Step-by-step instructions for creating a content marketing strategy to grow your small business.
According to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, 63% of businesses do not have a documented content marketing strategy.
It’s no wonder that the firms that have a strategy are likely to believe that their content marketing efforts are successful.
There is no way to succeed or fail based on luck alone — you risk wasting all your efforts.
The reasons why a similar percentage (64%) think that learning how to develop a content strategy is one of their greatest educational needs may be because of the following:
We’re here to help with that if you’re in that group and are looking for help with your content strategy.
The steps outlined in this post will help you create and execute a content marketing plan to boost your company’s growth without wasting time or money.
Following are instructions to help you remember the process:
Step 1: Establish your mission and goals.
Creating an effective content marketing strategy to grow your small business starts with creating a clear content marketing mission statement. This statement highlights what's critical to your content marketing plan and what's not.
A mission statement for content marketing describes:
- Your target audience.
- The content you’ll use to reach them.
- The benefit they’ll get.
You can create a mission statement for your business by using this formula:
"We help [target audience] with [content type] to help them [business goals/benefits]."
Your content marketing strategy should also address your audience's needs, but you should also think about what YOUR business gains. That is where your business objectives come into play.
Achieving typical goals includes:
- Using your content marketing strategy to increase revenue and sales.
- Getting more high-quality leads to help you increase revenue and sales.
- Get more traffic to your site.
- Improving the perception of your business, so you gain influence and authority.
- SEO success leads to more traffic.
- Reduced marketing costs, as your content becomes more effective.
- Social media engagement to help with traffic and authority.
Now that you have identified your objectives, it’s time to take the next step.
Step 2: Create your KPIs.
Your content marketing strategy should have specific and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to achieve the best results.
Using KPIs, you'll be able to determine when you've achieved your objectives by providing checkpoints along the way. You will determine your revenue, sales, traffic, SEO, digital marketing, email marketing, and social media objectives.
In most cases, you'll have numbers associated with your objectives.
- Achieve x amount of revenue in the next quarter.
- Increase high-quality leads thru more subscribers for your lead magnet.
- Get x new email subscribers in the next 6 months.
- Achieve x % increase in site traffic and engagement with your content.
- Boost traffic through improved search ranking of your key pages.
- Increase mentions, shares, and comments for your pillar content by x percent in the next 6 months.
- Get invited to speak at a key industry event.
You should keep an eye on the cost of acquiring leads, making sales, and marketing spending.
Step 3: Identify Your Audience
Be clear on who your audience is in order to create the right content for them. There are three things you must do.
Know Your Demographics
The first step is to gather data on your visitors, email subscribers, and social media followers.
Through web analytics, social media analytics, and email subscriber analytics, you’ll get the information you need on your audiences':
You’ll also get insight into their key interests by using Google Analytics. Go to Audience » Interests » Overview in Google Analytics. You’ll see which market segments your web visitors belong to.
Your social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn also provide this type of information and you can use it to know as much as possible about your target audience.
Gain Customer Feedback
Ask your current customers for feedback to get insights into your target audience. You will then be able to learn more about the following:
- How do they feel about the content you’re currently producing?
- What is/are their most urgent needs and wants?
- How can you help them solve their problems with your content?
Getting the right customer feedback can help you:
- Know their priorities.
- Know the best platforms to reach your customers. (see step 9)
- Create detailed buyer personas, which we’ll talk about next.
Create buyer personas
Using demographic data and customer feedback, you can create detailed buyer personas, which is a template for targeting content that describes your ideal readers and customers.
The best buyer personas include information about your customers' issues, concerns, sources of information, and behavioral motivators.
With this knowledge, you will be able to better grasp:
- The types of content your audience cares about and how it addresses their needs, wants, and gets them engaged.
- How they'll benefit from the content.
Step 4: Determine Where You are Now.
There's a ton of small business content already on the Internet, including blog content, social media content, podcasts, videos, and so on.
How do you know whether the content you've created for your small business is helping you meet your goals? It's by doing an audit of the content you've already created and distributed.
(You can skip to Step 5 if you have no content and are just starting out.)
Here's how it works:
- Logging all the pieces of content, such as blog posts, guest posts, videos, social media posts, etc. that you've already created for your small business.
