Content marketing is great to build long-term relationships with your customers and grow your small business in a sustainable way. How? By creating and sharing sharing relevant and valuable content focused on their needs and shared values. So, time to abandon the scattergun approach and follow these steps to find the content that resonates most with your ideal customers and create your successful small business content strategy!
Before we jump in, it’s worth noting that “content” can be in whatever medium feels right for you. If you’re more of a talker than a writer, video or audio content like a vlog or podcast might work best for you. Alternatively, if you’re more confident writing things down, focusing on quality captions and starting a blog could be the path for you. Trust your instincts.
First, you need to gather information about your ideal customers. And if you want to provide content that is relevant and helpful to them, it’s best to start with their customer journey. Ask yourself:
- What are the different stages your potential customers go through before buying?
- What are they looking for at each of these stages?
- Are there any issues they may encounter?
- How can you help them with that?
The usual customer journey looks something like this:
This is the process most customers will go through. They begin with a problem to solve, they do their research, narrow down their options, and pick the business that ticks the most boxes. When it comes to your ideal client, you want that business to be yours!
So make a list of the different stages your ideal customers are going through and what tools they use to find the information they are looking for.
And then it’s time to think bigger: While the customer journey itself generally starts with a trigger of some sort, it pays to go back a bit further than that. So, before they actually need what you are selling, you want to address the potential need and build awareness. So, list all the different things that are part of their journey before the trigger occurs as well.
I’ve covered this in more depth in my How to Reach Customers Sooner post, so give it a read too.
Imagine you run a co-working space and you are looking at events that can create the need for people to get a shared office space. The trigger could be quitting your job to run your own business full-time. Or maybe someone has just had a baby or taken a remote job. List all the triggers you can think of.
Then you write down all the stages of their possible customer journey, and these might differ depending on their trigger. Examples are making a list of what features they are looking for in a co-working space, doing research for available spaces online, talking to friends and colleagues and booking a trial day in a range of spaces.
Then write down all the steps and challenges they have probably gone through before the trigger occurred, again this will probably be different from trigger to trigger. Examples range from starting their own business, working from a café, growing their business, networking and many more. Focus on anything that helped them get to the point where they started looking for a co-working space.
Make sure to note the questions they might have at all these stages and what information they’ll likely be looking for.
Now, for many, brainstorming is the fun part of developing your content strategy. Because it’s time to finally start thinking about the content itself.
Look at the triggers and customer journeys you have identified and write down any idea that come to mind. A good practice is to write down your ideas without judging or second-guessing anything. Then you leave the list for a day or two and get back to it with a fresh mind. Now you can tweak, revise or shortlist your content ideas.
And it’s not just your research into triggers and customer journeys that help you create your content strategy. Your USP and company values are also great sources of content. I often call this your ‘soap box’ content – something you’re passionate about, something you share with your ideal clients. Something you want more people to know about and that you apply to your own business as well.
Once you have a list of relevant topics for your content, make sure to find the right keywords for your content as well. Whether you have a blog with search engine optimised content or want your podcast to be found on the various platforms, understanding the keywords that best fit your brand is crucial.
Let’s get back to our co-working space. Based on your research, you can now brainstorm ideas for content targeting each stage of the customer journey(s). That could include topics like “First steps after going full-time with your business”, “Affordable ways to get your first office” and “Questions to ask when choosing a coworking space”.
Then you focus on business owners who are building their business while being employed – and who might not quite be ready to get a desk in a co-working space. They might, however, look to grow their network. So, you could share networking tips and share helpful content on how to make meaningful business connections.
Cut to six months later; they’ve signed up for your mailing list, become engaged with your content and even attended a couple of your own in-house networking events. With their business growing and their home office not cutting it anymore, who do you think they’ll come to when they need a dedicated space? Exactly.
Additionally, if your business is eco-friendly and sustainability is an important part of your brand and values, you’ll be looking to attract people who share your passion for the environment. This means you could share content about how to run a net-zero or green company, give advice on reducing waste and packing or talk about the pros and cons of a paper-free office. Even better, you can put the photos from your last beach clean-up with your team to good use as well.
Remember: Always write for people at various levels of expertise: From someone who is just dipping their toe in the sustainability pool right through to business sustainability experts. And that doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on this topic. It can be a really bonding experience to take them along on your journey from beginner to expert.
Plan your content strategy
Finally, it’s time to get planning and putting your content strategy together. You already have a long list of potential topics for your content. The biggest hurdle is behind you!
Now we need to get to the practical side of things. This includes choosing your platforms. As mentioned at the start of this post, you can choose the shape and form of your content. Is it going to be a blog or a podcast? Or a series of YouTube videos?
It also means it’s time to figure out your publishing schedule. How often are you going to publish your content and what day/time is best to get you in front of your ideal clients?
And don’t forget thinking about how you’re going to share your content. Is social media going to part of your content strategy? Are you planning on building a mailing list to send out your latest content by email? Then find out which platforms are best for you and your ideal clients.
Whatever you choose to keep in touch with people and share your content, make sure it’s featured prominently in your marketing. Whether it’s a newsletter sign-up or your social media profiles, direct people to them and ensure a consistent customer flow. (I’ve written more about this in detail in this post.)
If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to create your content strategy, just remember the 3 steps: research, brainstorm, plan. After that, everything else will fall into place. A little bit of effort at the start makes a big difference in the long run.
And one last thing to note; content strategies, like everything else in business, should be flexible. Nothing stays the same forever! So if what you’ve been doing for a year is starting to feel a little stale, take a look at the landscape in your industry and adjust to suit. You’ve got this!
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Why Creating Engaging Content is Crucial for your Business
Trust Your Brand: Why Successful Content is the Opposite of Trends & Best Practice
Small Business Brand: What Is It, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
Why Your Content Strategy Needs Both Evergreen & Topical Content