small business content marketing strategy

Why Your Small Business Needs a Content Marketing Strategy (& 6 Steps to Start Building One)

If you’re an entrepreneur or a small business doing content marketing, but you’re not seeing the amazing results you’ve heard about, ask yourself one question:

Are you missing something?

Here’s another question.

…Could you be missing a small business content marketing strategy?

Every content marketing endeavor, no matter how small or low-budget, NEEDS a strategy.

(Not “needs,” lower-case, but “NEEDS” – all caps, in-your-face. A small business content strategy is that important!)

Without a strategy, content marketing is like a pile of puzzle pieces. They make no sense…

…Until you put them together and form the whole picture.

That is the strategy, and that is exactly what you need to make content marketing work.

Because, when content marketing works, the ROI can be enormous.

Think about these facts:

  • A big chunk of buyers (47%) said they look at 3-5 pieces of content before talking to a sales representative, according to a 2016 study by Demand Gen Report.
  • Strategic content marketing is the key to 67% more leads for B2B companies who use it, via a HubSpot study.

hubspot_leads

  • Content marketing’s worth as an industry has skyrocketed – by next year, it will reach hundreds of billions of dollars according to the 2017 Global Content Marketing Forecast. (Don’t you want a piece of that?)

If you want in on this action, a strategy is the lynchpin.

Here are even more reasons to begin building your own content marketing strategy for your small business. Once you’re convinced, continue to the next section to learn the six steps you need to get started.

small business content marketing strategy

3 More Reasons to Create a Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

1. It’s Not Just for Big Brands with Even Bigger Budgets

You do not need a big budget to create a workable content marketing strategy.

I repeat:

You. Do. NOT. Need. A. Big. Budget.

(Check out my case study discussing how content marketing is higher in ROI than traditional, main-stream marketing.)

You can (and should) scale your strategy to work for the size of your business and your resources.

For instance, maybe you need to start by dedicating a few hours every month to content creation. It’s totally doable if you teach yourself some basics first, focus on putting out quality over quantity, and stay committed to building your authority on one platform.

Center your content around keywords that are low-hanging fruit – the ones that people are searching for, but still offer the opportunity to break into the rankings.

Start small. Then, as you build your gravitas, slowly increase your efforts. (Duct Tape Marketing has more ideas for strategizing on a budget, proving it doesn’t take much money or time at all.)

One high-quality article published every two or three weeks is a better investment by far than putting out two or three sub-par, rushed articles weekly.

Plus, according to original research from Kapost and Eloqua, content marketing costs 31% less than paid search for mid-size businesses. That means a content strategy is a more cost-effective route than funneling money into ads.

kapost_content-marketing-savings

2. It Takes the Guesswork Out of Content Creation

Overwhelmingly, one of the top roadblocks many marketers face is hitting a brick wall at the content ideation/creation stage.

In Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, 63% of B2B marketers rated their project management workflow as “good,” “fair,” or “poor,” while only 37% felt confident enough to rate theirs as “very good” or “excellent.”

cmi2018-content-creation-process-rating

It’s a concern for most of us.

BUT, that’s why a content strategy is so awesome: It makes your project management workflow and content creation a breeze.

This is because your strategy maps out a game plan for creating content, including finding the right keywords, generating topics, and determining content types you should focus on. It also tells you who you’re writing for, and helps you determine where and when to post.

Best of all, the plan is a framework you can follow again and again. No matter what type of content you’re creating, you can repeat the processes your content strategy lays out over and over.

I call each pillar of the framework a content strategy “core.” Once you have these down, you’re golden.

I teach these six pillars, step-by-step, in an intensive 6-week content strategy and marketing course and book. Learn more about the course here.

brand-strategy-six-cores

3. Small Business Content Strategy Makes ROI Not Just Possible, but Probable

Your content strategy isn’t just a plan to use to attack content marketing – it’s also a map to ROI.

According to HubSpot, businesses that blog strategically scoop up leads faster than businesses that don’t blog. Specifically, in a study of 2,300 businesses, those with blogs saw 126% monthly lead growth.

hubspot-Blog_Faster_Lead_Growth

Additionally, according to CMI’s 2018 Benchmarks survey, B2Bs with a documented content strategy reported higher success levels than those without one.

cmi2018-strategy-success

Think about it this way: You wouldn’t attack any big goal and expect to reach it without first putting a plan in place.

