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So how can a content strategy make you more effective in achieving your business goals?

Let me ask you this (potentially ridiculous) question first:

Would you build a house without a plan?

No, right?

So consider for a moment that your blog, which should be sitting on your website, is your online house.

It’s the place that people – potential clients or customers – come to visit. It’s also the place that transactions occur and where you make money, increase your impact and share your incredible gifts with your audience and to the world.

Continuing the analogy, social media channels like Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, etc., act like the roads that your audience drives down (i.e., the “traffic”) to get to your house.

So why wouldn’t you have a plan for your online property (website) like you would for your house?

Hold that thought.

So you’ve taken the big jump into the world of blogging for your business (go you!).

You’ve chosen your blogging platform, you’ve picked out a catchy domain name, and you’ve made your site look as attractive as possible. That’s the easy part.

You’ll soon find out that as a small business, there are several challenges you’ll encounter along the way to turning your blog (and website) into a sales and marketing machine for your products or services.

Let’s take a look at the five common challenges that small business owners encounter with content marketing.

Common challenges with content marketing

1. No clear return on investment (ROI)

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(Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels)

Many companies are unsure if content marketing actually produces leads and sales. 

While there are no one-size-fits-all for calculating return on investment, some simple math can help you get a better idea of how much your time might be worth to the company:

  • How does content fit inside your broader marketing strategy?
  • Consider what’s lost not just in terms of money but also productivity?
  • What percentage increase did we experience from our content marketing efforts relative to their historical performance level before our new campaign began running AND any other activity going simultaneously during that same timeframe?

Related: What I Wish Every Small Business Owner Knew About Marketing

Are you even measuring the right thing?

Now here’s a serious question that every business owner and marketer should be asking when it comes to measuring ROI for their content marketing efforts.

Recent research tells us that:

  • SEO drives 1000%+ more traffic than organic social media. (BrightEdge, 2019). That means that our prospective customers are more likely to search for solutions to their problems via Google.
  • Search is the number one traffic source to blogs across all industries. (SEMrush, 2019).
  • As of June 2019, 94% of internet searches happen on a Google property. (Jumpshot via Sparktoro, 2019)

(Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

In other words, many of your prospective customers are searching Google to find solutions to their challenges.

So if you want your prospective customers to find your content, shouldn’t your #1 goal be to get your articles ranking on the first page of Google?

Tim Soulo of Ahrefs takes this one step further in his comprehensive Blogging for Business course (it’s free and highly recommended!) when he asks:

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(Source: Blogging for Business course by Ahrefs)

We highly recommend you watch this video from the Ahrefs course, as it will help you understand four common mistakes businesses are making with their content goals and promoting their content.

Are you making any of those common mistakes? If yes, then the great news is that you can now adjust your goals and strategy accordingly!

If you want your prospective customers to find your content, shouldn't your #1 goal be to get your content ranking on the first page of Google? Click To Tweet

2. No Time 

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(Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)

As with all small businesses – you are squeezed for time. It’s just not possible to take hours out of your “chockablock” super busy day to create content.

Time is a tricky one – too many small businesses launch their blog and underestimate how much time it takes to create good content. Furthermore, if they aren’t focusing on the right content marketing goals in the first place then they’re spending too much time on creating the wrong types of content and promoting their content in the wrong places.

You know the old saying, “time is money”?

Well, this is true, and you probably don’t want to waste either time or money.

One business owner that we’ve spoken to discovered that by outsourcing their content production, they could recover over 15 hours a week. That’s the equivalent of two working days, every single workweek!

3. No Budget

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(Photo by Robert Bogdan from Pexels)

Now let’s talk about your content production budget, shall we?

Developing good content, knowing the stuff that people actually want to read, doesn’t come cheap.

First of all, you’ll need a writer, an editor, a graphic designer who can create eye-catching visuals, and maybe some budget to promote your blog too.

Want to make sure your content is found on search engines? Well, then you’ll probably need an SEO specialist (or get your team member trained up).

We get it. There’s no budget to waste, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re investing in creating the right kind of content that will bring in your target audience.

The content marketing process is iterative, so be sure to create a strategy that will work for you and then adjust it as needed once the campaign starts rolling out. 

You’ll want this flexibility if unforeseen changes occur or new opportunities arise during the production of any given content series (eek!).

