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The Main Steps to Take When Developing Your Content Marketing Strategy

Expenses pile up quickly when you run a small business. Most small business owners need to cut cost, without cutting the quality of the product or service they offer. One easy way to cut costs without the customer ever becoming aware of it is by developing your own content marketing strategy using the following seven steps rather than paying someone else to develop one for you.

Photograph by via Bigstock

Step 1: Analyze Your Competition

Imagine that you are the owner of an online business that offers personalized makeover services to women. Your service encourages women to find and develop their own unique look, though you do offer fun templates such as “rockabilly,” “steampunk,” “geek chic” and “preppy.” There may not be any other service offering your unique method of image consulting and makeovers, but every other business that offers to teach women about beauty is your competition, as potential customers could easily decide they prefer their approach. Analyze these businesses.

Every business has competition. You may have a fresh take on the services or products you offer. You may offer superior customer service. But there is always going to be someone out there offering something similar to what you are offering.

Rather than thinking of this as an obstacle to your success, use it to your advantage by examining what makes your competitors successful. Make a note of the strength of their SEO. Read over their marketing materials and gauge their success in using keywords important to your industry. Become familiar with the content of all of their online property, and gauge the emotional impact it likely has on potential customers.

Step 2: Create a Value Proposition for the Content

Pretend you are the owner of a web site that offers video lessons in the performing arts. Your value proposition might read, “No other site offers lessons in fifteen different performing arts taught by certified experts in their field.” Or “Our site is the only one to offer video banjo, drums, singing, method acting, guitar, and piano lessons taught by professionals, and offered in convenient packages.”

Marketers consider a value proposition as a short statement that communicates the benefits a potential lead can get by using your service or product. This statement should be short and direct. You want to write something that is easy for your customers or clients to remember. At the same time, avoid making it too vague. The goal behind a value proposition is to clearly explain why anyone seeking the service or product you provide should choose your company over another.

A value proposition such as “We offer excellent customer service” or “We provide superior service” would be much too vague. Customers would have no idea what you mean by “superior” or “excellent.”

Step 3: Create Buyer Personas

You can think of buyer personas as a sort of profile of your typical or target customer. A buyer persona goes a bit beyond the basic, “Most of my customers are young men in their first year of college” or “The majority of my sales come from married mothers who work outside the home” description, though you can certainly start there. The goal of your buyer persona is to write out as much as you can learn about your typical customer in order to predict what that person needs. This will, of course, guide you as to the type of content you might want to provide in order to boost sales.

This is an important step in making sure your content meets the needs of the people you are drawing to your online properties. A florist, whose customers tend to be looking for budget solutions for events such as graduations and weddings, is likely to respond favorably to a series of articles about the least expensive types of flowers. However, if that same florist finds that most of his customers are well-off and enjoy displaying examples of the Veblen effect, articles about budgeting will drive them away, no matter how well-written or genuinely helpful those articles might be.

Step 4 : Establish the Main Goals You Want to Reach

Once you have analyzed your competition and written out a statement explaining why your business will better serve the customers you will be competing over; you will want to create a list of specific goals your content will need to meet.

The owner of the art lesson website in step two may have learned that his competition uses keywords that evoke a sense of community with other artists, and that this seems to be drawing customers to the competitor’s site. In this case, the owner may want to set a goal that reads, “Produce blog posts that emphasize a community of artists.” Or perhaps he wrote out a value statement, only to realize that while his site does indeed offer many different types of lessons, his competition’s web site offers material that is much more popular with potential students, who seem to prefer pop music. He might decide his goal is to produce a music news page that draws in those gravitating toward the pop fans.

Of course, your goals will depend on your type of business, what you have observed about the competition, and what you have written out for your own value statement, but whatever goals you set must then be broken down into steps.

If our music lesson owner above decided his goal was to produce a blog that emphasized a community of artists forming on his site, his first step might be to dedicate a page on his web site to “Artist Community.”

Step 5: Brainstorm and Test Content Ideas

You can go for theme weeks, how-to articles, and product related success stories as ideas for getting started on content. Each of these ideas would, of course, be tailored to your own business, the value statement you created, what you have determined your customers need, and the goals and steps you have determined are important for meeting those needs.

The music lesson owner might experiment with establishing a free discussion forum for his customers. The person offering image consulting and makeovers might want to try a few how-to articles on popular makeup techniques or a YouTube channel that links to her site.

This step might not feel like much of a “step.” It may feel a bit disorganized at first. But testing out content is an important way to determine what will make it on to your regular content calendar.

Step 6: Create (And Use) a Content Calendar

Once you have determined what type of content you might need, it is time to create a content calendar.

A content calendar is an important organizational tool. It lists each type of content your company will produce and determines when that content will be released. This may seem obvious to you, but although a calendar is an easy tool to create, it can be notoriously difficult to stick to it. Many experts suggest creating a calendar once every six months. As for company events, webinars, Q&As, product releases, those can be worked in your calendar as soon as you have a date locked down. A good idea is to use your content calendar as both an organizational tool and as a way to keep notes on changes you might need to make to your content.

Step 7: Analyze and Revise Content as Needed

The reminder that content should never be thought of as “set in stone” brings us to the final step in your content marketing strategy. It is, of course, to continuously analyze and improve your content according to the response it generates from your customer base.

This step never ends. Once you have your content calendar firmly established, review it on a regular basis to make sure that the content you are producing is achieving the goals you set out in step two and increasing your business’ sales by meeting the needs of your customers. You may need to repeat any or all of the previous six steps of this process at any time.


Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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