- Assessing their usefulness or success.
- Identifying the gaps.
You should also be sure your content is competitive and up-to-date so it's relevant to your target audience, and compare it to that of your competitors to see how your new content will fit.
In one example, your content marketing strategy would look like this.
Screaming Frog is a great starting point if you want to log all of your site or blog content. It is a URL crawler that will:
- List URLs
- Analyze page titles and descriptions
- Find duplicate pages
- Create sitemaps.
Using this tool makes it easy to do website audits and competitive research. You can use this tool for free to crawl up to 500 websites, allowing you to perform the same type of analysis on your competitors’ content.
You can also use SEMRush to log and audit your content. Their Content Audit tool enables you to etup a project and choose a section of your site to audit, such as your blog. Once you've picked the URLs, click the Start Content Audit button.
The report details everything you need to know about your content, including:
- Content titles and descriptions
- Content length
- Social shares
Create a simple spreadsheet that contains all the URLs and export the data to create it.
See How Your Content is Working Now.
With the data you've been given, you can assess the quality of the content and look for metrics like:
- The number of inbound links to your content.
- The search engine ranking for keywords associated with specific content.
- How widely shared the content is.
You can obtain some of this information from the SEMRush report, but you can also obtain more information by using other SEMRush tools, such as the site audit and position tracking tools.
- The pieces of content you need to be updated to achieve your goals.
- Content to remove or replace.
- Which don't need to be changed at all because they're working great.
Identify Content Gaps
Once you've identified where you can make the most impact, you can then focus on exploiting those gaps, which might include:
- Keywords you’re not targeting with your content that you should be.
- Questions your audience is asking that you need to answer.
- Content that could be more focused to be relevant to Google’s answer boxes. These are the boxes that appear above search results and provide the answers to a specific question.
Ahrefs can be used to perform a content gap analysis.
In this case, go to Organic search » Content gap and insert the domains for your primary rivals under Show keywords that the following rank for. Insert your own domain under But the following target does not rank for. Press Show keywords.
A glance at the keyword list will let you know which competitor keywords you can target with your own new content.
You can perform a similar analysis in SEMRush.
Step 5: Determine The Best Content Channels For Your Small Business.
When you're working through this process, you'll start to get a feel for where your audience hangs out, and where you already have a successful online presence. Rather than attempting to do everything at once, it's best to focus on what is working and expand from there.
So, you should revisit web analytics to be sure. When you're in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition » Social » Overview to see where your content is being shared on the major social networks.
You may also narrow your search terms in Google Analytics to get more detail. Armed with this information, you can choose which networks to target in order to get the most social media engagement and shares for your content.
Step 6: Determine What Kinds of Content You Should Create
Next, think about the types of content you want to produce. Every content marketing strategy will include a variety of content types.
Having a central core of content on your own site (or home base) that can then be repurposed and shared elsewhere is the key to most successful content marketing strategies.
Blog posts are an important part of your content marketing strategy, and deliver impressive results. Ideally, blog posts should be actionable, valuable, and shareable, and may include a variety of article types.
The process of developing a successful content marketing plan to grow your small business is not simply about focusing on your own statistics. You should also be able to identify what well-executed content is available so you can emulate it.
What other content should be included in your content marketing strategy? Video has become one of the most important parts of any marketing strategy since it helps to keep visitors on-site longer, boost lead generation, and lower abandonment rates.
You should also include other types of visual content to increase engagement.
Webinars, ebooks, checklists, worksheets, and other lead magnets are just a few additional content types you can include to improve lead generation.
The number of Americans who listen to podcasts has grown to more than 40% in recent years, so think of podcasting as a content delivery mechanism as well as a source of content. Here are some marketing-related podcasts to get you started.
Next, you must determine what resources you need to create your content.
Step 7: Who's In Charge and Who's Creating Your Content
Now that you've decided what type of content you'll create, who it will cater to, and where you will share it, you must determine the following:
- Who’s in charge of content creation and maintenance?
- What resources, people, and tools, do you need?
- What will your content creation and scheduling workflow look like?
Now let’s focus on each of these in more detail.
Who Oversees Content Creation?
