Welcome to Part 2 of our series, “The Complete Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business.” To help small business owners learn how to employ content marketing, one of the best methods for attracting new customers online, we’ve decided to create a complete guide for small business owners.
In Part 1 of the series, we discussed how to find your “content niche” as a small business or how to find a focus for your content marketing efforts that distinguishes your business as unique and valuable to target customers. In Part 2, we’ll discuss how to create a sustainable plan for developing, publishing, and promoting your content.
The Second Stage of Content Marketing for Small Business: Creating a Content Plan
Again, we just want to plug Joe Pulizzi’s organization, the Content Marketing Institute, which is a great resource for businesses of all sizes. Instead of replicating the wealth of information Joe and his team have developed, our guide is specifically tailored for small business owners who may be struggling with the concept of content marketing.
After all, there are so many channels to take advantage of for today’s small business owners, including:
- Small business websites that feature products, blogs, ecommerce features like shopping carts, and newsletters
- Social media profiles for the business and its personnel
- Social media posts, including tweets, Facebook status updates, LinkedIn updates, photos of recent events, etc.
- Complete pages devoted to the business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms
- Search engine results pages (SERPs), which are the number one way many consumers will first encounter your business when they search for organizations like yours
- Podcasts and video
- Email newsletters
This is only a partial list of the many opportunities for getting content about your business out to potential customers. It can be daunting, to say the least, to try to think about developing content for even a handful of these channels every week.
That’s why it’s essential to have a plan.You need a plan for content marketing that keeps you consistent across channels. Click To Tweet
Your content marketing plan should contain the following parts, at minimum:
- An explanation of your content niche, written as a series of achievable content goals
- An explanation of your target audience with customer personas
- A list of all the channels you’ll be delivering content to
- A content calendar that lays out how often you will be delivering content to which channels
Below we go through each of these parts in turn.
The first thing you need to do is set some goals for your content and what you want to accomplish by creating it. You have some idea of your content niche from Part 1, but now you need to create goals for who you want to reach with your content, and how you will reach them.
We use this acronym with our clients to help them set content goals:
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
S – Simple
T – Task-oriented
Here’s an example of a not-so-good goal from a past client when we first started to talk to them about content marketing:
We want people to be able to find our website so that they know we have better prices than our competitors.
This goal is not MAST. First, it’s not measurable: how will you know when people find your website? Second, though it is achievable–it’s possible to develop content that will draw people to your website–it’s not specific enough. Without specific goals, you won’t know when you’ve achieved them. Next, it’s too broad. What people? What competitors? Simple goals are goals you can understand completely on the first read. There’s no guesswork. And last: it’s not task-oriented. It doesn’t explain what you will do to achieve the goal.
Here’s how we used MAST to improve their goal:
We will deliver a weekly blog post, daily social media updates, and a bi-weekly email newsletter tailored to middle-aged truck buyers. The content will focus on delivering useful tips for comparing different makes and models of trucks, maintaining larger vehicles for long-term use, and making educated choices when it comes to maintenance packages and other add-ons. The ultimate goal is for readers of this content to follow it back to our website where they will see specific calls-to-action relevant to our pricing, which is lower than our competitors in the area of [CITY], [STATE]. We hope to increase our pageviews on our website by 2,000 per month over the next six months.
As you can see, this new content goal is measurable: it gives a specific, quantifiable result of the campaign. It is also achievable: the goal is specific enough to know when it has been achieved. Third, it is simple. Though it contains more information, it is specific and relevant information that tells you in simple terms what they’re trying to achieve. And finally, it is task-oriented: you know from reading this goal exactly what needs to get done in order to accomplish it.
Like all things content-related, your goals can, and should, improve over time. Once you have at least one goal that is MAST-ready, you can move on to the next part of your content plan, the target audience.
Many people think your target audience section of your content plan should look like this:
But actually, it should look more like this:
As we like to tell our clients, it’s very difficult to develop content for a pie chart. It’s much easier to develop content for real, live people. You want to pick people to target that represent a key customer demographic you’re trying to attract. The advantage of singling out a specific person, however, is that it helps you keep that specific type of person in mind as you’re developing your content.
Here’s a handy-dandy guide to creating customer personas (or profiles, as they are also called) if you have more questions about this step.
Here’s where a lot of small business owners can get overwhelmed with their content marketing efforts. How do you choose from the hundreds of different channels available?
To help our clients, we recommend the following minimum viable set of channels for a content marketing campaign:
- Mine several non-competitor websites that have content that is relevant for your target customers
- Create a blog or other section of your website you can update regularly with new, unique, long-form content each week (at least 300-1000 words)
- Post a link to the blog to 2-3 social media channels per week
- Post daily to the same channels with content from the non-competitor websites
- Maintain an email newsletter for all new leads that you send out at least once per month
You can do more or less than this, of course. The most important part about channels is staying focused on the ones that matter.
Whenever you get lost in the noise, look back to your target audience. Where are people like that hanging out? Where are your referrals coming from? Focus on the channels that will allow you to reach the people you want to reach and only add additional ones as time, and focus, permits.
The final section of your guide should include some kind of content calendar that helps you plan your campaign over the coming months. Yes, we said months. Today’s consumers are wary. They have a lot of choices in front of them, so if you want to be successful at content marketing, you need to devote several months to developing a following over key channels.
Think of it this way: your business wasn’t built in a day. And now you’re facing some obstacle that you think content marketing can solve. Just as you wouldn’t give up on your business, you don’t want to give up on your content, which is the way many new customers will first encounter your business.
Your content calendar should include:
- Links to the non-competitor websites that you want to share content from
- A plan at least a month ahead for blog topics (date, time, topic)
- A consistent time each day that you will publish to social media, plus posts scheduled at least a week in advance
- A plan for your next email newsletter (date, time, topic)
The goal in developing this calendar is consistency. As you develop a following, your audience will come to expect your content at a particular time, just like watching a television show. If you’re doing content marketing right, your audience should grow slowly over time. As they grow, it will become even more important to stay on topic and to publish at the same times each day, week, and month, or they might lose interest and switch channels.
Next Post: How To Improve Your Content Marketing Plan Over Time
In our final post in this series, we’ll explain how you can improve your content marketing plan over time through regular checkups, maintenance, and strategy sessions with your team or other trusted advisors.