If your goal is to see results and ROI with content marketing, you need to approach it with a strategy. It’s just plain common sense.

6 Steps to Start Building Your Small Business’ Content Marketing Strategy

Yep, you agree – you NEED a small business content marketing strategy.

You’re ready and raring to go.

Let’s not waste any more time. Here’s how to dive in headfirst:

1. Define What Makes You Stand Out

In business, your uniqueness is a major selling point, if not THE major selling point.

What do you offer people that no one else does?

Your stand-out factor doesn’t have to be wildly different from your competitors, either. You even can differentiate based on one little detail – the important thing is to figure out what that is.

For example, look at the ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry’s. They started selling their products out of a gas station before hitting the big-time and landing in grocery stores everywhere.

ben__jerrys_ice_cream

Image via CMO

Without a doubt, their main brand differentiator is their crazy, loud, and oft-controversial flavors.

Did you know, in addition to mainstays like Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, the brand has put out flavors like “Schweddy Balls,” which was inspired by a famous Saturday Night Live skit?

In 2016, they also put out a flavor called “Empower-Mint,” which they described as such:

“This fudge-filled flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment, & that an election should be more ‘by the people’ and less ‘buy the people!’”

ben_jerrys-empower-mint

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stands out because of one detail – their flavors – and it informs their content direction and topic areas. Check out their series of posts on their most popular flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:

ben_jerrys-content

Finding your brand differentiator at the outset of your content strategy will similarly inform your own content direction and topic areas.

So, what’s your stand-out factor?

2. Discover Your Audience and Who You’re Helping

After you pin down your brand differentiator (I also like to call this your “content differentiation factor,” or CDF), you can discover who you should be targeting/helping with content marketing.

This can go one of two ways:

  • If you have no existing customer base, you’ll pinpoint your ideal
  • If you already have an established customer base, you’ll look at this pool and quantify their overwhelming similarities, combining them into a persona.

How do you do it? With audience research like surveys and interviews.

Brands with established customers have an obvious group to survey and interview. If, on the other hand, you don’t have a customer pool, you can still get real insights from real people to answer the question “Who is my ideal buyer?”

The following tools will help you on this quest:

Tools to Try for Audience Research

3. Find Fledgling SEO Opportunities

After you pinpoint who you will be helping with your content, you can find the initial SEO opportunities that will bring in your ideal buyer:

Keywords.

Not just any keywords, however.

You need to hit a sweet spot: Keywords that aren’t difficult to rank for, that are relevant to your brand, and for which your ideal buyer is actively searching.

Sweet-Spot-Keywords-1030x647

To begin your search for these profitable, high-ROI keywords, find a good keyword research tool. Then check out our blog on how to find SEO keywords.

4. Establish Your Online Presence

By now, a lot of your small business’ content marketing strategy pieces are in place.

One big question comes next:

Where will you publish your content?

If your answer is “social media,” think again.

You need to build your own brand platform, one that isn’t owned by a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. You need a website/domain.

Why is this important? A few reasons:

  • It’s easier to build authority on your own platform.

If you publish to your own domain, you’ll build up a web of keywords that all point back to YOU, not a social site. This builds your authority overall, too, because when you start ranking for lots of long tail keywords, you’ll also more easily rank for broad keywords.

  • Content published on your platform has better longevity.

The lifespan of content on social media amounts to about 30 minutes for a tweet on Twitter. For a Facebook post, it’s estimated that within 3 hours of posting, you’ll get 65% of the total engagement you’ll ever see from that post.

Here’s a graph of that by WiseMetrics (via Post Planner):

lifespan-of-a-facebook-post

Meanwhile, the lifespan of a blog post published on your domain can last for YEARS as it climbs the search engine rankings. That’s HUGE.

  • Proprietary platforms (ones you don’t own) aren’t guaranteed.

Here’s the deal about proprietary platforms: the people who DO own them could one day decide to randomly shut down. Or, your posts and data could be lost in a major hack or server failure.