Who's in charge and who's responsible for producing individual pieces of content?
This will depend on the size of your company and your content team and whether you'll produce all of your content in-house or outsource it.
Here is one example of how this might look:
- As the CEO of your small business, you might decide you have the final say over the content strategy and type of content to be created.
- If might decide to put one of your employees into a role as content marketing manager and he or she will oversee the execution of your content marketing strategy on a daily basis while working with the content team.
- Individuals will create content based on their knowledge, experience, and expertise.
What's Needed To Achieve Your Content Creation Goals?
Next, figure out how you’re going to create the content. Your content creators might include:
- Video, podcasting, or graphic design specialists. graphic design
If you used SEMRush to do your content audit you can look at which sites have posted the most compelling content and who's written it. You could approach the authors to see if they're interested in working for your content team. You can also find excellent freelance content creators/writers via networks like Contently, NDash, ClearVoice, and similar.
Next, work out what your content production process is going to be. For example, for a typical blog post, you might have to:
- Create and approve an outline for a blog post.
- Write it.
- Create or download images for the post.
- Forward it to the editor.
- Make changes, if necessary.
- Upload to your site or social media platforms.
- Publish it.
Before you get started on researching and creating pieces of content, make sure you create a content calendar. We'll look at that in the next step.
Step 8. Create a Content Calendar
You must know exactly when you want to publish your content on each of the platforms you want to use as part of your content strategy.
It’s crucial to schedule all your content using a content calendar. There are several methods to do this, one being to use Google Calendar and set due dates for each post. That works well enough, especially if you're not publishing a lot of content.
For large publishers managing a content team and working with the production workflow, you're likely going to need other tools that provide you with more robust features for scheduling and managing a team and projects.
Asana is a good option, as well as a specialized content creation tool like CoSchedule. These tools help to organize your tasks, set up distinct phases for content creation, and keep track of your productivity.
How are you going to find subjects that your audience cares about?
A great tool for this is Answer The Public, enter a topic, and you'll have a list of questions people have asked on Google.
Choose a question that your audience might find interesting, then create a blog post or other type of content and schedule a title. Until you've planned out content for the next few months, repeat the process.
Step 9: Produce Content
Now that you've done all of the research and preparation, and created the list of topics to add to your content calendar, it's time to produce your content. Let's use a blog post as an example, although these tips will work for any type of content you're going to create.
Based on your research you'll know what type of blog post to create, so open your calendar and select one from there and then...
It’s time to start working on the title selected from the content calendar.
Research Your Content Topic Before Creating It and Posting It Online.
Before you can write, you must determine the following:
- What’s already been created on this topic?
- How can our content add more value for our target audience?
To improve on top content do a Google search, check out the highest-quality material on your topic, and then see how you can improve on it. That's known as the skyscraper technique.
If you’re gathering the right kind of data, original research also does well.
To improve SEO and increase SERP ranking, use the key terms identified through keyword research.
It's Time To Create
Thinking about your brand's personality will help you decide how to write or record to reflect that.
You may want to be super-professional, very casual, or something in between. You’ll have to manage the balance between demonstrating your expertise and not patronizing your audience.
Step 10: Distributing Your Content
Distribution and marketing are the next steps in your content strategy. You need to do them properly if you want to achieve your goals. For example, you may:
- Schedule sharing of your content on social media, either immediately or through a drip campaign using a tool designed expressly for that purpose, like Loomly.
- Use email marketing to distribute your content to subscribers.
- Let the influencers you've mentioned in your content know about it and respectfully ask them to share it with their audience.
Step 11: Measure the Results.
Now that you've executed your content marketing strategy, it's time to assess your KPIs (after sufficient time has passed). You'll review what's changed and whether you're meeting them.
You can monitor mentions and shares for content marketing KPIs using Google Alerts and Mention. These tools will let you know if your content is being discussed and shared, which will help you hit the KPIs for awareness and engagement.
Using tools like SEMRush, you can assess your KPI for the search rank of your content and track email signups through your email marketing software analytics.
Constantly checking your progress will enable you to fine-tune your content marketing strategy at frequent intervals, so it remains current.
There it is! Now you know how to start and complete a successful content marketing strategy. And all you need to do now is get to work on it.