Why every small business needs a content marketing plan

As a small business owner, you understand that digital marketing or marketing to your clients using online resources is the most cost-effective way to target your specific audience. So you build a website, great. You start a Facebook page, check. Open an Instagram account, tick. And maybe even start a LinkedIn profile.

So now what?

A common problem with many SMEs is that they don't know what to do next? What to post on these sites. While posting your company’s brochures and "we're having a sale" can be useful, there should be a strategic approach to this activity. This process is called a content marketing plan.

Content marketing is the creation of content to build brand reputation, awareness and affinity. Content created for this purpose should be relevant, personal and educational. It needs to address your customers needs and concerns and should always include a call to action. It should also demonstrate that you (the creator of the content) are the solution and the expert in this field.

6 steps to creating a content marketing plan

Objective - this is the stage where you will establish a benchmark and ask yourself questions around budget allocation and staffing resources. Do you have the capacity and skillset to deliver on this commitment? What particular product or service are you looking to promote. What skills can you showcase through the creation of content? This stage is also a great time to consider what have you seen your competitors do successfully (or unsuccessfully). Is your objective to retain existing customers, acquire new customers or build brand awareness? Then you will need to set goals, KPIs and timeframes around these objectives.

Audience - What does your customer look like? What are their pain points? What are their likes and dislikes? Once you are aware of these attributes, you can begin to create content aimed specifically at your customer in a way that they like to consume content. If you operate in a B2B environment, this can sometimes be a little trickier. However, you will generally find that there is always a role or position within your customers' company structure with whom you usually deal. Compare this role with other B2B customers, and you should start to see a pattern emerging. Create a visual picture of your customers' persona.

Identify gaps - At this point in the process, you identify what pieces of content you have available already. No doubt you will have sales brochures, photos, instruction manuals, templates, checklists and any information pieces that you have created to make your sales process smoother. You can even look towards your suppliers for their content - they may have created content specific to their brand that you could repurpose for your customers. Once you have collated this information, you will begin to see gaps where content is required to move your customers persona through the buyer journey process.

Create content - this is where the rubber hits the road. By now, you are aware of what it is you are trying to achieve. You will understand whom you are communicating with along with some of the tools you have at your disposal. It is time to fill the gaps. At this stage, you will need to generate new content ideas that will assist you to get your key message across. Start to think about who can help with this process - internally and from outside of your organisation. Pro-tip - you do not need to reinvent the wheel here. Reusing existing content in an alternate format is a great way to send the same message differently. For example - a blog post or article could be read out and presented in video format and re-shared on a different platform.

Organise - At this point, you will need to decide the various formats of your content and a timeline for delivery. You will also need to consider what platforms and when you will use social media to promote the content. You will need to map out the different pieces of content for the various buyer personas at different stages of the buyer journey cycle.

Measure - Analyse your budget spend, monitor your ongoing program and listen to feedback on social media. How was your content received? How many times was it downloaded? Did it receive many 'likes'? Did website traffic increase? Evaluate and record the overall performance of your plan and make recommendations for the future.

One of the most common mistakes made by small business is a lack of consistency in creating, producing and sharing content. The team gets busy at certain times of the year, or staff members take holidays and content is created sporadically or ad-hoc, leading to mixed results.

The role of the content marketing plan is to ensure a regular and consistent message sent to existing customers, and that there is a plan in place to generate new leads.

It is often a good idea to outsource some of this process to an external 3rd party who is not involved in the day to day operations of the business. An expert in this field can save time and money by knowing the processes and pitfalls to create a successful content marketing plan.

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