4. Inconsistency

When you’re inconsistent with publishing content, that can cause your readers (and search engines) to forget that you exist. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” holds here.

So you’ll want to answer the following questions: 

  • How often will you publish and promote your content to stay front of mind for your target audience?
  • What’s the ideal frequency for posting on your blog?
  • When will you promote the content that you publish, and how often?

Here’s a basic guideline: You should post at least once per week; aim between two-four posts each month depending upon the time and resources available. As well as whether prioritizing lead generation versus customer retention/loyalty.

As Problogger’s Darren Rowse put it,

“Regular readers of a blog overtime take on a sense of ownership of a blog and subscribe because they like what they see. When you chop and change your writing to emulate and please others you’ll end up disillusioning and confusing the people who make your blog what it is (your readers).”

Consistency is crucial for ensuring that your marketing efforts contribute to you achieving your business goals.

5. Poor Quality

Think about a blog that you absolutely love reading and subscribe to…

  • What stands out about it?
  • Would you say that the blog posts are low-quality vs. high-quality?
  • How’s the tone and voice of the writing?
  • Does the blog engage you with eye-catching visuals, catchy headlines, and insightful material that educates, informs, and entertains you?
  • What’s the typical length of the posts – short or long? 
  • Is it easy to read?
  • Did you first come across it via a Google search, i.e., is it optimized for search engines (SEO)?

 

Now think about your own audience…

What will make people want to visit your blog and stick around to read your articles?

Nobody wants to read a post that was thrown together at the last minute… would you?

Blog tip: optimize your content for search engines and create it for humans to enjoy reading it! Click To Tweet

Nobody wants to read content that reads like it’s for machines, right?

So how do you deal with all of the above challenges, you ask?

The answer? With a well-defined content strategy!

So what do you mean by content strategy?

Think of your content strategy (or “content marketing strategy”) as your plan of attack. It outlines:

  • Who you’re talking to (your audience),
  • What you will say  (your message),
  • When you will say it (your content lifecycle or content schedule),
  • Where you will say it (your channel strategy), and
  • How you will say it (your content format).

What is a good content strategy?

Content strategists like me will tell you that a solid content strategy right is tied to your business strategy and marketing goals.

So from the get-go, your content plan will help to ensure you’re a blogging success.

So before you put your fingers to the keys, have a look at these five reasons why you should develop your content marketing strategy before you start writing.

(these might look familiar to you, and that’s deliberate…)

Five reasons why you should develop your content marketing strategy before you start writing

So how do you deal with all of the above challenges, you ask?

The answer – your content strategy!

Think of your content strategy as your plan of attack. It outlines what will you say, when will you say it and how will you say it. A solid content strategy right from the get-go will help to ensure you’re a blogging success.

So before you put fingers to keys, have a look at these five reasons why you should develop your content strategy before you start writing

(these might look familiar to you, and that’s deliberate…)

1. Positive return on investment, i.e., you achieve your marketing goals

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(Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels)

By having a clear content marketing strategy, you’ll align your content efforts with your marketing objectives. That will also mean you’ll be able to track, measure, and modify campaigns accordingly.

A content strategy helps businesses calculate return on investment by defining:

  • What type of content they want to create
  • How it should be distributed, and
  • How individual content pieces move prospective buyers through a sales funnel helps address specific questions at each stage of the buyer journey.

The costs for a well-thought-out content strategy are usually much lower than the cost associated with running an ad hoc ad campaign. Or paying a PR firm thousands so that you can get your name in front of people who will never buy your product or service!

For instance, if you know that your target audience likes to read specific high-profile blogs in your niche, you should be focusing your efforts on getting into those blogs. Or if you know they’re more likely to watch YouTube videos, then we recommend that you focus your energy on producing videos for Youtube.

A well-defined content strategy helps businesses align their marketing objectives and content teams with the type of media and distribution channels best suited for reaching their target audience. It’s also a vital piece of the brand strategy.

2. Better Time Management

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(Photo by Amina Filkins from Pexels)

Your content strategy should ideally provide you with a way to better manage your time (and that of your content team if you one).

A content strategy helps you plan out the types of content needed and when it needs production. 

For example, this could include blog posts every week or videos every month depending upon your objectives for each channel and create an editorial calendar with specific due dates in advance. 

Hence, there’s no more guesswork involved around what should come next. 

