Most business people feel like surfing the internet these days is like trying to sip water from a firehose. It is overwhelming, and with so many businesses out there, online, your business can seem like a grain of sand on an endless beach. How can a grain of sand stand out? The simple answer is, Content Marketing. What content to create is a harder question to answer.
In the last five instalments of this six part series I have walked you through the content strategy process which answers the questions:
1) Why does my business need to produce and publish useful, relevant content? Have a look at post number one, a content strategy primer, and post number two, which is all about getting started and defining your brand values.
2) Who do I target with this content (and where do I find them)? Have a look at post number three, which is all about understanding your target customers as users, and post number four, your social strategy SOS.
3) Where should I focus my efforts to get found? Have a read of Post Number 5, Getting Found by Search Engines.
Content Marketing is about using content to drive sales. And if you do it right, it’s your best opportunity to stand out and make more money. It is unqieuly suited to small business because smaller businesses are closer to their customers, with a greater ability often to engage in dialogue with customers and stay aligned with customer needs. That dialogue is where you find out what content you should be producing.
Getting content ideas from your sales funnel
I never realsied, before becoming a business owner, that I would also need to be a salesperson. But this is job number one for every small business owner, and content marketing is a great way to warm up your leads: it can help you to generate those leads in the first place and then move those leads down the sales funnel closer to purchase in a gentle, helpful, and purposeful way.
Your sales funnel is also a great place to look for content ideas.
Are there places in your sales funnel, or in the greater value chain that surrounds your business, that your customers are getting “stuck”? Understanding where your customers are stalled in the funnel is a good way to figure out what kind of content you need to produce and where you need to produce it.
When in doubt, ask!
In the Getting Found post in this series, we talked about the questions cusrtomers ask you as a great place to get keywords. This is also a great plce for content ideas. What questions do your customer ask you? When you’re at conferences or other events where your customers congregate, what questions do you hear people asking speakers or other vendors? As a speaker, I always ask my workshop attendees to tell me their biggest challenges, so I have fodder for blog posts, webinars, and podcasts in the future.
Interview your customers. If you’re not sure what to ask them have a look at your value proposition and circle your assumptions, then validate those assumptions with your cusomters. Google survey is a really easy tool, as is mailchimp for keeping email lists. Use these tools to ask your customers what they need help with!
Quality trumps Quantity
And don’t panic if you don’t have a huge base to work with. The Lean business development model recommends talking to 50 potential customers to find out if your business idea is solid. User experience designers often only interview 6-10 ysers to find out if their ideas address user needs. The average number of supporters it takes to fund a successful kickstarter camapign? Only 100!
You don’t need a huge customer base to do well, if your customers love you. How will they love you? Deliver content with TNT: that generates Trust, that targets their Niche concerns, and that Teaches them something, that helps them
The same principle applies to your content: if all you can reasonably manage is one blog post a month, then write one a month, but make sure it is of the higest possible quality, and filled with TNT (Trust, Niche, Teach). Conisistency also trumps quanitity: a regular monthly podcast is a better idea than a podcast published sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly, or sometimes not at all.
Consistency is important in the visual langauge you use as well: make sure you maintain a consistent use of your logo, the colours in your brand palette, and that the visual language in your photography and graphics aligns with your brand values and your user needs.
Build your editorial calendar
A mistake beginning publishers of content often make is basing their editorial calendar around generic, seasonal events. Base your calendar on user needs, or events important in the lives of your customers. In terms of frequency of different types of content, and keeping in mind the advice above (quality trumps quantity), an editorial publishing pattern that quickly build a great content library would be:
- 1 blog post per week
- 1 piece of feature content per month such as
- ebook, whitepaper, or report
- a webinar
- a presentation, workshop, or speaking opportunity
- 3-7 social posts per week
Your editorial calendar should capture the publishing pattern you choose and the topics you will focus on.
One advantage of building your library using the pattern above is that at the end of a year of publishing, you will have enough content to publish a book. Self-publishing is a great way to get your content into the biggest search engine for experts in the world: Amazon.
Benefits, not features
Your content strategy is the backbone of your online communications whether you are able to content market or not. If you don’t think your writing skills are up to par, hire a copywriter: your content strategy provides the guidelines they’ll need to review so they can write for your business. And if in the end you decide that content marketing is not the most effective way for your business to get found, (see last month’s post for more details), sometimes being useful is all about using benefit-driven language in your communications rather than feature-driven language. If you take nothing else away, remember “Benefits, not Features” as your guide when writing copy for your sales and product pages.
And, print out and post this handy infographic that sums up the content strategy process.
For more resources and information on Content Strategy and to download a detailed description of what content strategy entails, go to analyticalengine.ca/resources or download a Content Strategy Info graphic at http://bit.ly/1qY9tYp.
Christine McGlade is a Business Analyst, Content Strategist, and Usability Consultant. With over 25 years experience in the media business, Christine helps small business, social enterprise, and Not for Profits how to leverage the power of the Internet to grow their business. Learn more about Christine at analyticalengine.ca