any small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have the budget to pay a professional writer to fulfil their content mission. But while it's always better to get a professional hand involved if you can afford it, a limited budget doesn't mean you must abandon your content marketing program; only that you must create and distribute the content yourself.
Here's a quick guide to get you started developing content which will work for your business; attracting traffic to your online sites, building your brand, and boosting sales.
Create an Ideal Customer Profile
The first step in any marketing process is to know your target audience. It's the same with content marketing. Time spent researching your prospects' age, sex, lifestyle, interests and hobbies, professional and relationship status, income, and other demographics is time well spent. Aim to build an ICP (ideal customer profile) based on your research and aim all your content at that person.
Match Your UVP and Brand to Your ICP
The next step is to define your UVP (unique value proposition) as a business and for each product or service you offer. It's vital that you look for ways in which your UVP will appeal to your target customer-defined by your ICP-as a go-to solution to their problems or fulfilment of their needs. This information should also inform how you brand your business and will help you find the right voice and style for your content.
Research Keywords and Competition
Now you know who you're targeting, what you have to offer that person, and how you want your business to come across, you must research keywords to use in your content so that it will be found by people searching online, and then analyze the content your core competitors are publishing. Most potential customers will find your content via search engines. To do that they'll type in a question or series of keywords into the search box. The search engine algorithms will scour the internet for the best, most relevant content to answer their query and present it in the search results. So, it's vital that your content addresses your ICP's questions and uses common keywords in the title and text.
Once you've identified the common questions that your ICP is likely to ask and the keywords and phrases they use, you must search the internet yourself to find out what results the search engines are returning. Look at the top three non-paid results on the first page. That's your competition. Ask yourself how long is the content? Is it just text or does it include video, photos, infographics, or other enhancements? Is it a commercial website or an informational, educational page? What call-to-action (CTA) does the page make? How is the business branded? How well does the content answer the search query? And most of all, how could the content be improved?
To beat the competition, the content you create must be better than the content your competitors have already published. It's as simple as that. If this seems like a lot of background work, it is. But while a professional content writer would do all this for you, if you want to create your own content, you must first do diligent research, or you'll be wasting your time.
Create a Content Calendar and Publication Schedule
Once you've created your ICP, worked up a clear UVP and brand identity matched to your target customer, and researched keywords and competition, it's time to create a content calendar and publication schedule. Your research should have provided you with plenty of ideas for content and titles. Content marketing is a slow-burn strategy which demands a considerable investment of time and creativity before it pays off. The reason why that investment is worthwhile is that once your content gains traction it will pay returns for many years to come, building traffic to your website, boosting the visibility of your brand, and increasing sales. But the key to success is to publish high quality content regularly.
The best way to make sure you do this is to draw up a calendar with dates that specific content will be created coupled with a publishing schedule. How often you publish will depend on the kind of content you're creating, your industry, and your target audience's expectations. You may want to publish daily, weekly, or monthly. But the important factor isn't so much frequency as regularity. Keeping up a steady flow of content is vital to build an audience, maintain visibility, and gain the trust of the search engine algorithms.
Choose Content and Social Platforms
Now you're set up and ready to create your content you must decide where to publish and share it. In most cases, if you already have a website, then adding a blog is the obvious and best choice. If you are setting up a website or blog for the first time, then choose a platform which allows you to manage all the technical aspects needed to optimize your content for search (SEO). You'll also need private hosting and your own domain name.
Now you have somewhere to publish your content, you'll need to let people know it's there. The easiest, cheapest, and most powerful way to do that is through social media. Using your research from before, you should be able to identify the social media favoured by your target audience. Select one or two and set up branded profiles on each. Sharing your content and interacting with your prospects will get the ball of your content marketing strategy rolling.
Create a Content Web
To strengthen your content market strategy and squeeze the maximum benefit from the content you create, you should aim to repurpose content and create a 'content web.' So, you can turn a blog post into a video and post it to YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo and other platforms. Then embed the video back into your blog post. Develop infographics to share on social media. Link to your social media on your blog, and drive traffic to your blog from your social media. After you have a reasonable amount of content on your blog, look for guest posting opportunities on the blogs of leaders and influencers in your industry or niche. Creating an interlinking network around your content makes it easier to find and builds your brand authority online.
Publish, Share, Interact, Repeat
At this stage you should have everything in place: an ICP, UVP, branded messages, research-based content calendar and publication schedule, an optimized website and blog, social media accounts, and a content web. Now, it's a case of creating content, publishing it, sharing it, and interacting in the conversations it generates. With sustained effort, you'll see results as your traffic grows, your following builds, and you make more conversions.
The Power of Persistence
But know that content marketing isn't a quick fix. It takes a lot of patience and persistence to make it work. But the reason it has become the most important marketing strategy of our time is because it offers a low-cost and highly effective way to brand and market any business of any scale. If you run a small to medium-sized business with only a limited marketing budget, a well made content marketing strategy can give you the market power and presence you need to build a successful enterprise far into the future.