theme. Here’s a sample weekly themed calendar:
- Monday: Post a story or photo about your business to establish your brand and voice.
- Tuesday: Share a free, quick tip or offer actionable advice for free.
- Wednesday: Share something that doesn’t benefit you immediately, such as a customer spotlight, a community story, or something on-brand and lighthearted or funny.
- Thursday: Discuss a product or service you offer. Because you’re still offering value to followers and potential customers the rest of the week, reserving one day for selling is more impactful.
- Friday: Offer broader or more comprehensive content, such as white papers or long-form videos.
When you follow the same pattern as a weekly content plan, customers know what to expect and you know how to execute and deliver each day.
You can download free calendar templates to help you get organized and plan your posts weeks, months, and quarters in advance. Tools such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Feedly can help you write, schedule, plan, and post in advance as you hone your content marketing strategy. As a small business, it’s important to only bite off what you can chew and grow as you become more comfortable with content marketing.
5. Analyze and Optimize
The most valuable question to ask when you plan your small-business content marketing strategy is: What unique content can I offer followers? Understand why someone would follow and consume your content, and always create with that end value in mind.
Although return on investment of content marketing might be trickier to measure than other methods, you’ll still notice its impact. Follower count isn’t necessarily the most important metric, but good content should invite steady growth on your social media channels. Reviews and interaction can also help you understand whether and how your content is being consumed and allow you to adjust accordingly. If you notice your followers prefer watching videos, for instance, it makes sense to pivot to that type of content over blogs or white papers.
If you consider why your followers are consuming your small-business’ content, you can even get a few steps ahead via search engine optimization (SEO). SEO means creating content that essentially answers questions before they’re even asked. By weaving commonly used terms throughout your content and in content headings and titles, you have a better chance of making it to the top of search engine results. While you should never force your content to conform to SEO unnaturally, you can use tools like Google Keyword Planner to generate content topic ideas and make sure your content is as search-friendly as possible.
With a solid plan in place, small-business content marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, the best way to start is to simply begin creating the type of content you know your followers want. With a little trial and error, analysis and adjustment, you’ll be able to carve out a space that fits your content, your customers, and your business exactly.
Are you a small-business owner? What content marketing strategies have worked the best for you?