If you are like most small businesses, you do some form of content marketing. Indeed, approximately 90 percent of small businesses – both B2B and B2C -- engage in content marketing of some kind, according to research conducted by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs. It may be a blog, an e-newsletter, a consistent presence on Facebook or perhaps an in-person customer event. 

Even though small businesses are taking an active role in content marketing, many of them still don't have a documented strategy. Even worse, just one in three say their content marketing is effective.

The reality is some entrepreneurs launch content projects as more of a nuisance than an important function of the business. There is no rhyme or reason behind the approach. Founders just feel like they need a blog or must be on Facebook but forget to take proper steps. This is akin to starting your business with no plan for how to acquire customers. It makes little sense and can set an entrepreneur up for failure.

Let’s fix that.

Whether your goal is to drive more qualified leads or perhaps keep customers longer, your first step is to get focused on your core audience. Get your marketing team together (this could just be you) and answer these questions.  Be sure the answers are printed out and reviewed on a regular basis as you track the results of your content project.

Related: 5 Steps To Build Trust Using Content Marketing

1. Who is the audience for each piece of content? Who is the specific buyer persona you are targeting with a particular platform or approach (blog, newsletter, social strategy)? If you are like most small businesses, you have many different types of customers.  For your content project to work, it has to be focused on just one customer type.  The more customers you try to include in your content project the less relevant and less effective it will be.

2. Why are you doing this? What is the behavior change that you must see to call this content initiative a success? Do you need to drive sales, save costs or increase customer loyalty? We absolutely want to give our customers value through our content, but there must be a business objective behind it that we can measure.

3. What’s in it for the reader? How are you making their lives better or jobs easier in some way? What’s the pain point you are solving for them? Remember, if the content project is all about you, it’s not content marketing, and most likely your customers and prospects won’t care in the slightest what you have to say (think SPAM).

Related: Useful and Easy Gets More People Sharing Your Content

4. What is the replacement factor? If you didn’t provide this kind of information for your audience, would they care -- or notice? Could they find the information elsewhere? Is what you are saying really that important? If the stories you are telling are no different than your customers could find any other place, why do it at all?  Really think about how you can position yourself as the go-to informational resource for your industry and content niche.

While all these questions are important, if you have multiple responses to “who,” the other questions are almost impossible to answer. Having multiple audiences waters down the content, has less impact and will be almost impossible for you to accomplish your marketing goals.

So before you start your next project, take the time to review these four questions.  Or it’s possible you have a current content project that isn’t working, and you now realize that there never really was any strategy to it.  The good news is that your project can be fixed, so let’s fix it now.

Related: 5 Content-Management Tools Marketers Can Use (No Technical Skills Required)