While these scenarios aren’t huge likelihoods, they still remain in the realm of possibility. Are you willing to risk staking your content (which cost you an investment of time + money) on borrowed land?

Luckily, these days it’s easy to get your own website and set it up without much overhead.

Do it – not just for peace of mind, but also for the sake of your content marketing.

5. Understand the Worth of High-Quality Content – and How to Create It

Do you know what high-quality content is, and why you should post it?

Here’s the deal:

Mediocre content does not win you any accolades. It doesn’t interest your target audience, it doesn’t climb Google rankings, and it dies a slow death as it sinks into obscurity.

It’s a waste of time to produce rushed, lackluster, inaccurate, weak content.

High-quality content is what wins in every category. It is:

  • Comprehensive
  • Factually accurate and thoroughly researched
  • Well thought-out and logically presented
  • Usually long-form
  • Well-written
  • Engaging/resonates with your audience
  • Written FOR your audience

According to Search Engine Land, quality is one of the most important ranking factors for content. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have thin content, you’ll take a ranking hit.

searchengineland-ranking-factors

searchengineland-ranking-factors2

Setting your content standards early on in your strategy is essential for consistency. You have to uphold high-quality standards to see the following:

  • Increased SEO rankings
  • Higher customer engagement with your brand (engagement = conversions = leads)
  • Stronger online authority
  • Better brand awareness/visibility

It’s that simple.

6. Set Up an Editorial Calendar for Your Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

The final step for starting your own small business content strategy is setting up your editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar sounds official and kind of scary, but it’s a great tool that can help each piece of your content marketing come together.

Here’s an example of one from NewsCred:

news-cred-editorial-calendar

As you can see, the editorial calendar lines up all of your content pieces, maps them to your goals, and helps you see the big picture of where all this is going.

Most importantly, it will help you organize and track all of those moving parts.

Editorial Calendar Tools Worth Checking Out

Processes to Track/Include in Your Editorial Calendar

  • Team members’ roles and responsibilities
  • Content goals
  • Content topic areas
  • Content on the docket that needs refreshing or updating
  • Publishing schedule
  • Promotion schedule (social media posts/email newsletters tied to content pieces)

The Chess Board Is Set for Your Small Business Content Marketing Strategy

It’s time.

The chess pieces are in place on the board.

If you’ve set up a content strategy, you’re ready to “checkmate.”

If you don’t have a strategy, your game pieces are probably scattered all over the floor.

If that’s you, it’s time to get things in order and win at this content marketing thing.

So, pull your pieces together and restart the game.

game-over

It’s the only way to make that coveted “top high scores” list.

 

16 replies
  1. Alison Ver Halen
    Alison Ver Halen says:

    Thanks for the great tips, Julia. I couldn’t agree more that small businesses don’t need a big budget for a content strategy. In fact, a good strategy should help them SAVE money, while growing their business.

    Reply
  2. Michael John
    Michael John says:

    Thanks, Julia for creating this awesome guide to content marketing strategy planning.

    I love your points in particular about doing content optimization on what already exists before investing hours into just creating new content. I believe an ideal content strategy comprises different components which help us to map the different steps of content planning. An ideal content marketing strategy offers real value to our prospects.
    Regards
    MJ

    Reply
    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Hi MJ, that’s an awesome takeaway – content optimization is a GREAT way to boost site presence, sometimes more quickly than new content. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      Reply
  3. Sachin Sharma
    Sachin Sharma says:

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve gone to this site previously however in the wake of taking a gander at a couple of the posts I understood it’s unfamiliar to me. In any case, I’m certainly pleased I faltered upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and returning every now and again!

    Reply
  4. maia oliver
    maia oliver says:

    Yes, small businesses have a lack of proportion effort. It’s better to follow efficient tips and a way to make the meeting even more relatable to our customers. Those strategies are really practical and can be useful for small business marketing.

    Reply
  5. maia oliver
    maia oliver says:

    Thanks for sharing those marketing tips. Hope it will help me to upcoming projects. Those content strategies are surely recommended to follow everyone.

    Reply

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