#5 Rock Solid Steps to Small Business Content Marketing Content Marketing Institute's 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Survey found that 88% of B2B companies are using content marketing.

By Santosh Kanekar

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Quick, Let's play a Game!

You have two options for Marketing Strategy:

Option1: Strategy which is effective 50% of the time but you won't know which 50% is effective

Option 2: A Strategy which gives three times more leads at 60% less cost than Option1.

Which one would you choose?

My guess is you would choose Option 2.

Option 1 is a famous quote about advertising which I have reframed.

Welcome to the World of Content Marketing if you chose Option 2.

You are not alone in choosing Content Marketing.

Content Marketing Institute's 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Survey found that 88% of B2B companies are using content marketing. The same institute has shared the data about how Content Marketing generates three times more leads.

In today's attention-starved consumer world, you cannot compete with big companies on conventional advertising. The budgets have only become bigger over the decade.

Also, advertising is increasingly losing its effectiveness in the world of ad blockers, mobile first and pervasiveness of social media.

The only way you can get your customer's attention is Content.

What is Content Marketing?

Hubspot defines it as "Content marketing is a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience -- usually online -- the goal of which is to attract new customers."

But how can your small business develop a winning content marketing strategy?

Use these proven five steps to develop your customized strategy, delight your customers and demolish your competition.

#1 Understand the Buyer's Journey

This is a critical piece of the puzzle. Map out how your customer goes about finding solutions to their problems or opportunities. Often the stages in which your customer moves through are:

  • Awareness stage: In this stage, your customer becomes aware of their pain point or the opportunities they can access. Here they are gathering information.
  • Consideration stage: Now that your customer has got information from you and other sources. They will look for various solution categories.
  • Decision stage: Now your customer has made up their mind on the particular solution they want and is comparing options.

Remember in the first two stages, you are helping your customer move ahead in their journey and helping them solve their issues. This is a natural process instead of trying to pitch right in the start.

Importantly, by delivering high-quality content through these stages, you have developed trust and credibility with your customer.

The essential ingredient in your content marketing success is developing a buyer persona.

Buyer Persona is a semi-fictional account of your ideal customer.

Even though it is fictional, you will pour your insights and learning of how and why your customer behaves the way they do.

A good Buyer Persona helps in keeping focus for your content marketing efforts.

In the absence of buyer persona and buyer's journey, you may end up developing content which is interesting to you but has no relevance to the customer.

Tip: Hubspot has an extensive guide on developing Buyer Persona with templates.

#2Customer Research

Now that you have the framework for understanding the buyers, you need to do research to fill your buyer persona. This does not mean you have to commission an agency and start a long process.

Speak to your sales people for the common questions your customers ask as they move from prospects to closing the deal. You can post survey questions or a simple poll on your social media, to get this information.

Often a chat with one customer over lunch can give you more insights than a quantitative survey amongst 100.

Do visit your competition websites and read through their promotional material. This competitive intelligence will help you understand what information they are highlighting and which objections are they handling.

Tip: Use Facebook Audience Insights for local demographics

#3 Developing Content

You have the journey and the data for what your customers want. Now the fun and creative part start.

Develop the content to match the buyer's journey.

Let's say you are Tax Advisory service for small business. This example can apply even to product based business.

Awareness stage: Your customers have realized they don't have a system for recording their incomes and expenses and hence, do not have tax records or compliance in place. First, they will search for "How to build an accountancy system" or "What Tax records a small business needs to have" etc.

Your content at this stage has to help them with the basic information that they need to have e.g. minimum records to keep, statutory submission dates etc. You need to provide this information free. Hence, give this information in the form of an ebook. Ask for their email and contact details so that they become your leads.

Consideration stage: Your customers will have questions like "Should we have a full-time tax person or outsource the tax work? What are the IT solutions we need to have?"

If you already have their lead, you could email a white paper which helps them evaluate the various solution sets.

Decision stage: You must compare your services with your competition and show how you provide more value to them. Don't be shy. This kind of information is most helpful to the customers especially after you have guided them through their buying journey. You could even consider a pricing page though this works best for SaaS or subscription services.

Tip: Not everything needs to be created afresh, Repurpose existing content. Senior professionals in your firm e.g. partners in tax firm have the expertise. They can be tapped by having an informal interview from which full form content can be generated. You could even do video interviews of them which you can post as content.

#4Content Promotion

It is said Content Marketing means30% Content and 70% promotion.

Sujan Patel says "Your most profound content ever produced will largely fall on deaf ears when used on the wrong channel. Instead, chart out your ideas and narrow them down until you find a handful that best match your brand's voice."

Once your content is ready, you must promote it through targeted channels. While organic traffic will come since you have developed high quality targeted content, you must use social media to get it in front of the right eyes.

Mail the content to your existing user base and encourage them to share it.

Tip: If it is a new blog piece or YouTube video, you must post it on Google Plus. This does give a small advantage in Google rankings.

#5Content Diagnosis and Recycle

Why should you track your content marketing efforts?

  • As a small business, you want to know whether you are generating ROI on your efforts. Measuring the progress of your Content Marketing efforts helps in that.
  • It helps in discovering what more or less you need to do.
  • Documenting the goals and results makes sure that you can only grow in your marketing results.
  • Content Marketing Institute study shows Eighty-eight percent of the top performer's measure content marketing ROI.

Based on what you have seen in the above process, what would be the metrics you would use?

If you said, a metric for each of the buyer's journey, you are spot on. After all, if you moved your prospect in his buyer journey, you have also moved him through your marketing and sales funnel.

  • At awareness stage, you will measure not only brand awareness (preferably per channel) but also whether you are generating leads from the content you are producing.
  • At the consideration stage, you will check your content is generating a qualified lead or a meeting request for your sales person.
  • At the decision stage, while this will be more a sales measurement, your content should generate a marketing qualified lead i.e. a lead which is prepped with information and is close to a buying decision.

For ecommerce or SaaS businesses, you could even have conversion a goal i.e. leads to sales for your content marketing efforts.e.g. if you are cake shop with online purchase option then your sales page is also content which needs to generate sales.

Tip: Use Google Sheets (free spreadsheet app from Google) to track your content description, date and timing of release, goals and results.

What are the next steps for you?

  • Develop a written Content Marketing Strategy
  • Map the Buyers Journey and Develop a Buyer Persona
  • Develop Content Development and Promotion Calendar with SMART Goals for each content
  • Measure results against your Goals
  • Rinse and Repeat

Can you see how content marketing is not just a blog or an expensive video shoot but results based marketing strategy?

The game has moved from share of wallet to share of attention.

Once you get your customer's attention, your content generates conversation and then conversion.

Go ahead, Win the Conversion Game with your Content Marketing!

Wavy Line
Santosh Kanekar

Startup Mentor, Leadership Coach and Author

Author of Stop Reset Start, Growth Rocket Launcher, and Leadership Coach, Santosh Kanekar founded BeLive Corp, which advices many Global Hedge and Alternative Funds based in New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong. He regularly advises Startups on Business Planning and business acceleration.

He has coached hundreds of individuals and businesses to deliver high-performance results and launch their own Growth Rocket.

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