If you feel like you’re struggling in your efforts to produce meaningful content for your small business, you’re not alone. 64% of marketers state their biggest challenge is producing enough content, while 52% say their biggest challenge is producing content that engages. While attending the largest in-person content marketing conference in the galaxy, Content Marketing World (CMWorld) in Cleveland last week (with 1700 of our content marketing pals), we joined a Lunch & Learn session with Heidi Cohen, President of Riverside Marketing Strategies who shared 21 tips (in a blazing 45 minutes) that she guaranteed will increase the effectiveness of your content marketing. We took copious notes so you can try them for your own small business content marketing efforts.

How to build your content strategy

1. Set content marketing goals 

Ask yourself why you’re creating content. What do you want to accomplish? Get more subscribers? More customers?

2. Know your specific audience

Who are your customers? Where do they get your content? What device or on which platform? What content are they most interested in? Cohen suggests building customer personas that you can map your content to and she has a great tool to help.

3. Provide information customers actively seek

All your content should be so useful people would be willing to pay for it (but you won’t make them). Answer questions, provide how-tos and tips.

4. Plan for different content formats

Blog posts, guides, infographics (83% of learning occurs visually).

5. Use a variety of platforms to publish/promote your content

Facebook, YouTube, etc. – Video is a HUGE opportunity.

6. Build your content assets

Your email list, website, blog, video, podcast, mobile app, events.

7. Consider ALL your resources

Leverage other people’s resources/content, but always provide source credit.

How to create content

8. Offer useful content at every purchase step and beyond

Make sure you have content that can help prospects all the way through to repeat customers.

9. Tell stories people relate to

What is your “once upon a time?” Tell engaging stories about your founder, a customer, maybe even your location.

10. Crowd source content

You can have customers create content by sharing stories about themselves and your product. The band The Grateful Dead encouraged people who attended their concerts to record and create bootleg tapes – this helped spread the Dead’s music. The Lululemon blog has guest authors that contribute content. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

11. Curate content with care

If you use content from other sources, make sure you give credit where credit is due. Also add your own take on it. Introduce the content with your own spin on it for your audience and include takeaways that pertain to your readers.

12. Brand your content

Make sure your content ties back to your voice and tone and look and feel.

How to execute content

13. Don’t wing content creation

Two-thirds of businesses develop content without a plan. Create an editorial calendar and use it – plan to publish 2-3 times a week

14. Plan content reeuse in advance

You can easily turn a blog post into an infographic, or a series of posts into a guide. If you plan this in advance it’ll make your content creation do twice the work for the same amount of effort.

15. Avoid THDR (Too Hard, Didn’t Read) & TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read)

Did you know that 94% of your blog readers may leave without reading one word of your posts? Heidi advises to dress your content for success by using an attention getting title – David Ogilvy said only 20% of people will read past your headline. Make it count.

16. Optimize for findability

Almost half of your content (47%) will be found by organic search, followed by direct visits (29%). Social only makes up about 2% of traffic right now – Help readers find your content by creating multiple paths to your content.

How to distribute content

17. Plan content distribution

You may have the best content in the world, but if no one sees it then who cares? Promote your content on your social networks, on your website and even in your email newsletter. Remove any obstacles for people to get your content, like making them fill out a form to get it. Give it away. They’ll come back again and again.

18. Encourage social sharing

Use social sharing icons in every piece of content you create. Make it easy for people to share with their social networks.

19. Promote your content

Leverage your resources and connections. Don’t be shy when it comes to your content. Ask your followers and fans to spread the word.

20. Motivate readers to respond

Always include a call to action and ask for the action you want your readers to take. Examples include, sign up for our newsletter, take a free test drive of our new product, learn more.

21. Measure results (leads, sales, costs, profits, brand impact)

You can produce content all day long, but you’ve got to measure and track it against your business objectives to ensure it is helping move your business forward.

These 21 tips should get you off to a great start with creating effective content marketing for your biz. If you want to learn even more, visit the VR Marketing Blog where we share tips, how-tos and more to help your small business grow.

Kim Stiglitz is the Content Marketing Director at VerticalResponse. VerticalResponse Inc. provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketing, social media, online event marketing, postcard marketing and online surveys.

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