By: Jayson DeMers
Small businesses generally face harsher circumstances when it comes to planning and launching a marketing campaign. They have less revenue and capital, which means they’re more limited in the strategies they can pursue. They have fewer resources, which mean their teams are smaller and less experienced. And they generally have less data and first-hand experience with which to strategize in the first place.
One of the best marketing strategies for small businesses is content marketing, due to its approachability and affordability, but creating a content marketing strategy can still be an intensive and intimidating process. If you’re new to the content marketing world and you want to launch a content strategy for your business, I’ve reduced the process to three steps:
Step 1: Research
The first phase is perhaps the most important, because it’s going to give you the information you need to fuel the rest of your strategy. With the wrong information, or without enough information, you won’t be able to draft an effective strategy, so pay attention to these main areas:
Audience. First, you’ll need to consider your audience. Don’t just assume who your target demographics are, or how they behave—be as objective as possible by conducting market research. What types of content are your typical buyers into? What are their needs? Where are they going to find new information? This will help you determine how best to target them in your choice of topics and mediums.
Competition. Take a look at what your competitors are doing in their content marketing campaigns. Are they doing nothing? This could be a key advantage for you. Are they failing in some ways? How could you improve upon them? Are they succeeding in some ways? What can you learn about this area of success?
Trends. Next, you’ll want to take a look at some of the content trends going on, both in and out of your industry. Your competitive research might have given you some insights into what’s popular for the moment, but expand your view to see what other types of content being most shared, and most are talked about in the content industry. For example, video and interactive content are currently trending forms of content marketing.
Platforms. Take a look at what platforms are reaching peak popularity, especially in the context of your target audience. Are there any blog formats or social media platforms that stand out to you as significant opportunities? Take note of them, and be sure to incorporate them into your strategy.
Step 2: Set Goals
Next, you’ll need to set goals for your campaign. You have some preliminary information that should help you understand your place in the industry, and approximately what level of success you could achieve. Use that information, in combination with what you know about your capacity, to come up with a list of specific goals for your campaign:
Objective targets. First, you need to know what your actual goals are, as content marketing can be used for dozens of different purposes. Are you using it as fuel for an SEO or social media campaign? Is it more about customer retention? Or are you trying to secure more conversions?
Timeframes. Next, you’ll want to establish some timeframes. Content marketing always takes time to develop, but you can push for faster results in some cases if you need to. When do you need to start seeing results, and what do you need to do to get there?
Investment. The third variable here is how much time and money you’re willing to invest in the process. You can’t have a high goal in a short timeframe unless you’re willing to pay for it.
Step 3: Draft
You know what you want to achieve, so now you need to come up with the nuts and bolts of how to achieve it. This is the drafting process, and it’s going to dictate everything you do in your content marketing efforts:
The course. I could write dozens of articles about the actual course of content marketing, from start to finish; what topics and mediums you’ll choose, how to come up with subjects, how to draft and publish those features, how to distribute and syndicate them, off-site versus on-site… the list goes on. Use your goals and your research to determine your approach, all around. For help, see The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.
Phases. You’ll also want to segment your content marketing approach into phases. If you’re just getting started, you may not want to go full throttle right away; use one phase to build a blog archive and social media following before moving up to a higher-scale effort. Just remember that you’ll want to plan your early phases in more detail and your later phases less specifically.
Resource allocation. This is an important component of your strategy that many over-ambitious entrepreneurs neglect. Who’s going to take over these responsibilities? Will members of your team be tackling it? Will you use contractors? An agency?
Room for flexibility. Finally, keep in mind that your strategy should be written with a degree of flexibility in mind. Your strategy won’t be effective at first; instead, you’ll use it to gather more information about your environment, which you can use to refine your strategy in the future.
Hopefully, these three broken-down steps have helped you understand what goes into a content marketing strategy, and how you can build and execute one even if you have limited resources and capital.
The process is complex, and can be scaled to massive heights—so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s straightforward or easy—but it is approachable, and it is possible to build a successful strategy by only starting with the basics.