 

Additional ways content planning can help with time management

If you plan your editorial calendar in advance, and you knew that you were aiming to publish four blog posts per month, you could then set aside 1 – 2 hours per month to create a brief outline for each blog post. If you have an overview and know the structure of your post, you’ll be able to get it written much quicker.

Time can also be set aside for audience research and social media marketing.

There’s a constant tension between quality versus output, so having a strategy allows you to manage that tension better and prioritize better.

 

Planning a Content Schedule

Developing your content strategy allows you to plan a content schedule. This means you can plan when you’ll post blogs and each post’s topic far in advance. As a result, you can also plan your resources – money, time, and content team – accordingly.

You don’t want to go months without posting a blog, but you also don’t want to bombard your readers with too much content.

The key is to ensure that your blog posts are well spaced to spark interest and maintain it. You want to keep your readers coming back for more, so keep them interested with regular and relevant posts.

A good content strategist, or SEO specialist, will also tell you that from an SEO perspective – Google likes it when a site publishes new articles more often than not.

Related: How To Create Content That Ranks Page 1 In Google

Your content strategy outlines what you will you say, when will you say it and how will you say it. Click To Tweet

3. Stick within your means and manage your marketing spend

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(Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)

Having a content strategy will help you to plan your budget accordingly. We know there’s no budget to waste, so allocating resources from the get-go is essential.

If there’s a series of articles, case studies, or content pages that you need to create next quarter, calendar this based on your allocated content budget.

If you want to send all your posts to be proofread before they’re published or want to get nice visuals created to complement the text and make it pop, be sure to budget for this.

Knowing how much you’re investing in each article will help you to stick within your means. It’s a marketing expense and investment, so you need to treat it as such.

Related: Want to see what digital marketing and sales tools we use and recommend to our clients? Refer to our tools and training resources page. Most of the tools we suggest offer free trials so you can try them before you buy.

4. Consistency is key  

Not only do you need to be consistent in the timing of your blog, but content consistency is also equally important. You need to produce consistent content that supports the goals of your blog. Don’t be one of those small business owners that fall into the inconsistency trap!

If you are consistently producing content on a specific topic you can become a reputable source of information on the topic. You don’t want to confuse your readers and you want to ensure that you’re pushing a consistent message to your readers.

 

Don’t believe me when I say consistency is key?

 

Meet our fantastic client Meryl Johnston.

Meryl Johnston testimonial

Meryl was interested in content marketing and decided to try out her hand at content development for her business, Bean Ninjas, blog. She tried a bunch of different posts but wasn’t getting the results that she wanted. With her growing business, her content development soon became a sporadic, when-I-have-time thing.

Meryl finally decided to have a documented content strategy, which created a vision, a plan, and a key theme for her blog.

Meryl outsourced much of this process to our team and couldn’t be more pleased with the results. She now has a couple of writers who handle most of the content creation process for her, saving her a ton of time.

 

5. Develop quality content

 
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Keeping your blog updated with content is one thing, but keeping your blog updated with good quality content is a whole new ball game.

Using your content strategy to plan your posts means that you have more time to create high-quality content.

You need to make sure that your posts are easy to read, that they look good, and, most importantly, that they’re optimized for SEO.

Mapping out your SEO keywords before you start writing helps to focus your posts. There are some great free tools to help you do this too.

Ideally, you’re writing about something that you’re passionate about. It’s the first thing you want to talk about in the morning and the last thing you want to discuss at night.

In this video clip from my interview with content marketing expert Steph Smith shared her thoughts on how to stand out in a competitive content market:

Be original, be creative, and make sure that you’re writing something you’d be excited to read.

Be original, be creative, and make sure that you’re writing something you’d be excited to read. Click To Tweet

6. BONUS BENEFIT (because it’s *that* important): Promoting your content

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(Image above: Screenshot of Missinglettr, our fave tool for scheduling articles to go out on social media)

Another critical reason to invest your time into developing a content strategy is that you can plan how you’re going to promote your content ahead of time. This means that your team won’t be stuck trying to guess how to promote your content.

Remember, successful content is 20% creation and 80% promotion. (You might want to allocate your content marketing budget that way too.)

As Rand Fishkin of Moz.com puts it,

“Promotion is the step where most companies fail at content marketing.” 

