Content marketing for the small business: The 10,000-foot view

You might have heard the expression that “content is king.” You might even know that it means that creating interesting content is the way that businesses build relationships with prospects and customers. People buy from people they know and trust, and they get to know and trust you through the interesting information you give them. Good content posted on your website will also get you found by customers using search engines like Google.

The issue is that too many businesses today are focused on talking about themselves. Yet, when you meet someone like that at a party, how long do you stick around? Probably not very long. To keep people interested in what you’re saying and want to share it with other prospects, the information can’t read like advertising or self-promotion.

The key is to talk about topics that your audience cares about. In this article from AdAge, you can see ways some big brands like Coca-Cola, Expedia, and Red Bull have gotten content marketing right by focusing on what their audience cares about, not on their products.

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Expedia’s Find Yours site

These sites offer inspiration, but If you’re not a huge brand like these, you’re probably thinking “That’s great, but how does a smaller company get it done?”

Three steps to getting started with content marketing

Here are the three basic steps to getting started.

1. Generate your story ideas. If you run your own company, you are probably an expert in what you do. When deciding what content to your prospects and customers, start by asking “What motivates people to come to my business?”

If you’re a gardening center, they probably come because they love having a great yard to spend time in, a vegetable garden providing them with produce, or a flower garden they can use to create beautiful bouquets to bring the outside indoors. With that in mind, give them the content they want. Your content could be about prepping the garden for spring planting, recipes for cooking with summer vegetables, or tips on keeping weeding time to a minimum. They might enjoy tips on arranging flowers, interviews with a master gardener, or ways to kill aphids on roses organically. For other ideas, think about the questions customers ask regularly, as well.  

2. Figure out how your customers and prospects like to get content. Do they like monthly newsletters? Do they spend time on Pinterest or Facebook? How about Twitter or YouTube? If you don’t know, you can do research on the Internet about people like your audience, such as women 30-50 years old who live in the suburbs. Another great way to find out their preferences is to ask. If you own that gardening store, ask people when they check out, like “Would you read an enewsletter about gardening tips?” or “Would you watch videos about topics like how to build raised beds?” or “Do you follow businesses you like on Facebook or Twitter?” Don’t ask all the questions at once – just try one or two for a couple of weeks, and then ask about a couple of others later. Have employees keep a tally and don’t just rely on their memories.

3. Plan the delivery. Once you know the topics and the means of delivering them, do an editorial calendar that tells you what stories you are going to use when. In a garden center, you could definitely plan content related to the seasons. Then, apply how you’re going to deliver the content. There are lots of ways to make that happen. Have employees blog about topics they know. Interview that master gardener when you go to a home show and turn it into an enewsletter article and a video. Post pictures of the flowers in bloom right now on Twitter and Pinterest.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s manageable, and sustainable. Start small; don’t try to tackle everything at once. And make sure to measure results so you know what’s working and what isn’t worth your time.

For a good short series of articles about how to get started, see this article by Volusion. This company is focused on online businesses, but most of the ideas apply to brick-and-mortar businesses, too.

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