Creating great content doesn’t come easily. It often takes people years and years to find their own content sweet spot.
You know — that mythical place where you are actually creating content that’s aligned with your editorial calendar, not chasing your own tail to get sign off before a big launch date, or just generally weeping in the store cupboard over your lackluster blog visits.
As a small business, you’ve got a lot of important things to do. You need to hire staff, pay taxes, go to meetings, grow your sales pipeline, and keep the wheels turning.
So we’ve gone and put together some realistic, achievable, and actionable content strategy tips that have been proven to work for small, budding businesses like yours. Let’s dive in.
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A User Guide To Effective Content Creation for Small Business
Have you ever heard the following statement from a small business owner: “But I want to do it all myself”. Maybe you have echoed this sentiment yourself. While the sentiment is healthy, the reality….not so much.
How many unfinished projects are sitting in the digital folders of busy people?
Thousands. Perhaps even millions. Thousands of ideas that will never see the light of day.
It’s not healthy for a small business owner to try to keep all the content strings in their hands forever.
1. Please, don’t ALWAYS do it all yourself.
Instead, you have to learn how to collaborate with writers and designers. Whether you go freelance, in-house, agency-side, or just call in some favors — recognize that you need help. You can also use content tools and automation software to help you scale your social media and blogging efforts.
It’s time to simplify content creation for small business. Content is simply another one of the products your business produces — so approach your content workflow process in the same strategic manner as you approach everything else.
Prolific writer and entrepreneur Neil Patel puts it well:
As you begin your content marketing journey, you’ll find that many of your company’s experts are experts in their field but are daunted by writing.
Some of the experts at your company will also be executives. They won’t have time to write blogs and thought leadership articles.
Outsourcing to a freelance writer can greatly speed up your process of content creation.
Obviously, there are some caveats here. You need to be able to trust any freelancers you hire, be convinced of their credentials, and have full editorial control. Use freelancers to do the heavy lifting so that you can focus on the thought leadership stuff yourself.
And if you’re still in the early stages and you’re doing everything yourself — don’t worry. As you grow, you will be able to bring in more help.
Sharlyn Lauby’s HR Bartender blog is a great example of a blog that’s written and curated by a small business owner.
Covering a wide range of interesting topics, Sharlyn has been able to capitalize on blogging as a way for her to launch into consultancy.
2. Media and PR: Think B-I-G
Lots of entrepreneurs think that they can’t do digital PR. That their stories aren’t big enough for big media. Don’t you believe it! Content creation for small business should include media placements.
While it might be true that you haven’t got a huge media budget, how expensive is it really to write a few emails? It’s free. And that’s all it might take to secure a big media feature.
There is nothing about having a small business that should stop you from reaching out and seeking big media placements, or doing PR yourself. In fact, in terms of ROI, it could be one of your biggest content strategy hitters.
Here are some tips for small business PR placements.
1. Work on the story. You have to have a good story and a hook in order for this strategy to work.
2. Find data, or better yet — use your own. Unique data is a great selling point for journalists and editors.
3. Try it out. Just do it. Tweet some people. Write some emails — be bold.
4. Staying on top of current events on platforms like Twitter can pay off — learn how to follow a scent of a story.
I watched someone who had just created her first starter store (literally something she built herself on Shopify in a few weeks) get featured in big national newspapers. How? She proactively reached out to some journalists who’d created Christmas roundup posts, and asked to be included in. She had a quirky story and a fun brand, and that’s all it took.
A powerful backlink or endorsement like that would cost $$$ if you went to an agency. If you cannot afford to hire someone to do it for you, do it yourself instead.
3. Expand to Amplify: Get More People Involved
When mapping out the elements of content creation for small business success, it’s important that your content doesn’t end up becoming too one-sided. Open up your content strategy to more people and watch it soar.
1. Interviews save lives. Got someone’s attention for five minutes? Call it an interview and write a blog about it.
2. Empower everyone you work with/hire/collaborate with to find stories in and around their everyday work, and use them as part of your content strategy.
3. Roundup posts are a great way to endorse products, companies, other bloggers, tools, content, videos — just about anything! Reach for a roundup when you haven’t got much time but need some awesome community-led content.
4. Multimedia Matters: Audio & Visual Formats
Small businesses create A LOT of blogs. The reality is that 99% of them are read by a very small audience, and some may never get indexed at all.
So, how do you break the bad business blog cycle?
Don’t publish text blogs as your single content format. Create videos instead. Share GIFs and Boomerangs. Start a podcast.
There are so many more exciting content formats out there, waiting to be discovered.
One of the reasons why small businesses struggle with new content formats (and why the playing field is so open for those brave enough to take it), is the lack of awareness around digital tools.
This research done by Deloitte is pretty eye-opening:
A lot of businesses who see digital as ‘not relevant’, have struggled to adopt it in a cost-effective way. Be at the forefront and embrace all the opportunities new digital formats offer.
5. Content Strategy: Channel-specific, Customer-centric
It’s important to take a step back and review your overarching content strategy from a channel perspective.
1. Is your content creation channel-specific? Is the content you’re creating optimized for that specific channel in terms of messaging, format, and CTA?
2. Is the content you’re creating really focused on your customers?
Email marketing is a good channel to take as an example here. Have you cleansed your email lists? Are you looking at email clicks and heat maps? Are your email designs mobile-friendly? Are you tracking your open rates and split testing subject lines?
You should be doing all of these things regularly to ensure your email investment is being well-spent.
6. Define Success For You
Yes, everyone wants to be featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, The NY Times etc. Yes, everyone wants millions of eyeballs on their content and to make $$ from their latest ebook.
But you have to be realistic.
You might not succeed in getting that big media feature after all, or your latest tweet might only reach two hundred people.
Define success for your business by reflecting on what you’ve achieved before, what you’re spending now, and how other equivalent businesses are doing.
There might just not be that much search traffic for your eco-friendly mouse mats — so you have to go out there and be creative and get people to care. You may never convert loads of people through your website because you work in dairy farming, and that’s not how it works.
When it comes to measuring content success, don’t drool over industry blogs and success stories — focus on what you can do BETTER.
Break the mold, stop the barrage, interrupt. Basically — be unique. Whether it’s a quirky tone, an obnoxious brand, or a full-blown ‘meet my pet hamster’ guide — try to do something different. Sometimes, that can as simple as doing the unexciting stuff well (because a lot of businesses don’t). People buy from small businesses because of the people and the stories behind the brand.
This is a guest post from Victoria Greene, an ecommerce specialist who loves sharing digital knowledge online. A recent entrepreneur herself, she is a big supporter of small businesses out there hustling hard and making a difference.