You can write excellent content, but if you aren’t actively promoting it, how will your readers find it?

You know the adage, if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, this is kind of the same thing. If you write great content, but nobody can find it and read it, is it significant?

You need a plan of attack (and you too could experience Meryl’s blogging success!)

Now, most businesses will share their content on their social channels and maybe their email newsletter, but that’s where their content promotion efforts stop.

Now, if you’ve got a broad audience already, then that will work great. Still, suppose you intend to get new readers to your blog and site. In that case, you’ll need to look at additional ways of promoting your content, such as content amplification through paid social ads, e.g., Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter advertising.

There’s also getting your content in front of influencers such as journalists and respected people in your industry with large followings.

Here’s a helpful video on how to get content in front of influencers:

In his article Who Will Amplify This? And Why? Rand Fishkin explains that there’s a significant flaw in how businesses think about content – they often produce content for their prospective customers but rarely do they produce content for their potential amplifiers. So a significant mental shift needs to happen if you want amplifiers to share your content. Here’s a summary:

Promotion is the step where most companies fail at content marketing. Click To Tweet

Tips on How to create a content marketing strategy

The content marketing pyramid framework

 

The Content Marketing Pyramid (created by Curata) speaks about the importance of reinforcing consistent and focused messages and provides a framework for creating content that serves your business objectives.

A Content Marketing Pyramid is defined as:

The development of content and related assets intended to reinforces common messages/themes through multiple content formats, distribution methods, and promotion channels across owned, earned, and paid media.

Each pyramid consists of Core Content (the heaviest, most valuable asset based upon thought leadership, primary and secondary research) and the corresponding Derivative Assets and Promotional Micro-Content.”

As you can see from this diagram, the pyramid consists of 5 levels of content:

 
Content Marketing Pyramid
 
 (Content Marketing Pyramid source: www.curata.com)
 

To summarise the five levels of content in the model:

  • Level 1 – Core content: In-depth, original, and well-researched or insightful pieces that act as assets for your business. Typically, this content level requires people to “opt-in” to your mailing list to receive access to it. E.g., print books, ebooks, and guides.
  • Levels 2, 3 – Derivative assets: This content takes chunks of information from the Core content and goes deeper into each sub-topic or theme. The purpose of this content is to engage people and lead them to the core content. This content does not require subscribing to an email list to access it, which also increases its shareability: Eg. long-form blog posts, slideshares, and infographics.
  • Level 4 – Contributed Derivative assets: This is more frequent content and guest blog posts that you create on other people’s websites. This is the key to spreading your message and reaching external audiences to drive people back to your core content and generate leads.
  • Level 5 – Promotional micro-content: This is smaller content that you use to increase awareness and consumption of your higher-level content. E.g., Social media posts and curated content.
 

Here’s a handy table that clarifies the different levels and types of content you’d produce at each level:

Content marketing pyramid

(Source: Curata)

Related reading: How to Develop a Content Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide and Backlinko’s Content Strategy guide

Case Study: How we helped Meryl Johnston to apply the content marketing pyramid to Bean Ninjas

Here are the digital assets that we created for Bean Ninjas using the content marketing pyramid framework:

 
Core Content (Level 1):
 
Bean Ninjas Ultimate Xero Starter Checklist for Small Business graphic
Bean Ninjas Core Content example: Downloadable PDF Checklist
 
Derivative asset (Level 2,3,4):
 

Long form blog post – 8 things most people forget with their Xero setup

 
Promotional micro-content (Level 5): 
 

Sharing on Twitter:

What happened after implementing this framework and a documented content strategy?

The Bean Ninja’s blog now produces high-quality articles, podcasts, and guides consistently. This gives Meryl more time to focus on the core aspects of her business. The numbers speak for themselves, with Meryl doubling her website traffic in only four months!

The final word on the importance of having a content strategy…

You need to create a vision for your blog, and you need to ensure that you’re producing quality content consistently. You need to have the end goal in mind to make your blog successful.

Just as you, or a capable architect, would draw up a plan and design for your dream home to ensure that what is built is actually what you want.

Your content strategy is the key to being successful with your blog and content!

So, I’m hoping that by now, you’ve realized that “winging it” is not an effective way to make your blog and content work for your business.


Want more help to level up your content marketing? Here are 2 ways that we can support you:

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