I was at a small business conference recently and heard the following question in a session:
“I’m an entrepreneur and an army of one. I see the value of content marketing but I don’t have time to blog once per day. How much do I really have to blog to make a difference for my business?”
My simple answer to that is:
Don’t start with the platform where you’ll publish, start with a challenge you can help your customer with.
Let’s cover some basics:
What is content strategy?
This should answer the big “why” for your creating content at all.
Example: If you’re a landscaper, you can’t be “the expert” on all things landscaping. You might be that person among your friends and neighbors but among hundreds of other landscapers, that won’t set you apart. So maybe you’re the landscaper who is also an expert in urban gardening solutions, or integrating water features—this should be something you are passionate about and want to do a lot more of.
Your content strategy should be attached to your business goals:
- Get more customers
- Get existing customers to buy again or more often
- Gain a reliable stream of income
Now, figure out how content is going to help you do that, which leads us to:
What is content marketing?
This is what you’re going to do to support your content strategy on a regular basis.
Example: So say you’re the landscaper that is the expert on urban gardening solutions. I kill my garden every year, so I’m no expert here, but it seems to me that a weekly before-and-after blog post of urban gardening solutions with photos would help people understand their options. This could be shared on a social network like Pinterest to get more exposure. People looking for this kind of expertise will find the demonstration of what can be done helpful, and this could even lead to a remote consulting opportunity (similar to a remote fitness instructor) for the landscaper with a recurring revenue stream.
For your content marketing efforts to be successful you’ll need to:
- Determine the thing(s) your customers struggle with that you could can help them with
- Select the best way to answer their question(s) (visually, instructions, sharing stories)
Where should you publish?
Consider your audience
- Think about your best customers, do you think they would read articles related to the services you offer? (If you don’t know, ask them). Would they prefer videos or photos they can skim through?
- You likely know a few of your best customers really well, think about how they operate, what kind of time they have and how they spend their day at their job (on a computer, on the move, driving around, etc). Then make a list of the best options to reach them, where they are during the day.
Consider your strengths
- If you hate writing, don’t force a blog. If you feel a blog is the best way to reach your customers but don’t love writing, then blog in a way that represents your business best. (Ideas: record your thoughts on a topic on your phone and ask a friend that is a strong writer to help you turn that into a helpful article, or minimize the need for writing by using photos with short descriptions to demonstrate something). Conversely, if you’re compelling writer—find a way to write for your business where your customers will read it.
- Consider a podcast or video series if the work you do is best presented through speaking or is visual (demonstrating different tasks like how-to videos).
Keep it Simple
There are a lot of articles on content marketing that include different “rules” and “best practices” to follow. It can be overwhelming to wade through what makes sense for you and your business. No matter where you are with content marketing, these are the three you should pay attention to:
- Be true to your business
- Everything you create should be true to what you want your business to be when it grows up.
- Think about your audience
- The only way your content will drive sales and growth for your business, is if it is truly helpful to your customer.
- Be consistent
- Once you pick the way (blog, podcast, brochure, etc) you are going to share helpful information, stick to it. Then, pick a publishing schedule and stick to that. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly—for the best results, stay on schedule and don’t miss your publish dates.
Real-World Example: House Paint
Recently, I encountered a really simple example of content marketing that might help you think about your own content differently.
When we moved we wanted to make our new home our own. However, neither of us have any talent when it comes to interior design, so the prospect of picking paint colors seemed daunting.
How the content solved the challenge:
We were at our local home improvement store and discovered that Sherwin-Williams offers “color collection” booklets. You pick a collection that fits your taste and it includes a guide to colors that all go together. We didn’t have a brand loyalty to any paint supplier before then, so when it was time to buy paint we had a warm fuzzy feeling from Sherwin-Williams because of the relationship they built with us through this really helpful piece of content.
The point to this story is just a reminder that you don’t need to feel restricted to blog posts, or podcasts. Think about what would really solve your customers’ challenges.
Just make sure that whatever platform you choose to publish on belongs to you. Don’t build your relationships on someone else’s website (Facebook, etc). When you do that you put control of those relationships in someone else’s hands. Certainly, use social media channels to promote the content you create, but don’t house your content on those channels. In the paint example, Sherwin-Williams’ collections are available on their website as well as in branded brochure-form in home improvement stores.